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Re: Major Owens Suggestion that BAI Become Independent

  off the newpacifica list
From: Ruth Benson
Date: Fri Mar 9, 2001 1:44pm
Subject: Re: Major Owens Suggestion that BAI Become Independent

To all sisters and brothers in the struggle to take back our Network at the dawning of a truly national movement!

Stay strong, stay focused and don't become diverted from our mission. Below is my letter to Major Owens:

Dear Congressman Owens:

I congratulate you on the principled stand you have taken on the vital matter of free speech radio. I was unable to hear your speech on the floor of the Congress in which you addressed media control as the tool of a totalitarian state and in which you addressed the current attempts of the Pacifica Foundation Governing Board to quell the diverse and democratic voices heard on WBAI, 99.5FM.

However, because I have access to the Internet, I was able to hear a replay of your pro-free speech radio on www.radio4all. Like you, I have grave concerns about the consolidation of media outlets by a few very powerful corporations whose subtexts pervade every word disseminated over the airwaves which they believe they own and through the presses which they do indeed own. (I remind you of A.J. Leibling's seminal aphorism concerning power of the press, i.e. that it belongs to those who own one!)

I do not, however, believe that WBAI should become independent of Pacifica - rather I feel that Pacifica should be reflective of the free speech practiced at BAI and our sister station KPFA. In short, that it should return to Lew Hill's mission.

We now are on our way to a truly national network in which the concerns of the local communities take precedence in each signal area. But, through programs like Democracy Now! (which Amy Goodman calls "WBAI writ large") and the former Pacifica Nightly News under the direction of Dan Coughlin with a truly gifted network of journalists, the progressive community nationwide can hear the news that the corporate and government controlled media suppress.

The voice of Pacifica is subtly derided as "dissident". I don't call it dissident; I call it democratic. Our local shows on BAI have educated me to the concerns of our richly diverse communities in NYC - from the dangers of pesticide spraying to the suppression of the rights of people of color through police intimidation and brutality, environmental racism through the siting of waste plants and the blatant irregularities which were perpetrated on the voting public in the not-so-white neighborhoods of Brooklyn last November.

The national shows have educated me to the real life consequences of globalization, the pharmaceutical industrial complex, the prison industrial complex and the criminal injustice system. Only on BAI Pacifica could I hear about Mumia, Leonard Peltier, Lori Berenson; could I hear the voices of non-violent Seattle protesters choked with tear gas; could I hear Ralph Nader on the floor of the Republican National Convention; could I hear Jeremy Scahill reporting direct from the streets of Belgrade during the US sponsored bombing, and Alan Nairn from the streets of Dili on cell phone during the massacres following the independence vote in E. Timor - the only journalist who remained on the ground while the rest of the international press reported from the safety of their hotels in Jakarta! ONLY ON PACIFICA!!

This is why we are fighting to preserve Pacifica and within it our precious local stations: WBAI, KPFA (Pacifica's flagship station), KPFK, KPFT and that travesty they call a station in Washington, D.C.

As a listener-sponsor and signatory to the Listeners' Lawsuit to remove the Pacifica Board and to create a truly independent national network of sister stations, I welcome your endorsement and hope that you will support the efforts we are making to return Pacifica Radio to its founding principles.


Ruth Benson
Staten Island, NY

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