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Open Letter to new illegal board chairman from FSRN
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 19:04:13 -0700
Subject: An Open Letter to Bob Farrell From Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship
From: PNN strikers
October 19, 2001
An Open Letter to Pacifica National Board Chair Bob Farrell From Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship
Dear Mr. Farrell,
We thank you for being the first representative of Pacifica national to acknowledge our strike against Pacifica Network News (PNN). Our formal response to your recent "Peace Initiative" is as follows:
We struck PNN in January, 2000 in response to rampant censorship which had become a way of life throughout a network founded on principles of free speech and open debate (see our Chronology of Censorship below).
Since we first launched our strike against PNN, hundreds of progressives around the country still refuse to give comment to PNN, while reporters around the world continue to honor our strike line. Our strike cast, Free Speech Radio News, is now carried by over 50 community stations, at least 41 of whom are Pacifica affiliates who have cancelled PNN (by contrast, PNN is now carried by only 19 stations). Further, FSRN is a testament to the time-honored Pacifica tradition of hard-hitting, truly progressive news reporting long-abandoned by the now-mainstreamed, hollow sound of PNN.
Our strike took place within months of the attempt to silence and reprogram Berkeley station KPFA, and shortly after Pacifica purged progressive voices from its newscast. Much to our dismay, the censorship from the highest levels of the network which first motivated our strike continues to this day.
Producers at several sister stations continue to be harassed, banned and fired for speaking out against an illegally-constituted corporatist board, and against management policies which aggressively stifle speech. New York station WBAI has been systematically dismantled as a progressive voice since its December 2000 midnight lock-down. "Democracy Now!," the network's most popular program, has had its progressive content attacked by Pacifica's former national program director and other managers working on management's behalf. The network's national program "Sunday Salon" was censored and taken off the air one week after a segment included a KPFA staff statement as well as information concerning Pacifica's secretive finances.
Management has barged onto the air at regular intervals to broadcast dishonest and misleading reports to the listeners, reports which have consistently distorted the work of the powerful, national, grass-roots Save Pacifica Movement. These reports have also demonized the broad success of the Pacifica Campaign and its call for a national boycott. This management continues to hemorrhage millions of dollars of listener funds for market research, corporate credit cards, "security" costs, high-priced inside-the-Beltway lawyers--all the while attempting to conceal its financial malfeasance from the very listeners paying its bills.
The most recent violation to the vital spirit of Pacifica's historic anti-war mission came within days of the World Trade Center crisis. WBAI's interim general manager censored WBAI producers by ordering them over several weekend days not to cover the crisis, but instead to play "healing music."
We are part of a powerful constellation of national forces working to democratize this network, and will consider settling the strike once the following conditions are met:
1. We demand an end to the alteration and suppression of news stories and public-affairs programming; to programs being silenced; to the ousting of the network's award-winning signature voices; to dissident purges; to the elimination of program diversity; to left-cleansing and to censorship throughout the network.
2. We demand that the national board settle the claims against it regarding its illegal by-laws changes.
3. We demand the immediate reinstatement of all fired staff network-wide, and the immediate and permanent lifting of all bans which have kept staff members and listeners out of the station or off the air. We call for an end to all gag rules, for the removal of security guards, all security apparatus and for the restoration of regular programming.
4. We demand that Pacifica's local and national governance structure be democratized, and that general managers are selected bottom-up to guard against future purges. We also demand a guaranteed legitimate governance role for Local Advisory Boards
5. We demand that "Democracy Now!" be returned to Pacifica's air, according to the terms it deems fit to best protect the program and its staff. We demand that "Sunday Salon" also be restored as a national program with its former host.
6. We demand that Pacifica guarantee that all staff, paid and unpaid, be included in the collective bargaining units at all sister stations.
As a group of reporters our work speaks for itself. We are dedicated to truly informing the American people, a mission first animated by Lew Hill, and now being decimated by Pacifica's current management. We look forward to your written response at your earliest convenience. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship Strike Committee
cc: Pacifica National Board; Executive Director Bessie Wash; National Program Director Utrice Leid
Encl.: Chronology of Censorship
Fear and Favor at Pacifica: An Incomplete, But True, Chronology of Censorship At "Free Speech" Radio
Prepared by Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship January, 2000
* On March 31, 1999, Pacifica Radio Executive Director Lynn Chadwick orders the news department at Pacifica's flagship Berkeley station KPFA not to report on the dismissal of General Manager Nicole Sawaya, saying it does not constitute "news." The KPFA news team defies the order. The move comes two weeks before KPFA and Pacifica are to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
* On April 9, Executive Director Lynn Chadwick fires veteran broadcaster Larry Bensky and cancels his national program, after he raises the issue of Sawaya's dismissal on his weekly show, "Sunday Salon." Chadwick says Bensky violated a Pacifica rule barring the airing of "dirty laundry."
* On April 16, Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles pulls CounterSpin, a weekly half-hour program produced by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media-watchdog group. The program includes an interview with recently fired broadcaster Larry Bensky.
* Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, D.C., interrupts the same CounterSpin program on April 19. Managers play music which continues throughout the show's normal timeslot.
* On June 18, Pacifica's national office cancels KPFA producer Robbie Osman's program after he speaks out against the firing of Nicole Sawaya and Larry Bensky. Community protests mount.
* On June 26, citing security concerns, Pacifica installs round-the-clock armed guards inside KPFA. Staffers denounce the move as an unwarranted escalation of the crisis and an attempt to stifle dissent at the station.
* On July 13, Pacifica locks out KPFA staff and community, and reprograms the station. Fifty-two are arrested, including KPFA news directors.
* On July 14, Pacifica managers pull the network's most popular program "Democracy Now!" from KPFK, WPFW and KPFA. The main story on the show that day addresses the crisis at KPFA. Executive Director Lynn Chadwick is interviewed live on the program and replies to critics.
* Pacifica chief Lynn Chadwick bars the July 14th edition of "Democracy Now!" from being put up on Pacifica's web site. Chadwick also blocks the Pacifica Radio archives from selling or distributing copies of the July 14th program.
* KPFK management restricts the KPFK News Department from reporting on the crisis at KPFA in Berkeley. Only AP wire stories on the crisis can be aired and only KPFK General Manager Mark Schubb, and approved programmers, discuss the issue on air.
* On July 16, KPFK edits a CounterSpin broadcast featuring KPFA local advisory board member J. Imani and media critic Norman Solomon to include commentary on Pacifica from KPFK station manager Mark Schubb.
* On July 21, WPFW carefully cuts out a story about the KPFA crisis on the Pacifica Network News (PNN), leaving the impression of a *seamless" show, strangely truncated in length. News director protests the alteration, charging that it constitutes a fraudulent misrepresentation of authorship.
* On July 23, "Democracy Now!" airs the same PNN piece by Verna Avery-Brown and Laura Flanders. Just before the story comes on, a WPFW announcer tells listeners that there are "technical problems" and switches to music. Once the story about the KPFA crisis is over, WPFW returns to the program. The station also airs a disclaimer following "Democracy Now!"
* One day after the 17-day KPFA lock-out ends, 10,000 rally in support of KPFA and free speech in the largest East Bay protest since the Vietnam War.
* "Enfoque Latino," the only Spanish-language public affairs show on KPFK, is canceled in August following the airing of an item about a protest against Pacifica. The show is eventually reinstated after widespread protests.
* On September 1, KPFK chief Mark Schubb bans veteran award-winning news reporter Robin Urevich from the station. Schubb says Urevich breached journalistic norms by authoring an op-ed piece about the Pacifica crisis in RandomLinks, an independent, bi-monthly publication.
* "Radio Chicana," a weekly program on KPFK dealing with Chicano, indigenous and Mexican issues, is canceled after anchor John Martinez airs a segment on the KPFA crisis.
* On Nov. 1, PNN News Director Dan Coughlin is summarily removed as national news director. After airing a news brief on a Pacifica-affiliates boycott of Pacifica programming. Pacifica News anchor Verna Avery-Brown walks off the job in protest.
* On Nov. 9, WPFW interrupts CounterSpin in the middle of an item about the "reassignment" of PNN News Director Dan Coughlin. Managers play music over the story and return to the show once the item is over.
* In early December, WPFW cancels CounterSpin, FAIR's radio show. At the time, WPFW offers no rationale for its actions. Later, a Pacifica press release claims the show did not raise enough money on the listener-sponsored station.
* In mid-January, 2000, signature Pacifica voice Verna Avery-Brown officially leaves the network after 11 years as a reporter and anchor. Avery-Brown decries censorship and the disturbing trend away from progressive coverage in Pacifica's national news.
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