Striking PNN Reporters ratify agreement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 22, 2002
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Contact: Randi Zimmerman (813) 238-8001 or Vanessa Tait, (510) 644-
FREELANCE JOURNALISTS VOTE TO END STRIKE AGAINST THE PACIFICA NETWORK Strikers ratify national board resolution to end censorship throughout the network
The 26-month-old strike that rocked the nation's oldest progressive news service is over. Launched in January of 2000 by over 40 freelance Pacifica Network News reporters, the strike marked a national turning point in the battle to save the progressive character of the Pacifica Radio network, which was under assault from within by a corporate clique on its national board.
Claiming censorship, firings and bannings had become a way of life at a network nicknamed "the voice of the voiceless," the freelance reporters launched one of the most important strikes by a contingent labor force in recent decades. Over the last two years, the global picketline of freelancers grew to over 150, as progressive reporters from around the world refused to work for Pacifica Network News (PNN) and joined the strikers in producing Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), a half-hour daily news program. FSRN quickly replaced PNN on the vast majority of Pacifica's 60 affiliates.
"With all of the problems with Pacifica Network News, we found FSRN the only real option in terms of a progressive national newscast," says Denise Manzari, news director at Pacifica affiliate WPKN in Bridgeport, Connecticut. "When the Pacifica freelancers went on strike, we were afraid their voices would be silenced. But with FSRN came the opportunity to air these reporters again, and we've been really happy to carry it."
Free Speech Radio News is produced by Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship, an independent, worker-run collective with members on every continent except Antarctica. Flying routinely under government censors, FSRN provides breaking news and information not owned by a corporation, controlled by the Pentagon, or vetted by the White House.
Critics say PNN had long abandoned its progressive mission in tone and content, often sounding indistinguishable from the mainstream media. PNN was cancelled in mid-February by Pacifica's new community-controlled board, in part to cope with a nearly 5 million dollar debt.
"We started airing FSRN because we were fed up with the Pacifica network's unscrupulous management practices and were eager to support a viable alternative to PNN," says Kristen Walsh, program director of Pacifica affiliate KBCS in Seattle. "Since then we've continued to be impressed with the quality of FSRN's newscasts as they have exceeded the standards of PNN and are the best daily alternative news available. We urge other stations to join us in financially supporting this invaluable news source," she added.
Duane Bradley, interim general manager at Pacifica station KPFT agrees: "It's just great to have a hard-hitting, investigative, progressive worldwide newscast on the air in Houston. PNN didn't do that, but FSRN does."
At its March board meeting, the Pacifica board unanimously passed a resolution it negotiated with the strikers acknowledging the significant role they played in returning Pacifica to its historic mission, and pledging to end censorship of any programming throughout the network. The membership of Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship voted unanimously to ratify the agreement on March 19, and the strike was declared over.
"Unfortunately, the strike settlement does not include any financial support from Pacifica at the national level," notes FSRN's new host, Deepa Fernandez, who is scheduled to start in April. She follows both outgoing host Verna Avery Brown, who took a job as Pacifica's interim deputy executive director, and interim host Nell Abram of Pacifica affiliate WMNF in Tampa. "We are asking stations to contribute financially -- if they don't already -- so we can continue to bring their listeners FSRN's unique kind of reporting," adds Fernandez.
FSRN now airs on over 50 community stations nationally, including all five Pacifica-owned stations (WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington DC, KPFT in Houston, KPFK in Los Angeles and KPFA in Berkeley). It is also heard over the Internet, and is sent to 120 countries via short-wave. The cast is produced at Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley and Pacifica affiliate WMNF in Tampa, and is available via Pacifica's KU satellite at 4pm EST on the right channel. MP3 and Real Audio files are posted for download daily at FSRN's web site, http://www.fsrn.org.
WHEREAS, on January 31, 2000, the majority of Pacifica's freelance reporters went on strike against Pacifica Network News to protest the network's censorship of legitimate news stories and the wave of bannings and firings at Pacifica,
WHEREAS, since then, those original striking reporters have been joined by over 100 grassroots radio journalists in producing Free Speech Radio News, which is now a chosen newscast by all the station managers at Pacifica-owned stations (KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WBAI and WPFW) and dozens of Pacifica affiliate stations,
WHEREAS, the legal settlement agreement creating the interim Pacifica National Board specifically names the "PNN stringers' strike" as a "hot issue" that must be resolved by the interim Pacifica National Board,
WHEREAS Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship is an independent, worker-run collective and a non-profit, public benefit corporation registered in the state of California which produces Free Speech Radio News and bargains on behalf of its member-reporters,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT
The Pacifica Foundation recognizes the role that Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship and Free Speech Radio News have played in the struggle to return the network to its historic mission,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT
The Pacifica Foundation pledges not to censor Free Speech Radio News or any other programs that air on the network's five stations,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT
The Pacifica Foundation continues to provide access -- as it does for numerous independently-produced progressive radio programs -- to the KU satellite system for Free Speech Radio News and other programs produced by Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship,
FINALLY BE IT RESOLVED THAT
After being passed by the interim PNB, this agreement is subject to ratification within 10 days by the membership of Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship. If ratified, this agreement settles the PNN stringers' strike.
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