The Democracy Now!/Pacifica agreement
Democracy Now! statement
regarding the DN! agreement
To: The interim Pacifica National Board, Pacifica staff, and the Pacifica community
From: Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and senior producer Kris Abrams
Re: Democracy Now!'s public statement on our contract with Pacifica - please distribute widely
Date: July 9, 2002
Well, if there is one conclusion we can draw from the recent flurry of email, public debate is alive and well at Pacifica. Thank you for your concern about the well- being of Pacifica and Democracy Now!.
We feel we should clarify and hopefully lay to rest a number of issues and concerns which some of you have raised about the production agreement/contract between Democracy Now! and Pacifica.
We want to say at the outset that we are here to stay with Pacifica. Democracy Now! has been Pacifica Radio's flagship program for six years and we hope it will continue to be for many, many more. Many of you have heard Amy Goodman speak publicly about the mission of Pacifica and the vision of Pacifica founder Lew Hill, who saw the need for an independent radio network, a radio network that isn't run by corporations that profit from war. We are as committed as ever to this vision, and to a new, viable, and democratic Pacifica. This production agreement does not mean we are leaving. In fact, it binds us much closer to Pacifica than ever before. Under this contract, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman cannot resign, or go elsewhere. She and Democracy Now! are legally bound to produce the show for Pacifica for five years - an extremely long term when compared with other public radio contracts. We requested this long term against the advice of our lawyer because we want to ensure a long and productive new relationship. And we have every intention of renewing the contract at the end of the term.
We feel this contract is a solid deal for Pacifica, and that we made major financial compromises because of Pacifica's dire financial condition. The details follow.
We want to start with a few words about why we wanted this contract in the first place. Then we will address specific concerns a few of you have raised.
Many people in the Pacifica movement underwent outrageous treatment by the previous management, with firings, bannings, even imprisonment. While management was extremely hostile to Democracy Now!, it stopped short of throwing us off the air entirely at first because it feared a public relations backlash on a national scale. (Locally, Amy was, along with all of her colleagues, taken off WBAI's morning show, but continued to broadcast nationally.) Believing control of the airwaves was vital to the movement-vital to reaching the mass audiences who don't read all the email, message boards, and internet postings- we stayed on. We stayed on to remind people what Pacifica is really about, to give people a vision of the Pacifica that is worth fighting for.
Both local and national management responded by harassing us and trying to sabotage the program so much that we would leave voluntarily. For months on end, the former management defamed us on the air, on the Pacifica website, on anything they controlled, threatening to expel the "unwanted tenants" from the station, saying the enemy must be "isolated and destroyed." Amy's supervisor in Washington treated her with such hostility and verbal violence that she filed a gender harassment grievance against him; WBAI's public affairs director at one point called Amy a "white chick" on the air. Our Washington supervisor attempted to control the political content of the show by installing producers of his own choosing, over the Democracy Now! staff's repeated objections. He also tried to control the content of the show by forbidding us from traveling first to Quebec City to do our signature, on-the-ground reports from a major anti- globalization protest there, and then to Durban, South Africa for the U.N. Racism Conference. He forbade us even when we said we would pay for it out of our own pockets. WBAI management installed tens of thousands of dollars worth of surveillance equipment right outside our office. They banned us from the broadcast studio, forcing us to produce the program from a sub-standard editing studio which severely compromised the professional standards of the program. They hired a private investigating firm to trail Amy and co-host Juan Gonzalez. The harassment culminated in a physical assault on Amy which finally forced us to leave the station and produce the program elsewhere.
We continued to produce the show on a daily basis, and sent it to WPFW in Washington to be uplinked on the satellite. But Pacifica management refused to air the show, and took us off payroll. So we sent the show to KPFA, which then uplinked the program on the back channel of the KU satellite, making it available to all of the affiliates. After 9/11, we expanded the program to two hours. Pacifica threatened to sue Democracy Now! and any station that ran the program, for copyright infringement. But Democracy Now!, KPFA and KFCF refused to back down, and continued to broadcast the show. In this way we kept together what remained of the entire network of Pacifica affiliates.
On December 29, 2001, the new interim Pacifica National Board met via conference call. We submitted a letter in which we stated we would agree to come back on the air if the board agreed that a board member would negotiate an independent contract and resolve our outstanding labor grievances. The ensuing discussion over the next twenty minutes or so was confused, but it was clear that the board chose chair Leslie Cagan to carry out the negotiations. When she restated the resolution before the vote was taken, to clarify precisely what was being voted on, she clearly stated that she would negotiate and sign the contract. The board passed the resolution.
Over the next several months, Leslie Cagan, Dan Coughlin, Amy Goodman, and Democracy Now! producer Kris Abrams hammered out a contract. Democracy Now! needed some guidance on what issues should be covered under this kind of contract, so we hired-at our expense-a lawyer who has worked on public radio contracts in the past. Leslie Cagan consulted with Pacifica lawyer John Crigler. We finally signed the contract on June 13. It was then ratified by the interim Pacifica National Board by a vote of 10 to 2.
We have faith and hope in the new Pacifica, and are supporting and will continue to support it in every way that we can. We do not believe Pacifica will be hijacked again. But we feel we must protect one of Pacifica's most valuable assets from the worst case scenario. Democracy Now! is valuable both in the content it brings to hundreds of thousands of listeners every day, and valuable for the $2 million in pledges we expect to raise for Pacifica this year. This was our primary concern as we negotiated this contract. In good times, the vast majority of people won't experience any difference in our relationship with Pacifica. If bad times ever come to Pacifica again, we think people will be glad for the protection this contract affords.
We also want the freedom to continue the kind of exploratory work in new media that we began in exile when Pacifica management was attempting to shut off all our access to the airwaves. We feel the voices of Pacifica and Democracy Now! should get out beyond community radio. We want to bring new listeners and affiliates to Pacifica. For years, Pacifica has been searching for a way to reach new audiences. Our experiments with public cable access and satellite television have done exactly that. We want to continue this outreach, and with Pacifica in such a difficult financial condition, we need financial independence to do it.
Money: Pacifica's yearly payment to Democracy Now!, and Democracy Now!'s
fundraising for Pacifica
$400,000 is 35% less than what we need to produce the show. It is also one-fifth of what we are expected to raise for Pacifica this year - around $2 million. (Six months after returning to Pacifica's airwaves, we've raised over $1.3 million in pledges.) We agreed on this figure against the advice of our lawyer, who told us we were settling for a pittance and that public independent radio productions are usually paid a much higher amount relative to the amount they raise. He called it a "sweetheart deal for Pacifica." We told him our mission is different from other public radio productions: we seek to build an independent media movement in this country not through Democracy Now! alone, but also by building a strong Pacifica.
$400,000 is also less than one-third of what the Pacifica Network News cost per year, and PNN raised negligible amounts for the network.
Ways of making up the difference: donor lists, telephone bills, yearly increases
Cagan did however say Pacifica could pay our telephone costs, not to exceed $4,000 per month. We will pay the difference.
Because Cagan, Coughlin, and Pacifica's comptroller maintained that Pacifica can't pay all of our expenses at this time, we agreed that Pacifica will share with us its donor list. This is Pacifica's attempt to help us recover some of the rest of our expenses. We actually doubt we will be able to raise much money in this way. We believe Pacifica should fully fund the flagship program that raises so much money for the network, because full funding will only make the show stronger. But we also believe Pacifica is vital to the independent media movement in this country, and we wanted to move forward in this difficult time.
Some people are concerned that sharing Pacifica's donor list will put us in "direct competition" with Pacifica for fundraising, and that listeners might donate either to Democracy Now! or to Pacifica but not to both. We understand these concerns, but we do not perceive ourselves to be in "direct competition" with Pacifica and we will not act this way. We have agreed to do our fundraising with these lists via a joint direct-donor campaign with the Pacifica, that will benefit both of us.
Affiliates, Radio Distribution Rights, the "24-hour" rule
*Pacifica presently has no outreach or affiliate coordinator, leaving no
mechanism for new stations to affiliate. But the "War on Terror" is now, and we
want to reach new audiences now. We will be encouraging new stations to
affiliate with Pacifica as soon as Pacifica can take them in. And this outreach is
already benefiting Pacifica now, by introducing new audiences to Pacifica's
Under the contract, Pacifica has the right to distribute each show for "one release," which means unlimited use within the 24-hour period immediately following the satellite uplink of each daily segment. Pacifica can rebroadcast the show with Democracy Now!'s consent. This is not to prevent Pacifica from rebroadcasting the show. Rather, it is to prevent what happened under the old regime: while we were in exile, Pacifica rebroadcast old shows in place of the current show. This meant that many listeners didn't realize Pacifica had banished us from the airwaves. It also meant the professional standards of Democracy Now! were severely compromised: without introduction or explanation, listeners heard headline news and segments from months and years before.
Pacifica is retaining 100% of the affiliate fees. Only in the cases where Democracy Now! brings Pacifica new affiliates will we receive 50% of the fee, and then, only for the first year. Our lawyer advised us against this. It is highly unusual. Most radio programs receive a high proportion of affiliate fees.
As soon as the board ratified the contract, Amy began saying at the top of each program, "From Pacifica Radio, this is Democracy Now!", for the first time since we were exiled. (During the exile period, she said, "From Ground Zero Radio...".) This brings publicity to Pacifica, not only by reaching Pacifica's current radio audiences, but also by bringing the Pacifica name to our new public access and satellite television audiences. We have incorporated it into our daily show because we support Pacifica and want to convey that to listeners, and because we see ourselves an integral part of Pacifica.
The negotiating process
Leslie Cagan took the lead in the negotiations and was Pacifica's point person. Amy and Kris had heard of Leslie Cagan and had (and continue to have) great respect for her, but neither were friends with her. Amy became acquainted with Leslie Cagan while she was on the Pacifica board.
Some final comments
In summary, we believe Pacifica is a vital force in the independent media movement in this country and we are some of Pacifica's staunchest supporters. We believe our new relationship with Pacifica will benefit both of us. In what our own legal counsel is calling a "sweetheart deal for Pacifica," it cements our relationship with Pacifica in a new way, committing us to raising millions of dollars for Pacifica over the next several years, while we will receive a fraction of that amount which covers only some of our costs. It gives us the autonomy and independence we need to continue to grow, improve, and innovate. Importantly, it will protect one of Pacifica's most valuable assets from any future political attack. In good times, the vast majority of people won't experience any difference in our relationship with Pacifica. If bad times ever come to Pacifica again, we feel people will be glad for the protection this contract affords. We feel that all sides made important contributions to the negotiating process, that the negotiating process was solid, and that as a result we have a solid contract.
Thank you all for your concern for the well-being of Pacifica and Democracy Now!. Open discussion and public debate are vital to a democratic Pacifica. We want especially to thank those of you who called to ask us for our own perspective on the contract, before rushing to judgment, going public with an uniformed interpretation, and sparking people's worst fears.
We've all been through a tremendously difficult struggle, and we're all used to assuming the worst. One of our challenges is to figure out how to work respectfully and effectively together, in the absence of a common enemy. We need to take with us the strengths we developed in the struggle, but also develop a little trust and faith in those who fought and are still fighting for a new and strong Pacifica.
Amy Goodman, host, Democracy Now!
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