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Concerned Friends of WBAI Press release with iPNB meeting overview

Concerned Friends of WBAI
www.wbai.net, www.savepacifica.net, www.wbaiaction.org

For Immediate Release: Contact: John Riley - jr273@Columbia.edu
January 13, 2002

New Pacifica National Radio Board Reinstates Fired and Banned Staff at New York's WBAI Chooses New National Executive Director

New York -- On Saturday, meeting in front of a cheering, standing-room-only crowd of over 500, the Interim Pacifica National Board (I-PNB) voted overwhelmingly to "reinstate" 37 former WBAI staff and management who were fired, banned, suspended, or driven from their former positions beginning on December 22, 2000. Citing WBAI Interim General Manager Robert Daughtry's refusal to broadcast "Democracy Now!" the board removed Daughtry because he "flagrantly defied the I-PNB directive."

"The resolution to undo the December 2000 'Christmas Coup' is a historic event in independent media history and is the first step in reclaiming the network," said Miguel Maldonado, WBAI Local Advisory Board Chair. "We look forward to the full democratization of the network," he added.

In addition to addressing the WBAI crisis, the board appointed former Pacifica Network News Director Dan Coughlin as interim executive director. Coughlin had been removed from his position because he authorized a story about the boycott of Pacifica stations by affiliates to protest network management's shut-down of KPFA of Berkeley in late 1999. That shut-down caused the largest protests in Berkeley since the Vietnam War. Coughlin joined the Pacifica Campaign in January 2001.

Pacifica Radio has been embroiled in controversy since the 1999 protests. In December 2000, Pacifica "reprogrammed" its New York City station, WBAI, by firing and banning longtime programmers and eviscerating the station's progressive political programming. Last August, Pacifica suspended Amy Goodman and removed "Democracy Now!" from the Pacifica airwaves.

In dramatic point-counterpoint session, the I-PNB received detailed reports from the station managers, chairs of the Local Advisory Board, and listeners from all five of the networks stations: WBAI in New York; WPFW in Washington, DC; KPFA in Berkeley; KPFT in Houston; and KPFK in Los Angeles.

KPFK General Manager Mark Schubb reported that the Los Angeles station has been operating at a fraction of its normal power because the network's national office had taken money specifically allocated for transmitter replacement and used it for their own purposes. Schubb speculated it was to pay legal fees resulting from the lawsuits filed by listeners and local advisory board members against Pacifica for illegal usurpation of power and by-law changes. The creation of the I-PNB was central to the settlement of those lawsuits and will be replaced in 15 months following elections of Local Advisory Boards. The new Pacifica treasurer reported this weekend that the foundation has about $3 million in debts.

KPFK's Local Advisory Board Chair David Adelson rebutted Schubb's claims of dramatically increasing listenership. Speakers representing listener organizations from the Los Angeles area called for Schubb's immediate suspension for refusing to broadcast "Democracy Now!" at both of its regular time-slots, after being directed to by Pacifica management; broadcasting deliberate misinformation to listeners regarding the current board; and banning and firing over 100 staff, volunteers, and programmers in a retaliatory fashion.

The national board scheduled its next meeting for the weekend of March 8-10 in Los Angeles.

Houston's Local Advisory Board was directed to get in compliance with PNB regulations regarding membership by week's end.

I-PNB member Wendell Johns, a Fannie Mae executive , from the former ruling majority; Interim Executive Director Joanne Meredith; and Houston General Manager Garland Ganter all resigned in the week before the board meeting. Tomorrow, January 14, "Democracy Now!" is slated to be broadcast on all five stations at its regular times.

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