Main development seems to be: Board claims it will pay the anti-protester Berkeley expenses using non-listener funds. See 13th paragraph. Last 3 paragaphs are classics (Schaffer comment.)

Pacifica vows not to sell any radio stations
Some at meeting lash out at network's management

Copyright 1999 Houston Chronicle

Eyeball to eyeball with their toughest critics Sunday, directors of the beleaguered Pacifica Foundation meeting at a Galleria-area hotel promised not to sell any of their network's five "progressive," listener-supported radio stations.

But the action seemingly did little to heal the rifts between network management and the listeners, employees and volunteers who believe the directors have betrayed Pacifica's 50-year commitment to peace, free speech and ethnic diversity.

Sunday's meeting was the first since a truce was declared last July in the months-long management dispute at KPFA-FM, Pacifica's flagship station in Berkeley, Calif. Dozens of protesters from throughout the nation arrived in Houston to confront directors with their complaints.

Much of the dissidents' anger was directed at Pacifica's Houston station, KPFT-FM, which became solvent for the first time in two decades after switching to a largely music format. "I have some advice for you," California lawyer Van Jones said during a public comment segment. "Never underestimate the power of proud people who have been insulted."

Jones, a representative of the San Francisco media watch group, Media Alliance, predicted that the Pacifica board ultimately be relegated to history's ash heap.

"I believe that your role in history will be confined to sparking a movement for democratization of the media ... ," he said. "Not just democratic media, but democracy in this country. Period."

Jones was among more than 100 protesters who filled the meeting room at Doubletree Hotel at Post Oak on Sunday. On Saturday, about 30 protesters, including a Catholic priest and a former Berkeley mayor, were cleared from the hotel after they chanted outside a room in which board members were meeting. The group left without incident and no arrests were made.

Because of a perceived security risk, Doubletree management initially closed Pacifica's Sunday meeting to the public and dispatched a letter to the Federal Communications Commission to justify the action. Protesters who walked toward the meeting room were confronted by Houston police and threatened with arrest for trespassing.

Pacifica board Vice Chairman David Acosta, a Houston lawyer, said the network opposed the hotel's action. Moments before the meeting was to begin, hotel management relented and allowed the public access to the meeting.

Pacifica Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry alluded to Saturday's disturbance in opening remarks, and admonished those gathered to avoid violent or destructive exchanges.

Sunday's meeting was held in the shadow of the Berkeley dispute, which had brought thousands of protesters to the streets and ended live broadcasting at the station for weeks.

Among the California issues were the direction of programming, the possible sale of network stations, the manner in which directors are chosen and a policy prohibiting on-air discussions of "dirty laundry."

In moves that generally were well-received by the audience Sunday, directors voted approval of a resolution not to sell Pacifica stations and to not spend listener-derived money to pay a $500,000 bill for private guards at the Berkeley station. No mention was made of how the expenditure would be paid.

A decision to allow station managers discretion on the "dirty laundry" policybrought heated denunciations during the meeting's concluding open-microphone session.

"It's absolutely shameful," said Andrea Buffa, Media Alliance executive director.

When a Haitian immigrant told how the Berkeley station was the only media outlet he found interested in the travails of Haitian boat people and lamented that might no longer be the case, Berry read him the riot act. >{? Berry, who also is chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, listed, item by item, her efforts on behalf of such refugees. Members of the audience hooted. "Quit bragging," one shouted.

Houston activist Stan Merriman praised KPFT General Manager Garland Ganter for increasing professionalism at the Houston station, but admitted "at the same time, I'm pained." "The station has raised more money by appealing to aesthetics," he said. "And we need aesthetics. But we need to address intellectual and physical issues, too.

"You are now sitting in this room breathing the dirtiest air in the country. And in this city is the Texas Medical Center, one of the greatest medical facilities in the world. In this same city, we have 1 million people without access to medical care."

Amid hisses from the audience, KPFT's Ganter said he plans to reinstate local news broadcasting.

"I just want to set a few things straight," he began, turning at one point to hush his hecklers. " ... We have twice as many listening now than before."

Berry ended the session by reminding the audience that directors are not required to provide time for public comment and chiding it for rudeness.

"Some of these remarks have been personal attacks, and no evidence has been proffered to support them ... ," she said.

"Sometimes there is an incredible arrogance in the progressive community."

via Paul Schaffer