Press Coverage of the Settlement
Houston, NY, Wall Street, SF & AP
Pacifica isn't just a bi-coastal network!
>From a post to the Pacifica national lists regarding press on the settlement:
>"The following reports have been printed concerning the announced
Um, didn't notice reference to the piece in the 8th largest daily in
How do you say "self-involved" in 11 different languages?
Here's an action you can Take:
Anyone nationally who would care to send KPFT
D-LAB Chair Susan Darrow a note
Five stations, um, united.
A long and bitter legal battle at the nation's only progressive radio network, marked by protests and arrests at Houston's KPFT 90.1 FM, ended Wednesday in an Oakland, Calif., courtroom.
The majority on Pacifica Radio's 15-member national board of directors reached an agreement settling four combined lawsuits before California District Judge Ronald Sabraw, said attorney Adam Belsky, who represented Pacifica listeners and the state of California in one of the lawsuits.
The settlement requires insurance companies for the 10 majority members of the board and former board members named in the lawsuits to pay $400,000 to settle claims that the board mismanaged Pacifica's assets, Belsky said.
The agreement is a victory for dissidents who filed the lawsuits to force the board to return decision-making power to local advisory boards at the network's stations in Houston, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., New York and Washington, D.C.
Belsky said the settlement forces the board majority, which came under a relentless attack as it tried to move the network away from left-leaning comment and information toward more mainstream programming, to adhere to a plan to restructure the board that was reached in Washington, D.C., last month.
The majority tried to back away from the plan after it was agreed to on a unanimous vote, he said, but included the plan in the settlement after dissidents pressed their lawsuits. "The fear of a trial brought them back to the table," Belsky said.
The lawsuits essentially accused the national board of violating Pacifica's charter by stripping the local advisory boards of decision-making power.
KPFT General Manager Garland Gantner twice had protesters arrested outside his station, where dissidents set up loudspeakers to blare programs banned by the national board but broadcast through a guerrilla network.
Dissidents had cited KPFT and WPFW in Washington, D.C. -- both accused of dumping local news and public affairs in favor of more music -- as examples of how Pacifica stations should not be run.
Neither Gantner nor a spokesman for the majority board members could be reached for comment.
The California attorney general, who oversees all nonprofit corporations in the state, appointed Belsky because he believed the board violated state law by taking away the local advisory board's right to vote without their approval.
"The goal is to get the organization back on its feet and correct the governing bylaws and provide for democratic elections," said Belsky, referring to Pacifica's shaky financial condition.
An audit of Pacifica's 2000 fiscal year, commissioned by dissidents, alleged that the network spent about $2 million, or 20 percent of its annual budget, on legal fees.
The agreement reached in court calls for five majority members to resign and be replaced by members elected by local advisory boards, and the five minority members to be replaced with members named by plaintiffs in the lawsuits, Belsky said.
The new interim board will rewrite the bylaws to provide for the election of a new board within 15 months, he said.
All decisions by the interim board require a two-thirds vote by those voting and present or a simple majority if there is agreement by at least one member each from the five members representing the old majority, the five representing the old minority and the five representing the local advisory boards.
If neither condition is met but a motion still receives a majority vote, it will be submitted to the judge, Belsky said.
From: Denis Moynihan email@example.com Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 11:40:36 -0500
The following reports have been printed concerning
The New York Times
December 13, 2001, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section D; Page 3; Column 2; Metropolitan Desk
Pacifica, Owner of WBAI-FM, Settles Lawsuits
By ROBERT F. WORTH
The owners of WBAI-FM settled four lawsuits brought by listeners and dissident board members yesterday, ending a bitter two-year struggle that led to street protests and a national boycott against the parent of the left-leaning radio station and its four affiliates.
The settlement appeared to be a victory for the plaintiffs, whose lawsuit maintained that the station's owner, the Pacifica Foundation, had violated its bylaws by appointing a new national board to moderate the five stations' programming. Some critics of the board had speculated that it hoped to broaden the stations' audiences or sell the license for WBAI (99.5), which by some estimates could be worth between $150 million and $200 million. Under the agreement, the stations will elect an interim board that will grant more power to the members of the five stations' boards at the expense of the national board, said Terry Gross, a lawyer for the listeners.
"I think it's a victory for those who wanted to restore accountability and democracy to the nation's oldest listener-sponsored network," said Dan Coughlin, the coordinator of a listener group that started a boycott against the stations in February.
George Barnstone, a member of Pacifica's national board, said he thought the settlement was a victory for the foundation as well.
Last December, Pacifica's national directors fired the station manager at WBAI and several other longtime employees in what was called the "Christmas coup," generating angry street protests.
Amy Goodman, the former host of a WBAI program, "Democracy Now," said she hoped the settlement would lead to the rehiring of those who were fired at WBAI and its affiliates in Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, and Berkeley, Calif.
Several of Pacifica's national directors have stepped down in the last year, in part because of growing bitterness between the foundation and some employees and listeners, Ms. Goodman said.
The settlement of the suits, which were filed in California, does not directly address the situation at WBAI but does create a committee to resolve employment issues at the station, said Bernard White, a program director at the station who was fired last year.
The settlement also requires the insurance company for Pacifica's directors to pay $400,000 to the foundation. The plaintiffs had argued that the directors had done serious financial damage to the stations by alienating listeners. Pacifica was founded in 1946 by pacifists and former conscientious objectors.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
December 12, 2001
Pacifica Foundation Will Shuffle Board, Let Local Activists Run Radio Stations
By DAVID BANK
The Pacifica Foundation, owner of five nonprofit radio stations, agreed to restructure its board to give control to local activists, who are expected to restore the stations' left-leaning programming.
The settlement agreement appears to end a two-year struggle for control of the radio network, which included midnight lock-outs and noisy sit-ins at KPFA-FM in Berkeley, Calif., and WBAI-FM in New York. Pacifica also owns KPFK-FM Los Angeles, KPFT-FM in Houston and WPFW-FM in Washington.
The settlement, which ends four lawsuits pending against the foundation and members of its board, also includes a $400,000 insurance payment to the foundation to settle claims of "corporate waste" by individual board members. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the funds would help ease the radio network's financial crisis.
"The significant thing about the settlement is the current majority has agreed to give up power, to give up control of the board," said Adam Belsky, lawyer for the state of California and the group of listeners who brought the lawsuits. "The programming is going to change. The fundamental direction of the organization is going to change."
During the dispute, all but one of the Pacifica stations dropped the daily public-affairs show, "Democracy Now," for example. Even under the current board, Pacifica features reports such as an interview with Cuba's Fidel Castro.
Under the settlement, the current minority on the 15-member board will gain control for an interim period, during which it will draft new bylaws and hold new elections. The lawsuit had charged the board acted illegally when it changed bylaws to reduce the power of local station boards. Robert Darby, a lawyer for the Pacifica Foundation, said the settlement included provisions to encourage among the board's factions. He said all decisions would require the vote of at least one member of the current board majority or be passed by two-thirds.
The lawsuit was sparked in April 1999 when Pacifica's board fired the manager of the Berkeley station. After on-air protests of the dismissal, the foundation ordered a lockout of the staff, prompting noisy street demonstrations outside the station. Programmers were also fired at the New York station and at other stations.
The foundation, formerly based in Berkeley, moved its headquarters to Washington during the course of the dispute.
Write to David Bank at firstname.lastname@example.org
The San Francisco Chronicle
DECEMBER 13, 2001, THURSDAY, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A19
Settlement ends feud at Pacifica radio;
Local stations likely to regain control
SOURCE: Chronicle Staff Writer
BYLINE: Tyche Hendricks
The long-running legal battle over the direction of the Pacifica Foundation and its listener-sponsored radio network has ended with a settlement that is expected to give control of the board of directors back to Berkeley's KPFA-FM and the network's four other stations around the country.
The settlement, finished yesterday in an Oakland courtroom, ends four lawsuits filed by listeners, local station advisory boards and dissident Pacifica board members who had charged the foundation's board with destroying "any semblance of democratic participation, lawful governance, accountability and fiduciary stewardship."
Those involved in the settlement hope it will bring to a close a national battle over control of one the nation's few noncommercial media outlets. Protests have been continual since the spring of 1999 when the board took away listeners' role in naming board members. The board also enraged critics by dismissing Nicole Sawaya, the outspoken station manager at KPFA, whose 59,000-watt signal reaches a third of the state. Carol Spooner, lead plaintiff in the listeners' lawsuit, said she believes that the agreement will return the network -- with stations in New York, Washington, D.C., Houston and Los Angeles as well as Berkeley -- to the mission outlined in 1946 by its pacifist founders.
"Pacifica was founded to help the public understand the causes of conflict and resolve them," she said. "It has been a media outlet for dissent and critical political analysis. That's Pacifica's place in the nation's political dialogue."
Former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, a member of the majority faction of the board and a defendant, said that ending almost three years of bitter infighting will allow the network to grow and improve.
"It frees us up to put our energy into making these stations as great as they should be," he said. "It took compromise on all sides."
After the settlement was entered into the court record, Barry, Spooner and almost two dozen other plaintiffs, defendants and their attorneys, exchanged hugs and handshakes, and expressed their gratitude to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw, who worked late into the night Monday, shuttling back and forth between the parties to forge an agreement.
"What is at stake is a very, very valuable community asset in the form of the Pacifica Foundation and its member stations," Sabraw told the litigants. "These are very hard-fought issues over which everyone has struggled mightily."
Under the terms of the settlement, the current board of directors will step down. The majority faction will then appoint five members to an interim board, the "dissident" minority faction will appoint five members and the local advisory boards at the five stations will each appoint a member.
That arrangement is expected to give the lawsuit plaintiffs nine seats on the foundation's 15-member board, meaning that the former dissidents could control financial, programming and personnel decisions.
However, the parties worked out a complicated scheme to make sure all sides have a say.
Ordinary business matters will require a majority with at least one vote from each of the three camps. In an unusual provision, when the board approves something by a simple majority but lacks a vote from each camp, Judge Sabraw will be called in to approve or deny the vote.
And the parties agreed that changes in the foundation's bylaws will require a two-thirds vote.
The interim board will have 15 months to revise the foundation's bylaws to again include listeners in selecting future boards, and it will have to resolve a host of personnel and financial problems.
Several dozen staff members and volunteers have been fired or banned at KPFA, New York's WBAI and the Pacifica Network News for speaking out against the network's board and management.
At last month's meeting, board members got the news that the network had $2 million in bills and only $300,000 in the bank. Pacifica has spent millions of dollars on legal fees, security guards and public relations firms.
"There's been a lot of damage done, a loss of listeners, a loss of money," said Leslie Cagan, a board member from New York who brought one of the suits. "This is not a victory, this is a settlement. The challenge is to be smart enough and committed enough to make it work."
E-mail Tyche Hendricks at email@example.com.
The Associated Press State & Local Wire
December 13, 2001, Thursday, BC cycle
12:17 AM Eastern Time
California lawsuits against public radio organization settled
The Pacifica Foundation, the parent company of several public radio stations around the country, settled four lawsuits against its board of directors Wednesday.
The settlement ends more than two years of bitter legal wrangling over the board's makeup by setting up an interim board with representatives from all concerned sides.
Attorneys were pleased with the settlement. "It means a new direction for Pacifica," said Adam Belsky, an attorney with Gross & Belsky LLP who represented Pacifica listeners and the state of California. "Pacifica is in crisis right now. The current board of directors has taken control of the foundation and tried to change it, and alienated the listener base."
The interim board will serve for 15 months, and will be able to come to decisions on some major issues facing the organization, such as working out the role of the national board, said Robert Darby, an attorney with Fulbright & Jaworski who represented the foundation.
"I think the settlement's a very positive step for the foundation, and it puts in place a consensus-based decision-making process, and an interim board composed of all the warring factions," he said.
Decisions will be made by a majority, but that majority must have one vote from the different interests on the board, or must have two-thirds support, Darby said. If no consensus can be reached, then the board can go to Alameda County Superior Court for resolution.
In recent years, the foundation, now based in Washington, D.C., has had a contentious relationship with some listeners.
In Berkeley, for instance, the foundation locked out KPFA-FM staffers for 17 days in 1999, following clashes over fired programmers and rumors the station would be sold. Pacifica let staffers back in provided the station would increase its audience size and diversity.
The foundation has also seen protests over leadership in New York City where it has WBAI-FM and in Houston, where it owns KPFT-FM.
Pacifica was founded in 1949 by pacifists and conscientious objectors. Unlike National Public Radio or PBS, it accepts no corporate underwriting.
Posted on New Pacifica Working Group
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