KPFK station manager Eva Georgia
posted here 11-9-02
Shortly after KPFK station manager Eva Georgia was hired in May 2002 ( press release ) concerns arose with regard to the accuracy of the information presented during the selection process. There was an investigation after which Pacifica executive director Dan Coughlin decided not to reverse the hire.
( executive director's recent plan for KPFK )
Below is a collection of documents mostly making the case against the appointment. They are being posted on wbai.net due to their compelling nature and so as to be easily referenced by the Pacifica community who needs to draw their own conclusions or perhaps investigate further.
I have emailed and spoken directly to Eva Georgia and Dan Coughlin requesting written responses to the content of this page. They have declined.
Roger M, NYC
Posted on this page:
by maria gilardin
Dear All, The wide distribution of Dave Fertig and Rafael Renteria's letters and the bizarre emergence of a L.A. variation of the South African "truth and reconciliation commission" inspired this post. It occurs to me that there are too many definitions of racism and a veritable inflation of what was once commonly known as "truth". The Los Angeles passion/power play over who is to play what role in and above our sister station KPFK and its staff, paid and unpaid, needs to get reviewed. I'm sure the current perplexed audience, both real and virtual would appreciate an honest assessment. That task needs to be done by a drama critic from L.A. From where I sit I can only look at part of the cast of characters and look up in the play bill what roles they are supposed to play.
Whoever the casting agency is that put some of these performers in place we see by now a number of mismatches that raise serious concerns:
We have a manger at KPFK who gets bad reviews for her managing but gets praised for her programming decisions. I'm getting angry phone calls from people who want me to sign a petition in her support because she turned programming around. Programming Director is decidedly NOT a role she or any manager is hired to play.
We see the process to hire a Program Director subverted, abandoned. Whatever the reason for that failure, the fact that there is no process and no Program Director at KPFK is a serious matter in itself. How can the performance go on with this crucial role unfilled? Eva Georgia promised, when she was hired, to implement plans that were already in place to create a program council. How come that some of the performers who play roles not their own have played a role in the demise of that process?
We see the role of the Station manger played by the LAB Chair. Now that is also NOT the role of the LAB chair, not now and not in the future. In the drafts for the current bylaws is is not even clear if the LABs will have the unchallenged power to hire let alone be the GM.
And this play has now had a better run than most Hollywood productions. Is it really already almost 7 months?
The intrigue surrounding this production focuses on the station manger, Eva Georgia. Since she is not doing what she was hired to do, all the other mismatches fall into place. Local and National Board members appear on the scene and even walk on stage. The ever ready politicos behind the scenes make hay out of the aspects of this matter, mostly the race issue.
People know that I am a critic of Eva Georgia. But I finally understand what Zane Ibrahim expressed early on. He was reluctant to go forward with his first hand information about Eva Georgia because he knew, after having known Apartheid for almost 50 years of his life, that Eva Georgia, regardless of her qualifications or lack of - maybe even because the lack - would be used as well. Poor Eva. Used by those who want to do her job for her, used by those who find her a welcome addition to identity politics. Used by those who can make gains for themselves or their agendas. And made immune from criticism by her defenders simply based on race.
Ten years of resistance to the Pacifica Coup and what I thought was our common past fly by in a flash: Pat Scott, immune from criticism because she is black, Mary Frances Berry, immune, Bessie Wash who was unassailable when she worked in the finance department of Greenpeace and called everybody a racist who disputed her accounting methods, unassailable again in Pacifica when she spent us into near bankruptcy. You all know the list is much longer. Poor Eva?
What Zane Ibrahim also feared or even knew was that he himself would come under attack and that is really what I want to focus on in this post. I have seen with dismay and a sense of desperation how so many were not content with claiming that the information coming from South Africa and Bush Radio was wrong. They had to take the extra step to attack Zane, Zenzile, and even Danny Olifant who had initially given a good recommendation about Eva Georgia to Lydia Brazon when she checked Eva's references.
But when Danny Olifant, member of the ANC and representative of Atlantis City to the South African Parliament, was asked whether he knew, when he had praised Eva Georgia as the first manger of Radio Atlantis, how her tenure at Atlantis Radio had ended said he did not. He then did extensive research and sent a second letter, saying
"When I left the ADF [the NGO that set up Atlantis Radio] for Parliament I have learned some year after that Eva was asked to resign. When I asked why I was told the gross mismanagement took place as well as funds that got missing. Because there was no disciplinary code for the Radio Station, she was asked to resign. The station decided against having her arrested"He also said that Eva did indeed visit South Africa:
"Eva is talking nonsense if she says need political asylum and she was in the country around 2000/2001. Because I saw her at Parliament and I have spoken to her and she told me that she lived in America. I hope this will assist you
Danny OlifantWhen the supporters of Eva received this letter their former praise of Danny Olifant turned into disdain. Danny Olifant's initial support of Eva had been used to discredit all other information coming out of South Africa and from Zane Ibrahim and Zenzile Khoisan. Suddenly it all turned around. When it was convenient his judgment, credibility and trustworthiness were praised. When Danny Olifant had the courage to check up on his previous judgment and admitted that he had been misled - something I wish others in his drama would have the guts to do too - he was maligned.
Has anybody stopped to consider how Zenzile might have felt to be so maligned, or Danny Olifant, or Zane? Zenzile was even known to many Pacifica people. During his time in exile he was a producer at WBAI. A friend, someone who was known. Has anybody wondered why they thought this happened? Has anybody ever considered that race might have played a role in this as well?
If we were to really want to define the aspects of racism how do we explain to ourselves or anybody else that a member of Parliament is fair game, that people can say about Zane Ibrahim that his claims are "backhanded, hollow, unsubstantiated". That Zenzile, who really has worked for the real Commission of Inquiry in South Africa as investigator, who was trained do do these interviews in a certain way, i.e. sit down with the witness, record every word, "extraneous" or not transcribe the conversation and show it to the witness and have the person sign off. That procedure that he learned at the Commission of Inquiry was not good enough for some of the supporters of Eva. It was found to be "rambling" and equally unsubstantiated etc.
The center piece of misinformation is embedded in a paragraph from a letter from Rafael Renteria. He writes in support of Eva Georgian and calls, for a "Commission of Inquiry" for her to clear her of the charges against her.
By way of explaining how she has been maligned and by whom he says:
"I could do like they did it at Radio Atlantis. I could bring in a neoliberal sell out with ties to McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and, of all people George Sorros, to head a commission to investigate my enemies. I'm referring here to this guy Dollie, who headed up the 'investigation' at Radio Atlantis." Rafael Renteria
If that degree of misinformation is going around in L.A. no wonder that people are signing Rafael's petition: Omar Dollie did not lead up the investigation. The Open Forum Society, funded by George Soros, were and still are supporters of Eva Georgia. They had initially paid for the equipment for Radio Atlantis. After the station became bankrupt under Eva's leadership the Open Forum Society threatened to take the equipment back. The community from Atlantis and Omar Dollie came forward to rescue "their" station. Dollie, as business man had the money to rescue Radio Atlantis. I don't know Omar Dollie but I challenge you to put the donors to our stations who just rescued Pacifica under the same scrutiny. Owning a Kentucky Fried chicken franchise might not turn out to be the worst source of money that finds its way into our donation boxes. (Also all station in all poor neighborhoods have a terrible time getting funded. People are simply too poor to give.)
The investigation of the demise of Radio Atlantis was done by a commission of inquiry. The members were chosen by the Atlantis BOD. Their names are: Ata Mkhwanazi, Lizelle Bosman, and Zane Ibrahim.
And here is where the story ties into Zane Ibrahim.
I can only imagine that the disdain heaped upon Zane Ibrahim came from people not knowing who he is. For most on these lists his initial, guarded, letter to Dan regarding Eva Georgia's hire is their first contact. Zane thought that Bush Radio should have been contacted by the hiring committee.
Imagine someone applying for a job. Training at Pacifica appears as part of the resume. Would you NOT call Pacifica to check? Eva said she trained at Bush Radio. Bush Radio is the best known, most respected station in South Africa. It's past in the anti Apartheid struggle, it's courageous attempts to get and stay on the air have made headlines - even in the US. Take a look at their web site. http://www.bushradio.co.za/
Don't you wish you could be there? Those on the waiting list for interns wait for over a year. Bush Radio is now receiving applications for 2005. Noam Chomsky has spent a week at Bush Radio, has he spent a week at any of ours? (He can't even get on the air at many Pacifica stations unless it is fundraising time.)
However nobody called Bush Radio - I'm still totally puzzled by that. Is it because it is a black ghetto station? Is that another version of racism? I referred to Dave Fertig's letter where he brushed aside information from Bush Radio by treating them and the station's' manager Zane Ibrahim with contempt: Who is Dave putting down in order to make Eva look good?
I know I only know of a small part of his life - but all is checked. So here, friends, meet Zane Ibrahim:
Zane Ibrahim, the ghetto kid who grew up in District 6, who was first arrested for handing our flyers on his paper route at age 9, who was first jailed and tortured at age 11. Who had to go into exile in Canada in 1967. He learned radio there, started a family. Zane and his wife worked with Noam Chomsky on East Timor. Zane worked with the First Nation peoples in Canada on land claims.
Zane returned the moment when anti government groups were un-banned in South Africa. There is a photo of Nelson Mandela coming out of prison. Zane is in that photo. It took him years to have the charges dropped from his anti Apartheid work. He began to work for Bush Radio. But to this day he also travels across the country to keep community radio alive and set up new stations. He is a legend in South Africa and beyond.
What he says and writes about the hopes and fears for community radio are movingly and frighteningly our own. In a tiny village 6 hours drive away from everybody where the station he visits is in hovel behind the post office, he teaches kids to speak. He tells them that even a monkey can spin disks and that they need to learn to talk. Zane sits in at the phone office saying he won't leave until they install a phone line at one of the other tiny community stations. he tells the phone company that he is an elder with a weak heart and that he might die any moment. The phone company installs the phone.
Zane also talks about the co-optation of radio and stations like Cape Talk, the station where Eva worked, capitalizing on the success of community radio and blasting them away with huge wattage's. He talks about the right-wing Christian taking over community radio - exactly like here. Yes, Pat Robertson is at work in South Africa as well, spreading the gospel via radio stations.
Bush Radio had a direct connection to Pacifica as well that goes back many years. Zenzile Khoisan, who later became an investigator for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and did much of the research on Eva Georgia had been a producer at WBAI while he was in exile. Zenzile and Zane were completely aware of the coup at Pacifica and participated in the Pacifica campaign by sending faxes and e-mails to the renegade board members. Over that period WBAI staff and people from Berkeley visited Bush Radio and enjoyed their stay there.
Can you imagine the shocked surprise when suddenly a press release from Dan Coughlin lands in their e-mail announcing Eva Georgia as the new GM of KPFK. Eva Georgia who they knew so well over years was to head one of the Pacifica stations that they just extended their solidarity to, that they rooted for to save?
Zane remembered the journeys to Atlantis, every day for a week, two hours each way. He went there after Radio Atlantis had gone bankrupt. He headed a three person Commission of Enquiry that was to find out why the station, led by Eva Georgia as manager, had collapsed. I assume that most people on these lists have seen that report. They found a high degree of infighting and financial records in disarray.
The accountant, Andrew R. Mally, who was hired to do an audit was unable to complete it because the financial records were incomplete or could not be found: The receipt books for community money donations had pages torn from them
Authorization for capital expenses could not be found or explained Bank statements for the period of 01/09/96 to 31/03/97 could not be found Deposit books for the period 01/09/96 to 31/03/97 were also gone
(Eva Georgia's supporters later claimed that the accounting was not done by the manager but by a law firm. That assertion appears to be a fabrication. There is no record of such a firm in the report of the Commission of Inquiry - on the contrary the commission recommended that Eva be removed - and she was)
I will stop here. I fear that this too will create another round of attacks and innuendoes. For the sake of the people who I respect and who had the courage to speak out: Zane, Zenzile, and people here in Pacifica Land: Myla Reson, Diana Barahona, Donna Warren, who unsigned the petition, (to only name those, except for Donna, who have been maligned already) as well as other people of integrity in South Africa and here, I'm throwing myself to the wolves as well!
Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 09:03:28 -0700
During the interim post-Schubb period the staff was left intact, it would not be purged. A few left, such as Cooper, Kauffman & Arcos, but the rest remained, including p/t board op Eben Ray, Cooper's producer Dan Pavlish, Esther Manilla and others.
Meanwhile, we searched for a GM. Went through about 50 resumes. Did background checks. Eva's background check was quite thorough. We knew she had conflicts at Atlantis, and people there were spoken to extensively, as at Cape Talk, the S.A. Gov't., ANC, etc. We knew Eva was a co-plaintiff in an employment lawsuit in Long Beach, and as a plaintiff's employment law attorney I can tell you that is not an inherently bad thing, her claims appeared sound and we certainly were (and remain) not in a position to adjudicate them ourselves.
Eva's asylum status was challenged (yes, we've looked at the file extensively). The early charges against Eva were posted to the "Goodlight board" and given to Myla Reson, who followed up on them quite eagerly. None of this info was at first given to Pacifica, except for Zane Ibrahim's (from South Africa) first ambiguous and backhanded letter. After my repeated urging and pleading to Zane for the data, Myla finally gave me the vaunted materials and eventually Zane sent me hard copies of what I had already seen. They consisted of a document negatively characterizing the finances of Radio Atlantis (but failing to note that the finances were run by a law firm, not Eva), and some rambling statements from individuals who made factual assertions that were looked into, but ring hollow.
In most instances individuals who were alleged to have made the statements were contacted and either denied having made the statements or noted that the questions posed to them were loaded and misleading. If one looks at the string of letters from Zane Ibrahim, one will see essentially hollow and unsubstantiated claims directly aimed to remove her from Pacifica. His last missive said words to the effect of, if you get rid her of, we will stop. Quite ironic when compared to the first letter which said, well, sorry you didn't ask us, but good luck anyway to Pacifica and Sister Eva, and which letter was followed by the incessant stream of half-baked accusations.
Then I learned that Zane Ibrahim had said (orally, not in writing) that Eva had embezzled money fom Atlantis Radio Yet among the scads of paper he has produced there is no written indication of this. With all the hyperbole, unfounded claims and conclusionary reasoning it seems that some folks are eager to get rid of Eva, and will use whatever conjecture and invective to do so. But the info never came directly to Pacifica, rather it was routed (ask Mark Schubb how that happened) to people who could be relied upon to spread rumors without careful analysis. Sorry, Myla.
Thus as soon as Eva came into the station she met resistance. Former PD asst. Esther Manilla (part of the management team after Starr) told me that she refused to give Eva, the newly hired KPFK GM, keys to the station. I asked her why, she said the info she had gotten (from S. Africa, via Myla and others) indicated that Eva was not to be trusted, and until she was assured otherwise she would not trust Eva either. Thus distrust was firmly planted. I have asked Esther literally more than 20 times to speak with me about this and subsequent events, she refuses; it's her right.
And other staffers claim they were not influenced by Esther's (and Roy Hurst's) patent mistrust of Eva. Yet the mistrust was palpable and plain. Meanwhile, Eva Georgia has sought to find order in utter chaos. She sought to bring the community in, she undertook to help guide the talent (old and new, Sonali being one) and she instituted programming meetings so all could be on the same page as to what was being produced at K, so ideas could be surface and explored. She sought to work with collectives to cultivate programming resources, she worked to encourage outreach, to complete the transmitter project, to find out from the staff what they felt was needed; she managed. Or she tried.
The KPFK union contract has languished unsigned for years (shop steward Marc Cooper and his successors, including his fmr producer Dan Pavlish who's still at K, never got the AFTRA contact inked years after wresting it away from UE). Eva honorably sought to implement its terms (this later turns up as one of the demands listed in a staff petition). This meant no part timers more than 20 hours a week, no temp staff more than 4 months. But the station was already in violation of this proviso by many staffmembers. And the budget could not bear the current staff load, even with inflated income projections.
Eva sought to implement the terms of the union contract and bring the station within budget. This involves cutting temps and bringing part-timers back to 20 hours. Eva has made some decisions about how to do this, and whatever she does will be controversial and imperfect, perhaps even influenced by her human nature. Does the staff have legitimate grievances? No doubt. Has Eva made mistakes? Indeed. And vice-versa. How should we address these issues? I say via communication, by sitting down at a table and putting everything on it, sorting it out openly and honestly, as painful and unpleasant as it may be for all concerned.
This is Pacifica. I recently said in a staff meeting (about engaging facilitators and coming to the table at a two-day retreat to work on the problems) that unless we are all willing to come to the table and put our hearts on it honestly, we might as well give up, leave the room. Sonali Kolhatkar stood up and bravely announced she would leave, who's with her. No doubt some of the staff wanted to leave, but they all stayed for various reasons. Sonali sat back down. The retreat is scheduled and not soon enough.
Is Pacifica to manage its personnel crises through petition, magazine articles and speeches at LAB meetings? Indeed, if that is the only avenue by which they can be heard, then so it is. But Lydia Brazon and I have repeatedly (like dozens of times) asked staff to contact us, to meet with us, to speak with us, to no avail. We (LAB Chair Lydia Brazon, Eva and I) have repeatedly sought to implement a facilitated conversation around this, and met with resistance at every step. Scoffing and rolling of the eyes, instead of heartfelt communication. What is more important in Pacifica than how we communicate and resolve differences among one another? I do not accept that we cannot work this out without political powerplays; if I'm wrong, we have already lost Pacifica. And I will readily (if reluctantly) accept being wrong in many things, including my whole analysis above, but I will not accept that Pacifica cannot work out such problems in a principled way.
PS: Are some people gleefully wringing their hands in delight? Indeed. And are some of these folks contributing to the problem? What would you think? I find that likelihood quite galling.
Outwardly Progressive, Internally Corporate: Pacifica's Next Challenge
In an article on Pacifica titled "Gloves Off", Michael Albert wrote: "progressive organizations should employ participatory and self-managing rather than corporate structures ... advocating self-managing structures has not only long-run but also short-run relevance to Pacifica, because Pacifica activism will grow quicker and be stronger and wiser if it pursues positive aims."
As a listener and subscriber to KPFK, Pacifica's Los Angeles station, I kept a close watch on the campaign to "save Pacifica" and wrote letters, and supported efforts to reclaim Pacifica. At the height of the crisis I heard Juan Gonzalez resign on the air on Democracy Now! and began withholding my donations from KPFK.
Today, I find myself in a unique position: from a listener/subscriber to a worker at KPFK. Since March 2002, soon after the lawsuit was won and the "old regime" replaced, I began hosting and co-producing KPFKs Morning Show on weekday mornings. As the months have passed, I have grown into my new job and have fallen in love with journalism, radio, and production for the purposes of raising progressive awareness and motivating to action. I have seen and continue to see Pacifica as not simply reporting on the movement for social and political justice, but as an integral part of the movement. I have grown to appreciate my fellow workers who are as passionate as I am to be a part of this station. Excited as everyone else was about the changes heralding a new era at KPFK, I embraced our new General Manager and new Local Advisory Board (LAB) with enthusiasm.
Before I go further, I want to emphasize that there are several aspects of KPFK and Pacifica that have changed for the better. Listeners have more power and input into station policies, new bylaws are being debated by listeners, there are plans for elections to the Local Advisory Board, etc. But, where working conditions and internal management structures are concerned, KPFK retains the structures that were designed to "corporatize" the stations in the first place.
While the players changed, the game remained the same. I should have been wary from the start about an essentially hierarchical structure working for progressive goals. Hence, the realization that KPFK, in my opinion, is replicating the very structures it replaced saddens me. A progressive organization like KPFK must reject corporate structures and "employ participatory and self-managing" ones. But that has never been the case. If anything, in the last seven months that I have been employed at KPFK, I have seen only a reaffirming of corporate structures. When I first came into the station, I was assigned an "executive producer", a "professional" who, I was told, was ultimately responsible for the show I hosted and would be the one responsible for the show. This executive producer was hired after the lawsuit was won, and was not a product of the previous management. This acceptance of mainstream media power roles came as rather a surprise to me. I imagined that as the person on the air, the words I spoke were my responsibility. I spent months battling the philosophy that I thought died with the previous regime. Egalitarian in theory, authoritarian in practice.
Eventually executive producer finally had enough of my resistance to this philosophy and asked to be taken off the show, much to my relief. The Morning Show is now run by myself and one other producer and newsreader. We make every attempt to share power and decision making on the show. About half our stories are pitched to us by members of the community whose lives are affected by the prevailing power structures in our society.
The experience with "professionalism" was only a taste of things to come. One of the actions by our new General Manager only weeks after her arrival at KPFK was to fire a beloved and dedicated staff member on impulse as a result of a dispute over a financial transaction. I have gathered that the official reason given was "insubordination". The staff at KPFK was shocked. The event galvanized us and, over the course of several long meetings, collectively decided upon a course of action. The attack on one staff member empowered the rest of us to collectively demand that the fired staff member be immediately re-instated and that financial transactions be made transparent. It was this part of my tenure at KPFK that has been the most exciting. We were exercising workplace democracy and cooperation based on consensus-based decision making! Our solidarity reaped rewards: the fired worker was immediately re instated. However, closed-door mediated sessions between the GM and that worker ensured that eventually no blame was assigned to either party even though one had the power to fire and used it, and the other had no say in the matter. We, the staff, were told to move on.
In 4 short weeks, an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment has returned to KPFK when the GM suspended the same worker. This time "for her own good" as the worker was apparently too stressed to work - a fact that was not supported by her or anyone else's observations on the staff. We're back to business as usual and old timers on the staff are reminded of the striking parallels between then and now.
When KPFKs new GM came on board, as part of her speech at the National Board Meeting in Berkeley she said her goal was to "take the hierarchy out of management". Unfortunately her actions are vastly different. Staff members at KPFK have been derided for having unauthorized meetings to plot against the GM and for showing disrespect to the GM. Lately the GM has asked that she be informed when staff members have lunch together outside of the station premises. Even a small gathering of staff members in the parking lot for 15 minute breaks is questioned. When management meets without larger staff permission and summarily fires and suspends highly respected and hard working staff members, somehow that is not "disrespectful". Staff has been told that the GM "does not report to them". Of course, what she means is that staff reports to the GM and the GM reports to the National Board - that is how it works within a hierarchical system.
Some might say, so what? She is the General Manager; someone has got to have the power to make decisions unilaterally for the good of the station, for "practical purposes". If I have learned anything from my six month tenure here, it is that many progressive thinkers find it disturbingly easy to separate political ideals of workplace democracy, egalitarian thinking and non-hierarchical decision making, from the actual workings of their own institutions.
Sadly our new General Manager not only has problems with challenges to her authority, but also seems to be bearing the weight of previous workplace conflicts. Various people have raised numerous questions about her background and the National Board promised to review any findings from an investigation. A month ago, the Pacifica Executive Director Dan Coughlin visited KPFK and happened to be in town when our fellow worker was first fired. When quelling the staff over the issue of the firing, I asked Coughlin about this investigation. His response was that the investigation had revealed nothing of concern. However, a few days ago, the person who conducted this investigation revealed to a few other staff members and me, that this was a lie. This person's investigations, which were thorough and came from a geographically diverse array of sources, were a devastating indictment of the suitability, skills and honesty of our new GM. A pattern of mismanagement, quite consistent with her current behavior at KPFK also emerged - enough to raise red flags. I was more shocked to realize that the top management at Pacifica was protecting their political investment in this GM on whom their reputation was staked. We, the staff, and the listeners were lied to.
There seems to be growing participation between listener activists and management on a national level, and this indeed a step in the right direction. More needs to be done to engage the larger listening community who may not be activists. However, on the station level, a replacement of the General Manager seems to be the length to which reform has gone. A search committee that was representative and democratic picked the current GM. But, once she was picked, the functioning of the station was left up to her, just like it was left up to her predecessor. The figurehead has changed; the system has stayed the same. It is akin to imagining that the state of our country will change if a Democrat replaces George W. Bush. Predictably the same abuses of power are being seen today. Staff members who stand up to the General Manager are being fired or have their hours reduced. Staff meetings are conducted by the GM through intimidation and authority.
So remarkable is the parallel between what is currently happening and the previous struggle to reclaim Pacifica, that sometimes the same language is being used that the previous regime used in trying to undermine the "save Pacifica" campaign. A February 2000 letter by Saul Landau was entitled "An Appeal to All Progressives: Stop the Pacifica Bashing!" In a GM's report to the listeners at KPFK, a caller began criticizing the station's output saying that nothing had changed. The GM's response to that was to berate the caller for "bashing Pacifica" and dismissed him without hearing him out. The parallels are clear.
Additionally, a few listener activists who are involved in rebuilding the station are vehemently opposed to airing dirty laundry and assert that it would only serve to prove the previous regime correct. It would just "play into their hands".
If Pacifica and its network stations are to recover from this very difficult period, the most destructive path it can take is to follow in the footsteps of the previous management. And it seems to be doing just that. Have things really changed?
One can imagine a major corporation undergoing internal upheavals where the top brass has an embarrassing closet of secrets, which, if exposed, would require an entire re-organization of structures and a re-evaluation of transparency and accountability. The corporate world is based on hierarchical top-down style management of workers that is geared toward maximizing production and minimizing risks at the expense of workers rights and human rights. Why are Pacifica stations continuing to adopt structures where a lone person at the top makes decisions? Don't we need to honestly assess our progress and risk exposing mistakes so that a truly revolutionary media institution can be rebuilt?
An excellent example of bottom-up structures is the Indymedia movement. The Independent Media Centers that span the globe first began in 1999 in Seattle, Washington when tens of thousands demonstrated against the World Trade Organization. Since then, there has been an explosion of these Indymedia Centers throughout the world from Los Angeles to Jerusalem. While I'm not suggesting that Pacifica needs to emulate this structure in order to be a truly progressive institution, I think many lessons can be learned. Namely that decision-making among those who create the output can be horizontally rather than vertically designed.
Ultimately internal honesty and a bottom-up structure are the only things that can build a station resistant to outside attacks. We need to move toward the "participatory and self-managing structures" that Michael Albert spoke of. Mimicking the very structures we criticize in our political analysis should never be an option.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and co-producer of KPFKs The Morning Show, a daily drive time public affairs and political show on global and local issues. She is also currently one of KPFKs Union stewards.
Open Letter to KPFK Listening Community, Local Advisory Board, Pacifica National Board, and KPFK Management
From: Members of the KPFK staff
This past summer, the state of staff / management relations at KPFK deteriorated significantly. There is no workplace democracy left at KPFK. As individual LAB members can attest after attending several staff meetings, morale is extremely low.
In the long history of KPFK and Pacifica Radio, it has been the goal of staff, management, and the listening community, that the stations run democratically. The implementing of community advisory boards, hiring committees, and public meetings on policy all came about as a way to ensure Pacifica is a democratic and consensus oriented organization.
The staff is concerned the Mission of Pacifica is being disregarded. Staff has been frequently forbidden from discussing matters concerning staff / management relations at some staff meetings. Programming decisions are increasingly being made unilaterally. We consider it important that both the Pacifica Employee Hand Book and the AFTRA Collective Bargaining Agreement is consistently adhered to from here on into the future. In general, we feel that without transparency there can be no democracy. Currently, the workplace at KPFK is running along the model of a corporate structure where workers have little or no say and decisions are made behind closed doors. Transparency is vital to the health of community radio.
It is true that KPFK staff have not attended LAB and by-laws meetings as often as we should. We regret this and sincerely pledge to remedy this by increasing our attendance of community meetings concerning KPFK while staying true to the Pacifica Mission. We do believe a strong relationship between the staff and listeners is critical to the healthy functioning of the station.
To this end, we propose the following solutions:
Internal decisions such as programming, budgetary, personnel, and others should have input by committees which are representative of the listening communities, volunteer programmers, volunteers and staff. (One prototype of such a committee is a proposal for a program council, which is detailed on the KPFK website);
The health of KPFK depends on the health of the listeners, the LAB, the subscribers, management, and staff. It is a travesty that this progressive institution, which covers the labor struggles of countless workers all over the nation and the world, is functioning as a workplace where there is no job security, and frequently inadequate or nonexistent benefits. We are reaching out to the KPFK listening community, the Local Advisory Board, and all interested parties to help improve the KPFK workplace environment and to help us continue the efforts making KPFK a truly healthy institution, on the inside and outside. We urge you to help us truly rebuild KPFK using the guiding principles outlined in the Pacifica Mission and which we uphold.
Signed by members of staff (listed alphabetically),
With a show of solidarity from these programmers and volunteers:
To add your name in solidarity, please email your full name and affiliation (optional) to email@example.com
The Pacifica Radio Network, with five stations and numerous affiliates, has seen enough trouble over the last three years. It was left with a $4.8 million debt and in a state of organizational chaos by a corrupt board of directors that was mercifully removed last December by a determined army of reformers and four lawsuits.
KPFK 90.7 FM, L.A.'s beloved radical radio station, was not removed from the battle. In January, Interim Executive Director Dan Coughlin fired KPFK's General Manager Mark Schubb when he defied the new interim Board of Directors.
But after two successful fund drives, including a national fund drive to repair the KPFK transmitter, supporters of the station began to feel hopeful that the worst was over. A 13-member search committee consisting of staff, listeners and Pacifica board member David Fertig was formed to find a new general manager. They looked at nearly 50 applicants and chose three finalists, South African Eva Georgia and the managers of a community station in Moab, Utah, and a college station in San Jose. Coughlin made the final selection, based on the recommendation of the search committee, and put out a glowing press release about the new manager's role in setting up Radio Atlantis and Cape Talk in South Africa.
Then the trouble started.
A local activist sent Coughlin's press release to media outlets in the Cape Town Area. One of these was Bush Radio, the first community station in South Africa. Bush Radio's director, Zane Ibrahim, responded with a letter to Coughlin. In it, he took exception to the claims in the press release that Eva Georgia had helped set up the first community radio station-Atlantis was actually only the first licensed station. Ibrahim also mentioned that Cape Talk was a commercial station, set up by a white-owned media monopoly. He continues: "I cannot therefore allow our hard fought battles to be trivialised by a press release that reads like a movie script. Eva is a capable person and can stand her ground without the "Joan of Arc" nonesense. The struggle is far too real for us down here to allow your press release to go unchallenged."
Under pressure by local KPFK activists to investigate his new hire, Coughlin reluctantly started a reevaluation of Georgia's employment history, and learned some very alarming facts and allegations: that she had been fired under threat of criminal prosecution from Radio Atlantis for dishonesty; that there were complaints by Atlantis staff of physical and verbal abuse; that she had been fired from Cape Talk. A former Atlantis Radio employee, Jamilla Isaacs, made a formal complaint to the Station Board, in which she stated she was subjected to "physical and emotional torment":
"On numerous occasions I was subjected to the verbal abuse of the station manager, her usage of foul language upon me, shouting and insulting me. Many a time these happened in the presence of ex-colleagues and volunteers. Coupled to the above are the physical abuses I had to endure. The violent manner in which I was treated, being pulled around by my hair, shoved in the face, on the body, choked, etc, were common occurrences... I was subjected to defamatory insults such as being called a slut, a "nothing", a betrayer, a liar, sly etc by the manager."
Nine other workers joined Ms. Isaacs in the complaint1. Georgia countered by accusing what she called the "problem group" of being bad workers. Although she states that she reprimanded Jamilla daily, she also claimed, "I failed by not disciplining Jamilla."
At the time, 1997, Radio Atlantis was on the brink of being shut down. A Commission of Enquiry was formed, which included Zane Ibrahim, to investigate and make recommendations. This is what the former chairman of the Atlantis Reconstruction and Development Program, Omar Dollie, told journalist, Zenzile Khoisan:
"Radio Atlantis was supposed to close down because of the mismanagement of Eva Georgia. Open society was on the verge of taking back their equipment to the tune of a half million rand. The messenger of the court came in and wrote up all Radio Atlantis assets, we stepped in...There was never books kept in proper order. There were never audited statements. It was a total disaster..."
An accountant's letter verifies this. The commission decided against having Georgia arrested, and she was asked to resign.
On behalf of Zane Ibrahim, journalist Zenzile Khoisan interviewed several people in Atlantis about Georgia, and wrote up a summary of what he had learned. He concluded his report: "Further, persons with whom she worked, and the paper trail from at least one institution she headed, raise serious doubts in respect of her ability to manage a major media outlet, deal fairly with a diverse staff and ensure fiscal integrity of a critical outlet for Pacifica."
Further, Coughlin learned that Georgia had been fired from her position at the non-profit Gay and Lesbian Center in Long Beach, California. Georgia sued the Center for wrongful termination, and the case is still pending2. Georgia's complaint states that her supervisor defamed her by saying that she is a "liar", "cannot be trusted", "does not do her work", "physically attacks", and/or "is physically abusive". But even after he heard some very dire warnings about Georgia from unconnected sources in South Africa and the U.S., Coughlin decided that there was not enough information to "reverse the hire."
Something that angers critics of the hire in particular is the fact that soon after she arrived in the U.S., Eva Georgia tried for over three months to get a job at Pacifica's flagship station, KPFA in Berkeley. This was at a time when the staff was locked in struggle with Pacifica Executive Director and acting General Manager, Lynn Chadwick. As head of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Chadwick was the creator of the Healthy Stations Project (HSP), which intended to make community stations economically solvent by using a corporate management structure and standardizing and mainstreaming programming. This model was embraced by successive Pacifica directors, and resulted in a concentration of power at the top of the network and the purging of hundreds of programmers in a quest to reach target markets in each area. Georgia received training by Chadwick in 1995 as part of an HSP initiative to "develop" South African radio managers.
But Chadwick is best remembered for hiring armed guards to occupy and finally lock down KPFA on July 13, 1999. The day of the lockdown was the day Georgia was supposed to have her final interview, presumably with Chadwick, for the position of program director. The KPFA staff won back their station after the community rallied to support them, but by then Georgia had given up on KPFA and headed south to L.A. to try her luck at KPFK.
How did the search committee fail to learn of Georgia's past? One problem is that only one person checked her references-LAB chair Lydia Brazon. Did Brazon ignore warning signs? It's impossible to know since not only did she fail to publish the three finalists' resumes, as promised to the listeners, but she has refused to issue a report on the process of the committee. Both Brazon and Pacifica board member David Fertig have been staunch apologists for Georgia.
A Question of Credibility
Then there are the fabrications. On July 1, Georgia told KPFK listeners that her final interview at KPFA was with Nicole Sawaya, the general manager Lynn Chadwick had fired 3 and a half months prior. When questioned during another on-air interview she said that she was confused because she met Sawaya in the parking lot outside of KPFA the day the station was shut down. Sawaya confirms she wasn't even in Berkeley on that date-she was hosting a radio show elsewhere and covering the lockout.
Eva Georgia related the following incidents to Steve Carney, for his June 7, 2002 article in the L.A. Times:
"A police commissioner investigating corruption died in a mysterious car crash, while a journalist subpoenaed to testify about what he had uncovered was murdered the day before the hearing, she said. Georgia herself was accosted at a stoplight by an assailant who put a gun to her head, and her home was ransacked. And a friend working with her to uncover corruption disappeared without a trace."
It makes for an exciting story; the problem is, sources in Cape Town claim these things never happened. Asked to give the names of the dead police commissioner, the murdered journalist and the disappeared friend, Georgia complained about the "witch hunt" against her.
The new manager has also been known to make unfounded claims about her accomplishments, as when she recently said at the Pacifica Interim Board meeting Sept. 21 that she had restored communications between the KPFK Local Advisory Board and the station and between the station and the Pacifica National Archives which are housed on KPFK's second floor. Interim manager Steven Starr was actively collaborating with both entities months before Ms. Georgia started as GM.
KPFK Staff Complaints
The Healthy Stations Project, under which Georgia received a short training in 1995, advocated that community radio stations be run with a top-down management structure and no input from volunteers. It appears that Georgia took this management style to heart. On Sept.27 this year, KPFK's staff published an open letter which begins: "This past summer, the state of staff / management relations at KPFK deteriorated significantly. There is no workplace democracy left at KPFK. As individual LAB members can attest after attending several staff meetings, morale is extremely low." The letter goes on to say,
"The staff is concerned that the Mission of Pacifica is being disregarded ...Currently, the workplace at KPFK is running along the model of a corporate structure where workers have little or no say and decisions are made behind closed doors."
In the Mel Brooks movie, "The Producers", a pair of con artists sets out to produce the worst Broadway musical in history, hoping it will close the first night so they can rip off their investors. To their horror, the audience thinks it's hilarious and it becomes a big hit. Pacifica has its own con artists, who have hired the worst radio manager in history and tried to pass her off as competent and rational. In this case, however, nobody's laughing.
[ 1 ]
Bush Radio, 21.OCT.97 Bush Radio, 21.OCT.97
The Station Manager
C/o Mr Zain Ebrahim
Dear Zain (Assalamu Alykum)
I apologise for not sending the report as promised earlier. I am currently very much cooped up with work at the offices and afterwards there's many meetings and activities which should be attended.
I would have wanted to type my response but unfortunately time didn't allow me.
To understand the content of Eva's report I need to brief you on the happenings concerning the "Concerned Group".
When I left the station on 17 July 97 (see letter to Mr Dollie dd 18 July 97) I was approached by the other ex-staff members who felt that either they were blackmailed to leave the station or forced to do so in many other ways. After abusing the air-waves to discredit every individual listed in Eva's report, we decided to retaliate by bringing old posters questioning what the community enquired by us. At this stage you must realize RAFM was in a major financial crises and many fundraizing attempts was practised, yet none of the debts such as rent, debt, telephone accounts were paid, especially because the teleph's wasn't in working order when the community was requested to assist with finance. They then posed the questions to the so called "concerned group", which in turned question who were responsible for creating an unhealthy working atmosphere through their dominance, Eva & Rachel.
Realizing the dander of us returning to the station on a voluntary basis Eva had to inform the Caretaker Committee of our "weak performances". This would of course result in the C.C. being caution as to not associate with problematic people.
Herewith please read the report & my response.
P.S. Should you need to know any additional info. Please don't hesitate to call me at [deleted] Writing everything down would take up too much of your time.
18 July 1997
TO THE BOARD OF RAFM
C/O THE CHAIR
MR CARL CLOETE
Re: COMPLAINT AGAINNST RAFM MANAGEMENT
I hereby regret having to correspond with your esteem persons under the current circumstances.
I am compelled to inform yourselves of certain irregularities, (both verbal and physical), and defamations upon myself etc within the formation of RAFM.
Radio Atlantis have been home to many including myself until recently when the conditions at the station became unbearable under the present management.
On Tuesday 15th July and Thursday 17 July 1997 I could no longer endure the suffering of all types of abuses from the station manager, Eva Georgia May. I was once again subjected to her physical and emotional torment. I am now more than ever convinced to inform your persons of these despicable acts. Allow me to place in perspective the happenings that took place over a period of time.
On numerous occasions I was subjected to the verbal abuse of the station manager, her usage of foul language upon me, shouting and insulting me. Many a time these happened in the presence of ex-colleagues and volunteers.
Coupled to the above are the physical abuses I had to endure. The violent manner in which I was treated, being pulled around by my hair, shoved in the face, on the body, choked, etc, were common occurances. These within the offices where volunteers occasionally witnessed these horrrenndous acts upon myself. (a volunteer, Gary Herne, witnessed one of her attacks on me on Wednesday 2nd July 97, the worst ever when she burst into the studio while I was on air. He tried to assist me but with no avail since she informed him to leave the studio. She has an iron first hold on certain volunteers.
Ms Georga/May would show no remorse after her violent attacks on me
In fact forced to continue with my work under these conditions.
The above has led to my suffering extreme emotional trauma...
My loyalty to the community and commitment towards the station compelled me to return to the station and instead of taking action against management, I would rather overlook her attitude,
Both the station manager Eva Georgia May as well as the Vice chair to the Board and previously in her capacity as Chairperson, Rachel Visser has on a number of occasions been guilty of defamation of character. I was subjected to defamatory insults such as being called a slut, a "nothing", a betrayer, a liar, sly etc by the manager. My intelligence, womanhood, credibility, etc were being questioned by Rachel Visser. Her defamation would extend to the extreme where she bluntly exclaimed within a letter to the station manager, Eva that I am "easy to sleep around". (A copy of the letter was posted to me and upon confronting the the station manager she tore it up. I fortunately showed the copy of the letter to a reliable source who could verify the content).
On another occasion of my walk-outs, the vice, Rachel handed the office keys to a volunteer (Frank Briel) and told him that Eva should have fired me a long time ago. She claimed that she had instructed Eva to get rid of me and that I was regarded as trouble.
The aforementioned is but an introduction to the host of complaints I have to launch against Eva and Rachel. My walk-outs on Thursday does not constitute my resignation as the administrator of RAFM. However it epitomises the abhorrence at the manner in which I was treated. I do not wish to follow the footsteps of my previous colleagues who gave the two-some the satisfaction of resigning. Instead I prefer to stand up against these tyrannical forces. I recommit myself to take up the battle against these persons.
My request to your esteem persons are to investigate these claims and to re-assert ourselves in destroying the powers of Eva Georgia May and her heartless compeer Rachel Visser.
I trust that your reaction to this complaint will be as just and speadily as possible.
Yours in the quest for a True Community Radio Station
Ms J. Isaacs
[ 2 ]
NINTH CAUSE OF ACTION
74. Plaintiffs alleges [sic] on personal information and belief that on the dates set forth above, that Defendants, PAT CROSBY, and Does 201 through 250, without cause, defamed Plaintiffs by making false statements and directly injured them in their profession, to co-workers, third parties and/or placed false statements in his personnel file, defaming Plaintiff, including but not limited to making the false statements about:
a) Defendant made false statements about Plaintiff GEORGIA including but were not limited to statements that Plaintiff is a "liar", "cannot be trusted", "does not do her work", "physically attacks" and/or "is physically abusive";
75. Plaintiffs allege on personal information and belief that the above-described defamation and unprivileged publications clearly exposed and now exposes [sic] Plaintiffs to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy. Plaintiffs are informed and believe the above defamation was made to colleagues in the industry and others with whom Plaintiffs did business or would have to do business in order to work in his or her or their profession in the industry. Defendants ONE IN LONG BEACH, INC., ratified the defamation referred to herein, by refusing to retract the statements and by adopting the statements as if published by Defendant company.
October 21, 2002 – Los Angeles
This morning in Department 25 of Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Mary Ann Murphy dismissed civil case BC273043 (Eva Georgia vs. One in Long Beach, Inc.)[ see above ]. "One in Long Beach, Inc." is the legal name for the non-profit community Gay and Lesbian Center in Long Beach, California. Although Betsy Stansell, counsel for the defendants was in the court room during the scheduled status conference, counsel for Georgia had failed to appear for the second consecutive time. Plaintiffs' attorney, Gary R. Carlin had not been present for the previous status conference on September 24, 2002.
Georgia had been employed at the community gay and lesbian center from August 17, 2000 until October 1, 2001. On April 29, 2002 Georgia was joined by two other former employees in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the non-profit institution. In addition to wrongful termination the complaint included charges that the center and Georgia's former supervisor, Pat Crosby had defamed Georgia and created a hostile work environment. Georgia's former supervisor is cited in the complaint as having made the statements that Georgia was a "liar", "cheater", "did not do the work", "could not be trusted", and "physically attacked".
On July 11, 2002 Georgia and a co-plaintiff were served with form interrogatories. In August 2002 counsel for Plaintiff Georgia requested a one week extension of time to respond to the interrogatories. Stansell agreed to a two week extension or up to August 29th. On August 30th Georgia's counsel asked for an additional extension until September 3rd. This time counsel for the non-profit community center agreed to wait until September 4th. The date came and went without a reply from plaintiffs, nor a request for an additional extension. On September 27, 2002 Stansell filed a motion to compel Eva Georgia and her co-plaintiff to respond to the questions which had been served in early July.
Eva Georgia is currently working as the General Manager of Radio Station KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California. This morning the judge dismissed all of Georgia's claims against the non-profit gay and lesbian community center.
The members of the commission wish to thank the Board of Radio Atlantis for putting their trust in us to objectively attempt to investigate the problems facing this very important project. We consider it a great honour and hope our work on this commission will lead to a healthy future for the station. Many divergent views, unsubstantiated claims and an unexpectedly huge amount of information was unearthed during the enquiry. This, and the fact that not all of the commissioners reside in the same part of the country, led to the report taking longer to compile than was expected. For this we apologise and sincerely hope the Board will understand. We feel confident that Radio Atlantis will emerge from this crisis stronger and better able to take its place in the sector as a respected radio station.
It is unclear whether everybody in the organisation has the same vision of how the organisation is structured. There seems to be two schools of thought - the one being that the board of directors does not do enough and the other being that the board of directors are doing too much. What is abundantly clear is that the executive committee is split down the middle with little chance of change. Several attacks levelled at the board of directors have taken place on live shows. This has understandably created animosity towards the board members, who had no access to the listenership. This has resulted in the community who listens to the station having very strong feelings regarding what should be done about the "problems at the station". The station manager's ability to direct developments, using the station, has created its own set of problems and the board's lack of access to that same audience has gone a long way to creating this divide.
The commission spoke to a total of 15 people between them. The same questions were asked of each of these 15 people. The answers seemed to be either pro or anti the board of directors. Prior to the commission being set up, it seems a lot of work had been done by the two sides to discredit each other. That the station was being controlled by a few select people became very clear to the commission. This, in large part, was identified as the root of the problem. What exacerbated the problem was that conflicts from outside of the organisation were being played out amongst the senior executives. This led a senior member in the management team to declare that this board "cannot and will not work together".
The members of the commission unanimously agree with this observation. The station manager has in several instances been accused by those interviewed by the commission, of misuse of authority. What has emerged quite clearly to the commission is that there exists a belief that the station was started, and is still run by, the station manager and the vice chairperson. The commission members found it very difficult to move beyond this perception.
The relationship between the volunteers and the organisation appeared volatile, with an unusually high turnover. This could possibly be as a result of the conflict situation within the organisation. The high turnover of staff on the other hand, seems to be because of the uncertainty at the station. The uncertainty is caused partly by lack of funds. This in turn was caused by the lack of confidence funders and advertisers had in the organisation's ability to manage its affairs.
In our deliberations with the accountants it emerged that the situation was quite characteristic of this kind of organisation. The commission found evidence of neglect, but not of outright abuse of funds. The accountant stated in his interim report that "there appeared to be a general delay tactic in forwarding the necessary books". He also indicated that the financial information forthcoming was limited.
On the 24th of April 1997, two members of the commission experienced first-hand what some of the problems at the station were. They found themselves having to mediate between a skeleton staff at the station and 89 irate members of the South African Police Services, who had taken over the studios of Radio Atlantis. This had to be seen to be believed.
In order for the people of Atlantis to benefit fully from what should be a valuable community resource, several steps have to be taken. Most importantly, senior members in the community, who enjoy the respect of the community, should be urged to participate in the development of the radio station.
It must be made clear that the commission did not at any time enquire into the station's on-air or production operations. No requests were made by the board or management for the commission to explore these areas and therefore the following recommendations does not pertain to these areas.
Funders should be approached to help settle the station's debts. This will help avoid creditors' demands from adding to the problems the station now faces.
The station should suspend it's broadcasting for a period of three months during which time -
3.1 The entire staff should be dismissed. The existing board should step down and a caretaker body of senior community members should set about forming a section 21 company. An appropriate and strong directorship should be appointed from the outset.
3.2 Intensive training should be provided, for both the newly appointed executive staff and management, in the form of organisation development workshops.
3.3 Training should also be provided for volunteers, with comprehensive corrective action taken in areas where sub-standard performance is evident.
3.4 There should be clear definitions of the roles of any management eventually appointed. The role of Station Manager in relation to the board should be clearly defined.*
3.5 There should be clear policies and definitions regarding the duties of volunteers and staff.*
3.6 A volunteer policy needs to be defined in terms of duties and responsibilities.*
* These issues could be best dealt with in an Organisation Development workshop which the commission strongly recommends.
The IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority) requires notification before a station goes off air for any reason at all. The date of going off air and the date of the resumption of broadcasting needs to be clearly listed in a short letter to the Monitoring and Complaints Commission. The reason for the suspension of services needs to be outlined in this letter.
In conclusion, certain members of the commission will be available to assist in advising the project co-ordinators, in areas pertaining to the re-structuring of the station.
Yours in community development,
[by Zenzile Khoisan. Author and journalist]
Radio Atlantis is a community radio station serving a medium-sized population, situated approximately one hour's drive from Cape Town. It is a community established by the former government to serve it's relocation policy. This is a coloured community, predominantly working class. There is some visible light and service industry. People relocated here from several parts of the country. Atlantis has a voice, it is called Radio Atlantis, broadcasting to Atlantis, Darling, Mamre, Pella and surrounding areas.
The community made international headlines following a report in the Los Angeles Times on 5th June 2002 which ran under the headline "New Manager for Pacifica Station 90.7 FM KPFK Los Angeles. The article stated, among other things, that Eva Georgia, a South African national, had started the first community radio station in South Africa, that she came from a community that a decade ago had the highest per capita murder rate in the world.
Ms Georgia was hired by Pacifica to head it's Los Angeles outlet following an unprecedented two month search and had been selected following a public forum, attended by several hundred people in a church in Los Angeles. At that public forum where General Mnager finalist were quizzed Eva Georgia stated that she had been living as a refugee in the Los Angeles area due to dangers she was exposed to as an investigative reporter in South Africa. She also claimed that she had worked in community radio for fifteen years and had succeeded in building an actual listening audience at a community radio of 500 000.
Because of the importance of Pacifica Radio as a critical outlet in the corporate-swamp media market, and because of the serious claims of Eva Georgia regarding her flight from South Africa due to the hazards of investigative reporting, implying dereliction on the part of the local journalistic fraternity, questions were posed.
Questions were specifically directed at Zain Ibrahim of Bush radio, because of his seniority in the community radio sector and because of the pioneering role played by Bush Radio, at which he serves.
Zain Ibrahim is currently on assignment and delegated an inquiry to Zenzile Khoisan, tasking him, inter alia, to look into the questions pertaining to Ms Georgia's assertion that she had taken refuge in the United States because of the dangers she was exposed to due to her work as a reporter. He further requested information regarding Radio Atlantis, currently and during the tenure of Eva Georgia. A further tasking involved claims by the Los Angeles Times that Atlantis had the highest per capita murder rate in the world a decade ago, and whether that situation had ever obtained or whether it is still the case.
The investigation involved the following:
Without prejudicing the situation, it must be pointed out that what follows is an interim report as much needs to be done to discover why a South African reporter had to take refuge in the United States.
Frank Briel is the Assistant Station Manager At Radio Atlantis.
Briel states that, according to independent surveys conducted every six months, the station has an actual listening audience of between 85 000 and 90 000 listeners. He further states that the station, composed of community people and NGOs airs programming that directly reflects the issues affecting the people of Atlantis. Crime, unemployment and educational programming. The station is involved, through a community-based organization in the police forum, comprised of various community organizations and initiatives. Briel takes exception to a recent program aired on SABC special assignment program that highlighted child abuse in Atlantis, but also associated Atlantis with prostitution and trafficking. He states that the program associated Atlantis with activities in an are almost thirty kilometers away.
He says that child abuse is a problem, but that it occurs elsewhere and took exception to the labeling of Atlantis as the lost city. He says there are approximately 120 000 to 150 000 people in Atlantis.
Radio Atlantis, he states, provides an open door for people in the community to involve themselves in programming. He says the volunteer base of the station goes across the board from school children to grandmothers.
He states that the station went on air on 1 September 1995. He says that the group that started Radio Atlantis had gone for training at Bush Radio. Briel states that his first training took place at Bush Radio, where he was trained by Adrian, Lydia Samuels, Malcolm and Shamiel X. Bush Radio WAS THE VERY FIRST Community Radio Station, he states and without Bush Radio it would have been extremely difficult to get Radio Atlantis off the ground and broadcasting.
He further states that Bush Radio was instrumental in solving problems that had occurred at the station in it's early states. "When we went through the in-fighting, the major problems we had at the station it was Bush Radio with Zane
that came to the station and said " Listen here we are part of one family and let us assist you with your problems."
Yes that's true let me be frank. In 1995 we were on air for about 3 months and then I went on a training workshop in
Jo'burg for a month. After that I started to realize that there were a few problems and towards the end of 1995 there was the big blowout, this was because of inter personal problems within the station and talking now about having various groupings inside this organization. I"ll say you have your management group and then you will have your volunteer group and some people thought there was more preference given to one group and to be quite honest I thought it was not a issue the fact that some of the volunteers had problems but not only the volunteers but also the organizations had problems. Some people had problems with some people being Gay and Lesbian. Now what you must understand is that in every community, especially in this community you have your sections where you have very conservative people, very religious conservative people and they saw it as something negative
to have a Gay and Lesbian element in the station.
We are now speaking of a person who actually is out, Are we talking of the era of Eva Georgia-May and some of the stuff that circled around her. Some of the stuff did surface in the commission of the enquiry but that's
I'm taking you back from the start, I'm not saying that the fact that Eva was Gay or is a Lesbian was a problem ,with the core members of the station but it was resolved but there was always this friction, between the different organizations.
Do you think it was only just homophobia or do you think there was some management style and personality?
Obviously management style as well. What you must understand is that we have this tool Radio Atlantis and we did not have prior experience to this station so what I'm saying is that you don't just come in here and manage a station. It doesn't just work like that. You must have that ability to work with people and that was also one of the causes as well.
Then you had your inter organizational frictions as well because Atlantis was part of the then Atlantis Development Forum but what happened was that allegations were made at the station manager Eva. They wanted to take the station out of the forum which started it even though she Eva put in all the hard work they felt that she was hijacking this project Radio Atlantis.
What are your call letters or your place on the dial?
We are at this situation, Now why did the Cops take over this Radio Station, I read about 89 cops taking over this station. What happened?
As I walked into the station there was this core of policeman and women sitting in the passages from where you come in to the studio as you walked you had to say sorry excuse me and you'll hear them 'say he's one of them.' There were a couple of programs that were flighted on radio that actually put the SAPS in a very negative light. Out of these programs came the fact that the police was not doing their job , that they were corrupt and etc etc. So that was the core reason why they decided 'listen here you never gave us a fair chance to explain or represent ourselves in your programs.' They decided to submit a letter of complaint to the authorities and they decided that 'we're also going to show and teach you that you don't do this in our community' and that's the main reason why they decided to take over the station.
I read a memo from a certain Detective Inspector who was demanding an apology from Radio Atlantis and asked that the apology be broadcast frequently. Did that occur and did you mend your relationship with the cops?
Yes we did mend relationships.
Did you apologize on air?
Not to my knowledge you see management felt especially the station manager felt....
Are you talking about Eva?
Yes she felt that the station did nothing wrong basically, so she felt that their was no apology necessary but it was resolved with the police later.
What if I was to tell you that their was somebody that's going around that's getting ready to float a story that around 1997 a whole bunch of black children were getting killed and dismembered around Atlantis. Would that be an accurate thing? You seem to have been living here all this time. Is that accurate or is someone fetching it from part of their mind?
Did you guys ever cover the story of people being dismembered and killed to me it sounds on the scale of ritual killing or something like that. It's another thing to scare people about Atlantis but did it occur here? And is it occurring here and if it did it occur what happened? Did they open dockets and what was the role of Radio Atlantis to get to the bottom of this?
Now I would say that is absolutely crap.
Now what if I had to tell you your former station manager is actually saying that the reason she left Atlantis
and the country was because her life was in danger as a result of this type of report?
I think my minute of silence says something., no seriously that is not true.
In a statement made by Eva Georgia May it was on the Wednesday 8th May it was in Los Angeles and it was at the final Forum for who would be the station manager of Radio Station KPFK and she got on the podium in front of several hundred listeners of this radio station which is one of the biggest community radio stations in the Los Angeles market she was asked how she would involve KPFK in communities and make it relevant in communities, her response was that she has been in Los Angeles for the last three years as a refugee due to
dangers that she was exposed to as her result of her work as a investigative reporter she did not elaborate on this and was not asked? She also stated that she worked in community radio for 15 years in South Africa, she established a media organization that was Radio Atlantis she said that she wanted to establish new radio outlets throughout South Africa. Now as someone who had been working very closely with Eva Georgia-May
currently living in the United States as a refugee enjoying political asylum is there anything you can say about her life being threatened or her life being endangered as a result of her work as a investigative journalist here at Radio Atlantis.
Radio Atlantis, I'm not aware of that.
Which forms the bulk of her work in community radio is that correct?
You see she was one of the core members that started the station and that was way back in with the process end of 1993 beginning of 1994 and the core focus was Radio Atlantis up to when she left Radio Atlantis and then she went to another station Cape Talk so the reason why she left Radio Atlantis was obviously our last session of turmoil at the station she was forced to leave the station because of what happened at the station.
Was she identified as part of the turmoil?
She also said that she built up this esteemed station of yours an active listening audience of 500 000 people in this community. Is that correct?
No it's not , It would be virtually impossible to do that with the people living in Atlantis and the surrounding areas, there's no way that you can have that amount of listeners because there's not so many people living in Atlantis and the surrounding areas. So it's impossible.
In terms of this stuff. Do you know of any black children who was dismembered and killed and it seemed that you would of had some association being a core member of the station having something to do with what goes out over the airwaves and what is transmitted. Is their anything you can tell me about these black children that were killed and as a result she had to leave.
I was not aware of that when you talk of black children I don't know.
Black children we're all black you know?
No I'm not aware of that what Ido know and I'll emphasize that it happens in every town where you have your murders unresolved murders as well but when it comes to what you say ritual killings no I'm not aware of that.
Unresolved murders. Were there unresolved murders in Atlantis around the time that the early parts of the station when you were brought in?
Yes, there was. We had an incident in one of the farm areas where 1 or 2 of the persons were killed and dismembered yes but that was basically it. It was unresolved. It was no ritual killing, no.
It was one of those murders that occur and what was the role in the station trying to bring it out?
The function of the station is the responsibility to cover every event or whatever takes place in Atlantis or surrounding area and we treated that as another item as such.
Is it possibly why the cops took over the station, came here one day in April 1997?
No, the reason why the cops came here was because I explained to you is that because to them there was a negative broadcasting stating that the police could not do their job properly. Whatever it comes to whether unresolved murders or child abuse, there were numerous complaints made and allegations in this program that the police were not doing their job properly. That's it.
Now on this particular one, Eva Georgia has probably made history. We don't live in Zimbabwe, we live in a place that has relatively free air waves and I lived in the United States for many years. For about 12 years and I've been a broadcaster for many years and I haven't ever encountered a situation where under the current dispensation with the new democratic dispensation and our constitution where a journalist had to flee. Don't you think that Radio Atlantis has been derelict in not defending Eva and coming to her assistance when she was under siege and she had to flee the country and go apply for political asylum because her life as a journalist was threatened?
If it was the case that she had to leave this country because of what she reported then obviously we didn't assist her. Then obviously I can say we failed in our duty but there was never ever such a report on this and to my knowledge and the board members involved in the station their was never such a report or reports. there was never any reason for anybody connected to the station to leave because of their safety. And a further point is that Eva visited us on numerous occasions when we were last at the old building, she came there to say 'Hi How are you doing' and she came from the States to say Hi and she was here for a couple of weeks so if she was in danger of being prosecuted or whatever why would she come back?
Oh, so she has been back since she's been a refugee in the States?
Yes she came back.
What's boggling to the mind is that this is going to be turned around. Atlantis is going to be characterized as one of the most violent areas. South Africa is going to be characterized as a place where journalistic freedom is under siege where you actually have to run from here and become a refugee and where the journalistic organizations and the institutions which have a history of standing together with our friends and our comrades who are under siege. I mean I have been a great supporter of another colleague of mine Benny Gool who has refused to hand over pictures of the killing of Rashaad Staggie and I've worked with him and done many stories myself which are fairly perilous and I've come to the assistance of people. Do you think it became so bad in South Africa that Eva had no more options but to become a refugee and ply her trade as a journalist outside the country?
No, unless I've been living in another country, but no it's impossible no.
Beyond the saga of Eva Georgia Radio Atlantis continues and I want to bring it full circle to where we going from here. I do especially last night get the sense that the young people are restless especially some of them I encountered seem to be new school leavers who just passed matric. If you could send a very strong message to the outside world to engage them about getting involved in reconstructive aspects in Atlantis and making Atlantis a viable thriving, bubbling community that is of great resource to our nation. What would you say?
Okay first of all I will say is that the youth of Atlantis and surrounding areas , there is this perception. Atlantis is not.
Especially with this negative broadcasting with Special Assignment and other things as well. Atlantis is not an area or place to actually live in. If one " lightie" goes to town and they ask him where are you from, 'Oh I'm from Athlone' or wherever. They would deny that they come from Atlantis now you ask yourself why, because whenever people talk about Atlantis they talk about the crime city they say that we manufacture crime here that we are the factories of crime which is untrue. If you go through the different areas you will see it is quiet, it's peaceful, obviously you have your certain areas where you sometimes will have your gang fight but what they will do they blow it out of proportion and the media, unfortunately we are part of the media but fortunately we have a role where we can say no these are not the facts these are the facts that we are presenting to you now. What I would say to the youth and this is what I say everyday and what we practice as well is that first of all is never to be shy of where you come from. Whether you live in a shack or a dingy whatever, don't deny your roots and before you can say anything else that is the core element of our argument do not deny your roots. We can say nice things to youth like study finish your education, learn to be a doctor or lawyer whatever we can't do that without facing the fact that the core problem With youth is that they are denying their roots and some of these youth were actually born in Atlantis but there is always that negative connotation with Atlantis so what we're first trying to do now is say we are all from Atlantis. Atlantis is not such a bad place what we must do is face reality is that we can make Atlantis a better place when we talk about a better place we not talking about the crime rate we talking about unemployment we talking about establishing and creating opportunities for the next generation whether it's in Atlantis or outside Atlantis at least they know they can say every day my roots is there, I don't live there anymore because of my career but I will always go back to Atlantis and what we try we have this project now where we try to contact all the ex residents of Atlantis to come back to Atlantis and say listen here, speak to the youth get involved whether you live in Bishop's Court now because of your positive career but come back here and say at least to Atlantis people you can still be successful and live in Atlantis and the fact that one of the MP's and this is a good example Mr Danny Oliphant he is in parliament, and always speaks of Atlantis so this inspires the youth to say that fine we accept our roots and we not denying it. But what you are saying is that and it's going to be a major problem is that seeing we are from Atlantis we always like to highlight the positive side of and the growth of people moving out of Atlantis not only for careers in South Africa but abroad but now when you talk about Eva Georgia and questions pertaining to her career at the station her history at the station as well and with all the turmoil that has happened at the station it has been seriously I would say a positive response a feedback that we enjoyed on hearing that Eva was doing so well in the States, but now if this was to come out then the youth of Atlantis see about another person from Atlantis in a negative light obviously again they going to say, you see there's always negative connotations with Atlantis. So this going to be another negative issue I would say....
Unless we can turn it around and present Atlantis as a community that has got a role to play and can reclaim their dignity. Is Atlantis the phoenix that will rise up I don't say it's ashes but is it the phoenix would you see a renaissance in Atlantis
I already started we not waiting on it.
Position: Leading businessman in Atlantis.
Radio Atlantis was supposed to close down because of the mismanagement of Eva Georgia. Open society was on the verge of taking back their equipment to the tune of a half million rand. and we stepped in from the Reconstruction and Development side and we told Open society, "listen here we are going to pull the situation straight" if they give us six months. We took Radio Atlantis out of the building in which they used to be, and we put them in a nice building. Radio Atlantis at the moment is running on a profit basis and not depending on charity. The messenger of the court came in and wrote up all Radio Atlantis assets, we stepped in. We took it out, we paid whoever Radio Atlantis owed money because of the mismanagement of Eva Georgia. There was never books kept in proper order. There were never audited statements. It was a total disaster but Radio Atlantis at the moment is going from strength to strength.
Atlantis is a place of opportunities, it's what you want to make of it, Atlantis has not got the type of gangsterism you will find in the Western Cape, Atlantis is a peaceful place, The people of Atlantis will respect you if you respect them, you must talk to them. They are a totally different lot of people because Atlantis is here for the last 22-25 years and it's here to stay definitely, If you take 20 years ,people coming from different areas, from Namaqualand, from Cape Town, Paarl , George you name it, all over the Western Cape and Johannesburg, PE and East London, you put them all together. It's people with all different backgrounds different everything. Their children go to school together, so we will see a change to the much better work of Atlantis because of the children going to school together and to the future of Atlantis.
She was very instrumental in putting the station up. Unfortunately I don't know how sincere she was in putting it up for the community or to benefit herself, but to me it seems it was for her personally and not the community, although it was a community radio station because she did what she wanted to. In other words with the radio station's cheque book she did what she felt fit that she had the signing rights on the cheque book until we took it away. She really dumped the radio station in the red, to the tune whereby the messenger of the court, can walk into a radio station, which equipment belongs to the Open Society Foundation and write up all the things that does not belong to the community at that stage yet. And she did'nt feel
anything. I had to put to her and say, "listen here we lay a charge against you or you leave Atlantis. You don't leave Radio Atlantis but you leave Atlantis, and that's the reason she left.
About Eva Georgia's refugee status and claims of fleeing following dangers of investigative reporting?
I'm not aware, and it's strange to me because Eva was here a year ago and if you got political asylum you won't get a visa, how did she get a visa to enter America, It's strange to me she was here 2 years ago and not to my knowledge has she been threatened by anybody.
Look Atlantis have'nt got the crime that you see in the Western Cape and I don't think Eva had any say in the crime situation of Atlantis besides putting it on the radio in a negative way. Now in Atlantis normally if one factory closed down it will be a massive hit on the front page of the other newspapers but if three open then it's nothing. So somebody is trying to put something negative out there for Atlantis.
Now if I can tell you today Atlantis got no empty houses, Atlantis got a shortage of houses to the tune of 7000 houses now you gage, if you look at your commercial industry in Atlantis area and you look and you see that there is hardly any space for commercial rentals, like for instance I'm putting up six buildings now but I've got 23 applicatiions for it, for people who want to open business in the town. Last year Nov. I brought Kentucky to Atlantis, I put up the building Kentucky moved in, nothing was done about it. Nothing was said about it. Okay Kentucky is a corporate international company. We will get a Mac Donalds. We will get the other corporates they will come to Atlantis. They must come.
Well I'm fortunate, Atlantis Funerals is also one of my companies I've got a fully fledged mortuary facilities so if anybody dies they must pass my mortuary and the police normally phone us. And I can assure you that I don't know of any such cases as a funeral undertaker that's here for 20 years I know of no such cases. Muti murders and these things does'nt happen in this area, it just don't happen. You find crime yes the husband and wife had a drink they got into a fight. They kill people here 1-2 a month. Is that in comparison what is happening in the Western Cape? More people get killed on the roads in car and motor car accidents than in violence.
Well, my view on that is and it's my personal view that people can change, whether she has changed I don't know but if I must be on that board she won't get the job.
As far as I'm concerned she's not under siege. She's talking "bullshit" she's not under siege and that you can check at Home Affairs or go to our local police station. Nothing of that kind has happened. She's lying, and I would like to have a interview with her one on one and even if I have to pay to go to Los Angelas to sort it out because what happened here is going to happen there in that community. I haven't got a problem, I'm in a position to go to Los Angeles and I'll pay my own fare. If you really want the true story of Eva Georgia you should contact the Open Society Foundation, because they got all the reports. Jean Fairborne is the person who dealt with this at that time and it's because of Jean that Radio Atlantis is still going because they were on the verge of taking the equipment back Thank you very much.
Report of Lisa Mc Bride
Atlantis is a community like any other, Atlantis has their problems like any other community but if you compare Atlantis to certain Cape Flats towns, I mean Atlantis in terms of the crime department does'nt match up.
The major crimes and major problems in Atlantis is mainly domestic violence and child abuse so it's more in the house you understand, even the rapes that occur in Atlantis is more by a family member or a friend or an acquaintance those are the problems. Homecide, unless you talk about a motor accident as a homicide or something like that. The murders that's news to me.
Look the norm in Atlantis is that for example only once the army was called out, only once in Atlantis history and that was an event for all of us because we do not know those kind of things.
I grew up in Atlantis so I know my community we have in house problems in terms of domestic violence and child abuse that happens in the home but gangsterism and stuff we cannot really talk about that because we not so familiar with that kind of issues in this kind of community.
The community radio gives a forum to everyone so NGO's can go on there, talk to and try to educate the community, but as far as the problems of Atlantis is concerned we are a community that has gotten used to issues of domestic violence we grew up with it so we tend to live along side it and ignore it but in terms of major crime you don't find it in Atlantis, I took part in a special assignment program on child abuse and the focus was on Atlantis and the community was outraged because they felt that the program would basically harm the image of the town, you know that people would think bad of Atlantis so when people make claims at one stage, Atlantis had the highest homecide rate in the country or in the world, I think the community could almost lynch a person like that because they were going on about Special Assignment because they thought it was bad for their image and people's response was that look these things happen in our town but so it happens in every other town. Homecide though is not a major issue for us in Atlantis. I mean if you want to know more about homocide you have to go to the Cape Flats areas and ask people there , they lived with the violence there. Atlantis is a realatively peaceful town and the only reason why we as organizations work in Atlantis are fighting to eradicate more than domestic violence is because we want to have a more peaceful town.
Abductions and disappearances, children found mutilated?
We had isolated incidents where children disappear, and then later their bodies were found but those are not like a few a year maybe 1 every 2 or 3 years a child would go missing and then later they would find the body but as far as bodies that were found... I am surprised at the question that you ask me to be quite frank, maybe you got the town wrong Is it perhaps another town that these things happened.
I grew up in Atlantis, I'm 28years old.
Look the United Sanctuary against abuse have an advise office where between 300 and 400 people a year visit our office so if there are those kind of issues we know the issues in the community.
If there was issues of murder than we would know about it, we also have a community newspaper where they even write up if there are any big accidents which happen they report it in there and it would be in the archives and to the best of my knowledge there is none like that so I would disagree with whomever made a statement like that.
About Eva Georgia receiving threats following investigative reports?
I'm sorry for laughing but if you were'nt here out of town, I would presume that you were joking now. To the best of my knowledge I know of no one here that had to leave Atlantis because of that. Some people do leave Atlantis because they prefer to live somewhere else but to seek asylum that would mean that our law protection services are inadequate in everything and that we are either a country or a town at war and I mean Atlantis is not a town like this if it is some other area maybe I would presume to understand why someone would make a claim like that but not
A few years back Atlantis Radio was'nt as in touch with the needs and the feelings of the community but for the past 2 years things have improved tremendously so we have a situation where the radio really is a mouthpiece for the community you know. Before it was just basically a show that was run by a few people and now you know we community organization have air time
that is basically that the radio is beginning to make a difference.
Yes. As a journalist that used to work here before she used to report to "Die Langtern" It was a community newspaper of Marmesbury or Mamre and there was the " Weskus News" that she wrote Articles for and then she was one of the people that started Radio Atlantis.
Eva Georgia's Refugee status?
Wow that's news to me maybe she just imitated how can she seek asylum Is'nt asylum seeking due to political unrest or when peoples lives are in danger.
It is a fact that KPFK has a new General Manager and that she has already started her job of running the Los Angeles outlet of Pacifica.
However, whether Eva Georgia will fulfill the mandate placed before her and conduct her affairs with integrity and fairness remains to be seen. What is clear from a review of her role at Radio Atlantis and her claims that she had taken refuge in the United States, fearing for her safety as a journalist is that Eva Georgia may have reached over the top in embellishing her resume. What is also disputed, by persons who have a lot to lose, is that she faced danger in dispatching her duties which warranted seeking refuge in a foreign domicile.
Further, persons with whom she worked, and the paper trail from at least one institution she headed, raise serious doubts in respect of her ability to manage a major media outlet, deal fairly with a diverse staff and ensure fiscal integrity of a critical outlet for Pacifica.
Zenzile Khoisan. Author and journalist.
"I arrived in the United States in March 1999, and then in April started going for interviews at KPFA. And the final interview I had was supposed to be with Nicole Sawaya, and the day that I went to KPFA it was the day of the lock-down..." Eva Georgia, on The Morning Show, July 1, 2002
Nicole Saway, the KPFA General Manager, was fired on March 31, 1999. She doesn't know Eva Georgia, and of course would not have been in a position to interview her, or anybody else for that matter, 3 1/2 months later when KPFA was shut down on July 13, 1999.
If the GM was gone, who was interviewing Eva Georgia? Here is Georgia's full statement from July 1, 2002:
Sonali: Now I hear you have been trying to get into KPFK for a few years.
Eva: I started going to KPFA… I arrived in the United States in March 1999, and then in April started going for interviews at KPFA. And the final interview I had was supposed to be with Nicole Sawaya, and the day that I went to KPFA it was the day of the lock-down and the day Dennis Bernstein was thrown off the air and they had security guards in the building, they locked out the staff, Lynn Chadwick was in the building, and everybody was on the outside so you had all those hundreds of people in the street demonstrating and protesting against what was happening. So I just joined into the protest for the whole day and just started going to some meetings of KPFA. But also I was at KPFA in 1995 for training and really started getting hooked on Pacifica. So when I came here to LA, I really started pursuing and sending my resume in. And one of the positions I applied for was for program coordinator or on-air host. And I never…there was never the opportunity to interview because of all the conflict that was going on so they kept putting it off. [END QUOTE]
Since the radio station had by that time been the scene of dozens of pickets, protests and sit-ins and arrests of people demanding Sawaya's return, Georgia might as well be saying she had an interview scheduled with Lew Hill.
According to Larry Bensky, the only person who could have been interviewing anyone for PD at that time, between April and July 13, 1999, was Executive Director Lynn Chadwick. Not coincidentally, Chadwick had trained Eva Georgia as part of the Healthy Stations project in 1995. It was Chadwick who fired Nicole Sawaya, and then Larry Bensky and Robbie Osman. She also hired armed guards at Pacifica beginning May 12. Finally, it was Chadwick who shut KPFA down and had scores arrested on July 13.
What is Lynn Chadwick's history and why did she fire Nicole Sawaya? Chadwick merely stated that the popular general manager was "not a good fit." But significantly, on February 28, 1999, there had been a takeover of the Pacifica Foundation, when the board of directors voted to remove the voting rights of the Local Advisory Boards and made themselves a self-selecting, self-perpetuating body. Sawaya had publicly opposed this heist, orchestrated by Lynn Chadwick and Chair Mary Frances Berry. This is how John Dinges described the situation for The Nation (May 1, 2000):
The host for that meeting was KPFA's recently hired general manager, Nicole Sawaya. In her year at the station, Sawaya had won the trust and affection of the staff, despite her clear alignment with the audience-building reformers and the fact that her previous job had been at NPR. "She was the best manager ever," says news director Aileen Alfandary. "And I have been here for twenty years." But part of that trust had been won by standing up to her new boss, Chadwick, whenever disagreements arose. In preparation for the meeting, Chadwick had instructed station managers to prepare contingency budgets, cutting costs to cover the possible loss of CPB funding. Sawaya, rather than cutting operating expenses or staff, as all the other stations did, presented a budget that deducted KPFA's quota for payment of national programming and national board expenses. Sawaya stood with the protesters, criticizing the national staff and board for bloated budgets and lack of accountability. Mark Schubb, the Los Angeles general manager, shared many of Sawaya's criticisms and questioned whether Chadwick was adept enough for the job of executive director. But at the meeting, which he also attended, he was appalled by Sawaya's lack of tact. "Nicole and I agreed," he said. But she went public. "People heard she was dissing the board to donors. I told her, 'Play politics, don't confront Lynn and the board.'"
Larry Bensky appeared at the February PNB meeting with pie charts illustrating Pacifica's increasing centralization of power. "What is the justification for the proliferation of Pacifica's expensive, secretive, administrative bureaucracy?" he asked. "Aside from empire building, there is none." One month after the Feb. 28 board meeting, on March 31, Chadwick fired Sawaya.
Lynn Chadwick was President and CEO of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters from 1987 to 1998. The NFCB under Chadwick became an evangelist for the trend of "professionalization." Together with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which funded the NFCB's "Healthy Station Project (HSP)," Chadwick attempted to foist the same type of changes made by Pat Scott at Pacifica on various community radio stations around the country. The HSP promoted rigid hierarchical management, the homogenization of programming and the increase in paid programmers, the reduction of volunteer participation in decisions and programming, and target-market audience building to increase funding. When hapless stations tried to implement this model, often succeeding only in angering their most loyal listeners, HSP advocates gave the same response that the IMF gave when third-world economies began to collapse under structural adjustments: that the stations hadn't gone far enough in carrying out the "reforms." By and large, stations rebelled, and one of the results of this was the formation of the Grassroots Radio Coalition (GRC).
Chadwick's hiring around October 1998 was an ominous portent of the total disaster that was to befall the network, which ended with a national board dominated by a rogues' gallery including a union-buster, a developer lobbyist, media sales specialists, corrupt ex-politicians, and other assorted scoundrels.
But one person, at least, saw Chadwick's rise to power in Pacifica Radio as an opportunity to apply for a job, and she sent an e-mail to the new executive director early in 1999:
Subj: Re: Eva Georgia
The events of the summer of 1999 in Berkeley resulted in total disruption of the work of the Pacifica National Office. As a result, many scheduled events and meetings were postponed or cancelled. I don't recall whether or not she applied for the position of general manager. I recall receiving an e-mail from her. I have no memory of what it was about. I was pleased to hear from her since we had met some time before in connection with community radio. [END QUOTE]By her account, Eva Georgia arrived in the states in April and started interviewing that month, just around the time of Pacifica's and KPFA's 50th anniversary on April 15. Although people had been planning celebrations for this day, due to the battle between the staff and the national office, they held a protest at the station instead, with about 750 in attendance.
I mention this fact to point out that the struggle at KPFA in 1999 was a public one, since the staff disregarded the gag rule. When Sawaya was fired, station news personnel recorded a short statement of protest against Pacifica's board that was played as a disclaimer before almost every show for six weeks, which would have been until approximately mid-May. Nobody listening to KPFA at that time could have avoided hearing it. In late June, Chadwick took volunteer music DJ Robbie Osman off the air for commenting on his show about the Sawaya firing. According to Matthew Lasar, by the time of Osman's firing, protests, picket lines and sit-ins were "a daily event in front of Pacifica." There was press coverage, not only locally but internationally.
According to Larry Bensky, "Only a very wilfully ignorant individual could not have known the heavy stuff that had come down and was continuing to come down at KPFA by July."
Eva Georgia also said on the air on July 1, "I was, you know, following extensively the history of Pacifica since 1995 and before that we had campaigns in South Africa steered by Bush Radio, you know… "
Georgia's mention of 1995 here is significant not only because she met Chadwick that year, but because that is the year when the announced "sweeping changes" began to take place at the network. Pat Scott led the campaign to purge volunteer programmers, even some at KPFA. With Mark Schubb managing KPFK and Garland Ganter managing KPFT, these stations were successfully colonized, as was WPFW. The only two holdouts were the staffs of KPFA and WBAI, which Micheal Palmer characterized as "dysfunctional." The takeover of a station always began with the general manager, and so the KPFA staff correctly interpreted the firing of Sawaya and the first step to imposing the HSP model on the station.
Zane Ibrahim, director of Bush radio, had examined the Healthy Stations Project and called it "political anathema," stating that he would never be involved with the program. The campaigns Eva referred to were in support of the Free Pacifica movement, and later on Bush Radio supported the Pacifica Campaign, which was being headed by Dan Coughlin. When Eva says "we had campaigns," you have to assume that she was aware that the campaigns were in opposition to the imposition of HSP on Pacifica Radio. At the very least, this self-proclaimed "investigative journalist" had to wonder why there were armed guards at KPFA for two months, even if she never heard the daily public demands for the return of Sawaya.
But on May 7 this year, when the community was trying to evaluate the three finalists for General Manager, based solely on their statements at the public forum, Georgia claimed total ignorance of the effects of the drive to "professionalize" Pacifica using the HSP model. She even protested that the question was "unfair" and that she had been "sandbagged":
May 7, 2002
Okay, we were a group of South African managers that came on the Healthy Stations Project in 1995. At that time, I, you know, I am one of the people that have put the first community radio stations on air in South Africa. I started radio stations from scratch, community radio stations. But you have to re–you have to–what I want to make people aware is at that time when I came on the training, uh, there was no model in South Africa for community radio. We were doing what we thought, uh, would create community radio. Because we were–we were a group of activists. So we knew the community issues. We knew the problems and we knew how to accept the community; we knew that we had to address the social and political injustices.
So when I went to the Healthy Stations Project, some of the things that was good was that they could give us guidance on governance and policy and structures. A lot of the things I did not agree with. I did not agree with niche marketing in community radio. I did not agree that you have to have programs that go on for three or four hours so that you could create revenue. Uh, so there–there was a lot of things that I did not agree with with the Healthy Stations Program, but I took what I thought could fit our model in South Africa... I had–when I was asked the question tonight I had no idea of the involvement the Healthy Stations Program had in the, uh, you know, in the whole conflict with KPFK. So I thought that it was really unfair that I wasn't made aware of that when I answered the question.
[Question]... I think it's kind of interesting that the Search Committee didn't ask you that.
[Georgia]... I had an interview with the–with the Local Advisory Board last week, and they kept asking me about the Healthy Stations Program. And I responded to that in terms of my experience. But they did not clarify as to why they were asking, uh, or what happened with the Healthy Stations Program and–and, you know, Pacifica. So, you know, uh, David Adelson, the–the chairperson of the–of the Local Advisory Board said that he was going to get back to me. In fact the Board was going to meet with me tomorrow night to clarify the position of the Healthy Stations Project with Pacifica. Unfortunately, the public forum was tonight. [Question] ...So you got sandbagged, as we say. [Georgia] I – I definitely did...Well you know, I – I – I spent my whole life as an activist. I spent my life as a political and investigative reporter. I am, you know, I'm an activist by heart. I believe in progressive radio. That's–that's what we do, you know. I spent my whole life in the struggle against apartheid and against control, against government and other authoritive control. That is not something that I would want to bring into any radio station. (radio4houston.org/020507d.pls)
Except, Eva, when you tried to bring it into KPFA in the summer of 1999.
top of page | home