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KPFK interim General Manager responds to
Marc Cooper's bullshit

[Posted on the list at http://goodlight.net/wbai]

rep'st from kpfk, Stars reply to Cooper.
Wed Feb 27 19:40:45 2002

response to Cooper
KPFK Interim GM Starr's
Wed Feb 27 14:40:36 2002

Please let Interim KPFK GM Steve Starr (sstarr@kpfk.org) know ASAP if you are one of those who has concerns about Marc Cooper returning to KPFK's airwaves. Apparently he has received over 200 e-mails from Cooper supporters. We should let him know that there are those of us who see it differently.

From:sstarr@kpfk.org (steven starr)

February 27, 2002

Dear KPFK Listener,

Over the past several days, I have received your email inquiring about the status of Marc Cooper's program, his employment here at KPFK, and the reason for his absence from the air during our Winter Fund Drive.

Though I would like to answer each of these emails personally, the demands of producing a successful fund drive to insure KPFK's financial well-being is at the top of my current list of priorities, and the demands of it prevent me from being more personal in my responses.

First off, I'd like to say that I am restricted in some of my discussion of theseissues as there are confidential personnel matters involved. However, to theextent that Marc has himself raised these issues publicly, I am able to respond.

That said, much of the answer can be found in Marc's comment to the L.A. Times (reprinted at the end of this note) regarding his reluctance to raise funds for the station based on his "deep and abiding concerns about the direction and future of the [Pacifica] network" under its new management.

As you may know, there has been a protracted struggle over Pacifica radio that has lasted since the mid-nineties, and became most public and most intense following Pacifica's lockout of KPFA in the summer of 1999, during which time the foundation spent half a million dollars of listener funds on security and PR firms.

Over the years, Marc has taken both sides to task in the struggle at Pacifica, in pieces appearing in:

The Nation (www.thenation.com/special/2001pacifica.mhtml),

The LA Weekly (www.laweekly.com),

The Los Angeles Independent Media Center (www.la.indymedia.org).

In these reports, in addition to his strong criticisms of the Pacifica reform movement, he repeatedly accused the prior Pacifica administration of mismanagement and heavy-handedness. Yet throughout this period, he continued to aggressively raise funds during KPFK's fund-drives. He signed a letter from KPFK staff demanding that Amy Goodman stop notifying the listeners about the firings/bannings at WBAI through her sign-off each day, arguing that it was impairing the station's fund-raising ability. And he continued to fund raise even this Fall, despite knowledge that the prior administration was not paying KPFK's bills, that certain vendors were refusing to provide service, deliver goods, or extend credit to KPFK any further. He did so even though the prior administration was providing the local station with financial reports, and was wasting vast amounts of money raised by KFPK at the national level, including paying high-priced PR and Washington law firms.

Unfortunately, Marc's willingness to fundraise for KPFK has clearly changed with the resolution of the four lawsuits brought against the Pacifica Foundation for a variety of abuses by members of Local Advisory Boards, two groups of foundation directors, and listeners given standing to sue by the Attorney General of the State of California.

The interim Pacifica National Board (iPNB), seated as a result of the settlement of these lawsuits, and the National office, are both deeply committed to restoring financial transparency to the network. They've conducted an audit of Pacifica's finances (available at www.pacifica.org). Further, the national office has committed to dealing with the debts incurred by the national office at the national level, rather than placing this burden on the local stations, many of which have their own urgent operating debts.

One of my first initiatives upon arrival at the station 30 days ago was to establish a local bank account for KPFK and restore local control of check-writing privileges (which the prior administration centralized in 1995).

The results can be found in a signed agreement between KPFK and National, posted on (http://www.kpfk.org), insuring that KPFK will be utilizing 100% of every dollar raised in this fund drive will be used for local purposes.

Please take a look. I repeat, every dollar raised during this Fund Drive will be used by KPFK for local purposes. This is quite a change from prior policy.

It will allow us to pay off the operating debt incurred by KPFK as a result of the prior national administration's financial abuses, complete our transmitter project that will allow us to return to broadcasting at full power, lay the groundwork for a revitalized apprenticeship program, support improved local news and events coverage, and implement a variety of other initiatives to expand our service to the community.

Still, Marc has voiced on a number of occasions, both on the air and off, his mistrust of the new administration and his view that its members are themselves responsible for the financial crisis in which the network currently finds itself, as a result of legal action and boycotts initiated or supported by many of those now in key positions within the network. He's also objected to the manner in which the prior manager of KPFK was removed and how I was put into place as the new manager. And he has expressed concerns about the future direction of the station and the network.

While I do not share all of his views on this subject, I respect Marc's right to his opinions and in particular, his right to dissent and be critical of my management and that of the network. Further, one of the first actions of the new administration was to lift the long-standing policy of prohibiting on-air discussion of internal policy. Marc has taken the opportunity of this new openness, on several occasions, to share his views with the listeners. The point of this action was specifically to allow those within the network to communicate their support or their concerns to the listeners, so that unlike in the past, listeners would be informed about the state of the station, the network, and what was being done with their money.

However, KPFK and Pacifica are presently in a very real crisis. As I mentioned above, the new administration has performed an audit of our finances and has posted the resulting report at the Pacifica website (www.pacifica.org).

While at the end of 2000 the Foundation had reserves of about $600K, by the end of 2001, we were in debt about $4.8 million dollars. In particular, we urgently need to pay for the completion of our transmitter project, in order to protect our license and to restore service to our full signal area by returning our signal to full strength.

As an important side note, contrary to claims that legal bills incurred in the course of the Foundation's defense against the multiple lawsuits were the primary cause of this debt, only about $1.8 million of this debt is attributable to such fees, and the Foundation's insurance has paid about $800K of that amount. The rest of the debt is due to outrageous expenditures on PR firms, intelligence gathering firms, security firms, labor lawyers, travel expenses - a quarter of a million dollars for the national executives alone - accounting firms, other professional services, and golden parachute severance packages - nearly half a million worth - negotiated by the prior administration.

So where does this leave us? It's clear to me, that as a result of this crisis, we need the full commitment of our listeners, our staff, and our programmers to raise the money to meet these obligations. We cannot afford to squander a single hour during this fund drive.

In particular, the morning and afternoon drive time periods are our most valuable fund-raising opportunities during our entire programming schedule, and Marc's 4 pm daily slot is a vital part of this. Marc has told me, and is on record in his email and in the Times, that he does not feel able, in good faith, to ask listeners to contribute to the station.

So be it. Just as in the past Marc displaced many hours of other programming during prior fund-drives due to the strength and passion of his fund-raising efforts, the replacement of normal programming with the strongest possible fund-raising programming available during fund-drives is a fact of life at KPFK or any other public radio station.

This holds especially in the current financial situation, because without strong financial support from our listeners, all other concerns are moot. We would literally not be able to continue broadcasting without your support. And as the interim Station Manager, seeking your support in order to stabilize KPFK's financial crisis is my first priority, and anyone who does not wish to join me in that effort is, in my analysis, threatening the very future of KPFK. This is why I took the action I did, and I wouldnt hesitate to do it again.

Happily, we are experiencing the most dramatic support in the station's history, shattering all prior fund raising records. If this remarkable show of listener support continues, we expect to be able to completely pay off all of our operating debts immediately, complete both the transmitter AND studio projects that were stalled, and provide strong support to infrastructure, training, and programming initiatives. And most importantly, our staff will be secure in the knowledge that not only will we will be able to make payroll, but that they have the strong support of you, our listeners.

Once our fund-raising goals have been met and the drive is over, I'll be in a position to sit down with Marc and discuss his ongoing involvement at the station. Although I can make no guarantees of the outcome, I am hopeful that we can come to a mutually acceptable resolution that addresses his concerns, those of the station, and those of all of our listeners, including you.

Most importantly, I look forward to the opportunity to communicate with you further,both via email and on the air, to address and resolve your concerns to the extent I am able. I very much hope that you will, having read this, decide to support the station generously.

I'll understand if you defer until all of your concerns have been met, and the last thing I want to do is be responsible for soliciting money from listeners on the promise of programming or policy decisions that have yet to be made, and for which I can offer no guarantees. But make no mistake, we have three days left in our Winter Fund Drive, and there has NEVER been a more important time to support KPFK. As evidenced from the incredible outpouring of support from the listenership, we are making wonderful strides in our efforts to stabilize the situation. You'll find, if you come down to volunteer at KPFK, a group of incredibly committed staff, programmers and volunteers, moving together to insure our future. The feeling of solidarity is palpable. I hope, since my arrival, you've gotten a sense from listening that we're in a new period of openness, that the doors to this station are more open to the community than they've been in quite some time, that our efforts are designed to bring a greater involvement from you the listener, that the details of our transition are being made more transparently.

On a personal note, I've found it an incredible privilege to share in the deep and abiding passion and commitment that so many listeners carry for this incredible station. Again, I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to help pull us out of crisis, and I hope you can find it in your heart to support us at this critical moment.

One aspect of our crisis that you may not be aware of is that certain monies, previously allocated to our KPFK Transmitter Project, were misappropriated by the previous national administration. As a result, our signal is currently operating at 30% of normal power under a special FCC extension that expires April 25th.

That signal, at full power, is the largest signal west of the Mississippi and has the potential to bring KPFK - FM to 13 million people. Our related studio project, designed to give the Los Angeles community greater resources for local production, has also been forced to a halt.

We must join together immediately to protect these incredible resources, and we are.

Tomorrow, we'll be joined by our four sister Pacifica stations for a show of solidarity to support the KPFK transmitter/studio project, to Save Our Signal.

We'll be joined by names like Hightower, Parenti, Zinn and many more luminaries familiar to you, all pulling together to help save KPFK's treasured signal, to help deal with our crisis.

I urge you to join us. I urge you to recognize how much we need you now, how critical this effort is!

A bit of history. Since it's beginning in 1949 Pacifica had always faced difficulties, struggle after struggle. We've been attacked, bombed, arrested and jailed, our licenses have been jeopardized, and we have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but Pacifica and KPFK have persevered. Pacifica's founder, Lew Hill, felt that basic commitment from the listeners was all that we needed to strengthen this country. He said, "In crisis, grow, that's the only creative possibility, take a risk and expand." That's what we as a network are trying to do.

In these troubled times we are determined to expand Pacifica listenership, and we can only do this by restoring KPFK's transmitter. Which we can only do with your help. Pacifica can't be strong if we can't be heard.

Please don't forget that the theory of listener-sponsorship is Pacifica's invention; the notion is simple, if the listeners are enriched and educated both politically and culturally from an alternative point of view, they will keep it alive.

Mulford Sibley said, "The conscientious person has an awareness of obligation to himself, to others and to society". That's what we are asking from you the listener, be a conscientious person, to support this network. I hope that I've helped make it clear; we need your help. And we need it now.

Finally, I do hope that whatever the resolution of the current situation regarding Marc, you will continue to listen to KPFK and find programming that provides you with valuable insight, context, and information unavailable elsewhere, and that enhances your effectiveness in your work toward a more just world.

I hope that you support what you like, let us know what you don't like, and become more involved if you can in the effort to make KPFK more relevant and effective.

Thank you so much.
Respectfully yours,

Steven Starr
KPFK Interim General Manager

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