KPFA’s fund drive takes a hit from Pacifica’s programming changes

KPFA’s Spring Fund Drive ended Wednesday, May 25, a little more than $80,000 short of goal. It was the longest fund drive at KPFA in at least a dozen years, clocking in at a full three and a half weeks.

The entire shortfall can be explained by the drop in fundraising from 6-10 AM – the hours impacted by the programming changes Pacifica management imposed on KPFA. Year over year, fundraising during those hours dropped by more than $5,000 per day – $90,000 over the course of the drive – and likely would have dropped much more if KPFA programmers (and former Morning Show staffers) Philip Maldari, Mitch Jeserich, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert hadn’t stepped in to fundraise during those hours (click on the charts to enlarge them).

Your pledges helped make up ground! The fund drive had been on track to finish $150,000 short – but KPFA staff organized to raise money for KPFA on their own time – in union halls, community meetings and here atKPFAWorker.org. You answered the call, and collectively raised collectively raised over $13,000 in matching funds for the final push of the fund drive, while sending a strong signal of support for KPFA’s embattled workers.

Management reacts

At a local station board meeting during the final week of fundraising, KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips launched into a rambling, contradictory and at times profanity-laced attack on KPFA’s staff, its union, and other critics of Pacifica, who he called a “fifth column” (a reference to fascist infiltrators during the Spanish Civil War). He also quipped, ominously: “You can run a radio station with no paid staff if you have to.” AUDIO CLIP of Phillips (16 min) | ENTIRE 4.5 HR BOARD MEETING: part 1part 2part 3part 4

Then, after KPFA’s Spring Fund Drive wrapped up, Phillips took to KPFA’s airwaves at 8 AM on both Thursday and Friday to again berate the station’s staff and their listener allies, and lash out against this website in particular.

Phillips attacked reporting both here and from the KPFA News Department on $15,000 in gifts to Pacifica station WBAI from a Goldman Sachs partner (AUDIO LINKS HERE), and Phillips’ own statements opening the possibility of future underwriting at KPFA. The main problem: Phillips’ clarifications tend to re-affirm the original reports. To wit: “I didn’t say that I supported corporate underwriting. I did say that I supported exploring corporate underwriting” (emphasis added; about about 8:30 AM on his Thursday on-air appearance, cited above).

Listener Avilee Goodwin echoed many others when she wrote to KPFA’s board: “Was Mr. Phillips misquoted? (no) Was the tape edited to twist the meaning? (I don’t think so) Or did he simply want the chance to edit his own words into a more palatable form, once he figured out how upsetting they were to KPFA listeners, before allowing us to hear them?”

“The most important part of that news story for me as a KPFA listener was hearing, in his own words and voice, that our current station manager believes that business ‘sponsorships’ should be ‘in the mix,’” wrote Goodwin. “For the news staff not to report on this original statement would have been giving station management control over what we, the listeners, are allowed to hear. For a listener-sponsored station, that is simply unacceptable. That the news staff should be so publicly chastised for reporting facts to the listeners is disturbing.”

Where did this guy come from?

That’s a question we’ve been getting asked a lot. For instance, listener Nancy Arvold writes: “I’ve been a KPFA listener and donor since 1960, and am fearful about what is happening to my anchor for intelligent news and analysis. I don’t even know who to go to to complain about Andrew what’s-his-name, the new station manager.”

“He obviously knows nothing about either the listeners nor the Bay Area’s needs for KPFA coverage,” Arvold writes. “He is condescending, insulting to listeners, and tells lies and skews this conflict. Since he ‘owns’ the airwaves, he can say anything he wants. I woke up to listen to Mary Berg’s lovely Sunday music, anticipating the usual 9AM morning show, only to hear Andrew introduce Robert Bly is such pablum-y terms I turned of the radio. I might as well be listening to NPR. He and the national board, for whom he is obviously a front man, must be stopped.”

Here’s what we know about Phillips. He was working as a permaculture gardener in New York before being appointed “interim” KPFA general manager by Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt. She hired him without input from KPFA’s local board, staff, or community – in fact, she hired him before she even admitted publicly that KPFA’s last manager had quit.

Phillips’ experience includes serving as Pacifica station WBAI’s program director for 4 years in the early 90s, then later serving as a distributor for Gary Null, a nutritional supplement entrepreneur who denies that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Phillips had proposed putting Null on the air at KPFA this spring, but dropped the idea after listeners, staff, and HIV/AIDS activists strenuously protested.

Phillips and Carrie Core announced other sweeping changes to KPFA’s programming right before the May fund drive; they dropped those changes in the face of listener opposition, but still refuse to restore the Morning Show.

Results from a recent online survey by community group SaveKPFA showed 91% of respondents supported restoring the Morning Show. Among the many sensible public comments at the last local board meeting, KPFA News co-director Aileen Alfandary urged management to engage in “evidence-based decision-making.” | AUDIO CLIP of Alfandary (4 min)

Posted in KPFA

KPFA managers to defend new programming at 8AM; CALL IN at 510-848-4425

At 8 AM this morning on KPFA, interim managers Andrew Phillips and Carrie Core will explain their “new” programming for the station.  Both were installed by Pacifica executive director Arlene Englehardt, who removed the popular Morning Show, leading to an enormous outcry from listeners and a huge drop off in the station’s fundraising revenues.

Last month, Phillips stated that the Morning Mix, which had been hemorrhaging listeners after replacing the popular Morning Show in the 8am time slot, would come to an end. Listeners and staff, concerned about the gigantic fundraising shortfall caused by the removal of the Morning Show, asked that Phillips to heed the will of the station’s listeners and restore the Morning Show to the air at that time.  Yet in a memo this week, Phillips stated that “things will stay as they are, with the only changes in the 8am slot where additional programmers will be joining some of the original Morning Mix crew.”  It is projected that the removal of the Morning Show, which raised more money than any other local program, will cost the station $500,000 a year and lead to further layoffs.

Listeners are encouraged to call in this morning at 510-848-4425 (or possibly 800-958-9008 — listen for the number given) and let Phillips and Core know what you think about the direction they’re taking the station in.

At last Saturday’s meeting of KPFA’s board, astonishingly Phillips blamed staff and listeners for fundraising declines. Phillips attacked KPFA’s union and KPFAworker — which raised over $13,000 in pledges in support of the paid and unpaid staff at KPFA during the Spring Fund Drive — which he likened to a “Fifth Column” undermining the station from within.  The Fifth Column was a term used to describe fascist supporters of Franco during the Spanish Civil War.

You can listen to audio from his comments HERE.

Posted in KPFA

Thank you from KPFA’s workers!

THANK YOU to the generous pledgers listed below, and the many, many others who have asked to remain anonymous. KPFA’s fund drive was on track just a week ago to come in a whopping $150,000 short because of Pacifica management’s decision to remove the top grossing program from KPFA’s air, the Morning Show. KPFA’s workers appealed to all listeners to make “a pledge in support of KFPA’s workers” to keep management from making further retaliatory layoffs and program changes.

They stepped forward with over $13,000 in challenges to fellow listeners to help boost the last week of the fund drive. KPFAWorker.org bundled the pledges and put them up as challenges during the fund drive. KPFA programmers announced those challenges, on-air, as in support of KPFA’s workers, and they had a far-reaching effect, as others then came forward to donate.

Still, KPFA’s pledge drive ended on Wednesday, May 25 at 7 pm, still about $80,000 short of its goal. KPFAWorker’s matching pledge effort is now closed, but you can still make a donation directly to the station online at KPFA’s website, and add your comments there. Continue reading

Posted in KPFA

Solidarity raises over $13,000 for KPFA so far

KPFA’s listeners stepped up to pledge their financial support during the station’s Spring Fund Drive as an act of solidarity with KPFA’s workers. Thanks to you, pledges for our matching fund are now over $13,000! If you’ve already pledged, please ask a friend to join you!

Continue reading

Posted in KPFA

Take the SaveKPFA survey on programming changes!

Two and a half weeks ago, KPFA’s interim managers, Andrew Phillips and Carrie Core, announced the most sweeping reorganization of the station’s programming in at least a decade, to be implemented following KPFA’s spring fund drive. They rearranged KPFA’s program grid without any input from listeners about what they’d like. They didn’t think to ask the listeners. So SaveKPFA, a community-labor coalition, did.

SaveKPFA has come up with an online survey, which asks listeners how they feel about management’s changes — from Democracy Now! to Music of the World to Cover to Cover. SaveKPFA says it will “use the data to show KPFA and Pacifica management what the KPFA community wants out of our station.”

“As a news junkie, I want the return of the morning show followed by Democracy Now with a good cup of coffee and I’m set to change the world!” writes one of the hundreds of listeners who have taken the survey this week. “Without that order, I’ll have to change KPFA!”

If you haven’t done so already — please take 2 minutes to complete this survey. And share it with other listeners who care about KPFA — the more responses they get, the better.

Posted in KPFA

Interim manager lashes out at KPFA journalists, board members call his behavior “completely inappropriate”

KPFA listeners ask Pacifica to accept $63,000 in pledges for the Morning Show (Photo by Fletcher Oakes)

Following revelations that Pacifica has received a large donation from investment firm Goldman Sachs, KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips issued a public attack on the KPFA News, which broke the story. Twelve members of KPFA’s local station board have responded, calling Phillips’ letter “completely inappropriate,” and saying its contents reminded them of “the worst of corporate America.”

KPFA’s Sunday (4/24) anchor Glenn Reeder aired an interview with a board member of Pacifica station WBAI, who said the station’s general manager had reported a $10,000 from corporate banking firm Merrill Lynch several days earlier. Calls for comment from the KPFA News to Phillips and to Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt were not returned. Phillips had publicly told KPFA’s board that he was not against corporate sponsorship for the station, a statement which was included in the report that aired. Larry Bensky, former Pacifica correspondent, was also interviewed in the piece (audio here).

On Monday (4/25), KPFA News reporter Cameron Jones tracked down Engelhardt, who said that the money came from Goldman Sachs, not Merrill Lynch. She would not rule out corporate underwriting (listen here.) On Tuesday (4/26), Engelhardt’s interview was run for a second time on the AM newscast, followed by audio from Phillips, in which he again said KPFA should explore “corporate underwriting” by businesses (listen here.)

Nonetheless, late on Tuesday, Phillips sent out a public letter attacking KPFA’s journalists and accusing them of “smearing” him. He sent the letter to all KPFA staff, the Pacifica National Board, KPFA’s Local Station Board, the Pacifica National Finance Committee, and the managers of Pacifica — all told, hundreds of people — and it soon appeared across the internet, including on WBAI’s own home page. He appended a letter from Pacifica’s board treasurer Tracy Rosenberg about the funding, which contained several omissions and inaccuracies. Later, Rosenberg released a scan of the actual Goldman Sachs checks, which showed Pacifica received $15,000 in two checks from Goldman Sacks Gives, a fund set up by the firm’s partners in 2007. The donations were intended for a “special series” of WBAI news reports on the topic of hydrofracking, an environmentally-destructive form of natural gas extraction. The scan refers to “Grant Terms and Conditions attached hereto,” but those are not attached.

Recent picket at KPFA

Phillips’ letter confirmed that Sunday’s news story had quoted him accurately, adding: “I was pointing out that, given Pacifica’s depleted finances, corporate underwriting should be one of the considerations. In my opinion, it would be irresponsible not to consider it.”

After reading Phillips’ letter, Daniel Goodwin was one of several listeners who wrote to KPFA’s board, saying the Sunday news story contained “a direct, unexpurgated transcript of his own words. Phillips’ hypocrisy is manifest both in his disrespect for the founding principles of the Pacifica network, and in his weaselly non-denial denial of his own words.”

Phillips also used his letter to lambast KPFA’s union, CWA, as well as this website, KPFAworker.org, writing that “if KPFA is to suffer more cutbacks, some of the blame for that will lay at [its] feet.”

Twelve members KPFA’s board have taken Phillips to task for his mean-spirited attempt to intimidate journalists. “It is completely inappropriate for you to confuse your role as a boss with that of an interviewee on a news story,” they wrote. “We are also disturbed at your attack on paid staff’s union representative, CWA, as well as the website kpfaworker.org, which whatever you think of it, has the involvement of unpaid and paid workers at the station who have the right to organize as they see fit. The kinds of comments you made remind us of the worst of corporate America.” (Here’s the entire open letter from the KPFA board majority.)

Posted in KPFA

Pacifica takes corporate underwriting from Merrill Lynch/ Bank of America?

UPDATE: The $10,000 of funding which WBAI’s general manager initially reported as being from Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, is actually $15,000 from Goldman Sachs Gives, according to Pacifica management. It’s unclear if any strings were attached, as Pacifica’s managers have given conflicting accounts about its origins.


One of KPFA’s sister stations, WBAI in New York, has accepted corporate underwriting from Wall Street financial corporation Merrill Lynch with the approval of Pacifica management, according to a local station board representative. During its 62-year history, Pacifica Radio has prided itself on not taking corporate underwriting, relying instead primarily on the donations of listeners.

At the meeting of WBAI’s finance committee, general manager Berthold Reimers admitted that the station had taken $10,000 from the corporate and investment banking division of Bank of America to underwrite programming on hydro-fracking, an environmentally destructive form of natural gas drilling. According to WBAI staff representative Bob Lederer, interviewed by the KPFA Weekend News, Reimers was asked whether Pacifica management had approved the corporate sponsorship, and Reimers replied that it had. | LISTEN TO AUDIO of KPFA Weekend News report

At the March 19th meeting of KPFA’s Local Station Board, KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips suggested KPFA needs to move away from the listener-sponsorship model that has sustained it for 62 years, and said he was not opposed to business sponsorships. “I am not against sponsorship at KPFA, or WBAI for that matter,” he stated. “There are a lot of great businesses that deserve help, that we should be part of or could be part of us.  And that could go a long way toward solving our problem.  It’s a sticky one, isn’t it?  But it should be in the mix.  It’s not good enough to say: no sponsorship.  Because despite [KPFA and Pacifica founder] Lew Hill’s genius, that was what — 60 years ago?  A lot’s changed.”

Former Pacifica national affairs correspondent Larry Bensky, also interviewed for the news story, said accepting “any corporate underwriting, much less corporate underwriting from one of the major financial institutions of this country which are so implicated in the wealth gap and the speculation that has led to the destruction of so many peoples’ savings. The acceptance of any corporate money is antithetical to everything Pacifica was founded for and so many of us have worked for over the years.”

If you would like to contact Phillips about this issue, please write to him via KPFA’s contact page.

Posted in KPFA