Op-ed by Ziri Rideaux and KPFKnot4sale:
LOS ANGELES - Pacifica Radio, America’s largest non-commercial progressive radio broadcaster, is facing a hostile takeover that threatens the existence of the Los Angeles station KPFK and the entire network. Pacifica’s National Board (PNB) was infiltrated by a politically motivated group and as a result has cancelled mandatory elections, illegally extended their own term limits, suspended multiple members of the Los Angeles station KPFK and put the Los Angeles building up for sale – all without approval of their listener-members. The only thing that stands in the way of KPFK’s imminent destruction is the Los Angeles Local Station Board, which is fighting a bitter legal battle to save their station - and thereby the largest, progressive media outlet in the U.S.
Dear Pacifica Family,
I’m writing to you to update you on crucial developments at KPFK Los Angeles. The Pacifica National Board (PNB) in 2022 has voted to investigate “the most advantageous sale” of our KPFK building. The final PNB vote to sell the KPFK building has not yet been taken. Our KPFK Local Station Board (LSB) has responded a week after the PNB motion unanimously with a resolution to condemn and protest the sale of our building.
Nevertheless, the Pacifica Foundation has put our building on the market – without a contingency plan on how KPFK is supposed to survive after this sale. The building is listed for $4.999 millions. The majority of these funds are already allocated to pay off the FJC loan of $2.5 million and accounts payable of about $2 million - still leaving Pacifica in debt with the $2 million EIDL loan and a first quarter operating debt of $740,000. The KPFA LSB has also demanded that money from the sale be used to reimburse KPFA for the $300,000 that were
seized by Federal Marshalls from their accounts in payment of the Vernile defamation lawsuit.
In this lawsuit, three members voluntarily acted as witnesses against Pacifica.
In all this KPFK, the station that has over the years paid millions for the other stations, is now being cannibalized by PNB decision makers from the other stations that are throwing KPFK under the bus. This is not how the Pacifica family has functioned in the past – and this is not good business sense. PNB Chair Julie Hewitt sent out a letter yesterday stating one side of the facts only.
Here is what she left out:
-The KPFK building is not only used 25% as she claims but about 60%. And every month, more shows are moving their operation back into the building, which only recently ended its COVID lockdown. Julie’s claim that building modifications were necessary to sublease other parts of the building is incorrect. We currently are negotiating with an audio book company to use some of our remaining space.
-KPFK is on the rise. Its market share has more than doubled in the past 3 months since IGM Michael Novick took over. We’ve had 4 GMs in 2 years who ran the station down. It makes good business sense to cover expenses between all stations while KPFK is recovering, just like KPFK has done for other stations in the past.
-The Los Angeles real estate market is among the most expensive in the nation. While Julie Hewitt compares the KPFK situation with KPFT’s building sale and purchase of a new place in Houston, KPFK’s situation is entirely different. We will not be able to buy another location nor will we be able to rent a reasonable location. In order to broadcast, KPFK needs expensive, large antennas on its roof with a direct line of sight to Mount Wilson. The move of the current antennas requires a crane and will be very costly. It may be financially impossible to find a rental location that accepts the installation of the large antennas, be in the location where the antennas work with our transmitter on Mount Wilson, be in the inner city AND be affordable. The PNB Technology Task Force will hear from professional radio engineers about costs and consequences of the forced move on the 18 of March to this effect. The claim that the KPFK building needs repairs of $1 million made by counsel Arthur Schwartz is simply untrue. The building is in good conditions and needs repairs in the $30,000 range, according to our Chief Engineer.
-Every business MBA will tell you that you don’t sell off your most expensive asset to cover running costs. The PNB has made multiple questionable decisions to steer Pacifica through the crisis: they have not used the EIDL loan of $2 million in 2022 to hold bylaws-mandated elections that would have cost $50,000, but might have unseated the PNB. The PNB has also failed to direct policies towards substantial savings in staff and operations in time, nor raised any funds - allowing the Foundation to run ever deeper into debt. As a result of the cancelled elections (a new date for elections has yet to be set), the PNB currently includes 5 termed out members that served past the allowed 6 years (the Chair Julie Hewitt being one of them). For this reason, the PNB is not a legally functioning entity to make decisions and is challenged in court for this very reason. The hurried KPFK building sale attempt without contingency plan, together with illegal suspensions of 5 KPFK LSB members and officers seems designed as a retaliatory move to destroy KPFK, muzzle any opposition and turn KPFK into a repeater station.
Since the Foundation has disallowed our KPFK-LSB from talking about our situation on the airwaves nor allows us to post meetings to kpftx – nor use ANY Pacifica resources, we held a press conference today to inform the public and our members of how KPFK has been treated by the Foundation. We have been bullied, disrespected and threatened in letters and in our LSB meetings by PNB members and Pacifica counsel Arthur Schwartz to stay quiet and to accept the dismantling of our station. We have not had representation on the PNB in months since 3 of our elected PNB members have not been allowed onto the PNB. KPFK Director Elizabeth von Gunten, who was accepted by the PNB, has refused to give Director’s reports to the KPFK LSB. To top it all off, the PNB has now initiated a meeting of a “parallel LSB” with handpicked KPFK members (including 3 members that termed out after 6 years in December 2022) and including members who are supposed to replace the 4 illegally suspended LSB members. They are seeking to supplant the rightful KPFK LSB to bend it to its will, disrespecting the voters. This is no way to run a station.
I am asking the Pacifica family to reconsider the sale of the KPFK building and to ask the current PNB to come back into compliance with the bylaws, the California Corporate Codes and the wishes or our voting members, which they have violated with their recent actions.
In a time of corrupt governments, reckless corporate greed, and the loss of public trust in authority, Pacifica must hold itself to higher standards to be the beacon of hope we set out to be. Our mission statement demands that we stand together, “contributing to a lasting understanding between nations and individuals of all nations, races, creeds and color and are committed to peace and social justice”. The same principles must be upheld within the Pacifica Foundation.
Suspended Chair of the KPFK LSB
(suspended without due process for upholding the bylaws)
Elected to the PNB, but not allowed to be seated by the PNB