[eng]Gagging In His Grave: An Open Letter

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@ix.netcom.com)
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 23:16:51 +0000

Gagging In His Grave:
An Open Letter to Alternative Media in America
September 9, 1996

Pacifica Radio's Executive Director, Pat Scott, has justified the
recent actions of her administration as being necessary to "...act as
a leader for progressive social change..." She claims Pacifica is now
embarked in building a "modern, effective, relevant radio network ,
which will challenge and impact the status quo." Something that can
not be done,"as long as we speak only to ourselves."

To enable this community outreach, she and her management
surrogates have hired union busting consultants against their
workers;closed National Board meetings where policy is made to
the public; banned, fired and harrassed dissenting members of the
organization; barred criticisms of management from the airwaves;
dismissed people who have given decades of service to the
organization as if they were garbage; allegedly to "find solutions to
benefit our audiences." At KPFK, Pacifica's Los Angeles station,
listeners are now "benefitting" by having timely, relevant material
withheld in order to extort their contributions. Pacifica's founder
Lew Hill, who developed listener-sponsorship as a freely made
covenant between the broadcaster and the listener, can only be
gagging in his grave.

A memo posted at KPFK-FM, Pacifica's Los Angeles' station, shows
how KPFK's new "program director" Kathy Lo, is "impacting the status


August 23, 1996

To: Diane James
Roy Tuckman

From: Kathy Lo

programs that include Ralph Nader. If there are any changes, I will
notify you of this in writing. Thanks for your cooperation.


For the first time in memory, Americans may have the opportunity to
hear a progressive analysis of problems and solutions on mainstream
media, if Ralph Nader is included in the nationally televised
presidential debates. Activists who REALLY care if this message is
heard are engaged in an emergency letter writing campaign to demand
the debate organizers include Nader. There is a deadline, as they will
decide by the middle of this month.

The type of management Ms. Scott finds "effective," as she fired all
the rest, have more "relevant" priorities---how to prevent David
Barsamian, an independent producer who distributes his program
"Alternative Radio" free of charge to all stations over the public
radio satellite system, from making a few dollars selling tapes--even
if this means witholding timely material on Nader's campaign that
could make topographical changes in the American political landscape.

KPFK's next on air fundraising drive will start on October 4, and run
to October 18. A tape of KPFK's broadcast of Nader's acceptance
speech will offered as an incentive to subscribe. A recently mailed
fundraising letter from station manager Mark Schubb mentions KPFK's
live broadcast of Nader's speech, as one of the reasons listeners
should contribute. People's passionate desire to see change in
America is now being cynically manipulated by an organization they
thought they could trust.

Eye witnesses to events inside the station reported, listeners
responded with enthusiasm to the broadcast of Nader's speech. Many
listeners who either missed the speech, wished to hear it again, or
share it with others called the station asking to buy tapes. KPFK's
new "modern, effective" management hopes to tranlate the listeners'
desire to dollars, and fuel their ardor by playing "hard to get."

Instead of scheduling it for rebroadcast, Ms. Lo also attempted to
prevent Roy Tuckman, the producer of a late night program, from
rebroadcasting Nader's speech for his night owls; fortunately for his
listeners, RoyTuckman had already rebroadcast the speech before the
memo from Lo was issued. Otherwise, they would not have heard
Nader's acceptance speech on KPFK until the fund drive, when they
would also be asked for money to support "their " station.

As a former KPFK staff member who spent 7 years deeply involved in
fundraising at the station, I am completely appalled not only by
current management's obliviousness to the public service Pacifica's
mission mandates, but by this treatment of David Barsamian, whose
generosity over the years has netted Pacifica many thousands of
dollars. I assure you, in the old, "irrevelant, elitist" Pacifica, a
"fundraising strategy" such as Ms. Lo's would have been shouted down
in outrage. Now, of course, anyone who shouts about anything is fired
for "insubordination."

David Barsamian has, time after time, allowed his tapes of lectures by
noteworthy speakers to be given away during fundraising for KPFK. All
he received in return was grateful thanks and a wardrobe of t-shirts,
and the opportunity to sell tapes to those who were not making
subscriptions at that time. Now, like so many others who have given to
Pacifica over the years out of love and belief, he gets a kick in the

What I want to know is: what exactly is it going to take for the
alternative media to cover the story of what the so-called "positive
changes" at Pacifica Radio really entail? I pose this question
particularly to the Nation Magazine and FAIR----as two media entities
who have broadcasts on Pacifica radio which they are using to increase
their own subscriber bases. Since those Pacifica listeners who are
also now their subscribers are in many cases completely unaware of
what is occurring due to a gag rule imposed at Pacifica---- what moral
obligation do these organizations have to these individuals?

Pat Scott has also said "....But our opposition has chosen to couch
this in terms of a moral struggle," a framework she apparently doesn't
consider "relevant." Perhaps the Nation, which produces RadioNation at
KPFK, and FAIR, whose previous Los Angeles Chapter Director, Mark
Schubb, is now general manager of KPFK (and FAIR's current LA
Director, Jim Horowitz, sits on the KPFK advisory board) share Ms.
Scott's view of "moral struggle" as no longer "relevant" to an
organization founded to promote peace and justice.

For the Nation, FAIR and the other organizations who may have kept
silent for fear they too will lose access to airtime, haven't you
realized everyone is now expendable in the Brave New Pacifica?

Many people have expressed private qualms about the situation at
Pacifica, but have hesitated to take public action for fear of
"destroying the institution." Can't you see that is already

If you want to do something about it, you can. Be journalists---report
the story--all of it. There has been enough silence.

Lyn Gerry
former KPFK staff member
fired--and proud of it!