Well, the independent media movement has won a major victory. This weekend, the interim national board of thePacifica Radio foundation voted to restore dozens of fired and banned producers to New York station WBAI. The boardalso chose Dan Coughlin, as its interim Executive Director. In 1999, Coughlin was ousted from his position asPacifica news director, for including a short report on Pacifica protests in the Pacifica Network News.
Pacifica Radio was founded just after World War II in Berkeley, California, by pacifist Lew Hill, who felt thecorporate-owned media were beating the drums for a third world war, because media profits from war. Over the years,Pacifica grew into a progressive, national network of five radio stations and dozens of affiliate stations.
But the network has been in turmoil for the last few years. In 1999, the national board voted to change its bylaws,so that board members would no longer be chosen by the local advisory boards of the five stations, but would ratherbe chosen by national board members themselves–in other words, the national board became self-selecting. There wasalso a proposal to amend the bylaws so that individual board members could personally profit from selling Pacifica’sstations.
One of the most vocal opponents of this move was the station manager at Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley, NicoleSawaya. She was promptly removed. Massive protests erupted there, and Pacifica management chained KPFA shut for threeweeks in July 1999, provoking the largest protests that city had seen since the Vietnam War. 15,000 people marched inthe streets, and the station re-opened. Pacifica management moved their headquarters to Washington, D.C.
Last year, Pacifica management moved in on WBAI in New York, with security guards, late night lock changes, newmanagement, and firings and bannings of longtime producers. Over the next year, dozens more were fired and bannedfrom the station. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez resigned in January in order to lead a campaign to restorePacifica to its original mission. We are overjoyed to have Juan Gonzalez with us here today, as he rejoins DemocracyNow! as co-host.
- Resignation of Juan Gonzalez, January 31, 2001.
As Pacifica approached bankruptcy and tremendous listener pressure forced several board members to resign, anhistoric settlement was reached last month between Pacifica and the listeners, dissident board members and localadvisory board members who were suing the foundation. In exchange for dropping the lawsuits, Pacifica agreed toreconstitute the national board. Five people from the former board majority, five dissident board members, and fivepeople from the local advisory boards (one from each station area), became the new interim board. The new board helda meeting by telephone two weeks ago, and voted to restore Democracy Now! to Pacifica’s airwaves. But our homestation, WBAI continued its policy of censorship and banning, and refused to air the program.
Well, the interim National Board held its first face-to-face meeting in New York over the weekend. Hundreds ofpeople packed into the Hotel Trades Council Union hall. The high point of the meeting came on Saturday night whenthe interim board majority overcame the repeated objections of three of its members, and, under severe time pressure,voted to oust WBAI station manager Bob Daughtry and to restore all of the fired and banned workers to their originalstaff positions at WBAI.
- Interim National Board, voting to restore the fired and banned to New York station WBAI.
- Fahima Seck, programmer at Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, D.C.
- Leslie Cagan, Interim Chair of the Pacifica National Board.