A historic agreement was reached yesterday between all plaintiffs in four lawsuits against the five-station PacificaRadio network and the Pacifica foundation’s board of directors. The agreement returns official control of thePacifica network, the nation’s oldest public broadcaster, to community radio advocates. Yesterday’s settlement callsfor an interim board, controlled by the current minority, to serve for fifteen months while new, democraticstructures are implemented for an elected national Pacifica board.
The agreement brings to an end two and a half years of legal, political, and community struggle following an illegalchange in the method of selecting Pacifica’s directors, who had traditionally been elected by the local stationboards.
In the last two and a half years, Pacifica has banned and fired dozens of broadcasters, and incurred millions ofdollars in expenditures, due to high fees paid to corporate attorneys, public relations companies, and securityfirms. Pacifica’s finances have not been disclosed to either board members or donors in over a year, but at the lastboard meeting in Washington in November it was reported that the foundation has over a million dollars in unpaidcurrent accounts in addition to two million dollars in pending legal fees.
The settlement comes just one day after National Program Director Utrice Leid resigned her post after only two monthson the job. Leid was installed as WBAI General Manager last Christmas holiday weekend after she helped carry out lastDecember’s so-called “Christmas Coup” at New York Pacifica station WBAI. Senior Pacifica management changed the locksin the middle of the night, installed security guards and cameras, and then fired or banned some 25 producers andstaff.
According to recently released Arbitron estimates, nearly one year after the dramatic management changes and massfirings at Pacifica, the network’s audience figures have dropped sharply. At WBAI in New York, the station’spercentage of all radio listening has plunged 40 percent since Fall 2000. three of the five Pacifica stations sawdrops in all key Arbitron measurements. Pacifica’s dwindling audience belies the claims of Pacifica managers who saythey instituted changes at the network in order to “expand and broaden” audience.
- Noelle Hanrahan, co-host of “Flashpoints” on Pacifica’s Berkeley station KPFA.
- Carol Spooner, plaintiff in the listener lawsuit against Pacifica.
- Robbie Osmond, host, “Across the Great Divide” on Pacifica station KPFA.
- Dave Edelson, chair, Pacifica station KPFK Local Advisory Board and plaintiff in the Local Advisory Boardlawsuit.
- Leslie Cagan, Pacifica National Board member
- Matthew Lasar, author of ??Pacifica Radio: the Rise of an Alternative Network.
- Barbara Lubin, plaintiff and member of Friends of Free Speech Radio.
- Bernard White, fired and banned program director of New York Pacifica station WBAI.