A TIMELINE OF THE PACIFICA CRISIS
compiled by Phyllis Ponvert and Eric Lormand
1949:Pacifica network founded by World War II conscientious objectors to establish the first US listener-supported, noncorporate radio station (KPFA in Berkeley). Over next 45 years expands to New York (WBAI) and also Washington (WPFW), Los Angeles (KPFK), Houston (KPFT), and the world wide web (pacifica.org, see also webactive.com), The Pacifica Network News (PNN) and Democracy Now! run daily on many more stations—Ann Arbor’s WCBN runs PNN.
Mid 90s: The Pacifica National Board—gradually stacked with corporate executives and lawyers instead of the social activists and unionists of the past—"mainstreams" all but the Berkeley and New York Pacifica stations.
2/99: The National Board decides to remove Local Advisory Board (LAB) members from national governance, stifling community input into Pacifica national policy and in effect making the National Board completely self-appointing, in violation of Foundation bylaws which mandate election of directors by local station boards. Over the months half of the board is illegally self-selected.
3/31/99: Pacifica’s Executive Director Lynn Chadwick fires KPFA general manager Nicole Sawaya for not being a "good fit". KPFA’s news department runs a report on the firing in defiance of the director’s gag order.
4/9/99: KPFA’s signature voice, Larry Bensky—30-year veteran of Pacifica, Polk Award winner for his historic gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Iran-Contra hearings in 1986—Is fired for arguing against the changes before the National Board and on his regular Sunday program.
7/99: Pacifica management locks KPFA’s staff out of the building for raising the question of Pacifica’s policies over the airwaves. Listeners heard KPFA investigative reporter Dennis Bernstein protesting as security guards forced him from the studio. 52 staff and community members were arrested, cited for trespassing on the radio station that they have kept alive and well for decades.
7/31/99: Over 10,000 people assemble at San Francisco’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park calling for the return of community control of KPFA and the resignation of the Pacifica Foundation’s Executive Board.
1/31/00: After months of censorship, Pacifica’s award-winning stringers and free-lancers begin a strike against Pacifica Network News (savepacifica.net). They create Free Speech Radio News, a weekly alternative newscast now carried by nearly 50 community stations.
3/24/00: WCBN (88.3 FM "on the extreme left of your dial", as arwulf says) begins playing Free Speech Radio News on Tuesdays at 6pm (archive at www.savepacifica.net/strike/news). See below ("NOW") for upcoming changes.
6/15/00: By popular demand of its listeners, WCBN joins the boycott of Pacifica Network News citing its "deteriorating integrity and quality", and donates pledge funds to the strikers.
10/18/00: Democracy Now!’s nationally popular host Amy Goodman (see story)—among other credentials a survivor of the Dili massacre by Indonesian soldiers in East Timor—complains of open harassment and censorship directed at her by Pacifica management (www.savepacifica.net/20001019_amyletter.html).
11/3/00: Pacifica’s Houston station fires an unpaid programmer and University of Houston professor for attending a demonstration in support of Goodman.
12/23/00: Pacifica’s New York station’s management fires the longtime station manager, the program director and a prominent producer, changes the locks, and installs armed security guards at WBAI’s office.
1/01: New York Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez resigns as co-host of Democracy Now! to help organize a national pledge-strike against Pacifica.
3/5/01: US Congressional representative Major Owens is pulled off the air abruptly by WBAI interim manager. Later, on the floor of the House, Owens finishes his intended statement, putting it in the congressional record. He compares the incident to "some totalitarian country where some great minister of information was dispensing the truth". He slams "powerful commercial interests" on the board as "business predators … far removed from the ideals of the founders" of Pacifica radio, which "represents radio freedom of speech that does not make profit for anyone".
4/28/01: 1,300 listeners and supporters of WBAI gather in front of the station’s studios on Wall Street, demanding a return of the station to community control, and the resignation of Pacifica National Board members.
NOW: From May 21st to June 15th, Free Speech Radio News goes daily, airing on WCBN Tue-Fri at 6pm.
HOW TO HELP: Contribute to the strikers, and for the flourishing of Free Speech Radio News, by writing Freelancers’ Strike Fund, c/o Friends of Free Speech Radio, 905 Parker St., Berkeley, CA 94710. Make checks payable to Friends of Free Speech Radio. If you have questions or would like to pledge a monthly amount, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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