Friday, September 18, 2015


The British newspaper The Guardian published a report from Los Angeles on September 10th about KPFK and Pacifica Radio. It has particular relevance now given the departure of John Proffit as the Executive Director of Pacifica.

[By the way, John Proffitt is doing fine.  He is respected by his peers and should have no problem finding another gig, if he wants one.]

The Guardian story confirms much of what we have written here about Pacifica. I urge you to read the entire story at [link|.


Guardian reporter Rory Carroll starts his story with this statement:

Feuding and ideological extremism have driven some of the US’s flagship leftwing radio stations to the brink of collapse, according to two veteran broadcasters: “This is the end. They’re running out of road…”
The Guardian notes the arcane governance system used by Pacifica caused much of the dysfunction:

Observers trace the travails to 2001 when a group of rebellious listeners and broadcasters took control and instituted an elaborate governance structure of multiple boards, sub-committees and painstaking elections.

These events happened around the time Steve Yasko was being harassed and humiliated [link] for trying to improve Pacifica's programming. The Guardian’s report summed up the priorities of the people who operate Pacifica:

“They think what goes on in their meetings is more important than what goes out on the air.”

As I’ve said frequently:  Pacifica Radio doesn’t do public service, it does self-service. It is a sandbox for a little clique people who feel entitled to operate it.


The defenders of Pacifica say everything is a conspiracy against them.  They are radio survivalists who hunker in a bunker and drink Lorenzo Milam’s kool-aid [link].  They still say the “Pacifica Model” of governance works. It calls for uber democracy & a committee for every decision. Unfortunately, Pacifica's governance scheme is still being pushed by the nation’s largest community radio organization.

Beware. Those who use the Pacifica Model are doomed to the same shameful fate as Pacifica today. One person who posted a comment on a KPFK listener blog summed it up nicely:

The very simple truth is that this is an institution that long ago ceased to matter to anyone or anything other than itself, which outlived itself and continues to exist, barely, as a refuge for its staffers from the real world, a zombie refuge of sorts – and no one cares, or listens, with good reason.

[Pacifica] came to define itself simply as a voice of political advocacy. Listenership dropped. Its advocacy became more strident. Listenership dropped further. Quack health cures came to be used as fund-raising ‘premiums’ in what was clearly infomercial snake-oil fashion.


Where is a task force from NFCB to propose solutions?  Is this the kind of community radio NFCB CEO Sally Kane supports?

Where is the decisiveness and clarity by blogger Matthew Lasar, the man who literally wrote the book about Pacifica?

Where are the honchos from CPB who enabled this toxic organization by giving them millions of dollars prior to 2012? 

This is the time for people who care about community radio’s future to speak out against this waste of the public’s airwaves and black-eye on progressive causes.


  1. Where are all those people? Watching the trolls destroy Pacifica faster than they could if they intervened.

  2. First, no one can do anything to change the way Pacifica dies. It it just going to continue to wither until it goes into receivership or whatever. There will be no graceful exit. Pacifica could make sure that the licenses stay in the hands of a public broadcaster, but that isn't going to happen because they aren't going to let go until it is too late and the licenses have been revoked by the FCC or auctioned by a bankruptcy court.

    Second, Sally Kane is not going to do anything because she was put in her position as CEO of NFCB by a board that has the same ideas about radio programming and organizational governance as the people that are grinding Pacifica into dust. NFCB had a true professional when they had Maxie Jackson as CEO, but they abruptly fired him, without explanation. Why? Because he was pushing professionalism and real metrics as routes to success for community radio stations. That sounds too much like NPR and mainstream public radio, and community radio and the NFCB board are going full tilt away from that. When Jackson was fired, NFCB made the turn that ensured its slow decline. Ginny Berson "retired", but she definitely objected to Jackson's removal and I think she was really resigning in protest. She hasn't retired and is still working as a consultant to non-profits today.

    And how is NFCB doing under Sally Kane? It's flagship conference is dead, replaced by regional "convenings". The 5 x 5 Model is just links on the website with no staff support. Sally Kane is running NFCB out of her home (in the middle of nowhere), and the only other staff member is Sally's daughter, who has no professional radio experience.