Tuesday, September 20, 2016


One of the few people at Pacifica who were in touch with reality, Sam Agarwal, has resigned as treasurer of the embattled organization, effective immediately. Agarwal had been on the job since December 2015. In a parting shot at Pacifica’s dysfunctional management, Agarwal said in his letter of resignation letter:

Although voluntary bankruptcy and reorganization may be the least desirable…with each passing day, it may be the only option left because of dysfunction in the Board, mismanagement and failure of leadership.

Most organizations with Pacifica’s problems would already be out of business. Red ink is everywhere.  No one even knows the amount of debt because Pacifica hasn’t completed an audit since 2014. Each of the five network stations has its own books. The time will likely come soon when voluntary bankruptcy is not an option either if folks in charge at Pacifica continue their deep denial.

When creditors start looking for things to liquidate, there are two big plums: the FCC licenses for the five stations and the Pacifica archives [link]. Though I have never seen a reliable estimate of the value of the archives, it is possible the value exceeds a million dollars.

The historical value of the collection is impossible to calculate. Much of the material comes from the years when Pacifica actually mattered in the national conversation. The archives contain one-of-a-kind audio documenting social movements since 1949 including rare recordings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Upton Sinclair, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. 

In an article published September 2nd in the Orange County Weekly [link] reporter Gabriel San Roman, raised the possibility that Pacifica can no longer provide the archives a safe home. The archives are currently stored in North Hollywood at 64 degrees with controlled humidity levels. Much of the historic audio is on reel-to-reel tapes and transcription discs.  

Brian DeShazor
Concern about the state of archives kicked into high gear in June this year when Pacifica imposed budget cuts, layoffs and a 25% cut in pay for remaining employees. Archives Director Brian DeShazor resigned because of the austerity measures.

News about the fate of the archives is now being heard nationally.  In early September Sally Kane, CEO of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), sent a lett er to the Pacifica Foundation Board that said privatizing or selling the collection off would be "a fundamental betrayal of the values and spirit" that it represents.

Josh Shepperd, Director of the Radio Preservation Task Force, is also calling for action. Sheppard told the Orange County Weekly:

"I've never seen anything like this anywhere. It is the only archive of its type in North America. The recordings are some of the best primary sources for activist history."

Pacifica’s management has no interest in turning over the archives to a university or other nonprofit organization that could preserve and digitize the collection. Frank Torres, Interim Archives Director, told the Weekly:

"We're not going to send the entire collection to a university and lose access to it.” 

And this was all before Sam Agarwal resigned as Pacifica’s treasurer. If Pacifica is forced into bankruptcy liquidation access to the collection will be the least of their worries.


  1. I don't see how the Archives are worth a single penny at this point.

    There is not a university in the land that would be crazy enough to touch anything associated with Pacifica with a ten foot pole. Universities are businesses, and they have images and reputations to protect. Even if they could legally and operationally take wholesale ownership of the Archives, they'd HAVE to know that the vast sea of crazies associated with Pacifica would endlessly make the University's life hell for one reason or another.

    That logic also applies to any bankruptcy proceeding; voluntary or otherwise. Whoever ends up with legal control over the Archives will immediately face endless lawsuits about it. Who on earth would want that hassle...who *also* has the money to pay for the proper archive storage?

    At least with the FM licenses, you could take 'em over, change the locks and post security. There'd be lawsuits, probably, but they'd be tossed out quickly as there's ample precedent, both in the courts and in the FCC, about that sort of thing. Wouldn't take too long to start garnishing a new audience, either, and pretty soon nobody would remember there was a Pacifica Radio except a small core of staff and audience that'll be uber-bitter to the end of their days.

  2. I'm very concerned about the archives. They should be organized as in a library, digitized, and made available to everyone. I did this for my own tape collection. It's a lot of work, but in the end very worthwhile. Could the Library of Congress be convinced to take on this job?