Pacific Foundation separates governing boards

Wednesday, March 03, 1999

By Cecily Burt
STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY -- Pacifica Foundation, KPFA's parent company, voted last weekend to erode the power of its five radio stations by preventing members of local advisory boards from jointly serving on the foundation's governing board, a move critics say will further silence public radio's community voice.

The vote came about after the Corporation for Public Broadcasting notified Pacifica management last fall that it was not in compliance with the Communications Act Law of 1934, nor the CPB's own guidelines which require separation between the national governing board and each radio station's local advisory board.

The CPB contributes about $1.5 million a year to Pacifica Foundation, nonprofit parent of the Pacifica Radio Network. The network consists of five public radio stations, including listener-sponsored KPFA in Berkeley.

Shift hits majority of board

Prior to the vote, Pacifica's 16-member national governing board included six at-large members and two members selected from each of the five radio stations' local advisory boards.

Three of the five community boards had asked that a decision be postponed until more discussions had taken place.

However, all 16 board members voted for the bylaw amendment after they received a Feb. 24 letter from Richard Madden, a vice president with CPB, stating Pacifica could lose up to $750,000 -- all of its second-half funding -- if it did not comply by mid-March.

"Faced with this, our local board members and other local board members rolled over and voted unanimously (to change the bylaws), without debate," said Jeffrey Blankfort, of Take Back KPFA, a group formed after Pacifica cut several popular programs and hosts in 1995.

The local directors then resigned their local advisory board posts, said board member Pete Bramson. They will remain members of the national governing board, and new local advisory board members will be elected by the local board.

According to Elan Fabbri, communications director for Pacifica, nominations for new governing board members, as vacancies arise, will be made through Pacifica's Governance and Structure Committee.

Only indirect input

Local advisory boards will have indirect input to the national governing board through a committee called the Council of Chairs.

Blankfort and other critics see the bylaw change as the latest in a long string of power grabs designed to give Pacifica management absolute power over programming content for all its stations, with no accountability to the communities they are supposed to serve.

Those sorts of actions don't sit well in Berkeley, where Pacifica got its start 50 years ago with left-progressive KPFA, the first listener-sponsored radio station in the nation.

"A movement must start to put pressure on local station advisory boards to demand that Lynn Chadwick (Pacifica's executive director) either resign or be fired," Blankfort said.



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