METRO | Marlo Blue : Pacifica Radio on the brink

Money problems, political struggles, could lead to dismantling of iconic progressive radio network.

save pacifica crop

Pacifica Radio at war.

By Marlo Blue | The Rag Blog | June 21, 2014

HOUSTON — Once again the radio network for peace, Pacifica Foundation Radio, is at war. Plagued with lawsuits and unpaid bills, the enemy is “within” as factions line up to sell prime real estate on the Houston, New York, and Washington D.C., FM dials.

Pacifica has been called the “most powerful community radio network in America, and the only one devoted to an anti-establishment point of view.” Founded in 1949, it is a network of five politically progressive, non-commercial, listener-supported radio stations — KPFK (Los Angeles), KPFA (San Francisco), WBAI (New York), WPFW (Washington, D.C.), and KPFT in Houston.

Though the Pacifica stations, which vary greatly in content and approach, have played a significant role in progressive community radio, there has also been a long history of turmoil and internal conflict, partly due to the foundation’s arcane management structure.

Duane Bradley, general manager of Houston’s KPFT 90.1 FM. says the Mighty Ninety should prepare for the worst. Unable to raise funds to repair tower damage from a lightning strike two years ago due to cumbersome Pacifica National Board rules, KPFT is no longer able to broadcast at the 100,000 watt level — leaving it vulnerable to FCC fines and possible revocation of its’ license.

(In 1970, KPFT became the only radio station in U.S. history to have its transmitter bombed. The station was knocked off the air twice that year by local right-wingers affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.)

Bradley told KPFT Local News, “In a best case scenario, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman sues Pacifica for (four) years of back pay, sending the network into bankruptcy, allowing KPFT into receivership and the open arms of another like-minded 501C to broadcast another day.”

An online court petition to stop the dismantling of the network can be found here. To learn more about Pacifica’s problems, go here, here, here, and here. And visit the Save Pacifica Forum here.

[Marlo Blue is an audio-video producer, producer of South by Due East, and news anchor at KPFT-FM in Houston.]

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4 Responses to METRO | Marlo Blue : Pacifica Radio on the brink

  1. Beverly Baker Moore says:

    Fond memories of KPFT from my Houston days. Hope they can find solutions to these latest problems. I suppose there is an effort to do something about the Board. We’ve never needed these independent broadcasting venues more than we do right now.

  2. G.F. " Hookman " Brown says:

    Thanx for keeping us informed Marlo.
    The loss of KPFT 90.1 would be insurmountable for Houston’s independent musicians, producers, etc. and for “Truth in Politics” in particular.
    Thanx again.

  3. Gavan Duffy says:

    I labored in the KPFT saltmines from 1970-76. Those who care about KPFT and Pacifica ought to consider whether broadcasting itself is fast going the way of the typewriter.

    • Mike August says:

      Gavan,

      I used to think you were wrong about everything, but then I grew up and could see shades of grey. It turned out that most of what you said was right.

      However this time you ARE wrong. Broadcasting is not going the way of the typewriter. It is going hyperlocal and KPFT is on the forefront of that movement. I hope Pacifica National doesn’t bring it down.

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