Money problems, political struggles, could lead to dismantling of iconic progressive radio network.
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.”
[Marlo Blue is an audio-video producer, producer of South by Due East, and news anchor at KPFT-FM in Houston.]