It’s Not Free Speech Radio Anymore

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday September 28, 2019

It’s Not Free Speech Radio Anymore


Dear Readers – It has been a long interval since Pacifica in Exile has published. Like many of you, we were relieved when Pacifica was able to avert catastrophe in the wake of the Empire State Building disaster. It seemed like the Pacifica National Board was in saner, stabler hands by 2018. After many years of regular bulletins and long hours of assembling the documentation that accompanies these reports to you, it was time for a break. But recent events have changed that assessment. It is necessary once again to inform you of things you won’t otherwise be told. Understand that the news is not good. In between the unsettling reports, Pacifica’s finances are in bad shape. I hope you will consider, to the extent that your resources allow, increasing your financial support. But with financial support comes accountability, and it is time for that as well. Every time you open your pocketbook, you can also open your mouth and put a stop to things that are happening that should not be. Please do both. 

Berkeley- When a nationwide uprising hit Pacifica Radio in the late 1990’s, it adopted the mantle of saving “free speech radio” from a takeover driven by beltway politics and powered by a lack of democratic accountability and transparency from a self-selected board of directors. That board, while grappling with real questions like shifts in the media landscape, technological innovation, and the balance between grassroots volunteer-driven community media and professionally produced strip programs that would be competitive with NPR-style offerings, chose to hunker down and embrace totalitarian tactics to strip the communities that built and owned these stations from any say in what would happen to them. They were sent packing in 2002. 

17 years later, it is fair to say that the democratic model has done good things and bad things. It has protected all 5 stations, and none have been sold off for scrap metal. The stations remain non-commercial and free of ubiquitous corporate sponsorship. All of them have at least some volunteer corps making content for the love of it, and voices are still heard on Pacifica that get play on very few other mass media platforms. Despite the episodes of boardroom Game of Thrones, the network has continued to exist when much more well-resourced media platforms have curled up and died. But there’s no doubt that all the challenges inherent in the questions on the table in 2000 have not been met and the stations have been slow in embracing technological innovation, jumping on the latest currents in alternative thought and culture, incorporating young people, and expanding programmatic content. This slowness has led to the loss of listener-members and contraction instead of growth. Changes are in order. But they can’t happen without you speaking up now. Because in the absence of transparency (which this publication’s absence aided and abetted), all the wrong things are going down. That’s why transparency matters. It’s a tool so you can make things right. Here’s some stuff that needs to be straightened out. 

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