Yesterday, listeners and staff rallied at KPFA in defense of diversity and local programming. Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt addressed the rally and stated that programs hosted by or supporting African Americans, Latinos, and women are important and she won’t be making cuts in those areas.
However, the majority of the workers that Engelhardt laid off from the Morning Show are women and people of color, in a move that has led thousands of listeners to register their outrage with Pacifica. And all of the seven KPFA paid staff members who elected to take a voluntary severance are people of color, including Lewis Sawyer, Weyland Southon, Esther Manilla, Vini Beachem, Renee Geesler, and Amelia Gonzalez. Gonzalez quit last week as KPFA’s acting assistant general manager.
Hard Knock Radio’s Weyland Southon stated in an interview with Oakland Local that “If KPFA becomes strictly volunteer-run, I guarantee there will be no diversity on KPFA airwaves. Working people will be ghettoized in late night slots and the upper classed and privileged few will dominate the prime daytime slots. Production standards will nosedive and the resulting programming will not resonate with audiences that require more than some talking heads pontificating on soapboxes. If this is the end game, people of color and other disenfranchised communities will lose big.”
KPFA’s interim General Manager announced that next week’s fund drive will be called off in the wake of massive response from listeners angry about the lay off of KPFA’s Morning Show staff. “Due to recent major KPFA organizational changes the KPFA November 18th & 19th, 2010 fund drive has been cancelled,” writes Ahmad Anderson in an email to KPFA staff. He also states that two days of fund raising for the Pacifica Radio Archives will go ahead. Pacifica justified the decimation of KPFA’s biggest fund raising program by stating that cuts needed to be made for financial reasons.
So for purported budgetary reason, Pacifica laid off its most successful program — and then just canceled the station’s fund drive. Now that’s sound financial planning.