KPFA’s fund drive takes a hit from Pacifica’s programming changes

KPFA’s Spring Fund Drive ended Wednesday, May 25, a little more than $80,000 short of goal. It was the longest fund drive at KPFA in at least a dozen years, clocking in at a full three-and-a-half weeks.

The entire shortfall can be explained by the drop in fundraising from 6-10 AM – the hours impacted by the programming changes Pacifica management imposed on KPFA. Year over year, fundraising during those hours dropped by more than $5,000 per day – $90,000 over the course of the drive – and likely would have dropped much more if KPFA programmers (and former Morning Show staffers) Philip Maldari, Mitch Jeserich, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert hadn’t stepped in to fundraise during those hours (click on the charts to enlarge them).

Average hourly 8 AM fundraising totals by host during Spring Fund Drive

Your pledges helped make up ground! The fund drive had been on track to finish $150,000 short – but KPFA staff organized to raise money for KPFA on their own time – in union halls, community meetings and here at KPFAWorker.org. You answered the call, and collectively raised collectively raised over $13,000 in matching funds for the final push of the fund drive, while sending a strong signal of support for KPFA’s embattled workers.

Management reacts

At a local station board meeting during the final week of fundraising, KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips launched into a rambling, contradictory and at times profanity-laced attack on KPFA’s staff, its union, and other critics of Pacifica, who he called a “fifth column” (a reference to fascist infiltrators during the Spanish Civil War). He also quipped, ominously: “You can run a radio station with no paid staff if you have to.” AUDIO CLIP of Phillips (16 min) | ENTIRE 4.5 HR BOARD MEETING: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Then, after KPFA’s Spring Fund Drive wrapped up, Phillips took to KPFA’s airwaves at 8 AM on both Thursday and Friday to again berate the station’s staff and their listener allies, and lash out against this website in particular.

Phillips attacked reporting both here and from the KPFA News Department on $15,000 in gifts to Pacifica station WBAI from a Goldman Sachs partner (AUDIO LINKS HERE), and Phillips’ own statements opening the possibility of future underwriting at KPFA. The main problem: Phillips’ clarifications tend to re-affirm the original reports. To wit: “I didn’t say that I supported corporate underwriting. I did say that I supported exploring corporate underwriting” (emphasis added; it is in Phillips’ Thursday on-air appearance around 8:30 AM, cited above).

Listener Avilee Goodwin echoed many others when she wrote to KPFA’s board: “Was Mr. Phillips misquoted? (no) Was the tape edited to twist the meaning? (I don’t think so) Or did he simply want the chance to edit his own words into a more palatable form, once he figured out how upsetting they were to KPFA listeners, before allowing us to hear them?”

Average pledge amount per hour during fund drive (no "Morning Mix" on the air; instead there was special programming)

“The most important part of that news story for me as a KPFA listener was hearing, in his own words and voice, that our current station manager believes that business ‘sponsorships’ should be ‘in the mix,’” wrote Goodwin. “For the news staff not to report on this original statement would have been giving station management control over what we, the listeners, are allowed to hear. For a listener-sponsored station, that is simply unacceptable. That the news staff should be so publicly chastised for reporting facts to the listeners is disturbing.” If you’d like like to add your response, you are welcome to write via this page and we’ll forward your message.

Where did this guy come from?

That’s a question we’ve been getting asked a lot. For instance, listener Nancy Arvold writes: “I’ve been a KPFA listener and donor since 1960, and am fearful about what is happening to my anchor for intelligent news and analysis. I don’t even know who to go to to complain about Andrew what’s-his-name, the new station manager.”

“He obviously knows nothing about either the listeners nor the Bay Area’s needs for KPFA coverage,” Arvold writes. “He is condescending, insulting to listeners, and tells lies and skews this conflict. Since he ‘owns’ the airwaves, he can say anything he wants. I woke up to listen to Mary Berg’s lovely Sunday music, anticipating the usual 9AM morning show, only to hear Andrew introduce Robert Bly is such pablum-y terms I turned of the radio. I might as well be listening to NPR. He and the national board, for whom he is obviously a front man, must be stopped.”

Here’s what we know about Phillips. He was working as a permaculture gardener in New York before being appointed “interim” KPFA general manager by Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt. She hired him without input from KPFA’s local board, staff, or community – in fact, she hired him before she even admitted publicly that KPFA’s last manager had quit.

Phillips’ experience includes serving as Pacifica station WBAI’s program director for 4 years in the early 90s, then later serving as a distributor for Gary Null, a nutritional supplement entrepreneur who denies that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Phillips had proposed putting Null on the air at KPFA this spring, but dropped the idea after listeners, staff, and HIV/AIDS activists strenuously protested.

Phillips and Carrie Core announced other sweeping changes to KPFA’s programming right before the May fund drive; they dropped those changes in the face of listener opposition, but still refuse to restore the Morning Show.

Results from a recent online survey by community group SaveKPFA showed 91% of respondents supported restoring the Morning Show. Among the many sensible public comments at the last local board meeting, KPFA News co-director Aileen Alfandary urged management to engage in “evidence-based decision-making.” | AUDIO CLIP of Alfandary (4 min)

This entry was posted in Andrew Phillips, Arlene Engelhardt, censorship, fundraising shortfalls, Goldman Sachs, KPFA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to KPFA’s fund drive takes a hit from Pacifica’s programming changes

  1. Montgomery Powell says:

    It is clear that the real Fifth Column at Pacifica is led by the over-paid Andrew Phillips, Arlene Englehardt and her crony from Florida, Carrie Core. Perhaps they are employed by Goldman Sachs to privatize Pacifica. If not, they sure act like they are!

    The Bay Area is a politically diverse community. We ask for programming that is culturally interesting, newsy, believable, and broad-minded. 911 Truther bs need not apply (except in the margins). And for the rambling and incoherent Phillips to hog OUR air-time to promote his union- and radio station-busting agenda is unacceptable. It is past time to take back KPFA.

  2. Shari Ser says:

    I am a long time listener but did not donate to this fund drive specifically due to all the terrible program changes that have occured. If Ami Allison’s legal situation is resolved with the station and she and Brian Edward Tickerts are restored to anchor the Morning Show you have my pledge!. I don’t feel comfortable donating to the alternate web site till the station’s conflicts are resolved and you all send Phillips, Core and Engelhardt back to whatever hole they climbed out of and began there insipid spread of rot.

  3. As a concerned supporter, listener and sometime volunteer I was quite dismayed last week listening to Andrew Phillips, as he tried to defend the indefensible. I have attempted to give him a fair hearing, even though I have had grave misgivings since it was reported that he wants to explore corporate underwriting (which to me displays at best an ignorance of how capitalism co-opts, com-modifies, and controls all that it touches, and at worst a determination to turn KPFA into NPR, or worse). Listening to Mr. Phillips deny what he said, when there is a recording of him saying things was pretty disgusting. This guy is talking out of both sides of his mouth. From my perspective there has been a coup at KPFA, and some very disingenuous people i.e. Englehardt, and Phillips constitute a genuine, immediate, and existential threat to KPFA as the voice it has been for many years. KPFA is an invaluable resource, and I truly fear for its future.
    barbara fitzpatrick- Berkeley, CA

  4. Maribeth Halloran says:

    I miss KPFA’s “Morning News Show” because it was put together by sharp, keen-witted, talented people committed to excellent journalism. Although there really are no substitutes, now I turn on other stations for morning news. If the old show was back I would return to KPFA in an instant. The “Morning Mix” fails to satisfy someone looking for morning news.
    I have donated less this year than my average the last 5 or so years for two reasons. First, I am reluctant to put $ in the hands of the interim director and Pacifica’s executive director — they might use it to romance Goldman Sachs for more “grant money.” Second, I donate the $ normally sent to KQED to KALW and KQED because I’m listening to those stations for morning news.
    I listened to Andrew Phillips when he introduced himself to KPFA listeners. He tended to minimize the importance of the concern being expressed by the loss of the morning news show, showing little regard for the listeners’ vigorous objections.
    I just listened to him suggest it would be a good idea to put a new volunteer in the slot every weekday morning at 8 a.m. Sorry — that’s not going to get me back. I have access to extensive, worthy reporting through the internet and can be my own “volunteer.” What I miss is the sophisticated news gathering and perspective of Ami Allison and Brian Edward Tinkert and the others who made their morning news show so valuable.

  5. Pingback: Pacifica-appointed managers oversee second disastrous fund drive, loss of listenership | SaveKPFA

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