The reasons for Pacifica’s decline are many, and complex – but solvable. If we fail to save it, the odds are Pacifica will be acquire­­­­­­d by right wing extremist groups or evangelical Christian stations.

By Zack Kaldveer

America’s corporate news media have become integral to the perpetuation and expansion of the corporate state.

Right wing media cloak themselves in the guise of news, masquerading as journalists while sacrificing truth at the altar of corporate profit, white supremacy, and neo-fascism.

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Mainstream corporate news outlets don costumes of their own, proclaiming objectivity while peddling “false equivalencies” and censoring peace and justice issues not only by what they choose to cover – but what they choose not to.

One dependable source of fact-based information in this post-truth era has been independent radio. When done right, radio informs and builds trust. This is what Pacifica Radio — encompassing five stations (SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, NY City and Washington, DC) and over 200 affiliated local radio stations – has so ably done for decades. But the network is now on life support.

The Pacifica Foundation was created 75 years ago to foster peace through informed dialogue, serving as a commercial-free venue for independent and dissident ideas and voices. Unflinching, unapologetic, and critical coverage of the most important issues of the 20th century – including the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunts, the Iran-Contra hearings, and the Women’s, LGBTQ, Environmental, Civil Rights, and Anti-Vietnam War movements – helped reshape America’s political landscape in a progressive direction.

This legacy has continued unabated in the 21st Century. Programs like Democracy Now!, Letters and Politics, Against the Grain, Democracy at Work, and Flashpoints help create an informed citizenry – the life blood of a functioning democracy. Unlike in corporate media, the surveillance state, the Iraq invasion and endless war, corporate power, climate justice, Black Lives Matter and so many other issues and movements are given their deserved attention and honest, contextualized coverage by these iconic shows – and many others aired on Pacifica.

Pacifica’s broadcast signal can still reach over 60 million daily potential listeners – giving it the capacity to have an enormously positive impact on our country and world. But despite the consistent audience growth for publicly-funded stations, progressive podcasts, and online news outlets, Pacifica is now on the brink of insolvency. With stations in five of the largest media markets in the country, listenership hovers under one quarter of one percent and its donor base has cratered from over 120,000 donors in 2007 to about 35,000 today.

The reasons for Pacifica’s decline are many, and complex – but solvable. If we fail to save it, the odds are Pacifica will be acquire­­­­­­d by right wing extremist groups or evangelical Christian stations. Such a tragedy could further threaten democracy. And this is where you all come in. To keep progressive radio alive and thriving, I urge one or both of the following actions:
  1. Become a Pacifica Member before June 30th to keep the Network alive. As a listener or staff member, you become eligible to vote in the upcoming station board elections, run as a candidate, and nominate candidates. Go here for a list of station contacts and ways to donate. You can also donate directly via your station’s website – to KPFA in the SF Bay Area, KPFK in Los Angeles; KPFT in Houston; WBAI in NY City; and WPFW in Washington, DC.
  2. Run for a Seat on Your Local Station Board (LSB): Get your candidate nomination package, and for more information about the election process review the Voter Guideon Pacifica’s elections website. Remember, you must donate and register by June 30th (or target the next election if need more time).

I serve in the Bay Area as a KPFA Local Station Board member. There are several major challenges facing Pacifica that demand good candidates willing to serve the Network, engage in the debate over its future, and ensure it continues to adhere to its Mission Statement:

  • Keep Pacifica Corporate Free: Due to Pacifica’s budget crisis, the Network has initiated a complex commercial underwriting pilot project which some stations have unfortunately embraced. At KPFA, we have successfully blocked any corporate infiltration of our airwaves. All Pacifica stations should follow suit by banning ALL corporate underwriting. PBS exemplifies the insidious effect Big Money can have on independent news, resulting in the avoidance of controversial issues that undermine the corporate status quo and ever more programming aimed at upscale audiences – all while interspersed with corporate logos and slogans. We cannot be critics of the corporate state while simultaneously depending on its money for survival. The integrity of the messenger is fundamental to the credibility of the message.
  • Modernize and Evolve: Paramount to Pacifica’s survival, and expansion, is to keep pace with the emerging communications technologies of the digital age (YouTube, podcasts, social media, etc.) to reach new and younger audiences on new platforms. This “evolution” remains largely unrealized.
  • Democratize Pacifica Elections: The current structure allows the majority of Pacifica National Board directors to come from smaller and even dysfunctional stations. We need national board members who will help protect staff contracts, pensions, licenses, buildings, and tax-exempt status – all of which are now at risk. We need more functional local boards that represent and are directly accountable to the listeners.
  • Protect and Expand Investigative News: KPFA is the only station in the Network that has maintained a full news department. To survive, Pacifica must offer uncensored fact-based news and coverage that includes in-depth reporting and analysis. By strengthening and deepening our local news and public affairs, we provide a clearer and more direct contrast with for-profit media and their failings.

In an era dominated by giant media monopolies and right-wing power brokers, it’s up to us to ensure Pacifica continues to be one of our nation’s most respected and independent news sources, covering much of what corporate media ignore. When armed with the truth, informed people become more active, caring citizens about the issues that really matter. I urge you to join this effort and help protect Pacifica, save independent radio, amplify community voices, AND build a progressive movement.

Zack Kaldveer is an elected KPFA Local Station Board member (part of a slate of KPFA Protectors). For over two decades he has served as a communications specialist and media relations expert on a broad range of social justice issues. Currently he serves as the Health Equity Communications Manager for several projects at the Public Health Institute (PHI). This article does not necessarily reflect the views of PHI. 

Reviving Pacifica Radio: A Call to Action

Pacifica Radio -- encompassing five urban radio stations (in the SF Bay Area, L.A., Houston, NY City and DC) and over 200 affiliated local and campus radio stations, and also broadcasting on various platforms – has stood for many decades as a beacon of unflinching journalism and unwavering commitment to social justice causes. However, the network’s survival is threatened today due to declining listenership and financial instability.  It is imperative that we come together now to revive Pacifica and restore its position as one of  the nation's premier platforms for progressive, independent news and discussion.

Click here to revive Pacifica Radio

Taking Action: To prevent Pacifica's failure, we urge you to become a member, or renew your possibly long abandoned membership and vote for the New Day slate. You can vote by making a $25 donation for your membership. Click on the link for your station:

This is not an official communication from KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WPFW or WBAI, their respective local station boards, or the Pacifica Foundation.