Pacifica board sabotages 50 years
of free speech radio

Image copyright: Greg Broiles, 1999 - More pictures at:

Clinton appointee Mary Frances Berry pulls the plug on KPFA, the nation's oldest listener-sponsored station, in multi-million dollar asset grab

"What is happening to Pacifica broadcasting is unprecedented in American media history -- although not, of course, in dictatorships. Nothing gives the feel of the anti-democratic pathology of the Pacifica board than the audio of the forced removal of Dennis Bernstein.

On July 13, KPFA host Bernstein was fired after broadcasting a press conference on the controversy surrounding Pacifica Radio. Guards, hired by Pacifica management, were ordered to remove Bernstein from the station. He refused to go. There is a recording of what ensued shortly afterwards in the control room while KPFA was broadcasting its evening news. KPFA news co-host/director Mark Mericle began explaining the situation to listeners -- as you will hear -- but Pacifica management pulled the plug. After a few minutes of silence the station began broadcasting archive tape."
- Sam Smith. The Progressive Review

Audio of the last minutes of KPFA

  • Choice 1
  • Choice 2

    Berkeley - July 31, 1999

    10,000 + march to demand the resignation of Mary Frances Berry and the institution of a democractic management process at the Pacifica Foundation

    One picture is worth 1,000 words.

    Mary Frances Berry - Architect of the Meltdown

  • Civil rights commission in disarray - Important records missing, millions unaccounted for
  • California State launches inquiry into actions by Pacifica Board -
  • It's all about money - Berry secretly puts public station up for sale - then lies about it
  • Berry guts diversity at Houston station - then calls critics racists
  • PBS - Democractic fundraising scandal - Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Hillary Clinton's close friend, Diane Blair, may be involved. Husband Jim put Clinton in the controversial commodity trade that turned 1K to $100K.

    What this is all about

    "I think the conflict has been wrongly defined from the outset, as you do. Casting the conflict as one between management and labor too narrowly defines the issues. The broader issue is simply this:

    Will KPFA operate according to Lewis Hill's vision for the station, or will it become a tamed-down mouthpiece for the values of corporate America, fearful of criticizing the likes of a Clinton or any other administration committed to maintaining America as the one power on earth permitted to maintain its imperial dominance through force of arms. The sole radio voice opposed to this stance is KPFA."
    - Maury Englander, labor leader and multi-decade suporter of KPFA

  • The Brasscheck overview

    What Lewis Hill, founder of KPFA and Pacficia, intended for listener-sponsored radio (in 231 words)

    " get any real art or any significant communication, one must rely entirely on individuals, and must resign himself to accept not only their uniqueness but the possibility that the individual may at any time fail. By suppressing the individual, the unique, the industry reduces the risk of failure (abnormality) and assures itself a standard product for mass consumption...

    The answer of the KPFA project on this point is not necessarily the only good answer, but it is explicit. It requires that the people who actually do the broadcasting should also be responsible for what and why they broadcast. In short, they must control the policy which determines their actions...

    A constant exchange between the staff and the audience enriches the schedule with fresh judgment and new ideas, materials, and issues. Thus members of the staff work out their own ideas and, if you like, categorical imperatives, with some of the undistracted certitude one feels in deciding what he will have for dinner, subject to the menu. Listener sponsorship makes possible this extremely productive balance of interests and initiatives...

    "(KPFA is) a radio station fully supported by subscribers who have not responded to a special gift offer, who are not participating in a lottery, who have not ventured an investment at 3 per cent, but who use this means of supporting values that seem to them of basic and lasting importance."

  • From The Theory of Listener Sponsored Radio

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    Bulletins and overview

  • Yahoo has the best reporting on this story
  • Excellent overview from WBAI producers
  • Radio 4All: The movement to reclaim the airways - Bulletins on KPFA crisis
  • Restoring Pacifica - Bulletins on KPFA crisis
  • The Brasscheck overview
  • An unblinking view from Houston

    Comprehensive background material

  • Theft of Pacifica - Extensive collection of articles and references
  • Shedding light - a 40 page primer


  • Early warning from CounterPunch - The present board's move to take control of Pacifica's assets
  • Anatomy of a heist - The detail's of the takeover's engineering
  • About the union busters hired by Pacifica board to prepare for asset grab
  • Board sabotages WBAI's finances to set up forced sale of frequency
  • Live Internet streaming from Pacifica station WBAI in New York

    Brasscheck overview

    This site dedicated to the memory of Samori Marksman, WBAI's program director,
    who died Tuesday, March 23, 1999.

    "I never met Samori Marksman but because I know WBAI, I feel as if I knew him well. When I came to New York to raise funds for the burned out Black churches, WBAI practically turned over the radio station to me. Any time you listened, you were likely to hear a woman with a Tyrone accent telling you to come to a fund raiser for the burned churches. Because of WBAI, and thanks to Samori Marksman, we had an overflow crowd and raised over ten thousand dollars! It is in large measure to WBAI that my daughter Roisin is a free woman today. For nearly 6 months scarecely a week went by when her case wasn't covered by Wakeup Call, Democracy Now, or Radio Free Eireann. None of this happened by accident. Samori Marksman built a radio station out of his own integrity and commitment. The only way to mourn him is to rededicate ourselves to the struggle for freedom around the world. That struggle will be Samori Marksman's monument."

    - Bernadette Devlin McAliskey


    Copyright notice: Any information on this page may be freely distributed as long as it is accompanied by the URL (web address) of this site which is