KPFA’s courageous program “Flashpoints” is under attack by KPFA management. Please read below and email protests to the general manger at KPFA: firstname.lastname@example.org and send a copy to Dennis Bernstein at Flashpoints: dbernstein@ igc.org
SF Indybay, Dec. 11, 2009.
The Flashpoints radio program is being directly threatened with closure by station management. Budget cuts implemented by KPFA management; reduce staff time for Flashpoints by some 75 hours per week. Flashpoints, an award winning national radio program, originates at KPFA in Berkeley, California, and reaches some thirty cities in the US and serves an on-line audience worldwide.
Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote on December 9, “KPFA has effectively destroyed Flashpoints this week, beginning with the layoff of our technical producer position. Just hours ago, they called me into a meeting and casually informed me that my hours will be reduced by 50%. I cannot afford to keep this job if I’m on 20 hours a week.”
Ms. Barrows-Friedman is a long time investigative reporter specializing in Israel-Palestine issues and is one of the few reporters in the country who covers this sensitive issue in a straightforward manner. She taught herself Arabic and often reports from the ground in the Middle East. Along with Flashpoints producers Dennis Bernstein and Miguel Molina, Ms. Barrows-Friedman was the recent recipient of a lifetime achievement Media Freedom Award from Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored.
“Nora Barrows Friedman has seniority over at least a dozen more recent and less experienced staff people. She has done an outstanding job at Flashpoints, showing a special dedication and talent. She has top professional qualifications and standards, tested by time and performance,” stated long standing political commentator and author Dr. Michael Parenti.
With the latest cuts Flashpoints has lost some 30% of its annual budget. Flashpoints producer Dennis Bernstein believes that, “This has now been elevated to a political battle. Management has pumped up the budgets of the programs of their internal political supporters, and at the same time tried to kill Flashpoints through intimidation and attrition, and outright disrespect. Over fifteen people were hired after Nora, and yet Nora is one of the first to be hit and hit hard. It appears to the Flashpoints team, and our key advisers and supporters, that KPFA management is about to deal the show a final blow.”
Local KPFA listener Dianne Budd, M.D., a regular contributor to KPFA, threatened on December 11, to withhold her annual contribution to the station. “I have donated regularly to KPFA, sometimes well over $1,000 a year. This year I had planned to donate towards the end of December for tax reasons; however, if this decision to decimate and make impotent the Flashpoints staff is not overturned immediately, I will not make any donation,” Dr. Budd stated.
In a December 11 letter to KPFA station management, Arab community organizer Eyad Kishawi writes, “When the national Pacifica organization attempted to conduct a corporate takeover of KPFA, we the Arab, Muslim, anti-war and Indigenous communities conducted an all out campaign in support of your/our station that carries our voices and the voices for equality and justice. Let me remind you that we lived up to the spirit of ‘Listener Sponsored Radio’ and started organizing fundraising events to keep the station going, and in particular supported Flashpoints . . . Flashpoints had been a thorn in the side of corporate and state-sponsored media. By attacking Flashpoints, you are pitting a large number of your listener sponsors against your station.”
Richard Becker, Western Regional Coordinator, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and Barbara Lubin, Executive Director Middle East Children’s Alliance jointly stated in a letter on December 11, that “We are shocked and dismayed to hear about the draconian cutbacks that KPFA management has announced against Flashpoints, the most incisive and cutting edge of the station’s programs. Flashpoints reporting and analysis on a wide range of struggles— from Honduras to Iraq, Haiti to Palestine, political prisoners, and many, many other critical international, national and local issues is unparalleled. The activists and organizers of the A.N.S.W.E.R.-Act Now to Stop War and End Racism-Coalition and the Middle East Children’s Alliance, along with thousands of other activists and listeners in the Bay Area, have the highest regard for Flashpoints and its dedicated team.”
Becker and Luben call upon the station to restore Nora Barrows-Friedman and the technical producer position immediately, and threaten that “this is not an issue that will simply go away. On the contrary, if these devastating cuts are not reversed, you can be assured that it will only escalate.”
Factional disputes within Pacifica and specifically KPFA have recently emerged among programs like Flashpoints, Guns and Butter and Hard Knock that take aggressive critical positions towards major social justice issues including: racism, American empire and the military-industrial-media complex, Israel-Palestine, Haiti, and other hot button issues, vis-à-vis those programs that favor a more NPR like approach that includes news from corporate media sources like Associated Press and softer more entertaining programming.
Richard Phelps, former KPFA local station board chair, stated in an interview, “that given that the KPFA mission is to bring to people the stories that the corporate media refuses to cover, Flashpoints is one of the most important programs at the station. KPFA management seems to be wanting to tone down programs like Flashpoints and move the station into being just slightly left of center of the Democrat party.”
“The KPFA management doesn’t want critical reporting,” said Attila Nagy former North Bay representative to the KPFA Local Station Board. “They have their priorities backwards,” Nagy added.
The mission statement of Pacifica radio states, “(d) In radio broadcasting operations to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and through any and all means compatible with the purposes of this corporation to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms; (e) In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information; to obtain access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium; and to employ such varied sources in the public presentation of accurate, objective, comprehensive news on all matters vitally affecting the community.”
Dr. Ben Frymer, Director of Project Censored issued a statement today, “It is quite troubling to learn of the recent drastic cutbacks to the Flashpoints program. These cuts will almost certainly be crippling to the vital efforts of the Flashpoints team in raising awareness of social injustice on a global scale. We at Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation find these efforts so valuable that we just last week presented life-time achievement awards for Media Freedom to the Flashpoints radio team on KPFA: Dennis Bernstein, Miguel Molina and Nora Borrows-Friedman.”
KPFA management did not return e-mailed question regarding this article. Persons wishing to comment should send e-mails to the general manger at KPFA: gm [at] kpfa.org and Dennis Bernstein at Flashpoints: dbernstein [at] igc.org
My public statement on KPFA’s attempt to destroy Flashpoints Share Today (Thursday) at 4:26pm
Dear Flashpoints supporters and community,
On Wednesday, December 9th, two days after KPFA management eliminated Flashpoints’ Technical Producer position without notice, I was emailed by Lemlem Rijio (KPFA’s General Manager) to “discuss my concerns.” I had expressed the night before, in an email, the fact that without a Technical Producer (TP), who also is our engineer and board-op, the show was being put in danger. And it was going to be an extreme burden to absorb the TP’s responsibilities as well as those of my own. It was inferred in an earlier email written by Lemlem on Tuesday that I would become the editor, engineer and board-op on top of my regular content and hosting duties.
This is the email Lemlem sent me at 9:50am Wednesday morning:
Nora, Pacifica HR director Ahmad Andreson and I will meet with you today. Can you be here at 11:30am? You can discuss your concerns at that time. Lemlem
At 11:30, I went into the KPFA conference room to meet with Lemlem and Ahmad. I asked them why they had eliminated the TP position, and let them know that it was going to be a nightmare for the show to operate at this capacity. They said that it was an across-the-board cut, and that everyone was going to share in the burden. I told them that it was unreasonable for them to assume that I would absorb the TP position on a daily basis on top of my own responsibilities. And then, casually, Lemlem remarked that I was also going to be affected — they had decided to cut my pay in half, bringing my hours to 20 a week.
I’m not one to get emotional easily in front of people in assumed or appointed power. But I was so shocked that I burst into tears, and explained to them that it was already an extremely difficult situation for my family — my partner is having a terrible time finding work and we have been barely making ends meet as it is. With a young child, we’ve been pushed to the limit in terms of our ability to buy groceries and pay the rent, let alone the utilities, credit card bills, student loans and medical bills that are piling up to no end. And I also took this as a sign of extreme disrespect for the job that I do, and have put my body on the line for.
This was an ambush. I was not told beforehand that this would be the focus of our meeting (see Lemlem’s email above), nor was I given ample time to prepare myself. Also, I believe this was a violation of the Union contract because a Shop Steward was not present. I am filing a grievance as we speak.
By eliminating the TP position on Monday, and slashing my hours to 50%, KPFA has made a decision to destroy the show. There is no way that we can survive at this level. We have been amputated.
In the nearly 7 years that I have been a part of the Flashpoints team, I have proudly put my blood, sweat and tears into this show. I am privileged to have been mentored by Dennis Bernstein, who has nearly killed himself for the last two decades to put this show on the air day after day after day, with nothing but contempt and disrespect from the KPFA power structure. Over the last six years, I have been honored to take on the brutal beat of Palestine, and have covered it for Pacifica listeners from the ground, oftentimes taking vacation hours to leave, and raising my own money (or putting it on a credit card) to get there and work for weeks at a time, dodging bullets and risking my own safety.
This story especially is one that I carry a great amount of respect for, and I know that tens of thousands of listeners all across the world depend on our Palestine coverage because there is no parallel. Dennis and I have put our hearts and souls into this story, and all other stories we cover on Flashpoints, because we feel that we owe it to the people to make this show a platform for the voiceless and to act as a beacon of truth and dissent against the powers that be. We have survived death threats, verbal attacks, physical attacks, and literal bullets. But we cannot survive the evisceration of our production staff without a fight from the greater community.
As well as destroying Flashpoints, KPFA has also attacked Hard Knock Radio, a show that, like ours, was already running at a stretched capacity and also answers to the community. There will be more cuts in the next few days to programs that we depend on. KPFA has taken their actions, let’s now take our own. I thank you in advance for defending Flashpoints’ right to exist and flourish as we press forward, at a time when the White House prepares to send thousands more soldiers to their deaths and traumas, and as millions of indigenous people in the Middle East and here in our own backyard face expanded, lethal attacks.
I’m not sure what the next step should or could be, but I think it is a good idea to formulate some sort of sustained, growing yet peaceful outrage at KPFA’s actions.
Onwards and forwards, No
Read a SF Bayview newspaper article with more background information and an interview with Nora Barrrows Friedman in the SF Bayview Newspaper:
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