Posts Tagged 'censorship'

Cuts to KPFA’s “Flashpoints” Spark Continuing Outrage

December 24th update from Chandra Hauptman,  a member of the KPFA Local Station Board

This time of year should be a happy time for some people but, at KPFA, some staff are being fired and others are having their hours reduced, in an indiscriminate way. The General Manager (GM) appears to be unfairly targeting programs that she does not support, such as Flashpoints. She states publicly that she is making 20% cuts across the board but this has not happened. And, at the same time, she is making new hires, such as the new development director, who is the former GM of KPFK, Sean Heitkemper. Below is an article that Henry Norr submitted to the Berkeley Daily Planet on behalf of Flashpoints and will probably be published in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.  (It wasn’t)  There is also a hit piece against Flashpoints, rife with many errors, in the East Bay Express.

The new Local Station Board (LSB)  chair and officers have repeatedly requested that Lemlem meet with us to discuss the cuts but she has not replied to our requests. Nor has she met with the staff to discuss the cuts or explain her rationale (if she has any) as to how she determined what cuts to make.

Further, the cuts made so far account for only 1/4 of the savings that need to be made at KPFA, as mandated by last year’s PNB, and to balance the KPFA budget.


Cuts to KPFA’s Flashpoints Spark Outrage


In the face of mounting deficits, KPFA this month began laying off staff. The cuts come as no surprise; in fact, they’re overdue, considering that the station has been running in the red for several years, in defiance of Local Station Board and Pacifica National Board mandates to bring expenses into line with income. Anger and protest were probably inevitable when the cuts finally came. But by implementing them in an abrupt and seemingly insensitive way, ignoring provisions of the paid staff’s union contract, and loading what looks like a disproportionate share of the pain on one program – Flashpoints – management has succeeded in turning a tough situation into yet another full-fledged crisis for the station.

The first victim of this new cutback campaign was Eric Klein, Flashpoints’ technical producer and engineer, whose half-time position was eliminated with no advance notice on December 7; Dennis Bernstein, the show’s host, wasn’t informed until he went looking for Klein an hour before airtime. After co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman e-mailed station manager Lemlem Rijio seeking an explanation and making the case that the show requires a technical producer, Rijio invited her to “share her concerns” in person. When they met on December 9, Barrows-Friedman argued (according to an account she posted on Facebook) that it was “unreasonable” to expect her to absorb Klein’s work on top of her other responsibilities, whereupon Rijio “casually” informed her that her hours were being cut in half, from 40 to 20 per week, effective immediately.

Then, a few days later, Robert Knight, a New York-based journalist who delivers a short news analysis (“The Knight Report”) at the top of the Flashpoints hour most days, received a letter by FedEx informing him that his contract would expire on December 28.

Knight is not a member of the union that represents KPFA’s paid staff, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, but Klein and Barrows-Friedman are. According to the union’s contract, should staff cuts become necessary, layoffs are generally supposed to be based on seniority. Klein didn’t rank high on the seniority list, but Barrows-Friedman has worked at the station considerably longer than other staffers whose hours have not been reduced. The contract also specifies that “Those who will be laid off shall be notified as soon as possible, normally thirty (30) working days, but in no case less that fifteen (15) working days before such layoff is to take place,” yet neither Klein nor Barrows-Friedman got so much as a day’s notice – even though management has had literally years of advance warning about its budget problems.

Treating employees this way may be par for the course in the corporate world nowadays (see the new George Clooney movie “Up in the Air”), but even aside from contractual requirements, I think most KPFA subscribers expect better of their station.

To Flashpoints’ staff and fans (including me), the recent moves raise a larger issue: has management singled the program out for particularly severe cutbacks? When, after six days of silence, Rijio finally offered an explanation of the cuts in an e-mail message to subscribers and a recorded message now played incessantly on the air, she claimed that “Each department at the station – Programming, Operations, Development, and Administration – is being cut by 20 percent” and “All public affairs programs are being cut across the board and reductions have been made to bring each show’s cost into line with its income.”

So far, Rijio has not responded to requests for details from listeners and members of the station board. But information gleaned from staffers and data provided to the board when it considered the station’s budget last summer cast serious doubt on her claim of even-handedness. Certainly other public-affairs shows have also suffered cuts, but typically in the range of 14-18 percent, measured in paid staff hours.

In the case of Flashpoints, however, with the elimination of Klein’s job, the reduction in Barrows-Friedman’s hours, and the cancellation of Knight’s contract, staffing has been slashed more than 40 percent, from approximately 135 hours a week to 80 per week. (Bernstein works full-time, while “roving producer” Miguel Gavilan Molina and now Barrows-Friedman are each paid for 20 hours per week. Another full-time position was eliminated two years ago.) To the surviving staff, the cuts amount to a deliberate attempt to destroy the show. “There is no way we can survive at this [reduced] level,” Barrows-Friedman wrote on her Facebook page.

That prospect has sparked deep concern among Flashpoint’s intensely loyal listeners, who value the show for its outspoken radicalism – so different from the NPR-like tone of pseudo-objectivity maintained on most of KPFA’s news and public-affairs programming – and its focus on reporting the grassroots realities in hard-pressed communities rarely heard from in most of our media – Palestine above all (including Barrows-Friedman’s moving reports from her frequent trips to Gaza and the West Bank), but also Haiti, New Orleans, immigrant and native American communities, and recently Honduras.

As word of the cutbacks spread, protest flared. Professors Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation (which just weeks ago gave the Flashpoints crew its lifetime achievement award) published a denunciation of the cuts, complete with supporting statements from such left luminaries as Barbara Lubin and Richard Becker. Arab-American community organizer Eyad Kishawi publicly threatened to organize a boycott of the station. Michael Parenti issued a call to a demonstration in front of the station last Thursday.

And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show – including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk – signed an open letter declaring that they will “refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives” until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer.”

So far, there’s no indication that management will back down from its plans, but Flashpoints’ staff and supporters seem determined not to go without a fight.

To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at <> and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland.

Henry Norr was recently re-elected to KPFA’s Local Station Board

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Michael Parenti writes:

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. She and Dennis Bernstein raise more money for the station than just about any other program. Rather than being a drain on the KPFA budget, Nora is an asset.   Taking her talents and contributions into account, one is forced to conclude that Nora is being cut for reasons that can only be political. Once again the KPFA management, under the direction of Lemlem Rijio, a person of determinedly conventional proclivities, is making a decision that is politically inspired. I can  myself testify to Rijio’s ideologically motivated inclination to deny access to the airwaves to someone whose politics are to the left of her own or whose politics are just too controversial for her. She and her confederates are working hard to turn KPFA into NPR. In their attempt to assassinate Nora and finish off Flashpoints, they don’t know what they are getting themselves into.

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See earlier article “KPFA’s program “Flashpoints” is under attack by station management.”

See video of a December 17  rally for “Flashpoints” here and here.

Read a MWC News Open Letter to KPFA management on “Flashpoints.”

shortlink to this posting:

KPFA’s program “Flashpoints” is under attack by station management

KPFA’s courageous program “Flashpoints” is under attack by KPFA management.  Please read below and email protests to the general manger at KPFA: and send a copy to Dennis Bernstein at Flashpoints: dbernstein@

Award Winning Flashpoints Radio Show Under Threat by KPFA Management

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] and Dennis Bernstein at Flashpoints: dbernstein [at]


Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote an earlier e-mail

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:

shortlink to the post =



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