If you see a crowd milling around your local radio station Tuesday, here's at least one reason why. In Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Berkeley, listeners at Pacifica's five radio stations will be showing their support for Amy Goodman and the rest of the team that produces the hit show, Democracy Now!
"We will not stand by while the Pacifica management tries to get rid of the last progressive national radio show in the United States," Andrea Buffa, executive director of Media Alliance in San Francisco, said last week. Actions are planned across the country.
Why does Goodman need defending? Since our last report (August 15), the national Pacifica staff has suspended the Democracy Now! team without pay for refusing to broadcast from Pacifica's New York station WBAI. Goodman et al are producing live programming from elsewhere, but Pacifica won't syndicate it. They're playing old reruns instead, leaving affiliate stations to scramble to get the broadcast via other means.
Goodman believes the Pacifica management can't guarantee the safety of her team at WBAI and in a quick turnaround of their initial position, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) agrees. WBAI is not a "safe and appropriate working environment," the union declared Thursday. (The full statement is on AFTRA's web site.)
To clarify matters, AFTRA's president John Connelly showed up at a Pacifica Campaign fundraiser Sunday and addressed the crowd. "The underlying questions at Pacifica are of intense interest to a broad layer of people throughout this country," said Connelly, and he urged Pacifica to support Goodman's decision to broadcast from a studio offsite.
If you're wondering what to make of all this talk about safety, consider this report from Dave Burstein, three-time winner of the Best Radio Show award from the Computer Press Association for his weekly program "The Personal Computer Show," heard on WBAI. Burstein is currently editor of DSL Prime & Fast Net News. He told this story on KPFA's "Flashpoints" last week. What follows is his account of a WBAI newsman's words to him not long after Goodman and her team left WBAI.
"'Fuck her. Just fuck her. Now she's going to get fucked. They can't demonstrate and not expect payback. They're out of here, and they're never coming back. Just fuck her."
"I tried to deflect him, 'Let's talk about something else,'" remembered Burstein.
""No, just fuck her. She fucked me, and now she is going to get it. One word from
her, and it would have stopped. But she went too far. So fuck her. Fuck her.
I'm going to take care of these people. They are going to get it now.'"
Since new management took over the station on December 22, 2000, twenty-four
producers have been fired, banned, removed or refused entry to
listener-sponsored WBAI. "This is not just about Amy, fine reporter though
she is. It is about a grab for personal power in an institution we all need
to protect . . . If you care about human decency, it is time for you to step up,"
Pacifica's national management remain adamant: "The way we're looking at it,
they're on an unauthorized leave of absence," Stephen Yasko, Pacifica's
national program director, recently told the Los Angeles Times.
Larry Drapkin, Pacifica's Los Angeles-based lawyer, told the Times that AFTRA
is free to file a grievance, but that the workers must return to the station
in the meantime.
Outraged? Tuesday's a good day to show it: the National Day of Outrage for
Democracy Now! is being organized, among others, by Media Alliance and the Pacifica Campaign.
Laura Flanders is a journalist and broadcaster, host of the Laura Flanders Show (formerly on KWAB/RadioForChange) and author of "Real Majority, Media Minority: The Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting." Her Spin Doctor Laura columns appear daily on WorkingForChange. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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