Here's a tip. If your non-profit radio network is facing a financial crisis, it's best not to kill your most successful program.
But that's exactly what management at Pacifica Radio did today, axing both hosts of the popular KPFA Morning Show, Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards Tiekert, and producer Laura Prives.
According to sources inside KPFA, the "community radio" station is to replace its most-listened to, most financially successful program with material piped in from Los Angeles.
It's unclear why Pacifica's Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt would make such a move, which is guaranteed to lose the network's flagship station both listeners and dollars, while simultaneously undercutting its very reason for existence.
She didn't return my phone call seeking an explanation, which is not much of a surprise. Yesterday, her critics posted a video on You Tube where she refused to disclose her salary.
"That is not public information," she said, forgetting that all non-profits are required by law to disclose the salaries of their top executives annually when they file their tax returns (Pacifica's 2009 return is available on the website Guidestar,org and Engelhardt conveniently neglected to include her salary)
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Perhaps Ms. Engelhardt objects to the excellent interview broadcast this morning with civil rights attorney John Burris on the light sentence handed down to former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Or their interview last Thursday with Nir Rosen, perhaps the best unembedded journalist ever to cover the Iraq war.
Perhaps she objects to the Morning Show serving as a vibrant civic exchange of ideas -- as it did last month when it hosted a debate between Kamala Harris and Steve Cooley, the candidates for California Attorney General. Perhaps asking tough questions of law enforcement officials is now frowned upon.
Whatever the reason, the move comes the same day the staff of the station filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board for multiple violations of the workers' union contract. Management, the complaint "failed and refused to comply with its (contractual) obligation to meet and bargain with the Union over financial alternatives to employee layoffs prior to implementing any such layoffs."
NLRB complaints typically take moons to resolve so its unlikely the effort will bring any immediate sense to the situation. What's needed now is some community pressure to cause Pacifica's management to come to its senses.
Engelhardt didn't call me back, but perhaps she will talk to you. Her number is (510) 849-2590, ext 208.
The station's very viability as a valuable community institution is at stake here - because management is closer to the beginning of its insanity than the end.