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Kansas City's Struggle for Community Radio

Pacifica Campaign Solidarity Action Alert

Reclaim KKFI: The Struggle for Community Radio hits Kansas City

http://www.reclaimkkfi.org/

In a crisis strikingly similar to that at Pacifica, Kansas City, Missouri's only community radio station, KKFI 90.1 FM, a Pacifica affiliate, has been taken over and a is in imminent danger. A tyrannical station manager has gotten hold of the station, new by-laws were adopted illegally, and the Board of Directors was stacked with the GM's cronies, all with the expected corporate affiliations and lack of involvement in the local progressive community or social justice struggles.

In response to this, and in consultation with the Pacifica Campaign, community activists, fired and banned KKFI programmers, and listeners have banded together and formed Friends of Community Radio, a Missouri not-for-profit. The group formally launched yesterday with a press conference and demonstration in front of KKFI. Tonight, Weds. Dec. 19, 2001, KKFI's illegally-constituted Board will meet, with no stated agenda.

As Juan Gonzalez wrote in his recent analysis of the Pacifica lawsuits settlement (http://www.pacificacampaign.org/juan1213.asp). The movement for democracy in the American mass media won a historic victory yesterday, one that is sure to inspire new struggles for media accountability. Just such a struggle is underway over KKFI in Kansas City. We encourage the people who have worked so hard to bring Pacifica to the brink of restoration to lend the activists in Kansas City their attention and assistance.

Friends of Community Radio has put forth four demands that they will bring to the KKFI Board:

1. Removal of General Manager and Active Member chair.

2. Restitution of correct by-laws and reinstatement of former Board to conduct new elections as soon as possible for all seats that were elected at the last election (including Active Member Chair).

3. Reinstatement of all Members purged just before and since the last election with full voting rights.

4. Reinstatement of programs cancelled without due process.

PLEASE CALL, email and/or fax these members of the KKFI Board and voice your support for Friends of Community Radio. Encourage them to immediately meet these four demands. (Sample letter below).

Mike Rosales, KKFI Board Treasurer
Commercial loan officer,
Commerce Bank, Kansas City
816-234-1973
michael.rosales@commercebank.com
Fax 816-760-8448

Marcellus Hughes, KKFI Board member
Director of Membership \ Community Affairs
Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City
800-767-7700 (hit 2, hit 2 again, ask for Marcellus Hughes)
mhughes@visitkc.com
Fax 816-691-3855

Here is a list of email addresses to send your letter. Copy these and paste them into the To: line of your email composition page:

michael.rosales@commercebank.com, mhughes@visitkc.com, julius.madas@commercebank.com, modell@visitkc.com, reclaim_kkfi@yahoo.com, pacificacampaign@yahoo.com

(The two addresses following the KKFI Board member addresses are addresses of managers of their respective departments.)

Dear Michael Rosales and Marcellus Hughes:

I am writing to you both as members of the KKFI Board of Directors. KKFI is an affiliate of the national Pacifica Radio Network, and as such, is part of a vital family of community radio stations from Maine to Hawaii. The Pacifica network is just now emerging from its worst crisis in its more than 50 years of broadcasting, a crisis that was driven by an illegally-seated Board of Directors. It took four lawsuits, a financial boycott, and the participation of tens of thousands of citizen activists to force this Board to resign but resign they did.

I am pleased to note the formation of Friends of Community Radio in Kansas City, a group that intends to follow on the success of the Pacifica struggle and to restore KKFI to its mission of service to the people of greater Kansas City. Please listen to their reasonable demands and act speedily, to avoid provoking a struggle that will focus on your performance on the Board and which will enjoy sustained, nationwide support.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND

KKFI was formed 25 years ago, and has been broadcasting for over 13 years (it took eleven years of work to get the funding, the license, and the infrastructure together). Since that time, the station has been a vital component of and reflection of Kansas City's diverse population. With 100,000 watts, the station served the rural communities of western Missouri and eastern Kansas as well, including Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, where Leonard Peltier is imprisoned. Leonard was a daily listener of Democracy Now! until it was yanked off the air last August.

The station, inspired by the work of Pacifica radio, followed in that tradition, favoring a rich mix of music and public affairs programming that refused to conform to the growing homogenization of public radio. It became an affiliate of Pacifica, carrying Democracy Now! and the news.

In early 2000, the Board hired Robert Barrientos as general manager. Barrientos had worked at Kansas City?s NPR station, KCUR, and left under a cloud, suing the station for racial and sexual discrimination (he had been replaced by a woman). While promising to solidify the finances while preserving KKFI's mission, "He has done neither," says station co-founder Tom Crane.

Barrientos instead embarked upon a campaign of purges at the station and a takeover of the Board. He successfully delayed the KKFI Board election, to work with the people who had hired him, he claimed. It seems as if stacking the Board was his agenda, which he achieved by packing the Board election meeting with handpicked voting members and ramming through a slate of his cronies onto the Board. The Board rushed through a by-laws change that, among other things, gives Barrientos himself a vote on the very Board that oversees him.

When former Pacifica National Programming Director Steve Yasko put out a call nationally for complaints against Amy Goodman from affiliate station managers, only one manager responded: Robert Barrientos. Barrientos, incidentally, refers to himself as the "CEO" of KKFI. He has also forbidden use of the phrase "community radio" on air; "public radio" only is to be used.

In a lesson that Pacifica reformers should heed, the election of the KKFI Board is done by "Active Members," who must meet volunteer-hour criteria. By stacking that active membership roster with cronies, Barrientos stole the election. The Active Member Chair then put in place now summarily denies active membership status arbitrarily, thus eliminating opposition to the Barrientos regime. As well, volunteer opportunities have been limited to Tuesday evenings. Yet five of the ten recent volunteer nights have been cancelled, either for holiday conflicts or for unstated reasons, severely limiting earnest supporters? opportunity to meet the new, strict guidelines.

An Active Member meeting has been called for December 29th, again, by design, to exclude many who will be unavailable to meet. Management hasn't said what is on the agenda for that meeting, either.

When the Friends of Community Radio entered the station yesterday to view the FCC-mandated Public File, Barrientos called the police. His contract is up for renewal by January 30th, 2002.

For an excellent feature article on the situation at KKFI as of last May, see http://www.pitch.com/issues/2001-05-31/feature.html/1/index.html

Friends of Community Radio - A Missouri not-for-profit, can be reached at 816-292-2875 or reclaim_kkfi@yahoo.com . Donations, which are not yet tax-deductible, can be made out to Friends of Community Radio and mailed to PO BOX 410264, Kansas City, MO 64141-0024