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Top Pacifica Official Resigns

Pacifica Radio's Controversial No. 2 Executive Resigns
Led Christmas Coup at WBAI 99.5 FM

Utrice Leid Acted As Hammer for Pacifica Board
Purged Progressive Staff, Incited Violence

NEW YORK, (Dec. 12) -- In another sign of the growing influence of a nationwide listener movement demanding democratic change at the nation's oldest listener-sponsored broadcaster, the controversial No. 2 executive at the Pacifica Radio network resigned yesterday following sustained protests.

National Program Director Utrice Leid, who helped carry out last December's "Christmas Coup" at Pacifica station WBAI 99.5 FM in New York, resigned her post effective Tuesday after only two months on the job, according to an internal Pacifica memo obtained by the Pacifica Campaign.

A former talk show host, Leid was installed as WBAI General Manager last Christmas holiday weekend. Senior Pacifica executives and Leid changed the locks in the middle of the night, installed security guards and cameras, and then fired and banned some 25 producers and staff.

WBAI listeners, staff, and community groups slammed Pacifica's actions as a blatant case of union-busting and decried the climate of hate, race-baiting, and physical intimidation at the station.

"This resignation is another important step in our campaign to restore accountability to the Pacifica Radio network," said Juan Gonzalez, the coordinator of the Pacifica Campaign, a nationwide listener pressure group.

"But the injustices at and the destruction of WBAI cannot be swept under the rug," he added. "All the producers that were arbitrarily fired and banned must return and a new democratic governing structure must be put in place at WBAI and around the network."

The resignation comes in the wake of an investigation into allegations that Leid had assaulted award-winning journalist Amy Goodman, who hosts the national daily news show "Democracy Now!," and countenanced attacks on WBAI morning news anchor Robert Knight and others. Leid ultimately fired Knight and he remains banned from the station.

The "Democracy Now!" staff left WBAI, saying it was an unsafe and hostile workplace. In retaliation, Pacifica executives suspended the "Democracy Now!" staff without pay and yanked the show from four of five Pacifica stations. "DemocracyNow!" continues to broadcast on almost 100 community radio and TV stations across the country. See http://%20www.democracynow.org/

The Pacifica Radio executive leadership and national board claimed the moves at WBAI were necessary to expand and broaden the station's audience. But WBAI's Arbitron estimated audience has dropped an average of 30 percent in recent months. In addition, on-air and off-air fundraising collapsed, the station's signature voices were driven out, and a nationwide boycott movement emerged to oust Pacifica's national management.

Pacifica reformers say Leid was a hammer for corporate raiders on the Pacifica Board who sought to eviscerate the station's hard-hitting progressive programming and even sell WBAI's valuable license. WBAI is positioned right in the heart of the FM dial in the world's most competitive -- and lucrative -- media market. It's valued at anywhere from $150-$250 million.

Leid garnered national and international attention this past year when she used WBAI's airwaves to slander critics and incite violence. She sparked protests from Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta and others when she claimed that Amy Goodman fabricated the 1991 massacre in East Timor - a story for which Goodman won numerous awards.

At one point, Leid banned discussion of 9-11 on WBAI's airwaves, ordering music and poetry instead.

But it was Leid's race-baiting and incitement to violence that generated the largest storm of controversy. She openly called on her "stalwart soldiers" to take up "arms" in a "war" against Pacifica's critics. Even though nearly all of the staff fired at WBAI were African-American, and New York's leading black journalists and trade unionists rallied to their defense, Leid claimed that her critics were engaged in a campaign of "European psychological warfare against Africans," presumably meaning her.

Despite the outcry, the embattled majority on Pacifica's Board continued to back her. But in recent months, a nationwide listener movement has forced the resignation of all of the officers on the Pacifica National Board, including the Pacifica Board chair, vice-chair, treasurer, and secretary.

The network's entire top management has also been forced to step down, including executive director Bessie Wash, national program director Steve Yasko, and now Yasko's replacement, Utrice Leid.

Leid was presiding over a network whose national programming was virtually gutted. Even the network's national news show, the Pacifica Network News (PNN), had lost virtually all of its affiliate stations to a progressive daily news show, Free Speech Radio News, produced by striking PNN free-lance reporters.

The Pacifica Campaign is an organization of staff and listeners alike calling for democratic accountability at the 52-year-old network. The campaign has called for the return of fired and banned staff who possess the skills and experience necessary for the long-term success of WBAI and the Pacifica Radio network.