October 25, 2001
Bomb Threat at KPFA Radio Pacifica Radio
Network Vice Chair Associates the Station and Its Listeners with
Media Activist Organizations Call for Board Member Ken Ford's
Berkeley, CA--A bomb threat at KPFA radio Wednesday night
forced staff to evacuate the station and go off the air for 45
minutes. Police searched the building and found no bomb as listeners
rushed to the station fearing that it had been closed down by the
station's parent organization, which has been locked in a prolonged
dispute with the station. The bomb threat came the day after
Pacifica vice chair Ken Ford was quoted in a San Francisco Examiner
story describing Pacifica radio activists in the following terms:
"They're zealots. ... I see parallels between this group and
Al-Qaeda, the terrorists who bombed New York. They have an innate
anger towards society as a whole."
"It is outrageous that Ken Ford would equate community radio
activists who have criticized the fiscal mismanagement, censorship,
and union-busting at the Pacifica Radio Network with the September
11 terrorists," said Berkeley Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek. "Clearly
Ken Ford has no appreciation for the First Amendment or civil
liberties," said Bernard White of the Pacifica Campaign. "Ford has
repeatedly sought to slander our movement as violent, but not one
shred of evidence has ever been offered to substantitate these
Given the current national and international climate, many civil
libertarians are concerned that such reckless "terrorist baiting"
could make peace and social justice activists subject to police
surveillance and investigation or even worse. In fact, although
there is no direct connection that can be made between Vice Chair
Ford's comments in the Examiner and the bomb threat at KPFA, the
following can be said: despite its sometimes controversial
broadcasts, KPFA has not received a bomb threat in more than ten
years (when the station read Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses over
the airwaves). Additionally, KPFA is the station that has been most
closely aligned with the free speech activists who disagree with the
agenda of the current Pacifica board majority and management.
In the same Examiner article, Ford also suggested that Pacifica
sell KPFA, its flagship station, or WBAI in New York. "KPFA in
Berkeley and WBAI in New York are in the broadcast band reserved for
commercial stations," Ford was quoted as saying. "I've been told
non-commercial licenses sell for $30 to $40 million and commercial
licenses sell for $150 to $250 million each. Think of what we could
do with the difference! Let's parley these commercial licenses into
more stations around the country. To me that's just common sense."
Pacifica Campaign, Media Alliance, and Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting (FAIR) are calling for Fo
rd's immediate resignation. The last time a Pacifica board member
went public about the possible sale of a Pacifica station was during
the KPFA lockout in 1999, when Pacifica national management locked
the journalists out of the station for three weeks. That lockout,
and the threat of a sale of one of Pacifica's stations, led to the
largest protests in Berkeley since the Vietnam War. The Pacifica
Network is the only independent radio network in the United States;
it was founded to promote peace and social justice and to broadcast
views that are rarely heard on commercial radio. KPFA, Pacifica's
flagship station, is the oldest listener-sponsored radio station in
the United States.
Pacifica Campaign Release
PACIFICA CHAIR FARRELL OUSTS EXECUTIVE
KPFA SHUT DOWN DUE TO BOMB SCARE
Summary of the firing based on http://savepacifica.net/ report, then a summary of
KPFA news report on the firing of Bessie Wash submitted by Steve
Freedkin of the Progressive Portal web site. A short description of
the bomb scare ends this release.
NEW PACIFICA BOARD CHAIR FIRES EXECUTIVE
AGREES TO COURT-SUPERVISED MEDIATION
Pacifica's board chair, former Los Angeles city councilman Robert
Farrell, tonight (Oct. 24) announced he has fired Executive Director
Wash, formerly station manager of Pacifica station WPFW, was
named executive director by a board then controlled by former chair
Mary Frances Berry. Wash has presided over a total deterioration of
the network and its finances, including the banning of Pacifica's
only remaining nationwide program, "Democracy Now," the
"mainstreaming" of the once alternative daily Pacifica Network News,
now the target of a boycott and a strike, the "Christmas Coup" at
WBAI in New York, which resulted in dozens of staff members being
fired and banned, and the expenditure of an estimated two million
dollars on legal fees, public relations firms, and security
Farrell and the Pacifica Board majority have also agreed to a two
and a half year old demand from KPFA's staff and community for
mediation of the dispute which began in April, 1999 with the firings
of popular KPFA station manager Nicole Sawaya and long-time Pacifica
national affairs correspondent Larry Bensky.
The mediation, sparked by four pending lawsuits on behalf of
listeners, national, and local advisory board members, is scheduled
to take place November 1 in San Francisco.
A report published in today's San Francisco Chronicle says that
Farrell, fellow board member Wendell Johns, and newly appointed
board member former D.C. mayor Marion Barry will represent Pacifica.
KPFA Evening News, Wed., Oct. 24,
Pacifica "dissident" board member Pete Bramson (KPFA, Berkeley)
said on KPFA this evening (approx. 7:25 p.m. PT) that Pacifica
National Board Chair Bob Farrell phoned him this evening to say that
he (Farrell) has told Bessie Wash to leave her post effective
According to Bramson, Farrell said Wash expressed some concerns
about the action, and indicated she may take legal action against
Farrell or Pacifica.
When asked, Bramson said there has been no Board vote regarding
Wash's tenure, and that he does not know whether there would be
enough votes to oust Wash were it brought to a vote of the Board.
Bramson said he was surprised by the call from Farrell. While he
and Farrell had had previous conversations about Wash's performance,
Bramson was not aware Farrell was about to oust Wash.
Asked what impact the announced ouster of Wash might have on
Pacifica, Bramson said it was not yet clear. "Change comes slowly to
Pacifica, as you know," he said.
Farrell's reasons for firing Wash were not explained.
KPFA Evacuated After Bomb Threat
October 24, 2001: The KPFA studios were evacuated due to a bomb
threat at about 5:45 pm today. After police checked the building,
the staff was back on the air at 6:30 pm.