Pacifica Foundation

Pacifica Foundation Radio Network
Type Public radio network
Country United States
Availability Worldwide
Founded 1946
Owner Pacifica Foundation
Key people
Lewis Hill, E. John Lewis, founders
Launch date
Affiliation WRN Broadcast
Pacifica Network
Official website

Pacifica Foundation is an American network of five independently operated, non-commercial, listener-supported radio stations known for its progressive/liberal[1][2] political orientation. Launched in 1949 with service in Berkeley, California, it is the world's oldest listener-funded radio network.[3]

Pacifica Network is a program service provided by Pacifica Foundation supplying over 180 affiliated stations with various programs, primarily news and public affairs. The first public radio network in the United States, it is operated by the Pacifica Foundation, a non-profit corporation with national headquarters adjoining station KPFA in Berkeley. Programs such as Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News have been some of its most popular productions.

The Pacifica Radio Archives, housed at station KPFK in Los Angeles, is the oldest public radio archive in the United States, documenting more than five decades of grassroots political, cultural, and performing arts history. The archive includes original recordings of interviews with John Coltrane, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and Langston Hughes, among many others.

The Pacifica Radio Archives feature in their own 30-minute slot on BBC Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme, at 3:30 am UK time on Mondays.


Early history

Pacifica was founded in 1946 by pacifists E. John Lewis and Lewis Hill. During World War II, Hill, as well as Lewis, filed for conscientious objector status. After the war, Lewis, Hill and a small group of former conscientious objectors created the Pacifica Foundation in Pacifica California. KPFA in Berkeley commenced broadcast activities in 1949.

Internal conflict, 1990s–2002

For most of its history, Pacifica gave each of its stations independent control of programming. During the 1990s, a major controversy arose over rumors that the Pacifica National Board and national staff were attempting to centralize control of content, in order to increase audience. The rumors included accusations that the board proposed changing the network's funding model away from a reliance exclusively on listener donations and toward a mix of listener donations and corporate foundation funding similar to that of NPR. There were also accusations that the Board was considering selling both KPFA and WBAI in New York City, which operate on commercial-band FM frequencies (94.1 and 99.5, respectively) worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This led to years of conflict, including court cases, public demonstrations, firings and strikes of station staff, whose common plight inspired creation of to preserve what they saw as the original spirit of Pacifica. Many listeners to the individual stations—especially KPFA and WBAI—objected to what they saw as an attempt to tone down the overtly left-leaning political content on Pacifica stations. The controversy included highly publicized ideologically-charged disputes between listener organizations and Mary Frances Berry, a former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who chaired the corporation's board at the time.

The board eventually was embroiled in counter-lawsuits by board members and listener-sponsors and, after global settlement of the lawsuits in November 2001, an interim board was formed to craft new bylaws, which it did in two tumultuous years of national debates among thousands of listener-sponsors and activists, finally giving listener-sponsors the right and responsibility to elect new Local Station Boards at each of the five Pacifica stations. These local boards in turn elect the national board of directors. Aside from some minor changes, the same 2003 bylaws remain in effect today.

Ongoing conflicts: 2016

. Recently, "...with a 60-day deadline for recommending the liquidation of WBAI in New York and WPFW in Washington DC ..." is explained in John Ervi's article. " "[4][5][6]

Some History, 2002-2009

Pacifica National News director Dan Coughlin was voted Interim Executive Director of the network in 2002 (the "Interim" was later dropped). The years of internal legal battles and financial mismanagement had taken a toll. In 2005, Coughlin resigned, the network was still largely disorganized, and Pacifica reverted to operating with an interim executive director for most of the year.

In January 2006, Pacifica hired Greg Guma as the next executive director of the Pacifica Foundation. By the end of the year, the Foundation had fully recovered its financial health and had launched two new national programs: Informativo Pacifica, a daily Spanish Language newscast, and From the Vault, a weekly program drawn from Pacifica's extensive audio archives. Pacifica also produced Informed Dissent, a ten-week series for the 2006 mid-term elections that drew from talent across the network.

Guma left his post in September 2007.[7] The National Board unanimously chose former KPFA general manager Nicole Sawaya as the next executive director.

Sawaya was among the staff members fired by the national board in 1999 amidst Pacifica's internal crisis. Sawaya began her tenure as executive director in mid-November 2007, but abruptly changed her mind two weeks later. Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar said she "found the level of internecine dysfunction at Pacifica overwhelming, and fled her job."

The Pacifica National Board spent the next several months negotiating with her, and Sawaya resumed her job on March 5, 2008. She resigned effective September 30,[8] citing "dysfunctional" governance and "shoddy and opaque" business practices that had plunged the organization into a financial crisis.

Sawaya's departure was followed by major staff layoffs. In 2009, Pacifica Board chair Grace Aaron became interim executive director, former board member LaVarn Williams replaced Lonnie Hicks as chief financial officer, and the national office took control of WBAI in New York. Aaron appointed Williams acting GM of WBAI in May, and Hicks filed a lawsuit against the foundation alleging that he was dismissed because he is African American and a whistleblower.


The broadcast was co-anchored by journalist Aaron Glantz and KPFA Morning Show host Aimee Allison.[9]

California Attorney General's Investigation

The California Attorney General notified the Pacifica Radio Foundation's Board of Directors on 17 December 2014 that the Office of the California State Attorney General had opened a full and formal investigation into the actions of the Pacifica Radio Foundation in the persons of its Executive Directors, its Members of the Board of Directors, and other persons of the Pacifica Radio Foundation and its five member stations with respect to numerous alleged serious financial irregularities, failures to comply with California law governing nonprofit foundations, the Foundation's bylaws, and various other violations of law, and required the Pacifica Radio Foundation to provide full and complete documentation as to its financial affiars from 2010 until the present date before 15 January 2015 as the first phase of its investigations.


A show which has for years been considered the flagship of Pacifica Radio's national programming is Democracy Now!, an independent news organization that covers democracy, human rights and justice issues, and questions the motives of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan González, this program is a compilation of news, interviews, and documentaries. Democracy Now! is heard and seen on more than 700 radio and TV stations across the U.S. including public-access television stations and satellite television channels Free Speech TV and Link TV. WDEV, based in Waterbury, Vermont, is the only commercial radio station in the U.S. that carries the program[10]—even though it is also heard in north-central Vermont by Pacifica affiliate WGDR in Plainfield and its sister station, WGDH in Hardwick.[11]

In 2002, as Pacifica implemented its new listener-sponsor-accountability structure and as Pacifica and Democracy Now! settled outstanding disputes from previous years, Democracy Now! spun off with substantial funding from Pacifica to become an independent production.

The Pacifica network, in addition to extensive community-based productions at its various stations around the United States, also featured a daily newscast Free Speech Radio News for over a decade. FSRN was a radio program founded by Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship, a group of mostly Pacifica Network News reporters who went on strike against the Pacifica board policies of the late 1990s. FSRN was primarily funded by Pacifica, and includes headlines and news features produced by reporters based around the U.S. and in scores of countries around the world. In September 2013, the board of directors of FSRN issued a lay-off notice to all staff, and confirmed that their last broadcast would take place on September 27, 2013. The board cited financial difficulties as the reason for the decision.[12]

In 2006, Pacifica added two new national programs: From the Vault from the Pacifica Radio Archives, a weekly program that thematically repackages archival material, making it relevant to contemporary listeners; and Informativo Pacifica, based at KPFK in Los Angeles, a daily Spanish-language newscast that includes reporters from the U.S. and many Latin American countries.

Local Pacifica stations also produce many programs that are available to network stations and affiliates. These include: Sprouts, a weekly showcase of producers and stations around the network, often in documentary format; Explorations in Science with Dr. Michio Kaku, a weekly radio program on science, politics, and the environment; Dennis Bernstein's Flashpoints a daily drive-time public affairs program; and many other regular programs.

Pacifica also produces a wide variety of special broadcasts, including live coverage of major U.S. Congressional hearings, national mobilizations against war, and other important events, such as the United States Social Forum. Special programs also include news documentaries, holidays and commemorations, and archival audio from the Pacifica Radio Archives.

Pacifica-owned stations

Stations are arranged in alphabetical order by state and city of license.

Note: All stations except for WBAI were built and signed-on by the Pacifica Foundation.

City of License/Market Station Owned Since
Berkeley, California
(San Francisco Bay Area)
KPFA–94.1 1949
KPFB–89.3 1954
Los Angeles KPFK–90.7 1959 [13]
Washington, D.C. WPFW–89.3 1977 [14]
New York City WBAI–99.5 1960 [15][16]
Houston KPFT–90.1 1970

Pacifica Foundation Radio Board of Directors

  • Margy Wilkinson (KPFA)
  • Brian Edwards-Tiekert (KPFA)
  • Jose Luis Fuentes-Roman (KPFA)
  • Janet Kobren (KPFA) - Secretary
  • Jonathan Alexander ([KPFK])
  • Jan Goodman (KPFK)
  • Grace Aaron (KPFK)
  • Michael Novick (KPFK)
  • Adriana Casenave (KPFT)
  • Bill Crosier (KPFT)
  • Wesley Bethune (KPFT)
  • Vinisha Patel-Adams (KPFT)
  • Cerene Roberts (WBAI)
  • Jim Brown (WPFW)
  • Nancy Sorden (WPFW)
  • Ron Pinchback (WPFW)
  • Tony Norman (WPFW - Chair
  • Themba Tshibanda - Radio Uhuru
  • Efia Nwangaza - WMXP

Financial problems at WBAI

On August 9, 2013, Pacifica interim executive director Summer Reese announced that due to financial problems, Pacifica-owned radio station WBAI-FM in New York was laying off about two-thirds of its staff, effective August 12, 2013. The entire news department was reportedly included in the layoff.[17]

Summer Reese was hired as Executive Director and very shortly thereafter at Pacifica, she was then removed forcibly from her position. A lawsuit over her contract not being honored and her being thereafter excluded from Pacifica's network is still awaiting resolution by the courts. She had worked as an 'interim executive director' before about 1 year before being hired, and contracted, on to the full position.

Many other PNB members noted some upheavals of how Pacifica and all its radio stations were not being held accountable financially and how the New York station WBAI was not able to pay its debts and maintain its own operations.

See also


  1. Lasar, Matthew (2000). Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network. Temple University. p. viii. ISBN 1-56639-777-4. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  2. "Progressive Radio". TuneIN. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  3. Meikle, Graham (2002). Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet. Psychology Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-415-94322-2.
  4. “A Timeline of the Coup”."".
  5. Nat Henthoff, “Can WBAI be saved” from April 10, 2001 " ".
  6. Houston Press: “The Day the KKK Bombed KPFT” "".
  7. Archived February 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "Sawaya leaves Pacifica, publishes regretful critique". American University School of Communication. September 25, 2008. Archived from the original on 2010-11-26. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  9. "Winter Soldier 2008 Audio, Photo Archives from Pacifica Radio". KPFA. Archived from the original on 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  10. "Program Schedule". WDEV Radio Vermont. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  11. "Democracy Now!". Retrieved 2013-07-30.
  12. "Free Speech Radio". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  13. "KPFK (FM) on air." Broadcasting, July 27, 1959, pg. 52
  14. "On the air." Broadcasting, March 14, 1977, pg. 38
  15. "WBAI (FM) given away." Broadcasting, November 30, 1959, pg. 58
  16. "Gift granted." Broadcasting, January 4, 1960, pg. 36
  17. Ben Sisario, "WBAI-FM Lays Off Most of Staff," August 11, 2013, The New York Times, at .

Further reading

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