Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: Going straight to what I had hoped to write about last weekend: KPFA's monthly report to the listeners which aired March 1, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. P.S.T. Sasha Lilley is the station's interim program director so she was on in that capacity. How the program works is that listeners can call in to speak about their issues with programming: to note something they enjoy, something they do not, something they feel is missing.

The program airs each month and is an hour long. While realizing that there is not a great deal of room on the schedule, my chief suggestion about the program would be that it be expanded to at least ninety minutes, ideally two hours.

As someone who listens online, I can catch a podcast at anytime. My grandson Jayson teases me about the freedom with which I toss around terms like "podcast" these days and he does have a point because not everyone has access to computers. I am sure that includes many people who listen to KPFA over the airwaves and that brings me to my second suggestion for the program: rotate it. I could be wrong, but I believe I have heard it on other days. I am not sure that I have heard it at other times.

I think the report needs to rotate the days it airs as well as the hours. If they are interested in hearing what listeners are concerned with or interested in, providing it always in the afternoon on a weekday really does not allow for that. By airing it at the same time, on different week days, they are getting the same group of listeners plus anyone who is tuning in at that time for that special program.

If the point is to serve the listener, it should air some months at night, some months in the morning hours and some months on the weekends. That would give the various listeners a better chance of being able to weigh in. As it is, it airs in what are work hours for many listeners. Ms. Lilley did note that the station gets calls and e-mails in which listeners share. Since this is a "listener report" possibly it should begin by noting some of those in some form?

So what were the concerns of listeners who called in?

If you enjoy Flashpoints, I do, I would encourage you to call in for the next report because at least two listeners did not enjoy the show. One offered that it was not 'balanced' enough and I think it is more than balanced by the rest of the KPFA schedule. As a Jewish woman, I think I can say that and expect only a minimal number of false claims that "You hate Jews!" As C.I. would say, "I could be wrong." Guns and Butter was mentioned favorably by one listener. Another expressed that she would enjoy expanded interviews on The Morning Show. Her feelings were that just when interviews are getting interesting, it is time for them to end. I did understand her point but having heard some interviews, such as Patricia J. Williams, myself, I am perfectly happy with the length of the current segments. What I did wonder was why, during pledge drives, a special could not be built around an interview Andrea Lewis had done? Often, her interviews with authors are done ahead of time, as she will note on air when that is the case, and instead of featuring a premium, I have wondered why they did not offer an expanded version of the interview?

One caller voiced the opinion that the world music was too obvious and did not offer enough alternative or emerging music. Another listener was quite angry that he had called with a local story tip that had national implications and the story was never followed up on, as far as he knew, and nothing on it ever aired. That caller received an answer. That cannot be said for every caller.

The answer was that each program is responsible for its own content so the answer would vary from program to program as to why they did not air a report on it. It was also noted that the program's all have their own focus and it might not have matched the focus. Ms. Lilley probably addressed this question more than any other.

That may be because there is not a great deal to say other than "Me too!" when someone calls in to say, "I really enjoy ____." Callers with other issues included a woman who would enjoy it if the station would offer more Spanish language programming and a woman who felt that there needed to be more women's programming.

On the latter, I agreed with her one-hundred-percent. Ms. Lilly mentioned that the station does have a woman's program that airs on Monday. I do not listen to that show. It was either the end of July or in August when a guest on the program attempted to discuss Abeer and was just about to mention Abeer Qasim Hamza's name when the host cut her off and changed the topic. That was it for that show and me. Though not mentioned during the report, it is also true that each year KPFA devotes a full day to International Women's Day. But I still saw the woman's point. Panels are often made of male and female combinations on various programs but it is rare that you hear a panel made up of women.

If I had called in, and I was tempted to but did not since I am not in the airwaves-listening area, my problem, the only one that I do not see any attempt to address, would have been: Where is a show that focuses on Iraq?

Let me repeat this, and join Kat and C.I. on making this argument, when the United States is engaged in an overt war, it is not enough to say, "Well, Iraq comes up on various programs." Those of us who remember last summer are well aware that you could go a whole week without hearing about Iraq other than during the newsbreaks and the evening news.

Larry Bensky will be leaving Sunday Salon next month and I will miss him. Kat has written about this and suggested that since KPFA has still not offered a regular program devoted to Iraq, they could take the two hour Sunday Salon and use one hour each week, same format, same title, to cover Iraq. I support that suggestion. Things will always flare up all around the world, including in our own country, and that needs to be covered and discussed. But until KPFA devotes some regularly scheduled time to Iraq, that remains their biggest flaw in my mind.

They are the peace and justice network and free speech radio. Ms. Lilley noted that they were trying to decide on just one slogan to use. But if you are the peace and justice network, you really do need to offer one program that will always cover Iraq. Having Sunday Salon devote one hour each Sunday to the topic does not seem asking to be asking too much. That still leaves the show with another hour during which they can address the arts and other news as needed. Iraq needs to be addressed regularly and at a scheduled time.

Ms. Lilley is a co-host of Against the Grain which airs, for one hour, three times a week. If she is unaware of the need for Iraq to have its own regularly scheduled time, she need only look to the main topics of Against the Grain which has covered race, unions, Hurricane Katrina, North Korea, Israel, Jesus Christ, Africa, global warming, the Democratic Party, and much more but last had Iraq as its scheduled topic in August of 2006. To repeat, the program airs three different shows a week and it last covered Iraq in August of 2006. Before that, I believe you have to fall back to June to catch Iraq as the scheduled topic. So Against the Grain has not addressed Iraq in seven months. If Ms. Lilley doubts that KPFA needs a program to address Iraq, she should consider that fact.

Does seven months of silence convey that the U.S. is engaged in an illegal war in which over 166,000 Iraqis have died? Or that nearly 3,200 U.S. service members have died? I am not seeing that it does. I am seeing that Iraq remains the after thought that can be picked up when there is nothing else to cover. "War As An Afterthought," as Mike so famously wrote in Polly's Brew.

To be frank, I honestly do not know if KPFA digs deep for the world music and I honestly do not care. I honestly feel if you want to listen to one segment of music, that is why record collections were started or, today, CD collections. I do listen to the evening music programs from time to time and enjoy them but, honestly, when the music program comes on during the day, unless my grandson Elijah gets up and starts dancing, I find something else to listen to. In the daytime hours, I want news and discussion.

That is not to say the woman who called in was wrong or that her issue should be brushed off. But that is to say it would not surprise me at all to discover her issue was addressed long before mine was. It is a little easier to urge someone to expand their play list of songs than it is to create a program to cover Iraq which is why Kat's suggestion regarding Sunday Salon devoting one hour to Iraq each week is so solid. It does not create a huge hassle for KPFA. They do not need to attempt to figure where they will find time on their schedule for a program covering Iraq. They just make the fact that one hour each week of Sunday Salon being devoted to Iraq a change, much as they will be changing hosts.

As Ms. Lilley noted in her lengthiest response, each program determines its own focus. That would seem to indicate that Ms. Lilley is at least partly responsible for what Against The Grain elects to focus on. If that is indeed the case, my question to her would be if she really thinks an illegal war that is about to hit its four-year-mark is 'covered' by waiting seven months to address it? The "seven months" figure presumes that it will be addressed this month but that may not happen.

Listeners should not have to hope that a program might address Iraq. KPFA should have long ago provided listeners with a program that devoted regular time to the topic of Iraq. Mr. Bensky's departure allows them to have a chance to do so now without upsetting the schedule in the least.

Ruth note: "Two hours" added by me. I was rushing to get a report up and typed "Ideally an hour" when I meant "two hours."