Saturday, January 01, 2011

Ruth's Radio Report: 2010

Ruth: The year in radio? It started promisingly enough with the demise of Air America Radio. The original line up had promised a lot of humor to mitigate the non-stop Democratic Party rah-rah cheer leading. Sharp humor vanished around the time Lizz Winstead left (a year into AAR's broadcasting life) and we were left with dumbed-down smut in most cases most infamously when Al Franken wanted to speculate to the elderly Essie Mae Washington-Williams on where her parents Carrie Butler and Strom Thurmond made love (the garden was one location tossed out by Mr. Franken).

In its last years, even dumbed-down smut was too much for AAR. Failed actor and failed radio host Sam Seder appeared to operate under the belief: "He who yells the loudest wins." At the end, the network suffered from what can only be described as "stunt casting." Montel Williams, Lionel, and Ron Reagan Junior? Long gone were any hopes of developing radio talent.

With AAR off the air, that just left Pacifica -- the network forever at war with itself.

The big prize was, of course, KPFA which always pulled in the biggest bucks. That helped to conceal the financial problems Pacifica was suffering from -- problems a number of on-air hosts helped create and spent forever denying.

WBAI attempted to correct its course with a minimal of on air carping. They quickly and thankfully let go of their program director who saw his role as providing on air election endorsements which should have been his grounds for dismissal. Instead, he was dismissed for the fact that no one was listening to WBAI anymore and so no one was donating money. (WBAI, like all Pacifica radio stations, depends upon listener donations.) He did not go quietly but he did go and quickly set up his online presence, a sort of pathetic "I will get my job back!"

He issued claims -- laughable ones -- that the new "repressive" management ("regime," he called them) intended to strip away men of color and all women. For that to be frightening, WBAI would have to offer a number of persons of color including women and, truth be told, it really does not. It was a little duchy where the program director doled out slots to his favorites and ensured that only his pets were rewarded. But sure enough, the usual group of idiots -- call them The Kimmys -- showed up online insisting, "Racism!"

It is so very strange that The Kimmys screaming racism when the program director was finally let go were silent, year after year, while the program director allowed a dead (White) man to eat air time. Though he died in February 2006, Al Lewis continued to hog the air on WBAI each Saturday until the program director was gone. Why did anyone need to hear that nonsense? I had a semi-favorable opinion of Mr. Lewis while he was alive but, three and four years after his death, when his not-so-outstanding program continued to occupy prime Saturday afternoon radio space, I no longer cared for him. Nor did I grasp the importance of a cheaply made topical show airing repeats years after it was, to put it mildly, no longer topical.

From his website, the former program director issues various "dispatches" claiming a coup has ousted him. It is, in fact, this claim that so clearly underscores how right the decision to fire him was. A coup? To claim he was ousted in a coup would indicate that he had some right to WBAI which he did not. Basically, the former program director was insisting that WBAI belonged to him, like the possessed Regan in Exorcist 2: The Heretic rasping, "She's mine always, always." He was an employee of the radio station and if he was not doing his job (bringing in listeners and money), then he needed to be fired. But termination due to incompetence becomes, in his mind, a coup. How very telling about the kind of crazy Pacifica can attract.

Brian Edwards-Tiekert had his own kind of crazy. In September of 2008, in the role of KPFA Treasurer, Mr. Edwards-Tiekert publicly called for lay offs noting, "What I dread even more is the day that everybody at the five stations and Pacifica shows up to work to collect their paycheck for their last two weeks of work, and here's 'Sorry, we don't have the money for you, our bank account's empty. . .' And if we don't make the cuts now, and honestly some of these cuts should have been made one or two years ago, that's the real prospect we face, because we're running out of cash."

No steps were taken to address those issues in the remainder of 2008 or in 2009. Mr. Edwards-Tiekert's friend Sasha Lilley was acting program director of KPFA at the time. Her accomplishments -- despite online lies -- did not include interrupting Pacifica programming for three days to cover Winter Soldier. First of all, her role at KPFA did not give her the power to interrupt what other stations aired and, second of all, only one Pacifica station aired all three days: KPFA. WBAI, for example, chose to ignore the Saturday hearings to air Al Lewis' tired and canned programming from the years before he died along with some bad music programming. Ms. Lilley's online resumes repeatedly make grand claims that do not hold up leading many to wonder if, for example, she edits her own Wikipedia entry?

I personally think that is underestimating, Ms. Lilley, I believe she also wrote it.

Ms. Lilley came to prominence at KPFA by assuring everyone that she was a radical Communist and using her own mother to back up that claim. Once in power, Ms. Lilley was about as radical as U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, which is to say, not very much at all. One of the things her online resume claims is that she put the voices of Hurricane Katrina survivors on air as they gave testimony. That is true but I am not sure how this qualifies as a "proud moment" for Ms. Lilley.

Like so many who run and ruin KPFA and Pacifica -- allegedly "free speech radio" -- Ms. Lilley has attacked the 9-11 Truth Movement. If a program dared to include them, Ms. Lilley wanted it dead. (She desperately wanted to kill Bonnie Faulkner's Guns & Butter, for example. And when confronted with that on 'reports to the listeners,' Ms. Lilley would get defensive and attack the program, Ms. Faulkner, and the caller.) I do not understand why allegedly free speech radio cannot allow for a free exchange of ideas and allowing the best argued ones to win out in the public square. But if you agree with Ms. Lilley (and many did), explain to me why she brags about testimony she aired that argued, THAT STATED, the U.S. government blew up the dams?

Did the U.S. government do that? I have no idea but would tend to guess "no." I would have no problem with that opinion being aired, however, it all opinions were allowed. But, as I noted before, Ms. Lilley refused to allow all opinions on other issues.

Lem-Lem Rijo, the Alderman to Ms. Lilley's Nixon, was the Interim General Manager during most of Ms. Lilley's reign and the best that can be said about Lem-Lem was she was hysterical in the reports to the listeners. She was not attempting to be, true, but a belly laugh earned intentionally or not is still a belly laugh. A good question, for those who check out her resume, is how the hell she ended up in a post she was so clearly unqualified for? (Answer: Ms. Lilley's cabal worked to install Ms. Rijo.)

Ms. Rijo's biggest contribution to the 'struggle' was ensuring that cries of "racism!" when KPFA finally addressed the problems would be met with laughter. That is because it was Ms. Rijo who went after the pregnant, African-American Nadra Foster and then went on to call the police. In the melee that ensued, bad public relations abounded for the station and Ms. Rijo was mistaken to think her August 22nd e-mail to KPFA staff disowning her own actions and pushing it off on the police was going to play well. (Ms. Lilley has worked over time to white wash her own involvement in the assault on Nadra Foster but this eye-witness real time account demonstrates that not only was she in the know, she was joined with Ms. Rijo in sicking the police on the pregnant woman.)

KPFA finally addressed The Morning Show and, sure enough, White male Brian Edwards-Tiekert began screaming racism and sexism as he was informed he was fired. It was laughable. As was his expressed indignation since, as part of the cabal with Ms. Lilley, he had been active to cut (and, yes, end) the number of hours Nora Barrows-Friedman could have at KPFA. In what would be the end of her reign (though she did not realize it them), Ms. Rijo did the dirty work Ms. Lilley, Mr. Edwards-Tiekert and others wanted done (click here for Ms. Barrows-Friedman's account). Mr. Edwards-Tiekert -- or is that Ms. Edwards-Tiekert -- made no cries of "sexism!" when Ms. Barrows-Friedman was railroaded out of KPFA.

Unlike Mr. Edwards-Tiekert, Ms. Barrows-Friedman's work actually made a difference. Mr. Edwards-Tiekert was among the 'activists' posing as reporters who attended a climate change function -- attempting to influence it along with a number of other Marxists -- and though the funding for that costly trip was always murky (Mr. Edwards-Tiekert has denied that KPFA picked up the tab), it was the extent of 'reporting' from desk jockey Mr. Edwards-Tiekert. By contrast, Ms. Barrows-Friedman reported from rallies within the U.S. and, more importantly, regularly reported from the occupied territories, being one of the few reporters covering the Palestinian situation. At one point, before the rise of Ms. Rijo and Ms. Lilley, KPFA attempted to utilize Ms. Barrows-Friedman as the asset she was, putting her on The Morning Show as a guest only to see Philip Maldari (part of the KPFA Lilley-Rijo cabal) go ballistic and nasty on her, on air. It was not good radio but it did show the very real divisions at KPFA. Desk jockeys and those who stole copy from Associated Press without crediting A.P. (Aileen Alfandary excelled at this theft and it will probably take A.P. suing her for KPFA to finally get rid of Ms. Useless) were promoted and featured, those doing the actual work were penalized.

In November, the useless Mr. Edwards-Tiekert and Aimee Allison of The Morning Show were laid off and The Morning Show was axed. This was a good move. As most who follow radio ratings know, the morning drive-time is traditionally the highest rated segment of any radio station. Despite that reality, Mr. Edwards-Tiekert attempted to insist that The Morning Show was 'unique' in having so many listeners. It was not unique at all. More worrying was his claim that the program only spent a third of the money it brought in as donations. A third? This cheaply made show which generally featured authors promoting books as call-in guests and friends of the hosts should not have required any real expense to air. If a third of the money raised was being spent on the program (I am always doubtful of Mr. Edwards-Tiekert's claims) than that was outrageous.

Reality that he did not speak of was that The Morning Show was regularly losing listeners. A huge dip had taken place. The listeners were not going to come back to The Morning Show. In the Bay Area, there is very real hostility towards KPFA and towards Ms. Allison.

Aimee Allison presented as an anti-war voice and a Green. But once on KPFA, this alleged Green began using her air time to campaign for then-presidential candidate (and later Faecbook 'friend' of Ms. Allison's) Barack Obama. Ms. Allison repeatedly indicated that she did not grasp journalism. In the summer of 2008, she brought on Norman Solomon. This was 'ground breaking' only because, for the first time all year, Ms. Allison finally identified Mr. Solomon as a delegate for Mr. Obama. That revelation, that disclosure, came about only after months and months of objections to KPFA that The Morning Show was repeatedly featuring 'independent analyst' Norman Solomon while refusing to tell listeners that he was first running for and then elected as a pledged delegate for Barack Obama to the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Solomon knew the disclosure was supposed to be made and made sure to do so . . . In his syndicated newspaper column. He was not about to risk losing his own money. But he was more than happy to lie to KPFA listeners and Ms. Allison was more than happy to assist him in lying.

That disclosure took place when Ms. Allison 'moderated' a segment which found Mr. Solomon 'debating' Will Bowers from PUMA ("Party United My Ass" or "People United Means Action"). As Ava and C.I. reported of that segment, "Aimee also can't be forgiven for doing nothing during the interview. She wasn't a moderator. She wasn't anything. She allowed Norman Solomon, a guest, to act as if he was a prosecutor. That's not moderating, that's not hosting. It's just embarrassing. [. . .] Aimee just sat back and let it all happen. Here's a tip to Aimee, new at broadcasting, when any guest is being attacked while you're moderating -- even if it's Charles Manson -- as host, it is your job to step in and say, 'Let the guest speak.' That's why you're there. If that's too difficult for you, you don't need to be a host."

And she did not need to be one. This is the woman who, on KPFA airwaves, called for the burning of The New Yorker. On "free speech radio," Aimee Allison called for an issue of The New Yorker to be burned because she did not enjoy its satirical cover. That was also in 2008. As a charter member of the Cult of St. Barack, Ms. Allison stopped making sense long, long ago. She did find time, over the last two years, to repeatedly whine on air that Mr. Obama was not being given a chance. That is hosting? Maybe on Air America Radio but not on Pacifica Radio.

Ms. Allison was so determined to whore whatever was left of her once-good name that she taped and posted a video to YouTube in support of 'my president' for the drone attacks on Pakistan. That the woman was not fired immediately is amazing. Pacifica Radio does not support drone attacks regardless of which asshole is the one ordering them. It does not support war. It was built to be resistance to war. Ms. Allison should have been fired immediately.

She also got rude with callers when they would complain about her non-stop on-air lust for Mr. Obama. As Third reported in January 2010:

You [Aimee Allison] made this an issue on Friday when Joseph called in during the second half-hour of the show. Your segment, you stated, was "What are progressives doing wrong or why?"

Joseph (a rare African-American caller to get through on The Morning Show) was explaining that not everyone drank the "Obama-aide" and that the problem was the people who blindly went along including "media types." Did Aimee Allison fear Joseph might name her?

Apparently so because she rudely cut off Joseph (in a manner that has many noting the racist overtones involved in that you're-not-important-enough-to-speak manner she presented).

"Let me ask you, Joseph," she said in her snottiest, most know-it-all voice, "does 'I told you so' make you feel good? Does it make you want to organize more? Does it make you positive or does it make you cynical or demoralized?"

Let us ask you, Whore Aimee, does being a catty piece of trash on air to Joseph let you pretend like you didn't WHORE it all through 2008 and 2009 for Barack?

Let us ask you, Whore Aimee, do you think the left can move forward before those who sold out the peace movement -- that includes you -- take public accountability for their actions?

Let us ask you, Whore Aimee, where the hell do you get off jumping all over (attacking really) a caller, especially an African-American caller -- the very segment of listeners KPFA's most recent station report insisted needed to be increased?

Let us ask you, Whore Aimee, do you realize you have the blood of Iraqis on your filthy hands?

We have no idea why so many of the Communists and Socialists of KPFA signed off on the Barack Obama campaign and then his neo-liberal agenda. But they did. And when challenged, they attacked. (Everyone at KPFA is not a Communist or Socialist -- Ms. Lilley's cabal, however, was primarily composed of them.)

That is how they ran off the listeners. The Iraq War increased KPFA's audience. Then Ms. Lilley and Ms. Rijo came along and were not interested in the Iraq War. (Check out the program, Against The Grain, that Ms. Lilley co-hosts and you will see that, since 2006, it has rarely offered more than four episodes a year on Iraq -- this despite airing three time each week.) As listeners scratched their heads over that, they were quickly confronted with Barack Obama: Peace Hawk. KPFA listeners never bought that as a group. Even during the primaries, the listeners knew better. But KPFA insisted upon lying to listeners and the listeners decided they had better ways to spend their time and money.

As Kris Welch, Aimee Allison, and so many other TIRED WHORES made it all about selling ObamaCare -- and selling out single-payer, universal health care -- and defending Bambi from whatever real or perceived attack of the day, listeners just were not interested. It is not a surprise. They rejected this sort of propaganda when the MSM was selling it on Bush, of course they would recoil from it on the station they financially supported even if the president was "a Democrat!"

Ms. Allison could not make it through a basic segment without stammering and stumbling and, worst of all, revealing that she had done no prep-work for the segment. "I did not know you" was a regular feature of an Aimee Allison interview. "I did not know you wrote a book," for example. Her entire prep-work appeared to consist of being told the guest's name which she might then or might not pronounce correctly. (For more on that, visit Ann's blog and especially read this and this.)

KPFA needs to make changes to save the station.

Despite the best efforts of Mr. Edwards-Tiekert to attack the station and lead a revolt against the station (he is currently attempting to organize certain guests into boycotting the station), no one gave a damn. He thought it would be a replay of an earlier time. But the difference here was that KPFA had huge listenership and they ran it away with the likes of Mr. Edwards-Tiekert and Ms. Allison. No one is going to take to the streets to defend bad programming that they already ceased listening to -- a fact that continues to escape Mr. Edwards-Tiekert.

At some point, Pacifica will have to do some real work. That will require making it clear to hosts and on-airs that they do not own the airwaves. Hosts and on-airs are fond of snorting that back at the listeners -- the ones who pay the bills. But they seem to think they own the airwaves. Which is why, when the new Morning Show debuted this month, listeners had to suffer through Aileen Alfandary offering an editorial masquerading as news about the former hosts of the program and it is why Sonali Kohlhatkar (Uprising host) got so many complaints as she attempted (she has since dropped it due to the compalints) to turn her show into "Save Brian and Aimee!" If she gave a damn about either, Ms. Kohlhatkar could kindly suggest that, in this economy, they really need to look for new jobs and accept that they have been fired.

Until that is addressed -- and it needs to be -- look for every free second to be more Larry Bensky whines about what used to be and how great they were and blah, blah, blah. Here is some reality that Pacifica -- including the embarrassing Matthew Lazar -- does not like to note: The Battle For Seattle.

Pacifica did not lead on that. They did better than corporate media but they are supposed to do that, right?

Who led on it? The newly created IndyMedia which existed on a shoe string. And yet, with a huge budget, KPFA was not able to provide coverage. They wasted it all on overhead. With the exception of the Flashpoints crew, they did not go to protests and cover that, they did not do anything. They just featured tired hosts (who need to be termed out) like Kris Welch talking to the same guests you heard on every other KPFA program about the same topics you heard on every other KPFA program. It was cheap and cheaply made. There was no excuse to waste money on that programming. In fact, there was no excuse to air that programming. They should have saved their money and just aired the same program over and over for twenty-four hours since that is what the KPFA schedule basically was. (Notable exceptions would include Flashpoints and Guns & Butter.)

Back during the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, KPFA and other Pacifica stations aired some live coverage. Those who caught the broadcasts will remember hosts Larry Bensky, Mitch Jesserich, and Deepa Fernandes. You should also remember how Mr. Jesserich basically made it through the coverage repeating, "So true, Larry, so true." Ms. Frenandes had actual observations she wanted to share and, at the time, I put the treatment of Ms. Frenarndes off to Mr. Bensky's well known love affair with his own voice.

But here we are over four years later and Mr. Bensky is still allowed to whine into the mircophones from time to time with his dull stories and Mr. Jeserich anchors the network's biggest money waster (Letters From Washington, aka How I Learned To Stop Being Liberal And Spread For Barack Obama) and where is Deepa Fernandes?

The woman was supposedly what Pacifica wanted. She was an expert on the immigration raids of the last decade having published a book on the topic Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration. And yet she no longer hosts or co-hosts a Pacifica program.

Ms. Fernandes is an insightful, intelligent and engaging person. She is also a woman of color. How telling that she was treated so poorly during the live coverage and how telling that it is White male Mitch Jeserich who is given an hour of airtime each Monday through Friday to offer what Leigh Ann Caldwell provides for Free Speech Radio News in less than two minutes.

Pacifica either needs to stop claiming it wants diversity or stop filling every open spot with yet another White male. [An hour of evening drive time has now been created for manly Robert Knight on WBAI Monday through Friday. Mr. Knight uses that hour for such 'noble' and 'enriching' purposes as allowing allow crazies to repeat the sexist reporting of Holocaust deniers because attacking women stating they have been raped is the way sexists roll. Read Kate Harding's "The rush to smear Assange's rape accusers" (Salon) for more on the 'reporting' of that bunch of crazies. WBAI offers Joy of Resistance . . . a few times a month. It is the only WBAI program that managed to call out the smearing of the two women in "The Assange Saga" which only demonstrates that Mr. Knight's version of sexism is amply represented already on WBAI. This parenthetical was rewritten January 8, 2010 after prodding from Mr. Knight himself. For more on that prodding, see "Robert Knight is upset."]

For now, Pacifica has taken some much needed steps which should allow it to avoid the financial fate of Air America Radio. More steps are needed and that includes asking serious questions. First and foremost: "How is this program different than something we already air?" If the answer is that the program is not different, the smart thing to do is to end that program and provide something that is different.