The "Corporate Campaign" Strategy

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The Bush Administration vs. Pacifica Free Speech Radio Network: 2001-02

Corporate Takeover Stymied with a Corporate Campaign

In 2001-2, CCI provided critical assistance in helping Pacifica Radio listeners take back the nation's first and only listener sponsored, non-commercial, community radio network from a predatory, pro-corporate faction that had seized control of its national board.

CCI raised funds for the campaign, did research, developed hard-hitting literature that became the face of the campaign and helped develop and implement the strategy that led to the resignations of several board members. Former Pacifica staff and large numbers of supporters implemented a multi-faceted strategy in creative ways on many fronts.

Pacifica is the nation's largest, most controversial and most significant listener supported radio network. Its honest reporting and programming of local community, national and international issues and events is unsurpassed.

Cover of CCI produced brochure
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The Pacifica Radio Network is composed of five radio stations: KPFA (Berkeley), KPFK (Los Angeles), KPFT (Houston), WPFW (Washington, DC) and WBAI (New York City) and now has more than 100 affiliates.

The stations run national progressive programs like Democracy Now!, and Free Speech Radio News, but also add local programming from hundreds of locally produced shows.

For years, a pro-corporate faction had been gaining control of the board and had been steering the network in a direction of censorship and to make it ripe for a corporate takeover.

In 1999, Dan Coughlin, Director of Pacifica Network News, was ousted when he aired a 30-second report about a one-day boycott of the network by Pacifica affiliates. Coughlin said: "The present organization of society creates war and poverty and racism and, like Lew Hill, we want to abolish those conditions." Some on the Pacifica board did not want to hear that.

On the holiday weekend during Christmas 2000, Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash fired WBAI Station Manager Valerie Van Isler, Program Director Bernard White and Producer Sharan Harper. Other long-time producers and volunteers were banned from WBAI. Locks were changed and security guards brought in.

The board escalated efforts to silence progressive programming, including Democracy Now! Co-hosted by Amy Goodman and Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez. Amy Goodman stated in a letter to the board: "We are not only being censored for our critical coverage of Democrats and Republicans, but for giving voice to a growing, grassroots movement that fundamentally challenges the status quo: people fighting sweatshops, police brutality, prison growth and corporate globalization."

It was then that Coughlin, Gonzalez, Goodman and White, joined by Denis Moynihan (manages special projects for Democracy Now!) and Michael Ratner (President, Center for Constitutional Rights) met with Corporate Campaign, Inc. at our offices and involved us in helping create the campaign that eventually won back control of WBAI and Pacifica.

After the successful campaign to take back the Pacifica network,  Dan Coughlin, who had now become Pacifica Foundation's executive director,  wrote:

"I want to thank Corporate Campaign, Inc. for the valuable support you provided throughout the Pacifica Campaign.

"Your group's help and guidance in research, strategy development, public relations, literature production, coalition building and fundraising played a critical role in our victory to regain control of the nation's premier free-speech, non-commercial radio network. We were able to remove the corporate-dominant mindset that had wrested control and began dismantling the hard-hitting, investigative journalism, reporting and programming Pacifica has been known for since its founding in 1949. The strategies, the "Grand Theft Radio" brochure and other literature, and the mailings your group produced helped excite community groups, volunteers and contributors to get involved and your database of labor and progressive contacts across the country proved so valuable to the Campaign.

Again, for myself (the former fired and banned Pacifica news director) and Juan Gonzalez who first met you, and so many others who count on free speech media: we thank you and your organization for helping put Pacifica back into the control of the communities it serves along with management, staff and volunteers that believe in peace and social and environmental justice."

To learn more about the struggle, see "Grand Theft: Radio, Why are Corporate Vultures Pouncing on Pacifica?" the initial brochure Corporate Campaign, Inc. produced for the campaign for mass distribution.