Embattled KPFA Radio Ends Lockout, Invites Staff to Return

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Owners of beleaguered community radio station KPFA-FM proffered an olive branch of sorts to their locked-out staff with an invitation to return to work today, but it was unclear how many--if any--planned to accept.

At 9 a.m., doors, which have been padlocked since the noisy dispute broke out three weeks ago, will be opened, security guards will be dismissed and all workers--who have been on paid leave--will be welcomed back, said Mary Frances Berry, chairwoman of the board of KPFA’s parent, Pacifica Foundation.

The gag rule that had prevented KPFA staffers from talking about their dispute with Pacifica also will evaporate. The workers will have six months to show unspecified improvements in KPFA’s audience size and programming diversity, she said.


“I’m hoping it turns out well and I’m hoping that this will be seen as a good-faith effort to get things moving again,” said Berry, who also heads the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

KPFA has been airing alternative points of view for 50 years.

The station’s troubles date back to April, when a popular station manager was dismissed. A subsequent management edict that the issue not be discussed on the air set the stage for a series of showdowns. A talk show host and music programmer were fired and more than a dozen protesters were arrested for trespassing.

In mid-July, veteran newsman Dennis Bernstein was yanked off the air for talking about the controversy. More arrests followed, all staffers were put on leave and the station was locked up.

The fracas has drawn hundreds of protesters who marched, rallied and, in some cases, camped out on the street to show their support.

Workers and their supporters seemed underwhelmed by Thursday’s offer, saying they weren’t sure how firm it was or whether there was enough money for them to make the kind of improvements management seems to want. They also questioned whether the vagueness of those requirements translates into an impossible task.