Mary Frances Berry Up-date: Mickey hears Mary

So, now we know. This just in from John Martinez..

Mr. Martinez,
On Dr. Miller's behalf, I wanted to inform you that Dr. Berry did, in fact, speak at our recent conference in Anaheim. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email again.

Sincerely,
Lacey Hawthorne
Executive Assistant to the President
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Dr. Mary F. Berry"s Editorial Opinion for the speech she didn't give at the U.C. Riverside Womens Conference:

Riverside Press Enterprise
Page A-9 March 24,
By Mary Frances Berry
Geraldine Segal professor, University of Pennsylvania and Chairperson U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Several months ago I accepted an invitation from the Women's Center of the University of California at Riverside to deliver the keynote address at its program, "Women's Conference 2000: Forging an Extraordinary Century for Women." Since that time I understand that the Women's Center, the university's administration, and the Highlander school newspaper have been sent e-mails, letters, facsimiles, and phone calls demanding my removal from the conference's program because of my involvement with the non-profit Pacifica radio network which owns station KPFA in Berkeley, California. I fully intend to speak at the Women's Conference on March 24, 2000. However, in the interest of fairness and in an attempt to provide some balance to the various accounts concerning my activities, I write to offer my perspective on the "Pacifica Controversy".

In 1997, I was contacted by then Chairperson of Pacifica Radio Foundation Board of Directors and an old friend in Progressive causes, Jack O'Dell, and encouraged to become Chair of Pacifica's Governing Board. I agreed to accept the chairmanship, as an unpaid volunteer, because I was a regular listener to its Washington, D.C. station, WPFW; and I believed in the strategic plan for the future, O'Dell shared with me. The Board had unanimously adopted A Vision for Pacifica Radio: Creating a Network for the 21st Century which articulates goals and objectives for achieving the organization's mission as set forth by its founders fifty-one years ago.

That mission is: To promote cultural diversity and pluralistic community expression; to contribute to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to promote freedom of the press and serve as a forum for various viewpoints; and to maintain an independent funding base.

Having spent most of my life working in the struggle for civil and human rights, I readily embraced Pacifica's commitment to peace, social justice and the advancement of progressive ideals through its unique programming. As the Chairperson I quickly set about with the Board, the Executive Director, and the Administrative Council to implement the strategic plan. It was abundantly clear that some programming in the network had become stagnant; programs failed to take into consideration the dynamics of the ever changing and shifting demography of their signal areas.

With a cumulative potential audience of forty million, Pacifica's five radio stations reached only about 760,000 persons in a given week. The network of 1997, it was clear, needed to sharpen its message, experiment with new programming, hire staff and programmers, and attract volunteers who reflected the racial and ethnic composition of its signal areas, and make every effort to promote the cultural diversity within the networks' reach. Failure to do so surely meant that the listener base, given demography would continue to dwindle especially in Northern California. 21st century reality requires bold strategies and action to arrest audience decline. Innovative programming, too, designed to convey progressive ideas and ideals to an expanding multicultural and multiethnic population, is also essential to Pacifica Radio Network's mission and survival.

Despite the unanimous passage of the strategic plan by the board, implementation was immediately met with resistance from a vocal, and energetic group of those involved with KPFA.

They objected to a change in the way board members are elected and to the non-renewal of the KPFA station manager's contract. Disaffected programmers violated Pacifica's longstanding policy by discussing sensitive internal personnel matters on the air. Common in broadcasting is a rule that prohibits self-promotion, the use of racist and sexist remarks, and criticism of personnel decisions during regularly scheduled broadcasts. Following numerous violations of this "laundry rule," two programmers were disciplined and removed from the air. Protesting what they characterized as a violation of "Free Speech, but was really a labor dispute, these groups were able to attract the support of local politicians, and an array of protesters from around the Bay Area.

Having been arrested and jailed numerous for engaging in non-violent protest, I support the right of people to peaceably assemble and engage in direct action protests. Still, as the Chairperson of the Board of Pacifica, I cannot condone the application of violence in protest action, or the uncivil activities that threatened the security of Pacifica's staff. Moreover, the board would have been delinquent in its fiduciary responsibility if it failed to support the Executive Director's actions necessary to protect the property of Pacifica as an FCC licensee.

Whatever the motivation of these groups, they leveled several serious charges against individual members, and the collective board. Board members were accused falsely of graft; of conspiring to sell off network assets; of stifling free speech; and in engaging in anti-labor activities. All of these charges were leveled against unpaid volunteers people of good character with stellar reputations, most of whom were originally nominated by their local station advisory boards and who have long histories of activism in the civil rights, labor and other progressive movements. Lies, half-truths, rumors, and whispered innuendo wound its way through e-mails, facsimiles, letters and phone calls to a less than discerning press willing to print "news". Truth, and the goodness of committed souls, suffered immeasurably in this process.

Some members of the Board and key administrative staffers resigned in the face of incessant vituperative comments and harassment. As one board member suggests, the critics "behaved in many respects like the worst elements of the Far Right we all abhor. Using violence (shooting into the Foundation offices), racist and sexist epithets, harassment at people's workplaces, in their homes. -smacks of right wing hate groups not progressives disagreeing about personnel decisions."

Recently a group of committed well-known Progressives including Ed Asner, Barbara Ehrenreich, Saul Landau and others have called for an end to Pacifica Bashing so that the goal of strengthening Pacifica as a voice for progressive ideas can be attended to. Protests of various kinds over who is on the air or not, including the closure of stations for a time are part of the long history of Pacifica. In many ways, the attacks against Pacifica Foundation this time appear to come from quarters bent on destroying the network. I have announced that I will not stand for re-election to a second term when my term ends in September and the Board has elected as the incoming chair Vice Chair David Costa of Houston, who was first nominated by his local station board. He and several new board members share a commitment to growing the audience, greater diversity and greater reach for the progressive message. I intend to insure an effective transition so that the important work of the network can continue.

Pacifica Radio can play a significant role in the broadcasting industry of the 21st century. With increasing corporate concentration across the media industry, the progressive voice is endangered. Soon, a handful of media conglomerates will meld hard news with punditry and entertainment features to create a tabloid package to the majority of consumers. Yet in a time of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity, there remain many significant problems that should be of concern to our whole society. Pacifica RadioNetwork will increasingly be responsible for reporting stories pertinent to progressives, the under-served, underclass, and underrepresented segments of our community. Issues concerning police brutality, disparities in the justice system, environmental racism, state sponsored terrorism, imperialism, and North-South global conflicts over trade and the environment will remain the staple of Pacifica's cutting edge reporting. More than ever the voice of Pacifica is needed to reach the millions of Americans yearning for a progressive, humanitarian perspective on the multitude of issues that impact their daily lives.

So now I welcome the opportunity to speak at UC Riverside, ever mindful that critics of Pacifica during my tenure as chair of the governing board may be in attendance. I am as committed to women's rights, civil rights and progressive causes today as I have ever been. The goal of diversity, growth and inclusion at Pacifica is consistent with that commitment although there is always room to criticize actions taken in pursuit of those objectives. Surely my critics have the prerogative to speak and be heard and to admonish. I only insist that I have these very same rights.

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