From KPFK, Los Angeles
Pacifica was born in the late 1940's out of the (now nearly
forgotten) peace movement surrounding World War Two. Lewis Hill, a
conscientious objector and Washington, D.C. newsman, was fired from his
mainstream reporting job when he refused to misrepresent the
This was a time when the idea of a listener-sponsored
radio station was a new one which had never been implemented. Many people
doubted the viability of a broadcast model which didn't rely on some kind
of corporate or government funding. But the idea was too compelling for
Hill and others who agreed with him. Pacifica was born and in 1949 KPFA
went on the air from Berkeley, California.
KPFK, in Los Angeles,
was the second of what would eventually become five Pacifica Stations to go
on the air. It was 1959 and Terry Drinkwater was the first General Manager.
Blessed with an enormous transmitter in a prime location, KPFK is the most
powerful of the Pacifica stations and indeed is the most powerful public
radio station in the Western United States.
1946 Lewis Hill moves from Washington DC to the San
Francisco Bay Area and begins work toward creating an alternative radio
1949 Pacifica first goes on
the air April 15 as KPFA-FM in Berkeley CA.
1950 Opponents to the Korean war are among the many
minority viewpoints given freedom of speech on Pacifica during the McCarthy
1951 Pacifica receives the
first major foundation grant (Ford Founda- tion) for the support of a
non-commercial broadcast operation.
1952 Jazz aficionado Phil Elwood debuts on KPFA, making him
today the longest-running jazz programmer in the country.
1953 Philosopher/author Alan Watts begins a
regular program on KPFA that continues until his death in 1973.
1954 An on-the-air discussion of the
effects of marijuana results in the California Attorney General impounding
the program tape.
Poets Allen Ginsberg and
Lawrence Ferlinghetti bring the Beat Generation to the airwaves. A few
years later the FCC questions Pacifica's broadcast of some of their works
as "vulgar, obscene and in bad taste."
1956 Pacifica wins its first broadcast awards for
a program on the First Amendment by Alexander Meiklejohn and a children's
series of _Robin Hood_ by Chuck Levy and Virginia Maynard.
1957 Pacifica/KPFA wins its first George Foster
Peabody Award for "distinguished service and meritorious public service"
for programming that takes strong issue with McCarthyism.
1958 Nuclear war and the arms race are debated on
the air by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and Edward Teller, the "Father
of the H-Bomb."
1959 Pacifica begins its second station--KPFK-FM in Los
Angeles--with Terry Drinkwater as General Manager.
1960-1963 The House Un-American Activities
Committee (HUAC) and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS)
investigate Pacifica programming for "subversion." Suspected writers include
Bertolt Brecht, Norman Cousins, Carey McWilliams, Dorothy Healey, and W.E.B.
1960 The Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) requests a tape of a Pacifica broadcast of poet Lawrence
Ferlinghetti that it found "in bad taste" with "strong implications against
religion, government, the president, law-enforcement and racial groups"--
and demands full information on Pacifica finances and
Commercial station WBAI
in New York is given to Pacifica by philanthropist Louis Schweitzer. Then-
Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Robert Wagner, Jr. and Attorney General
Louis Lefkowitz are among the speakers honoring the first day of Pacifica
Radio in New York. Early programs include a documentary on George Lincoln
Rockwell and a speech by Herbert Aptheker. The SISS requests files of WBAI
programs and program guides.
1961 KPFK wins Pacifica's second George Foster
Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.
1962 KPFK broadcasts women's history profiles of
Dorothy healey and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn--programs that are later used in
SISS Hearings charging Pacifica is communist infiltrated.
1962 WBAI is the first station to publicly broadcast
former FBI agent Jack Levine's expose of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. The
program is followed by threats of arrests and bombings, as well as pressure
from the FBI, the Justice Department, and major broadcast
1962 The FCC withholds the license renewals of KPFA, KPFB,
and KPFK pending its investigation into "communist affiliations." Pacifica
was never ultimately cited in any of these or subsequent investi-
1963 I. F. Stone and Bertrand Russell take to the
Pacifica airwaves, leading a long list of luminaries to oppose the war in
Vietnam at this early stage of direct U.S. involvement.
Pacifica trains volunteers to
travel to the South for coverage of the awakening civil rights movement.
Andrew Goodman, son of the Pacifica president, is murdered in Mississippi
with Michael Schwerner and James Cheney.
1964 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
renews the licenses of all three Pacifica stations after a three-year
1965 WBAI reporter Chris Koch is the
first American to cover the war from North Vietnam.
1966 Leaders of organizations such as the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress Of Racial
Equality (CORE), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) discuss the future of civil rights
over Pacifica stations.
1967 Pacifica broadcasts a live interview with Latin
American leader Che Guevara months before he is killed in
1968 Pacifica Radio News
(originally the Washington News Bureau of WBAI/New York) is established in
1969 Pacifica is the only news
organization willing to break Seymour Hersh's story of the My Lai massacre.
Hersh later wins the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the atrocities committed by
U.S. troops in Vietnam.
1970 KPFT in Houston goes on the air and is bombed off twice during
its first year by Ku Klux Klan attacks on its transmitter tower. After
months of inactivity by federal agents and Houston police, Pacifica mounts
a media campaign. Federal agents ultimately arrest a Klansman and charge
him with plotting to blow up KPFA and KPFK, as well as the actual KPFT
1971 WBAI station manager Ed Goodman is jailed for refusing
to turn over taped statements by rebelling prisoners at the "Tombs," the
New York City jail.
1972 The Pacifica Radio Archive and Pacifica Program
Service are established in Los Angeles to preserve and distribute Pacifica
programming to schools, libraries, individuals, and other community radio
stations across the country.
1973 Pacifica provides gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate
Third World programmers
at KPFA organize to demand a programming department with paid staff and
control over some airtime. The station management opposes this effort and
obtains a court order banning Third World project coordinator Jeff
Echeverria from the KPFA premises. The Third World programmers file a
challenge to KPFA's license on grounds of discrimination in hiring
practices. The lawyer representing them is David Salniker, later to become
KPFA manager and Executive Director of Pacifica.
1974 The Symbionese Liberation Army delivers the
Patty hearts tapes to KPFA/Berkeley and KPFK/Los Angeles. KPFK manager Will
Lewis is jailed for refusing to turn the tapes over to the FBI.
1974 In the summer, KPFA staff and
programmers go on strike to demand more democratic decision-making process,
the reinstatement of the fired Third World staff, and the firing of station
management. After KPFA is off the air for one month, Pacifica agrees to most
of the strikers' demands. In the fall, KPFA formally creates the Third
World programming department with a paid department head and control over
becomes the first Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation.
1975 Comedian George Carlin's "dirty words
you can't say on television" routine, broadcast by WBAI/New York in 1973,
leads to several years of First Amendment litigation and a hearing by the
U.S. Supreme Court. No sanctions are imposed, but the Carlin Case sets the
limits of broadcasting for over a decade.
1976 The Pacfica documentary on the assassination of
Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier is instrumental in piecing together
evidence that later convicts the murderers.
1976 In September, KPFA station manager Larry Bensky lays off
two-thirds of the station's paid staff in one of the many financial crises
perpetually plaguing Pacifica stations.
1977 WPFW/Washington DC goes on the air, after winning a six-year
competitive process for the last available frequency in the nation's
Jack O'Dell becomes Chair
of the Pacifica Foundation.
1978 The Pacifica Radio News begins to distribute news services to
20 non-Pacifica stations across the U.S. and Canada and expands
international coverage by establishing correspondents in a number of
1979 Pacifica, the League of Women Voters, and congressman Henry
Waxman (D, CA) challenge the constitutionality of the prohibition on
editorializing by non-commercial broadcasters.
1980 Pacifica interviews Sister Ita Ford a few days
before she is murdered in El Salvador.
1980 Sharon Maeda becomes Executive Director of
1981 KPFT/Houston becomes the first
public radio station to broadcast special programs in 11 different
languages, serving the multi- ethnic Texas Gulf Coast
1981 KPFA/Berkeley creates a Women's Department with a paid
director and control over some airtime. Ginny Z. Berson (a member of the
collective that created Olivia Records) becomes the first director of the
Women's Dept. (Women's programming had been done on KPFA since the early
1970s by a collective called Unlearning To Not Speak.)
1982 Pacifica provides the only continuous live
national coverage of one million people demonstrating for jobs, peace, and
freedom in New York's Central Park during the U.N. special session on
After years of
development by women and people of color, the KPFA Apprentice Program is
formally established as an intensive training program in broadcast skills.
It is now the most comprehensive program of its kind in the
1983 WPFW heads up the
all-Pacifica team which covers the 20th anniversary of the March on
Washington with Julian Bond and Justine Rector as
1984 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Pacifica's favor that
non- commercial broadcasters have a constitutional right to
1985 Pacifica broadcasts its first
editorial, condemning the apartheid South African government. Pacifica Chair
Jack O'Dell calls upon U.S. citizens to bring pressure on the White House to
cut all ties with South Africa on the 10th anniversary of the Soweto
1985 WPFW helps launch the Capital City Jazz Festival in
organizes the now-annual Listener Action for the Homeless project to
mobilize aid for New York's homeless.
1986 The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) radio
archives are consolidated with Pacifica's, making the Pacifica Radio
Archive 30,000 tapes strong.
1986 David Salniker becomes Executive Director of
1987 Pacifica's coverage of the Iran-Contra affair is
carried by 33 stations and wins two national journalism awards.
1987 Pacifica provides the only national live radio
coverage of the complete confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court
nominee Robert Bork, beginning a traditon that has continued to the present
day of broadcasting important congressional hearings.
1987 Lady Smith Black Mambazo makes their
first live U.S. radio appearance, on KPFK/Los Angeles.
1988 Pacifica stringers provide on-the-spot
coverage of the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising, despite great personal
1989 The Pacifica Radio Archive
completes restoration of 7,000 one-of- a-kind recordings from the early
1950s and 1960s in conjunction with Pacifica's 40th
coverage of the preparations for and conduct of war in the Persian Gulf
reaches listeners on dozens of public stations throughout the
1990 Pacifica declines two NEA grants because of content
restrictions attached to the funds.
1991 Pacificia leads a coalition with PEN, Allen Ginsberg and broad-
casters opposing Senator Jesse Helms' (R-NC) and the FCC's 24-hour ban
against "indecency" on radio. The Court of Appeals agrees with Pacifica and
sets the ban aside as unconstitutional.
1991 KPFA/Berkeley moves into its newly
constructed building in September.
1992 KPFA's Flashpoints program, headed by Dennis
Bernstein, becomes the third-most-popular program on the station (after the
Morning Show and the Evening News). Flashpoints evolved from the
daily Persian Gulf War update program.
1992 Senate Republicans put a hold on funding for the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting, claiming "liberal bias" on a host of issues,
including environmental coverage. A bill is passed imposing "objectivity
and balance" conditions on CPB funding. Almost alone among broadcasters,
Pacifica protests any content-conditional funding, pressing CPB to shield
all news programming and editorial integrity of individual producers--which
CPB agrees to in its implementation protocols. Pacifica observes that no
other broadcasters, commercial or religious, are any longer subject to
access and balance requirements of the now-repealed Fairness
Doctrine--making public broadcasters alone subject to editorial
restrictions. Immediately after passage of the content restrictions, CPB
Board member Victor Gold targets KPFK for strident African American
programming and controversial speech aired during Black History month, by
filing an FCC complaint.
1993 CPB Board member Victor Gold calls for de-funding
Pacifica, echoing lobyying campaign orchestrated by right-wing media
critics. In a unanimous vote, CPB reaffirms Pacifica's funding irrespective
of program content. Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS) threatens
public broadcasting with Congressional revenge, his aide explaining: "The
First Amendment, freedom of speech, doesn't apply, because we are able to
put conditions on the grants of federal money. The same as we do for
farmers." Pacifica launches a campaign for unconditional funding and
self-defense, led by a tremendous outpouring of "fightback donations" from
listeners nationwide. CPB funding narrowly escapes cuts in the House of
Representatives, with program content the driving issue. A lobbying effort
keeps Pacifica funding off the Senate agenda. This is the second year in
which Pacifica has received no discretionary funding from CPB (only the
matching funding based upon listener contributions).
1993 Pacifica wins its third Court of Appeals
ruling in six years, overturning the FCC restrictions on "indecent"
programming as unconstitutional restrictions of the First Amendment rights
of the radio audience.
1993 WBAI wins the Roger N. Baldwin Award for Oustanding
Contributions to Civil Liberties, presented by the American Civil Liberties
Union of New Jersey, who state: "In the winter of 1991...a war hysteria
seemed to engulf the United States and its mainstream media.... In this
overheated, thought-muddling atmosphere, one of the few cool, on-target
voices of rational discussion and dissent was a small FM radio station
beaming steadily out of New York City.... From the armies converging on
Iraq to the march for women's lives in Washington, from the killing field
of East Timor to the mean streets of Manhattan's homeless, WBAI covers the
local, national and international scene with a depth and integrity not even
conceived of by commerical broadcasting."
1993 Amy Goodman, WBAI News Director and co-anchor of
WBAI's Morning Show, wins the following awards for the program "Massacre:
The Story of East Timor": Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for
International Reporting; Unda-Gabriel Award for Nationally Distributed News
and Information; Radio & Television News Directors Award; and the Unity in
Media Award from Lincoln University.
1993 The CPB Silver Award for Children's and Youth Programming goes
to "Youth in Control," the two-hour live radio magazine of Executive
Producer Ellin O'Leary's Youth Radio Project, produced weekly in KPFB-FM
studios. This two-time CPB Award-winning program is a show produced by
teens for teens, a project recruiting low income and minority youth,
providing training in all aspects of news and music programming, and
featuring live weekly Pacifica broadcasts and special pieces on KQED-FM,
NPR, Monitor Radio and Inner City Broadcasting.
1993 San Francisco Foundation Executive Director
Robert Fisher selects KPFA/Pacifica for the San Francisco Chronicle's
feature, "How To Spot a Charity That Deserves Support: Pros Pick Notable
Nonprofits" (November 22).
1994 Amy Goodman wins another award for her programs on
East Timor: the Alfred I Dupont-Columbia University Journalism
wins a Commendation Award from the American Women in Radio and Television
for "Audre Lorde: A Burst of Light", a documentary about the African
American poet, essayist, and feminist Audre Lorde, produced by Jude
Thilman, Ginny Berson and Melanie Berzon.
1994 Pacifica broadcasts live from the 25th anniversary of
the Stonewall march and rally in New York, commemorating the birth of the
modern lesbian and gay liberation movement.
May, 1994 Pacifica Radio broadcasts
commentaries by Pennsylvania death row inmate and African American
journalist Mumia Abu Jamal after National Public Radio decided not to air a
series of audio essays it commissioned by him. While NPR caved in to
political pressure and a vigorous campaign by the Fraternal Order of Police
to silence Abu-Jamal, Pacifica took a strong first amendment stand against
censorship by broadcasting the views and experiences of a man living on
1994 Pacifica Covers the Zapatista Uprising In Mexico.
1995 Pacifica Network News correspondents file
daily reports from Haiti and document in detail the return to power of
popularly elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide.
September, 1995 Pacifica Network News
Director Julie Drizin travels to China to cover the United Nations' Fourth
World Conference on Women in Beijing, where she files daily audio reports
via computer, bypassing any potential censorship by Chinese authorities.
Pacifica was the first public radio network in the U.S. to send
international reports via the internet.
October, 1995 Pacifica covers the Million Man March on
1996 Pacifica launches Democracy Now!: a daily grassroots election
program focusing on the state of democracy in the U.S. and around the
world. Hosted by Amy Goodman, with Larry Bensky, Juan Gonzalez and Salim
Muwakkil and produced by Julie Drizin, this program garnered unprecedented
listener and foundation support and stimulated dialogue and action for
1996 Pacifica Executive Director Patricia Scott, News Bureau Chief
Julie Drizin and the Pacifica Radio Network are named one of the "Top Ten
Media Heroes of 1996" by the Institute for Alternative Journalism "for
tough, creative and unrelenting efforts in a time when alternative
viewpoints and independent voices in the media have never been more
1996 Pacifica Network News carries live coverage of the Latino March On
its new national board chair, Mary Francis Berry, and says farewell to
long-time chair, Jack O'Dell.