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KPFK GM Leslie Radford Has Cut Uprising’s Hours

The general manager may be contacted at gm at kpfk dot org

A letter from Uprising host, Sonali Kolhatkar:

Dear fans of Uprising, I have an important announcement to share with you. After weeks of wrangling with KPFK’s new General Manager Leslie Radford, I have been informed definitively that I am being taken off the air 2-3 days a week out of 5 days and replaced with what I am told are “volunteers.”

Here is a timeline so you can understand what has happened:

Aug 17 – Radford told all KPFK staff they would be cut down to 1/2 time within 2 weeks, and that 3 staff were being laid off. She asked for work schedules within 2 days. The lay offs and pay cuts were in violation of our current union contract. An arbitration with the union is on-going.

Aug 19 – I asked our union for advice on how to respond to Radford’s request for a work schedule. This is what I sent Radford based on union advice: “it is my understanding is that the union has not agreed to any reductions. My part time job is 17.5 hours and that’s 2.5 days. Currently I am producing and hosting 5 shows per week. If I get paid half time naturally my abilities will be simply halved.”

Aug 26 – Realizing that my ability to oversee production of a TV show 5 days a week for Free Speech TV (FSTV) would be utterly jeopardized by a half time cut, I attempted to come up with a solution that I hoped would salvage the KPFK-FSTV contract. I asked FSTV if they would be okay with me doing 5 shows a week for 2 months and then being off the air for 2 months. That would buy us some time to either acquire other funding for the coming months, or allow the union to reach a settlement, or simply put off the decision of what to do for the TV show for a little bit. Such a schedule would also make it possible to cover the day-to-day news as a continuous 5-day block is better suited to hard news analysis than a show every other day. It would give the station the same cost savings as having my producer and I work half time for 4 months.

I approached Radford and offered this proposal. Radford said no because she had already made arrangements for other people to host “Uprising.” She accused me of making one proposal and then changing my mind. I reminded her, that we were barely given time to adjust to an extremely dramatic change.

When I asked how she would pull off a TV show with volunteers, which is an extremely complicated and technically challenging task, and that the TV production used unique elements that my team and I slogged over months to perfect, I was told that it was none of my business.

When I brought up that FSTV had a contract with KPFK to deliver 5 shows a week of Uprising, she noted that nowhere in the contract was my name mentioned; it only said that KPFK would deliver a show called Uprising to FSTV 5 days a week. Essentially she was using a loophole in the contract to renege on the deal. It was always FSTV’s understanding that Uprising would be only hosted by me.

Sept 10 – Sixteen days after I proposed my new work schedule, Radford emailed Free Speech TV telling Executive Director Ron Williams that she “would like to continue the contract with Free Speech Television with FSTV’s agreement that we can provide the hosts of our choice while maintaining the quality and format of the show.” FSTV expressed to me that they were not interested in any other hosts but me and they apparently expressed the same to her.

Sept 11 – FSTV sent an email to me and Radford, saying, “We have made the decision on our end to cancel the program for now, effective Monday, September 14, 2015. We share everyone’s disappointment with this outcome.”

A few staff people informed me that they had overheard Radford was upset about me criticizing the staff cuts on the air during the funddrive and that she was extremely angry with me.

Sept 14 – After mulling over the great loss of the FSTV contract over the weekend, which I and many others had worked so hard to acquire, I concluded that now that there was no longer a TV show to produce, at the very least I could keep my radio listeners happy. My fellow hosts Ian Masters and Margaret Prescod planned to continue producing their shows on half time so I could offer to do the same. Radio is significantly easier to produce than television, and if we were efficient, my producer and I calculated that we could produce 5 shows for radio a week while working part time, a combination of live and taped. I informed my supervisor, the Program Director, Alan Minsky about this and he agreed it was a good idea (the Program Director is in charge of programming).

Radford, against Minsky’s advice, decided she did not want to accept this offer. She wrote to me saying, “Alan tells me that you are now willing to volunteer to do your show for the additional 2-3 days/week. Unfortunately, this offer has come too late, as I’ve made commitments to other people to host Uprising on Thursdays and Fridays starting this week.”

I wrote back saying, “I have not volunteered to do my show. I told you I was not going to do that. It was impossible to do five TV shows a week on half time as we were barely managing to do it full time. Then, when the TV show was canceled on Friday because you would not accept my work schedule – which was of course my biggest fear – it enabled the possibility of doing five radio shows on half time. Just as Margaret and Ian are being allowed to do. We can do live shows on the day we are here and tape shows for the days we are not. Radio is simpler than TV. I assumed that you wanted to save the station dollars while preserving the air waves. Was I wrong in making that assumption? Was the pay cut about taking me off the air?”

Sept 15 – Radford responded saying, “You will not be on the air on Thursdays or Fridays during the work reductions. I have no confidence that you will not come back with another work plan, and KPFK needs as much stability as it can get in these trying circumstances. I asked for your work plan, and you told me 2 ½ days/week. You changed that request to 2 months on and 2 months off, but by then plans were underway to operate the business around the reduced work week that you and everyone else opted for. Now you say you can do 5 days/week, but I don’t see how that can happen since you already had a contractor, 2 staff people, and a volunteer beyond your assistant producer to produce for FSTV. The pay cut was NOT about taking anyone off the air. Nor am I responsible for cancelling the FSTV contract.”

I responded saying, “Let me repeat what I said yesterday. I am not doing the TV show anymore. So there is less need for the extra staff I had. This appears punitive to me and retaliation for what you say is me “bashing” you on the air. If you are penalizing me for on-air comments please apply the proper policy. Also I note that you are going against the wishes of the Program Director, who I thought was in charge of programming.”

Conclusion: Radford is refusing to air programs that my producer and I will be creating for our listeners. No other hosts have been targeted in this manner. No other host will be taken off the air, except me.

On Thursday Sept 17 and Friday Sept 18, which are the first two days that I will not be at work due to the pay cut, Radford intends to put as-yet-unnamed volunteer hosts on the air at 8 am.

Listeners can visit www.uprisingwithsonali.com to listen to those shows that we have worked hard to produce and that Radford is choosing to not air. We will continue doing our job in the service of our audience. On days when you tune in between 8-9 am PST and find another program on the air, you can instead find original Uprising programming on our website hosted by me.

Feel free to contact the general manager at gm at kpfk dot org.