The Pacifica Foundation is a left-of-center nonprofit media organization that owns five radio stations across the United States: KPFA Berkeley, KPFB San Francisco, KPFK Los Angeles, KPFT Houston, WBAI New York, and WPFW Washington, D.C. The organization was founded by E. John Lewis and Lewis Hill in 1946. The two men were pacifists who disagreed with World War II and had filed as conscientious objectors. The original radio station operated by the foundation, KPFA Berkeley, was running by 1949.1
Democracy Now is a left-of-center news production company and radio show hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. While the original radio show was a project of the Pacifica Foundation, it has since branched out into further endeavors such as internet and TV programs and become its own 501(c)(3) entity, Democracy Now Productions.2
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation was a landmark Supreme Court decision in which Pacifica Foundation was fined by the FCC after its New York based WBAI radio station ran a supposedly “obscene” segment regarding societal attitudes toward language. The court ruled that the FCC had sufficient standing to involve itself in the matter and reprimand the Pacifica Foundation. The court argued that the government had sufficient grounding and interest in shielding children from potentially offensive material and ensuring that unwanted speech does not invade the privacy of one’s home. The decision laid the groundwork for the FCC to greatly increase its regulatory power regarding speech aired on the radio and other media platforms. 3
Pacifica Foundation was sued in 2017 for unpaid tower rent for a radio tower housed at the Empire State Building in New York City. The organization was ordered to pay $1.8 million plus attorney fees to Empire State Realty Trust. 4
WBAI, the New York-based Pacifica Foundation radio station, was forced to lay off almost two thirds of its staff in 2013. The station claimed that its income had stalled after Hurricane Sandy in 2013 causing the station to miss radio antenna rent payments. Summer Reese, the interim executive director for the Pacifica Foundation at the time, claimed that the New York station was millions of dollars in debt and that the layoffs were in order to pay for antenna rent and avoid selling the station’s broadcasting license.5
In 2015, then- California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) ordered an audit of the Pacifica Foundation while the organization experienced financial crisis. After losing funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Pacifica Foundation faced extreme budget issues, ordering the KPFA Berkeley station to either raise $250,000 in revenue or cut the same amount by the end of 2015. The board also required the organization’s archives to cut $108,000, ordered KPFK Los Angeles to cut $250,000, and passed a bylaw requiring the approval of the organization’s CFO for any expense over $500.6
Board of Directors and Staff
Bill Crosier serves as the interim director for the Pacifica Foundation. Crosier took over as interim director in 2017 with the aim of recovering the organization’s finances after years of running a deficit. Crosier worked with the board of directors to create a financial stabilization and recovery plan which was never implemented across the organization.7
Jonathan Alexander previously served as the chair of the board of directors for the Pacifica Foundation. He retired from this position in 2018 amid growing financial woes for the organization citing the “dysfunctional nature of our governance body,” as his reason for leaving.8
The Pacifica Foundation made $10,583,239 in 2017 from contributions and grants. Although the organization made more revenue than it had expenses for the same year, it remained in debt of $4,454,925 from previous years.9
Notable funders of the Pacifica Foundation include the Ford Foundation, Craigslist Charitable Fund, and the California Endowment.10
The Pacifica Foundation has received millions of dollars from Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a government-funded organization which funds public broadcasting stations across the United States. 11
- “About Pacifica Foundation.” Pacifica Network. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://pacificanetwork.org/about-pacifica-foundation/.
- “About Democracy Now!” Democracy Now!. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.democracynow.org/about.
- FCC vs. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978.) Justia. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/438/726/.
- “Court Protects ESRT’s Lease Terms for Pacifica’s Non-Profit WBAI Radio in NYC – Denies ‘Unconscionability’ Motion.” Common Dreams. Accessed August 6, 2019. https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2017/10/06/court-protects-esrts-lease-terms-pacificas-non-profit-wbai-radio-nyc-denies
- “WBAI-FM Lays off Most of Staff.” The New York Times. Accessed August 6, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/business/media/wbai-fm-lays-off-most-of-staff.html.
- “With shortfalls ongoing, Pacifica asks stations to boost income or cut costs.” Current. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://current.org/2015/01/with-shortfalls-ongoing-pacifica-asks-stations-to-boost-income-or-cut-costs/.
- “What’s up with Pacifica Radio?” KFCF. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.kfcf.org/whats-up-with-pacifica-radio/.
- “Berkeley-based Pacifica Radio Faces Financial Crisis.” The Mercury News. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/01/04/berkeley-based-pacifica-radio-faces-financial-crisis/.
- Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax: The Pacifica Foundation. Part I: Summary.
- Data compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the IRS. Queries conducted August 26, 2019.
- “Office of Inspector General Report.” Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.cpb.org/files/oig/reports/2012-09-21-Report-1208-Pacifica.pdf