Manager Who Criticized KPFK Owner Put on Leave
by Claudia Peschiutta
The longtime director of KPFK-FM (90.7) was placed on administrative leave by the Pacifica Foundation following a month of changes at the troubled radio network.
Station manager Mark Schubb said the move amounts to a dismissal and claimed it was motivated by a "political vendetta" led by the foundation's interim board. (The new leaders recently came to power as part of a settlement of four lawsuits brought against Pacifica by dissident board members and listeners.)
"They fired me but they don't quite know how to say it yet," Schubb said. "I'm a whistle-blower. I put into very stark terms the actual legal and financial problems (of the network)."
Interim board member Carol Spooner verified that Schubb was put on administrative leave and said Pacifica leaders are trying to return KPFK and the network's four other stations to the core value of bringing listeners news and information they won't hear elsewhere.
"We've seen a drift, a significant drift, over the past 10 years (from that mission)," she said. "With a new board, it's quite common that new management will be brought in that's in sync with the philosophy of the new board."
KPFK repeatedly ran announcements last month accusing Pacifica of mismanaging money raised from listeners and claiming that even the station's electrical service was threatened by unpaid bills. Spooner has condemned Schubb's actions in the past and said "it would have been helpful if he had helped us to deal with the former regime."
Steven Starr, a filmmaker and independent media activist, has been named KPFK's interim station manager.
KFWB Contests Layoff Rumors
KFWB-AM (980) officials are denying rumors that layoffs are planned due to the all-news station gaining broadcast rights for Dodgers baseball.
Daily News columnist Rick Orlov wrote last week that the station was "beset by rumors of major staffing cuts." The station is set to take on Dodgers broadcasts after the 2002 season, which is being presented by KXTA-AM (1150).
KFWB General Manager Roger Nadel insisted that no layoffs are planned.
"It is unfortunate to see KFWB the subject of rumors and speculation," Nadel e-mailed. "I wish those people who are spreading these rumors would take the time to check them out before giving them any credence."
AFTRA Negotiator Retires
The man most local radio and television station executives are used to seeing at the bargaining table was at the beach last week.
Paul Worthman, local broadcast director for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, quietly retired Jan. 25 and was replaced last week by field representative Lawrence Mayberry. While Worthman's official last day is Feb. 1, he was in Hawaii last week.
Worthman's departure came at a busy time for AFTRA, which is in or about to enter negotiations with several local stations but Mayberry said the transition had been in the works. Mayberry has been a part of many of the same negotiations Worthman headed.
The change should not affect AFTRA's negotiating schedule, Mayberry said.
Berman Goes After Clear Channel
Rep. Howard Berman, R-Mission Hills, is trying to get the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate alleged power abuses and federal regulation violations by media giant Clear Channel Communications Inc., which owns eight L.A. radio stations.
The local congressman recently sent a letter to the DOJ and the Federal Communications Commission expressing concern about reports that Clear Channel has "punished" recording artists who refused to use its concert promotions service, Clear Channel Entertainment. Berman also asked for an investigation into allegations that Clear Channel has used third parties or shell corporations to buy stations in cities where it had already reached FCC ownership limits. Clear Channel officials denied the allegations.
"This wasn't a case of sending a letter and then walking away," Berman said. "We're going to pursue it."
The legislator said he has been contacted by several recording artists who claimed their songs were denied airplay on Clear Channel stations because they did not use the company's concert promotions service. He said he could not name them because "they're in a vulnerable position."
"We think a lot of the facts perhaps are either wrong or misrepresented and we certainly will be happy to clarify any of them for the congressman or anyone else," said Pam Taylor, a spokeswoman for Clear Channel's radio division.
Staff reporter Claudia Peschiutta can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 229 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sept. 11 Factor
An appetite for terrorism-related news helped boost public radio listenership last fall, according to the Radio Research Consortium Inc.
KCRW-FM (89.9) and KPCC-FM (89.3), whose line-ups are dominated by news and public affairs programming, were the only local public radio stations that saw an increase in ratings during the period between Sept. 20 and Dec. 12.
KCRW rose to a 1.3 share from 1.1 during the summer ratings period. KPCC inched up to a 1.0 share, up from 0.9 in the summer but a sizeable improvement over the 0.7 it posted in fall 2000. KPFK-FM (90.7), the local Pacifica Radio station, remained at 0.3.
"We got a bump from 9/11," said Will Lewis, a management consultant who handles ratings information for KCRW. "The fringe audience came back to us."
Achieving a 1.0 share is a first for KPCC, said Bill Davis, president and chief executive of Southern California Public Radio. The station's new listeners have come not from other public radio stations but from commercial competitors, he said.
Davis added that an analysis of the fall ratings showed KPCC most often shared its audience with two commercial competitors, classical KMZT-FM (105.1) and KNX-AM (1070), a news station.
"KCRW has generally been the first station that we share the most audience with," Davis said. "What KPCC is doing is increasing the size of the public-radio audience in Southern California," Davis said.
Public radio music stations KUSC-FM (91.5), a classical station, and jazz broadcaster KLON-FM (88.1) both saw their ratings drop.
KUSC fell below a 1.0 share for the first time in months and ended this fall with a 0.9 share, down from 1.5 in fall 2000. KLON came down to a 1.0, which was still an improvement over the 0.7 share it earned in the like year-earlier period.
Lewis is confident that listeners who came to public radio for information in the days following Sept. 11 will stay around for a while. "I think we'll be able to hold on to this audience," he said.
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