|Broadcast area||San Francisco Bay Area|
First air date
|April 15, 1949|
Call sign meaning
|ERP||59,000 watts horizontal only|
|HAAT||405 meters (1,329 ft)|
KPFA (94.1 FM) is an American listener-funded talk radio and music radio station located in Berkeley, California, broadcasting to the San Francisco Bay Area. KPFA airs public news, public affairs, talk, and music programming. The station signed on-the-air April 15, 1949, as the first Pacifica Radio station and remains the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network.
The station's studios are located in Downtown Berkeley, and the transmitter site is located in the Berkeley Hills.
Launched in 1949, three years after the Pacifica Foundation was created by pacifist Lewis Hill, KPFA became the first station in the Pacifica Radio network and the first listener-supported radio broadcaster in the United States. Previously, non-commercial stations were licensed only to serve educational functions as extensions of high schools, colleges, and universities. This departure into listener-oriented programming brought many detractors as KPFA aired controversial programming. The first interview with anyone from the gay political movement was broadcast by KPFA, as well as Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl in the 1950s. In 1954 the broadcast by a group of marijuana reform advocates extolling the pleasures of cannabis resulted in the tape being impounded by the California Attorney General. In the 1960s KPFA and Pacifica were accused of being controlled by the Communist Party, and several challenges to its license were waged, none of them successful.
KPFA was the first station to broadcast a radio show specializing in space music, with the debut of Stephen Hill and Anna Turner's Music from the Hearts of Space in 1973. Ten years later, the show – now known by the shorter title Hearts of Space – was syndicated in the U.S. to NPR stations, while remaining at its first home at KPFA.
In 1999 the station was effectively taken over by KPFA's governing Pacifica Foundation, after Dennis Bernstein, the long-established host of the station's Flashpoints news magazine, was forcibly removed by police for airing grievances on air over a labor dispute. A broad cross section of protesters joined in direct action outside of the station in a weeks-long lockout during which station management spent over half a million dollars on security measures. At one point, listeners created a separate fund to accept listener pledges that would be directed away from the Pacifica Foundation.
In 2007, KPFA derecognized its Unpaid Staff Organization. The staff claimed that Pacifica Radio had been making network more corporate, softening its voice of dissent, and attempting to get rid of some of the volunteers at the station. In 2008, a forcible removal by police of a KPFA volunteer highlighted the concerns between management and volunteer staff.
A member of the KPFA board suggested that it was problematic that there was no grievance procedure for unpaid staff at the station.
In November 2010, the management of Pacifica laid off most of the staff of the popular KPFA Morning Show. The union representing the paid staff of KPFA claims that the lay offs were done in violation of the union contract. Pacifica management says the lay offs were financially necessary and done according to staff seniority. Pacifica management replaced the paid staff of the Morning Show with an all volunteer crew.
KPFA's sister stations are WBAI New York, KPFT Houston, KPFK Los Angeles, and WPFW Washington. Pacifica continues today to be a listener-supported network of stations. The main KPFA transmitter is a 59 kilowatt class B, though there is a booster KPFA-FM3 in Oakley. KPFB 89.3 is a smaller station, also in Berkeley, that covers areas of Berkeley that are shielded from the main KPFA signal by the Berkeley Hills. It also carries some separate programming specifically for its Berkeley audience. KPFA programs are also rebroadcast by KFCF in Fresno. KZFR in Chico also carries KPFA's programming from 2:00-6:00 a.m. daily. KZSC Santa Cruz simultaneously broadcasts KPFA's Pacifica Evening News on weeknights. In the Bay Area, Comcast carries KPFA's broadcasts on cable channel 967, as part of its digital radio offering. The channel is labelled "Variety/Berkeley".