|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)|
|Translator(s)||94.3 MHz K232FZ (Monterey)|
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.
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.
Since 1981, the station is known for airing the pioneering culture jamming sound collage show Over the Edge. Originally hosted by Don Joyce of Negativland, it is the longest-running block of free-form audio collage in radio history.
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".
- Lasar, Matthew (2006). Uneasy Listening: Pacifica Radio's Civil War. Black Apollo Press. p. 117. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- "The History of KPFA". KPFA Official Website. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Swanson-Hurley, Matt. "Pacifica Remembers Its Pacifist Roots", Pacifica Network. May 26, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- "History of Pacifica Radio Archives", Pacifica Radio Archives. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- Woolhouse, Bob (18 December 1986). "Spiking Up Fruit Punch". Bay Area Reporter. Vol. 16, no. 51. p. 30. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
- "Over the Edge Radio - Internet Archive". Retrieved 2023-10-25.
- Henry K. Lee (July 14, 1999). "KPFA Broadcaster Dragged Away From Studio: Police arrest supporters of program host". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Charles Burress (July 15, 1999). "Battleground at KPFA -- Employees Locked Out: Hundreds of fans protest changes at Berkeley radio station". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Charles Burress, Janine DeFao (July 16, 1999). "Legislators Step Into KPFA Clamor: Hearing demanded as protesters besiege Berkeley station a third night". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Michael Taylor (July 17, 1999). "Berkeley Gets Radical Over KPFA Lockout: Anyone with a cause welcome to protest". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Julie Chao (July 29, 1999). "KPFA's owners reopening station in "goodwill gesture': Pacifica Foundation to take 6-12 month management hiatus". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Dan Fost (July 29, 1999). "Silenced KPFA Dissidents Put Out the Rallying Cry in Cyberspace: Back in the '60s, it was mimeographs -- today, you just log on". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Jim Herron Zamora, Larry D. Hatfield and Julie Chao (July 30, 1999). "KPFA olive branch sparks mass confusion: Station tells workers to return, but protesters want offer in writing". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Robert Selna (August 3, 1999). "KPFA transmitter still off-limits to staff: Employees return, but tower continues to broadcast signal from Houston". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Debra Levi Holtz (September 8, 1999). "Nearly $500,000 Spent During KPFA Lockout". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Debra Levi Holtz (October 19, 1999). "KPFA Fans Create Separate Fund". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Leslie Fulbright (September 2, 2008). "Tension high at KPFA after volunteer arrested". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Judith Scherr (September 4, 2008). "Rough Arrest at KPFA Stuns Station, Community". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- David Bacon (November 18, 2010). "Behind the Layoffs at KPFA Radio". Labor Education and Research Project. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Arlene Engelhardt (December 3, 2010). "Update regarding KPFA budget crisis and staff reductions". Pacifica Foundation. Archived from the original on 2011-01-01. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- "Pacifica replaces union workers with political allies". KPFA Worker. December 19, 2010. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Lasar, Matthew (April 2000). Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network. American Subjects Series. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-777-4. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2006-06-07.
- Lasar, Matthew (January 2006). Uneasy Listening: Pacifica Radio's Civil War. Black Apollo Press. ISBN 1-90035-545-0.
- Walker, Jesse (September 2001). Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America. NYU Press. ISBN 0-81479-381-9.
- KPFA official website
- Pacifica Radio Archives
- The Lengthening Shadow: Lewis Hill and the Origins of Listener-Sponsored Radio in America
- KPFA in the FCC FM station database
- KPFA on Radio-Locator
- KPFA in Nielsen Audio's FM station database
- KPFB in the FCC FM station database
- KPFB on Radio-Locator
- KPFB in Nielsen Audio's FM station database
- List of "Superpower grandfathered" FM radio stations in the U.S.
- KPFA: A Historical Footnote (Seventy five hours of programs and interviews from the 1960s)