INDEX - LOCAL JUSTICEwww.islandbreath.org
SUBJECT: KAUAI MEDIA
SOURCE: KATY ROSE firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 9 JANUARY 2008 - 2:30pm HST
A “Dirty Laundry” Policy Selectively Enforced
by Katy Rose on 9 January 2008
Since December 17, a series of events have shook Kaua’i’s community radio station, KKCR, to the core.
What are well-known and undisputed at this point are the following facts:
Ka’iulani Edens Huff was terminated from her volunteer programming position as the host of her self-created program, “Songs of Sovereignty.”
Jimmy Trujillo and I were “pre-empted” from our regular bi-weekly programming duties as the hosts of the “Out of the Box” program.
Behind these undisputed facts are a myriad of unanswered questions which have lately been complicated by rumors, innuendos and even threats of violence.
Everyone knows that there are many sides to any story, but in an effort to add some clarity to the situation, I would like to share my perspective on events, and solicit some answers from KKCR management.
(I have already gone into great detail in earlier writings about the question of racism at KKCR, and feel no need to expound on that again here.)
On December 18, Ka’iulani opened her inbox and was informed by the following email that her programming privileges had been terminated:
December 17, 2007
I hope you're having a great holiday season.
We recognize your contributions to KKCR, and appreciate the value and passion of your program. However, we are fundamentally committed to providing a safe, supportive and healthy environment for every volunteer and visitor to KKCR.
Due to your verbal abuse of a fellow DJ this morning (both off and on-air), as well as your disregard for equipment (throwing headphones), your DJ privileges at KKCR have been terminated, effective immediately.
It’s never OK to attack another DJ, volunteer or staff member, and it’s not OK to be careless with or damage station equipment.
For your information, this action was generated and supported solely by the staff, independent of input from volunteers.
Mahalo for your contributions to KKCR during the past months. If you have any questions, please contact me.
One point of clarification needed here is that the headphones in question were Ka’iulani’s own, and that they were never thrown at a person.
Another point is that no “attack” took place that morning. A verbal dispute occurred, and certainly not the first one in KKCR history. The question is why was Ka’iulani singled out in this dispute? Was it not a mutual disagreement? To what standard is the other programmer involved being held? And given the value of the Songs of Sovereignty program to an under-served sector of our community, wouldn’t it have been prudent to seek some form of conflict resolution before termination became an option?
When these questions were raised by the many concerned citizens who flooded the station with emails and phone calls in the days after Ka’iu’s termination, the explanation for the termination changed. Suddenly, Ka’iulani had a “file” full of complaints against her, a history of FCC violations, and a reputation as a violent and threatening presence in the station building.
None of these claims have been verified with any evidence, yet this became the dominant rhetoric employed to explain the station’s actions against her, and throughout the coming weeks, this rather slanderous view would be repeated on the air and left unchallenged by the station. (Ka’iulani does not dispute a “slip-up” on the air that morning, immediately retracting it with an apology. The history of FCC actions in such situations suggests a certain leniency for occasional “slip-ups” on live non-commercial radio, so, while not terrific, this was not a serious threat to the station. Nevertheless, this was never originally offered as a reason for her termination.)
On Thursday, December 20, Jimmy Trujillo and I hosted our regular call-in program. After explaining to the listeners that Ka’iulani had been terminated, we opened the phone lines to the community to discuss the issue. We scrupulously avoided name-calling and finger-pointing, but we did not shy away from raising the question of how racism played into the events. At one point, a staff member was invited into the studio by Jimmy to offer up station management’s position. (This caused some confusion in the studio, as I was unaware that the staff member had been invited and interpreted her presence as an inappropriate incursion; later I did apologize to her for my attempts to limit her access to the microphone.)
It has been stated since that we were “fishing” for callers who agreed with us. I think this refers to the fact that at one point I mentioned that a particular caller was trying to get through, and invited her to call when the line became open (for some reason, only one phone line into the studio was open, instead of the usual two or three.) But those who have never been in the studio should understand that we do not “screen” callers, and that we do not use a “delay.”
On Monday, December 24th, several people felt moved to go to KKCR to protest for the re-instatement of Ka’iulani to the airwaves. It was no secret that we planned to demonstrate. There was no indication that this demonstration was ever intended to cause harm to the station premises or people therein. Yet, when we arrived, we found the station closed and locked down, all regular programming pre-empted, no staff present, and the Kaua’i Police Department alerted to our presence. Under warnings of trespassing, we agreed to move to a public area, at the intersection of Hanalei Plantation Road and Kuhio Highway. We held a peaceful sign-holding protest raising the issue of institutionalized racism at KKCR. A video, now on YouTube, was made of the protest. Our message was clear: we were not accusing individuals of bigotry, but pointing to the structure of KKCR as inherently exclusive and unaccountable to the community.
The following Monday, three of us arrived at the grounds of KKCR again. This time, it was to fulfill a request by Ka’iulani that Hale Mawae sit in as a guest host for the “Songs of Sovereignty” program. Again, the station was locked and empty. After waiting in the hope that staff would arrive at 10 am – the start of usual business hours – we left.
The following day, Jimmy Trujillo and I received emails informing us that our scheduled program for January 3 had been “pre-empted.” There was no explanation for this action, and we have yet to receive one. We have only the suspicion that we are being suspended for airing “dirty laundry” – which is not an FCC offense but a questionable station policy, considering that it is really the community’s laundry we’re talking about, and the community has a right to inspect it.
On Thursday, January 3, Jimmy and I and three supporters arrived at 3:30 to request that we be allowed to broadcast our program, and that we be given an explanation for our “pre-emption.” This time, we arrived to find a locked gate at the top entrance to the road which leads to the station. This gate is normally locked after 6pm and after 2 pm on weekends. I have a key to this gate, but a Princeville Security Guard denied us entry, and told us that the gate at the entrance to the station was also locked. Only specified people were to be allowed entry.
Police cars arrived, and we were told to move off Princeville property, which we did. Hale Mawae, however, was arrested shortly thereafter for walking along Hanalei Plantation Road, which is by all accounts a public right-of-way road. He was armed only with a video camera, which was confiscated and has yet to be returned. His arrest – which he did not resist - included an excessive amount of force, with three to four officers wrestling and pinning him to the ground. He suffered injuries and is facing charges for trespassing and resisting arrest.
It became clear in the aftermath of Hale’s arrest that a staff person at KKCR had placed the call to police, apparently inflating the “threat” posed by our non-violent presence in the vicinity of KKCR. These kinds of calls, I should point out, tend to inflame police behavior.
The programmers brought in to host the program instead of Jimmy and I – Dave Gerow, Bill Rash, and John Gordon – spent the entire show discussing and taking calls about the current controversy. Bill Rash was heard to describe a “mob” trying to “storm the station.” Later in the broadcast, Bill Rash was heard threatening a caller to a fight outside the gates after the show. He was also heard to state that this particular community member had “no right to exist.” Another caller also challenged this particular community member to a fight “in a parking lot,” and was not met by any disclaimer or moderation by the programmers. A third caller aired his dislike of Jimmy and myself, which is fine, and mentioned that he felt we did not “deserve to use the name ‘Out of the Box’” for our program because of our departure from the spirit of original host Michael Van De Veer’s “vision” (also fine.) Dave Gerow and Bill Rash audibly and emphatically agreed with the caller’s assessment of their fellow programmers – a forbidden sign of disrespect according to KKCR protocol. To date, I have heard of no reprimand or consequences for these programmers.
Again, on Tuesday, January 8, on the “Kaua’i Soapbox” program, programmers spent the entire program discussing the current controversy with callers, and making false and confusing statements about the reasons for our suspensions. There has been no effort yet by management to clarify and correct this ongoing flood of rumors emanating from KKCR’s airwaves.
This raises an important question: is it only “dirty laundry” when you disagree with station policy?