Push has finally come to shove at Pacifica. Managers of the listener-sponsored radio network are trying to force the host of their most influential program out of her job. According to a memo released to the public by a member of the Pacifica Board of Directors, the network has threatened to fire Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman if she refuses to comply with a new set of rules that would make it all but impossible for her to do her work.

Among the new requirements: Goodman must submit a weekly program list, informing management of guests and content in advance. Democracy Now! must stop using volunteers (what Goodman calls the "lifeblood of Pacifica"), and all workers must be formally hired. And the hugely popular Goodman may accept no public-speaking engagement without prior approval from Pacifica. To quote from the leaked memo: "It is also important to know whom you are speaking to."

The people Democracy Now! speaks to on a daily basis are up in arms. As soon as activists obtained the leaked Pacifica memo (in fact, a letter from Goodman to the board, seeking redress for what she describes as months of "harassment, gender harassment and censorship"), an e-mail campaign launched full-speed into cyberspace. The media watch group FAIR and San Francisco-based Media Alliance issued an alert, encouraging concerned listeners to write to the members of Pacifica's national board. Within a week, listeners held coordinated demonstrations outside every Pacifica station: WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington, KPFT in Houston, KPFA in Berkeley and KPFK in Los Angeles.

Pacifica board member Leslie Cagan, a longtime community organizer, says she received 850 e-mails in just three days. Cagan sees the moves against Goodman and Democracy Now! as just the latest in a series of bad decisions by Pacifica management, justified as an effort to broaden Pacifica's listener base by executive director Bessie Wash and Mary Frances Berry, the former chairwoman of the Pacifica board and Clinton administration human rights commissioner. At board meetings, Cagan says, "I consider it a badge of honor the number of times I've been ruled out of order for asking, 'Why?' "

The guiding principle of the current leadership, Cagan says, seems to be "control for the sake of control." As for the unrest among affiliates, which has built up over years of conflict (see "Pacifica Imperiled," September 5, 1999), Cagan says that notwithstanding the rhetoric about building audiences, the attitude of Pacifica's national management is "we don't care what affiliates think."

"I don't think the public has a say," says John Murdock, a corporate lawyer who also sits on the Pacifica board. He considers this an "employment issue" between Goodman and her supervisors. (Pacifica said similar things when they fired KPFA's station manager in March 1999, a move that led to a staff lockout.)

As for the organizing by listeners, Murdock says, "I don't have a lot of respect for that." He alleges the mobilization is an effort by Goodman to gain leverage and "frankly I have a problem with it." He would. Murdock's D.C. law firm, Epstein Becker and Green, consults on the company side in labor disputes: It even advertises on its Web site that one of its specialties is helping in "maintaining a union-free workplace."

While the impact of the new rules has yet to be felt, Murdock contends there is at present no plan to remove Goodman. "But if Amy can't make it work," he says, "and the show suffers a loss of support or interest, we may need to do something."

By any mainstream media standard, Democracy Now! is a celebrated news breaker. Its live, up-to-the-minute style is what even the corporate news shows strive for. It's the radical content that sets it apart. The show has won national awards, including the prestigious Polk Award, for its intrepid coverage--from Nigeria to East Timor. This fall Goodman's exclusive interview with Peruvian prisoner Lori Berenson was picked up by competing networks. "Democracy Now! is the most popular, successful, influential and bar-none best program Pacifica has," writes editor Mike Albert on the Z Magazine Web site. "The intent of Pacifica's actions can only be to accelerate the ongoing process of replacing Pacifica's progressive audience with a more upscale and mainstream one."

Democracy Now! is one of only two nationally syndicated Pacifica programs. The other is the Pacifica Network News, which itself is seeking a new host. (Veteran anchor Verna Avery Brown was let go in a dispute last year.) The job announcement from Steve Yasko, Pacifica's national program director (and Goodman's supervisor) who formerly worked in the marketing division at National Public Radio, reads in part: "If you cause driveway effect, we'll make you a star!" Credentials for the position include: "Natural curiosity a must, public radio experience a plus, but commercial radio personalities are encouraged to apply."

If this is any indication of what's wanted at Pacifica, Goodman is clearly not it. Thankfully oblivious to commercial broadcasting jargon like "driveway effect," what Goodman excels at is breaking the silences created by establishment media. The show's tag line says it all: "Democracy Now! The Exception to the Rulers." Listeners who like it that way better get their network back.