Berkeley’s KPFA Radio risks closure in wake of multimillion dollar lawsuit

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Alvin Wu/File

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Berkeley radio station KPFA may soon close, as its parent company owes more than $2 million in debt to Empire State Realty Trust Inc., or ESRT.

ESRT sued Pacifica Foundation, which holds the broadcast licenses for KPFA and WBAI radio station in New York City, KPFA’s sister radio station, for $1.8 million in November 2016 for unpaid use of the antennae at the Empire State Building.

A judge ruled in favor of ESRT on Oct. 4, allowing the company to seize money and property owned by Pacifica Foundation nationwide in order to settle the lawsuit, including KPFA’s station license and location.

Pacifica Foundation owes more than $2 million to ESRT in unpaid tower rent at the Empire State Building.

According to a July 11 press release, “After the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001, broadcasting stations in the NYC area had few options for antenna space rental. ESRT took advantage of its position in the market. In 2005, their owners negotiated a highly questionable contract with Pacifica. ESRT has refused to release Pacifica Foundation from the contract, which is scheduled to continue until 2020.”

ESRT annually increased the rent price on the radio tower an “exorbitant” amount, according to Pacifica Foundation’s interim executive director Bill Crosier.

The Pacifica Foundation board members met Thursday night to discuss how to best resolve the situation. KPFA’s evening news program reported Thursday night that board members were debating between going into foreclosure or filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Check back for updates.

Sakura Cannestra is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.