Parent company of Berkeley-based KPFA radio station settles lawsuit

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The Pacifica Foundation, the parent company of the Berkeley-based KPFA radio station, has reached a settlement with Empire State Realty Trust, or ESRT, over a lawsuit originating from November 2016.

The settlement, announced by the Pacifica National Board in a statement Thursday, relieves Pacifica of a $1.8 million 2017 judgment for ESRT, additional rents and penalties incurred since the judgment was issued, and any other obligations Pacifica would have incurred after May 31, 2018, according to the statement.

Tom Livingston, acting executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, said that while the lawsuit was focused on unpaid rent bills for Pacifica’s WBAI radio station in New York City, this decision impacts KPFA in Berkeley as well.

“The way Pacifica is organized, all it has is five radio stations,” Livingston said. “One thing that affects one of the stations affects all of the stations.”

Maria Negret, KPFA’s business manager, said that little is known at KPFA about the settlement.

“I know what’s been sent out in the press release and nothing really more,” Negret said.

ESRT declined to comment on the matter.

“At the end of the day it’s all one organization,” Livingston said. “KPFA pays into a central service that funds its operations. So KPFA’s future is in the hands of all the stations.”

One station with poor finances can risk the financial security of all five stations, as seen in this situation with WBAI and KPFA, according to Livingston.

Livingston said he wasn’t sure why ESRT had decided not to carry out the lawsuit and instead to settle but guessed that it had to do with the fact that the process of seizing assets is “challenging” and time-consuming.

Livingston added that the settlement was a “good outcome” for Pacifica.

Contact Luke Kopetsky at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @LukeKopetsky.