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The True History of KZYX

Re: Mary Massey's FCC Complaint About Mary Aigner's Having Allowed Some Swear Words To Reach The Air And Also Having A Double Standard.

On one hand I don't like the idea of people complaining about so-called dirty words that accidentally or artfully waft out onto the air, because it lends legitimacy to the screwy idea of it being against the law to just talk. It's not against the law to talk. On the contrary, it's unconstitutional to make any sort of law that even lightly chills talk, political or poetical or any other kind, at the beach, on the street or on the radio. The FCC pays better than mere lip service to this. Go to and scroll down to What is the safe harbor?

On the other hand, Mary Massey, your complaint points up the hypocrisy in Mary Aigner and Co. airing swear words on their own account without receiving a retributive thumping, while they continue to use the same words as an excuse to throw others out and blackball them and ostracize them ever after, which KZYX has been doing since the beginning. It happened to me 25 years ago in 1989. Sean Donovan hated me with a hot hate, and he used to drunk-call me on the phone, when I was doing my show, and tell me things like that he just got up to piss and he decided to give his old pal Marrrr-co a ring. So what's going on, Marrrr-co? Ugh.

He waited until I described something as bullshit (at two a.m.) and that was it for me. No recourse, no opportunity to apprise others of the injustice, certainly no discussing it on the air —because no access to the air— and then when I went to the next programmers' meeting to talk about it, Sean Donovan, the manager, was lording it over the programmers' meeting, and he told his flunky Johnny Bazzano to call the police (!) and have me arrested for trespassing at the radio station. Months later still, when I went to the next programmers' meeting at the private house of Beth Bosk (who had stopped Johnny from calling the police by saying, “Sean! What are you doing?!”), she turned me away from that meeting at the door, because, she said quietly, “I don't want to lose my show.” But of course she lost her show anyway in the next crackdown on things even inching in the direction of being a little too free for the poobahs at the station to countenance.

And a similar fate befell lots of people over the years. No-one in a position of authority at KZYX deserves that authority, nor ever has. All KZYX airpeople even today must be timid and careful in their public and private lives not to ever say or do anything that might turn the management's Eye of Sauron upon them. Because they don't want to lose their show. And that's not freedom. Its oppressive bullshit. Sean Donovan set the tone for that and it's been the same song ever since.

Jesus, Sean Donovan was a piece of work. I remember him giving an encouraging fundraising talk about how many old people there are in Mendocino County, and what a good idea it would be to encourage specimens near to meeting their maker to include KZYX in their will. “We might even call the old folks' homes.” I: “Are you serious?” Sean: “They're gonna die anyway. And the station needs the money.” That's right, it needed the money to pay Sean, just like it needs so much money now to pay John Coate and Mary Aigner and John Steffen and…

Come to think of it, during the next-to-latest in its endless series of egregiously unlistenable pledge drives, in a moment I lingered on KZYX on my way up the dial to KNYO, I heard someone say something just like that— encouraging listeners to consider putting KZYX in their will.

A current frustration is that I want to write emails to the other paying members of MCPB to point out how wrong it is that the operators of KZYX refuse to allow members to communicate with each other without being limited, censored and supervised. And I can't write emails to the other members, because the operators of KZYX refuse to give out the membership list —they say it's for privacy reasons— but it would be the work of fifteen minutes to put an open unmoderated forum on the subject of station business and operation somewhere on the front page of, where such a thing belongs. John Coate could do it tonight, on his iPhone, at the dinner table.

Another frustration is that everyone on the board and in management of KZYX pants-on-fire lies out loud when they say that the community and the members control the station. In real life there's no two-way communication between members of MCPB and the board— neither in private nor on the air. I've written to the boardmembers on several occasions and have never got even a got your email, thanks in response. I did once get an email from Stuart Campbell saying that the board all (except for one— Sakowicz probably) agreed (in what must have been a private unposted session) on Stuart's response to me, which did not provide an answer to any of the questions I've ever asked them but instead was Stuart's one-sentence statement that the board fully supports John Coate. That's it.

Oh, right, also I got an email from Stuart Campbell in jumping caps and exclamation marks that their not sending me a ballot until it was too late for me to use it to vote was in no way to be construed as preventing me from voting in the board election! That was an election with like a 25% turnout, so how many others didn't get a ballot? And I did get a pleasant note welcoming me as a member of the KZYX family when they cashed my membership check, and with the note came a photocopy of the schedule of shows, none of them my show nor anything at all like it but, you know, thanks so much for the money.

Another frustration is that they flush away hundreds of thousands of dollars (!) every year to pay a handful of bobbleheads in the office to wander in and out and behave as they please, and pay everyone else nothing. Just the amount the management suite —Mary Aigner, John Coate, David Steffen, etc.— is paid would easily fully fund a dozen other little radio stations. Every membership dollar and even a little more goes directly into management's pockets; none of it helps the station in any way. Keep that in mind when you're asked to become a member and pledge money. If the managers were worth what they're being paid, KZYX would be the Cadillac of radio stations, and would distribute a full catalog of fine new local shows to hundreds of NPR stations. They're not, it isn't, and it doesn't.

In addition KZYX receives vast sums of tax money every year, and in return for this it sits on a county-spanning collection of frequencies in the educational band and keeps out anyone who might say any of this on the air, much less do the kind of quirky innovative local free radio experimentation that the low end of the FM dial was set aside for.

I want my show on KZYX. It's a better show than most of what's there, including the NPR shows. And that's never going to happen until at least John Coate and Mary Aigner are removed, and— I think I'm being very fair here, and I'm addressing the board specifically when I say this— you don't have to remove them by firing them, if you're afraid to hurt their feelings; simply adjust their pay to be more in line with what the people actually doing the work of radio at KZYX are being paid —which, see above, is zilch— and they'll quit on their own, demonstrating what they're really in it for in the first place. They're not in it for radio, and they're not good for the station.

So I am a little conflicted about your complaint, Mary Massey. If your method of getting rid of bad, oppressive management just sets up whoever comes next to keep me and others like me on the outside for another eon, then the good news and the bad news cancel each other out. In another 25 years I'll be in my eighties. I and my listeners would like some positive action on this issue while I can still go several hours between toilet breaks and while I still have all my own teeth.

--Marco McClean,,


  1. John Sakowicz May 6, 2015


  2. Rick Weddle May 6, 2015

    Go, Marco, go! Don’t any of that ratty little station’s Mismanagement Team know their members have access to torches and pitchforks and so on?

  3. M K Massey May 6, 2015

    Marco, Thank you for your information and support. Yes, under current FCC regulations, public radio is to refrain from profanity, indecency and obscenity. Low power stations are permitted profanity after 10p at night.

    The larger idea here: Double Standard. Two women retained, (still with KZYX) three men thrown off the air. The two women aired CANNED content, the men, in the case of Doug and John S, were not in control of what was broadcast. Unless someone can prove emphatically that Norman DeVall wasn’t thrown off the air after he complained of profanity in prime time, ( January 21, 2014) I stand by my comment that he was axed by Aigner because he rightfully shared observations and facts as they were presented before him, but that management didn’t want to deal with. Losing all three men was a loss for the station.

    The FCC profanity clause is one to live with for now.

    Please, be aware of the axing of some and not the all with no ethical grievance procedure in place at the time that was/is neutral, fair, and satisfactory to all parties. All grievances go to the GM. The GM won’t even speak to Mr. Sakowicz. How was/is John S going to have a fair grievance hearing?

    He won’t.

    The Members for Change, Face Book is growing everyday. I was happy to see members in attendance last Monday’s Annual Membership Meeting. Many in attendance jeered and found a paid staff person’s shunning a board member completely unacceptable. Any other non-profit board would have removed the GM immediately! This recalcitrant behavior from John Coate is grounds for dismissal. It has nothing to do with me or any other community member, but everything to do with the Secretary of State’s office, which permits the station to raise funds, your dollars, for the station. To shun a board member is a violation. Done and Done.

    Never underestimate the power of one conversation- one person to another.

    Talk about these issues with people in your community, your classes, at work, your churches, your neighborhood, and your families. Make people aware of not only your personal experience with KZYX staff, (we all have them,) but let people know that station management feels immune to repercussions from being out of compliance. The station will not be on the best footing until these people are removed and a new and open staff and board are functioning as they can and should.

    Funding and underwriting will only continue to shrink as the same pool of people give to the station. This phenomenon has NOTHING to do with individual volunteers, programmers and community members who have brought this fact to Management and in most cases, were turned away by management. I can find no place on the station’s web site that indicates programmers are regularly or systematically reviewed/evaluated for content, on-air delivery, program relevance, or Arbitron ratings. The lack of dollars is tangible feedback about what the station airs and how it is managed.

    Thirteen years ago, 2100 people were registered as members (2002.) The 2002-2006 Strategic Plan had a goal of 20% sustainable increase in membership. Membership has been flat for 13 years. The strategic plan and the goals set out by the Board in 2002 did not position the station to realize this 20% goal. It hasn’t and won’t happen. What’s more, the Strategic Plan voted on and accepted in 2005, is 10 years old with no checks and balances, no evaluation for the money spent on a Board Retreat to build and vote on such a plan, and no public information about how the community would know if such a plan was/is being utilized.


    Mary Massey
    Mendocino, CA
    KZYX, Members for Change

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