Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bits and Pieces


Sometimes I come across things that relate to Pacifica/WBAI and thus may be of interest, perhaps even significance, but not sufficiently earthshaking to warrant a featured piece. Here are some current items:

Chair Pro Tem Pauline Park posts that John Brinkley, a JUC member of the WBAI LSB, submitted his resignation yesterday. He appears to have been somewhat rushed, which is sure to generate speculation as to his reason for stepping down.

Dear Pauline,
This is a follow-up to the telephone conversation earlier this week. Unfortunately at this time, I must immediately resign my seat on the WBAI LSB.
Regretfully,
John Brinkley 

You may have noticed that Bob Fass isn't doing his show live these days. The person who introduces the substituted reruns only gives a vague explanation, telling us that Bob will be back but not why he is absent. To allay rumors, I can tell you that Bob has had a pacemaker installed and is now in rehabilitation. All apparently went well and we wish him a speedy recovery.

The Pacifica Archive tapes currently spotted on e-bay are still the subject of contention. Some are suggesting that the seller—who purchased them from a storage company—hasn't the right to put them up for sale, but Pacifica lost ownership when it failed to meet its contractual rental obligations. Thus the fault lies with the Pacifica National office. Of real concern is the possibility of valuable as yet digitized aural documents becoming lost forever. There is no excuse for such neglect, but it reflects the lack of responsibility that continues to prevail within Pacifica.

With the departure of CFO Sam Agarwal, Pacifica finds itself in a deep financial crisis without a CFO—or does it? It has been reported that his predecessor, the controversial Raul Salvador, who abruptly departed last year and rode into the sunset trailing a cloud of questionable activity, is back in some capacity—perhaps his old position? This has not been officially announced, so suspicion is high.

Yesterday, José Feliciano hosted the first of what is scheduled to be his regular show, the Friday morning 6 to 8 slot. As one reasonably expected, it was a a bit of a self-love fest with Feliciano more or less revisiting the kind of blather he so glibly spews. Still, he offers relief from the unimaginative nonsense Haskins has been delivering for a couple of years, including the embarrassing slave girl series of ill-produced, inept readings and the tired, irrelevant "this day in history" data he digs up.

It looks as if Haskins is being eased off that morning slot. He is still heard with Pamela Brown, another amateur who seems destined to remain clueless, and he continues to run the audio panel, though not too well. To compensate for the diminished role, he uses station breaks to repeat his name and tag himself as "chief engineer" and "program guide". 

Finally, don't be surprised if Tony Bates moves back in and becomes involved in programming again. Reimers is featuring him prominently in the upcoming (but already started) fund drive, so expect to hear more greatly distorted black history and a bogus "cure" or two for the next four or five weeks. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Those elusive tapes...

    • Here's a follow-up on the e-bay sale of Pacifica tapes. It does not solve the mystery, but it contains a few details. My source is an informed source who wishes to remain anonymous. This is what I was told:
    • The storage unit is an old one, located in Rosemead CA, not visited in years, and never inventoried. Pacifica's National office was paying the bill, not PRA, because this was not part of the $1,900 monthly PRA budget for the 4 units it does pay for. This is not PRA's fault, it's the National office having ignored invoices, alerts, warnings, etc. Understandably, the seller wants to make a profit as this is his business. 

      Let's hope that someone can negotiate with him to donate it to a secure place with trustworthy custodians. It is highly doubtful that Pacifica can afford to buy these tapes back or—if reacquired—what it will do with them. The inventory is "several thousand tapes" and thousands of folios. Most of the latter are digitized and available online for free at archive.org, but there are a number of sets PRA never found, so it would be valuable to review what is there and add any of the missing ones (mostly WBAI 1963-1967).  Sounds like a good thing for crowd funding or a rescue emergency grant.
    • 
    • Here's a brief update posted to Pacifica Radio in Exile. It links to this blog, but contains a few more details.
    • Tracy adds: Here is the sound clip mentioned above in the response that Chris posted.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Response to complaint re local election


AN UPDATE RE ELECTION COMPLAINT

Hello,
The following advisory is being issued in response to a Fair Campaign Provisions violation complaint made by Stephen Brown on September 17, 2016 via email.  Please note that in the original correspondence Mr. Brown made regarding this complaint.  The Local Election Supervisor’s email address for WBAI was misspelled.  Thus, this complaint was not received by the LES until September 21, 2016.  

Regarding the allegation that a WBAI voter membership list generated from the “Memsys” database is being used to raise funds by LSB candidates and that electioneering may possibly be happening either intentionally or indirectly as a result of that activity-
N
  1. There was no specific instance cited of voters being influenced by the alleged activity.
  2. The only member of the LSB member, Chair John Brinkley, to have access to this list mentioned in the complaint has signed a non-disclosure agreement and has thus far not even been accused of violating that agreement.
  3. No candidate mentioned in the complaint has been known to have access to the list in question.

-the Local Election Supervisor for WBAI 2016 considers this complaint unfounded.

Thank you.
KB
-- 
Kihani Brea
WBAI
Local Election Supervisor 2016
646-535-4059

And here is a response from Tracy Rosenberg:
Hello Kihani,
Did you review the audio sent to you of candidate Sharonne Salaam stating that she had access to the list during a candidate debate?
I will send you the clip again to make sure you have it, as soon as I get back to a desktop computer. 
Your point c is disproven by the audio clip.
Best,
Tracy

Pacifica in Exile - September 25, 2016


PNB Call Disrupted Again

Berkeley - Ballots mailed for Pacifica's 2016 board elections from the East Coast on August 15th. Pacifica in Exile's candidate endorsements for all stations can be found here. You will find online voting instructions inside your printed ballot envelope. The voting period ends on September 30 at 11:59pm in your own time zone. If you donated, but don’t receive a ballot or for any ballot-related question at any station, you can contact King Reilly, a KPFK member who has graciously agreed to assist folks, at kingreilly@roadrunner.com.

For more on our endorsed slates of candidates, see the Committee to Strengthen KPFKMove KPFT ForwardUnited for Community Radio (KPFA), and WBAI Indy Caucus websites.

Since Pacifica seems to be delinquent on a 9/15 payment to election vendor True Ballot, we cannot assure you if/when votes will be counted or if the election will be delayed, but we encourage you to cast your ballot by the September 30 deadline, as it is impossible to predict if ballots will be accepted after that date or not.

Click on above image to enlarge it
After the fragile state of Pacifica's endangered archives became a national story in the last month, close to a dozen Pacifica archival tapes appeared for sale on Ebay.com. The 11 items are master tapes from the 1960's and all were placed for sale in the last week by the same seller, a Watsonville resident with the nom de plume "scoldguy11". Scoldguy replied to an inquiry from a Pacifica member about how he came into possession of the tapes by saying they were purchased from a Los Angeles storage locker. The Pacifica Archives kept some of its collection in off-site storage with a monthly bill of $1,900 accrued for off-site archives storage. The sudden appearance of the tapes on E-Bay may indicate the storage bill was not paid after the June 30 departure of archives director Brian De Shazor -- and the contents in off-site storage sold off by the vendor. Inquiries regarding how much of the archival collection was kept in off-site storage and what may have been the extent of the possible loss have been unanswered by the national board and executive director to date. 

The national board met on September 22nd in a highly-anticipated discussion about leasing out NY station WBAI. The call invited members of the WBAI local station board, but continued to exclude 4 national directors elected from WBAI in January, who have been excluded all year from the national board. The PNB majority claimed it was to avoid "disruption", but lo and behold conference call provider Loop Up had a little bit to say about that. They pulled the plug on the call, disconnecting all the callers and shutting down the phone line after a particularly silly 30-minute fight about when to meet next. You can listen to a 20-minute summary reel here. 

As expected, almost all of the WBAI visitors spoke against a lease of the station. ED Brazon stated she was "open". Some mild chaos broke out when WBAI Indy caucus member Jim Dingeman brought up the missing CPB grant money, three years of audit failure having cost WBAI between half a million and three quarters of a million dollars and Pacifica as a whole, $2.5 million dollars.

The conference call system conked out as the board was arguing over when to continue the meeting on the subject and trying to schedule a closed session, apparently having had enough of talking about the subject in open session. The eagerness to take the subject behind closed doors by the Siegel/Brazon faction was very different than in 2013, when then-board member and now unofficial-corporate-counsel Dan Siegel threatened the PNB to have all lease-related conversations in open session - or else. The PNB has not responded to why they would ignore their corporate counsel's advice, or if that advice is changeable depending on whether the board majority is Siegel/Brazon-affiliated. 

Here is Siegel's December 2013 e-mail  

From: Dan Siegel 

To: Pacifica National Board 
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2013 19:55:13 -0800
Subject: Meeting to discuss LMAs



Dear Colleagues,

I will not be participating in a closed session meeting to discuss LMA proposals to run WBAI. I think that the meeting is unlawful as a violation of the board's obligation to conduct the Foundation's business in public.

First,  the PNB must decide in public whether to have an LMA to run WBAI. I have heard no explanation from anyone as to why this issue is one for closed session.

Second , the proposals themselves must be discussed in public. The analogy in the public sector is a public agency considering bids to build a road or buy a computer system.

If people do not accept my view of the law you should consult an attorney. Pacifica cannot continue to violate the law on this issue. Board members who do put themselves and Pacifica in jeopardy and create a situation where any decision they make will be successfully challenged in court.

Dan

The national board seems to be stuck in a cycle, repeatedly requesting over and over again 30-60-90 days plans to manage cash flow, impose expense reductions and generate more revenue and never getting anything but Brazon's vague one-page specials. One attempt, at least the fourth one, was a motion passed on September 1st saying "the PNB will direct the iED to direct the management of all units of Pacifica to come up with 30-60-90 day plans for increasing revenues and reducing expenses during the remainder of this fiscal year and the beginning of the next and submit those plans in the next two weeks". On September 15th (in closed session), the board "directed the IED to order the general managers to pay the network shared services and archives dues they owe for 2016". 

National Board chair Tony Norman weighed in at a finance committee meeting saying "all these great ideas and motions these committees pass and the PNB pass mean nothing if our executive officers do not implement these ideas. That's a big problem that we're having. Somebody making sure that these things get done and its not happening on the general manager level or on the general executive level". Norman seemed to forget that he *is* an executive officer, the PNB supervises the executive director, and the executive director in turn supervises the general managers.

Los Angeles station KPFK recently lost a large multi-grievance union arbitration with the station's SAG-AFTRA bargaining unit after new manager Leslie Radford imposed unilateral work hour reductions, fired two employees and denied severance benefits. The settlement amount is at least $200,000 and will include back pay to approximately 20 employees whose hours were cut, the re-hire of two fired employees and the payment of at least four previously denied severance packages. ED Brazon has still not shown the final settelement agreement to the board of directors. In Radford's proposed 2016-2017 budget, she attempted to pay for her labor law violations in three ways:
  1. Ending all dependent health benefit coverage for full-time and part-time station           employees at KPFK. 
  2. Deferring overdue premium purchases to 2017, thus leaving some donors with 2-year+ waits for products paid for in 2015
  3. Deferring shared network services payments to Pacifica's national office in the amount of $200,000, thus doubling KPFK's already-existing $250,000 debt to national to almost half a million dollars by the end of 2017.
Radford disassociated from her own actions, blaming the arbitration loss on former ED John Proffitt. Proffitt  was prevented from hiring his choice of a general manager for KPFK by Margy Wilkinson's abrupt hire of Radford while he was driving across the country to take over as the executive director. Internal Pacifica paperwork implementing the involuntary pay cuts in August of 2015 (that now have to reimbursed per the arbitration order) were signed by Radford and then board-chair Lydia Brazon, with Brazon assuming the title of executive director somewhat prematurely on the form.

Members of Brazon and Radford's faction, called the Grassroots Community Radio Coalition, echoed Radford's truculent stand at the station's last local board meeting, declaring costs incurred by Radford should not be "shouldered" by KPFK and should be "distributed" to the network's other 4 radio stations.

Radford also threatened that if she is not "allowed" to withhold $200,000 of KPFK's 2016-2017 shared service payments that she will "shut off" the station's repeater signals in Malibu, China Lake and Santa Barbara, although it is not clear how doing so would generate more income.

The Fresno Free College Foundation, the nonprofit that runs KFCF, a Fresno-based station that repeats KPFA's programming and has an associate station seat on KPFA's local board, passed a resolution on September 20th urging the Pacifica National Board to explicitly deal with the financial crisis and implicitly criticizing Brazon's recovery plan. It says: The Fresno Free College Foundation posts with the strongest urgency that the Pacifica National Board take action immediately to present a complete and comprehensive financial recovery plan". The text of the whole resolution can be read here. 

KFCF repeats about 80% of KPFA's program schedule and receives about 75% of its income from pass-through pledges that are called into KPFA's on-air fund drives and then remitted to KFCF, which total about 5-7% of each KPFA fund drive's receipts. Fresno-area donors receive voting rights in KPFA local board elections and an extra seat on the KPFA local station board (currently and for much of the last decade filled by the station's one employee, manager Rych Wythers). The last 990 posted online for 2013-2014 indicates total revenue of $169K for the Fresno Free College Foundation. KFCF pays a monthly satellite transmission fee of around $1,500 and receives something like $100-$150K in passed through donations from KPFA. The transactions are not recorded in Pacifica's financial books, so there is no way to know the exact amount. 


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Saturday, September 24, 2016

PBS Special Meeting re WBAI - Sep. 22, 2016


This is a rewritten version of my Friday night post to which I have added commentary on Reimers' remarks by indigopirate. I recommend that you scroll down for that.  —Chris

Thursday night, a "Special" telephonic meeting of the PNB was held to address the precarious situation WBAI is in. It is no secret that an overwhelming majority of its listeners have left, discouraged by a laundry list of legitimate complaints that includes violations of virtually all principles upon which Pacifica Radio was founded almost seven decades ago. Program content has long since ceased to meet artistic and ethical standards established during the Foundation's early years—virtues that offered a distinct and welcomed departure from American broadcasting norms—and an open microphone approach that encouraged opinions and creative expression from sources not likely to meet with approval in a field of communication dominated by commercial and government interests.

While nobody can pinpoint with absolute certainty what steered Pacifica off its noble path, theories abound, but one fact is indisputable: the utopian vision conjured up by Mr. Hill and his fellow pacifists has gradually been extinguished, having now reached an inevitable flickering finale.

Arguably, there is reason to place much of the blame on the adoption of Robert's Rules, a system of governance that Pacifica saw as a democratic path to true community radio. Ironically, it has had the opposite effect, excluding all but a chosen few from microphone access while opening wide the door to an invasion of opportunists. For the sake of appearance, this group of self-serving misfits "tolerates" the continued on-air presence of host/producers who adhere to the original Pacifica "mission", but—to take WBAI as an example—as corruption spread to the Foundation level, local management has been emboldened to stray further afield.

As mentioned, WBAI's listener-supporters have gradually but steadily tuned out as failed management lowered the intellectual and quality levels of the station's offerings and—rather than evaluate and correct the problem—turned an escalating number of days over to on-air fundraising.

Such fundraising was not new to WBAI. As the station's Manager, I had initiated it in 1964, when my predecessor left us in urgent need of $25,000. We knew that our programs and unconventional concept provided the incentive for listeners to pay a $12.50 annual membership fee, so we simply laid it on the line: donate what you can and we will return to our regular program schedule the minute pledges reach the needed amount. The phones started ringing, the tally grew fast, and we were back to normal, painlessly and honestly.

As any regular WBAI listener knows, the fundraising marathon became regular practice and increasingly fraudulent. Adding insult to injury, pledged money was expeditiously deducted from credit cards, but—going back several years—thousands of listener-supporters never received their "thank you gifts." Today, the backlog is staggering and the station does not respond to inquiries as manager Berthold Reimers concentrates on launching yet another lengthy fund drive, starting in a week. What did last month's drive bring in? Nobody knows for sure, but it is a figure dwarfed by the goal. There is every reason to believe that this October drive will run into November and fail to an even greater extent. 

With that almost certain, bills continuing to pile up, further dwindling of the listenership, and an increasingly narrow focus on a small segment of the NYC area population, Berthold Reimers gave a report to the PNB last Thursday that makes one wonder if delusion has turned to dementia.

Here, extracted from the close to three-hour meeting is how Reimers sees the future for WBAI. He is not worried about the enormous, growing amount owed the Empire State Building, but he does not want the public (make that, paying public) to know why he does not see it as a problem.

A major area of contention is WBAI's future and the possibility of seeking an LMA (Local Marketing Agreement) partner. There have been a couple of interested parties in recent years, but this is not a popular option, because it essentially hands programming over to the other group and—although meant as a temporary solution to get the station back on it feet—it can also be a first step towards an outright sale. There are people within Pacifica who would like to sell WBAI and make one or both of the California stations solvent.

The reality is that an LMA deal is likely to create serious new problems. It seems clear to me that years of gross incompetence, greed and self-interest has damaged Lew Hill's organization beyond repair. The idealism and spirit that once fueled the organization is long gone, leaving pathetic remnants that bear only slight and occasional resemblance to the original concept of alternative radio.

To listen to Reimers' rambling, incoherent and decidedly disingenuous "prediction" in the above excerpt prepares us for that fast-approaching time when one of the frequent moments of dead air at 99.5 turns out to be permanent.  

Apropos dead air, this meeting, heard here in its entirety, ended abruptly. Few will sit through all two hours and forty-five minutes, but spot-checking will soon give you the gist of it, perhaps including designated disruptors, Adriana "Point of Disorder" Casenave and Cerene "You can't keep me out" Robertson doing their nonsense. You will also sense the frustration experienced by Bill Crosier—who has been pressing for a meeting focused on WBAI's internally generated problems.

Our good friend and contributor, 'indigopirate', patiently and, I surmise, painfully listened to it all. Here is his insightful comment:

A couple of thoughts and impressions re this most recent meeting:

The overall course, despite voiced and well-justified urgency bordering on desperation is one of drift, discussion, postponement, eg, Interim Executive Director Lydia Brazon’s observation that she hadn’t actually moved to seek or evaluate LMA/PSOA proposals as yet, and that there was no real reason to rush as it was clear that any such process would be ‘very complicated’ and ‘lengthy’.

General Manager Berthold Reimers continues to emphasize placing past blame on circumstances beyond his control and to project optimistic fund-raising expectations based on… nothing at all, really.

A curious point, to my mind, re Reimers, is that he stated as he has at a few points in the past that WBAI is uniquely situated with respect to access to the arts in all their forms and that he feels that there ought be far more such programming as there once had been. Yet nothing of this sort seems to actually happen.

It’s really impossible to meaningfully speculate as to the outfall of WBAI and Pacifica’s financial situation since in reality very nearly all of it is held close to the vest and is unavailable to the public in any form. It seems fairly clear that it’s become fairly desperate, having followed a path of longstanding decline inching inevitably toward what would appear to be some form of collapse, particularly given the fact that while some voices have made clear how dire the situation is and some have made that even clearer by moving on, presumably having concluded the little ship Pacifica cannot summon the will or the means to save itself.

Essentially, it seems to me, we have an institution that demonstrably cannot save itself and would reject any and all external attempts to save it from itself – though at this point it’s difficult to imagine anyone interested in the latter given their long decline to bitterness, eternal internal struggle, and abject hatefulness and irrelevance.
~ ‘indigopirate’