Monday, October 16, 2017

WBAI on the Edge of Nowhere

It's long, it's late, it's funereal...

The WBAI Treasurer's Report - October 11, 2017

POOF! Credico was gone...

Many of us have wondered why Randy Credico disappeared so suddenly. Rumors were bandied about and assumptions were made, but people in the know were only hinting.

Now, thanks to Mitch Cohen, we have a more focused explanation from Randy himself. It confirms some of what we were hearing and I, for one, find it completely in keeping with the my own observations and the impression that the rumors generated in my mind.

Here's what Randy gave Mitchell to post. He wrote it on his cellphone, so it needed minor corrections, mostly punctuation marks—I hope I got it right and look forward to the promised account.

Randy Credico wrote:

I should have chronicled this earlier and I'm ashamed that I didn't....

Earlier this year, I was in the office of GM Reimers and lame duck interim fun drive coordinator Tony Bates.

They told me they were moving Reverend Billy from Thursday at 5 p.m. to Sunday at 8 a.m.... they said Billy refused and he was no longer there.

I asked him why they would move him from his spot that had been on for so long and had built up a following and they pulled out a chart showing what he had raised over the last 8 months.

These charts are very deceptive

I said to them, well if he doesn't raise a lot of money you can preempt him during a drive, but don't fire him or move him to Sunday.

Well Tony, who basically has the general manager by the cojones got his way and Billy was gone..

Since then, he replaced Reverend Billy, being that nobody else was willing, to be a scab, with an unwitting repeat of a repeat on Tuesday nights at 7... that is Jimmy Dore's show, which is taped 5 days earlier than the original day, on Tuesdays.

No principled producer at WBAI would step into that spot and Mr. Dore was unaware that he was being used as a scab.

All the shows that have come in by Tony Bates in the last year have raised nothing, particularly his Pad show Trump watch, which everyone knows is the most amateurish show ever to be presented at WBAI

You look at his other shows, they raise no money but they are all still there.

I am doing this on my cell phone and when I get a chance on my computer I will really write a comprehensive retrospective of what happened.

Bates' shows at the station have been a complete disaster as has he, in general.

Much more on the Reverend Billy double cross and lie by the general manager and outgoing interim fund drive coordinator Tony Bates.

Furthermore, I would like to talk about Bates' outrageous comments about Naomi Wolf and the general manager's outrageous comments about two female journalist from Algeria...
Mitchell wrote:
I concur with what Randy Credico writes here.

It is f'ng outrageous that Pacifica allows WBAI to continue employing Tony Bates as interim PD. I've been holding back while the Empire State Building travesty was unfolding, so as not to divert energies. But Pacifica's lack of proper supervision of those in its employ are a large part of the reason why WBAI (and other stations) are in the terrible shape they're in. (at the time I wrote former ED Margy Wilkinson about the critical importance of supervising negotiations between the GM and and ESB. She did nothing, and that's partly why we are where we are.)

I might add that noone from current BAI management saw fit to show up at Therese Chorun's memorial service yesterday. Therese was a staffer at WBAI inputting into database for many years, an environmental direct action activist, and volunteer at many other WBAI events. She died of cervical cancer a few weeks ago at age 55. It was so fine to see Indra Hardat, Ken Gale, Alex Steinberg, Matt Mazza and others from the true family of WBAI—not this faux family that's running things today. Geez, they couldn't even show up for her memorial. Unforgivable.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pacifica in Exile newsletter - Oct. 14, 2017

Berkeley—To no one's real surprise, a NY court ruled on October 4 that the Pacifica Foundation owed $1.8 million plus attorney's fees to the Empire State Realty Trust, the multimillion dollar real estate firm that owns the Empire State Building, where Pacifica has lodged WBAI-FM's antenna since 1966. A 15-year contract signed in 2005, after the collapse of the World Trade Center, made antenna space in NYC a hot commodity, and featured soaring prices and a 9% annual escalation, which left the price of the rental by 2015 at more than 4 times the market value and in excess of $500,000 a year, a vast amount for a listener-sponsored radio station.

The contract was signed by an interim executive director, WPFW's Ambrose Lane, who held the position briefly between outgoing ED Dan Coughlin and incoming ED Greg Guma. By most accounts, he was a fine programmer, but a somewhat absentee interim director. It isn't clear if the full Board of Directors in 2005 ratified the contract before or after Lane's signature or at all, but the commitment to pay some $7.5 million dollars over 15 years through 2020 was made. Pacifica, with some struggles, paid the contract in full through 2013 and began defaulting in the 2014 fiscal year, eventually running up the $1.8 million debt cited in the lawsuit over the next three years. Interim ED's Margy Wilkinson and Lydia Brazon, and WBAI GM Berthold Reimers made vague references to negotiations in progress with the Empire State Realty Trust in the 2014-2016 period to lower the monthly rental cost by 2/3.  Despite Pacifica proceeding to make the partial payments as if negotiations had worked, no actual agreement was ever obtained. Several million dollars in future liability remain on the duration of the contract.

The contract's "elevator clause" (the large annual increases) were known to be a disaster waiting to happen for several years. The failed negotiation effort and the secrecy surrounding it for several years, obscured the scale of the problem. By the time the lawsuit was filed in December of 2016, it was too late. Pacifica attempted, with some reason, to make an "unconscionability" defense in the lawsuit, stating the lease was non-responsive to the free market and unreasonably oppressive. But the law does not often protect from the consequences of poor decisions, and it did not do so in this case. 

The amount of the judgment, as well as the other accumulated debts, is sobering. But Pacifica is in the position that its assets are larger than its debts, so the decisions facing the organization are about which assets to retain and which will have to be accessed to settle debts. 4 real estate properties in 3 different cities total at least $10 million dollars in value and 5 major market broadcast licenses represent at least $150 million. Board and executive discussions on the matter by necessity occur in closed session. No notification to the network's members is expected until a decision is arrived at. Any proposed broadcast license transfers would be subject to an up or down vote by the network's donors, in addition to the governance board. The summary judgment, if not paid, would open the Foundation to eventual collection efforts, which could take the form of bank account sweeps or real estate liens, so action will have to be taken fairly soon to avoid that. 

In Other News Around the Network

LA's KPFK has been heavily fundraising, but showing improved results with a robust $700K+ fund drive result in May. The fall drive underway was at $300K at the 10 day mark and is averaging receipts of more than $30K a day under GM Christine Blosdale.

Houston's KPFT is slowly recovering after a contentious management change following the 2016 retirement of long-time manager Duane Bradley. The station lost staffers and has been operating at limited capacity. Long time music programmer Larry Winters is working as the interim GM without taking a salary, and restored some popular music programs to attempt to stabilize dwindling receipts that had been noticeable for some time. The station's local board has been locked in factional struggles and is spending much of its time arranging trials in attempts to kick one or another person off the local board.

At NY's WBAI, the summary judgment for Empire State Realty Trust has been the major topic of concern as the culmination of the station's decline from being the financial powerhouse of Pacifica to its weakest financial link. Partially due to being burdened with expensive leases and longstanding tensions between premium-based and program-based fundraising that never seem to get resolved.

Berkeley's KPFA has also had recent fundraising success. The station chose to cut the last fund drive's scheduled conclusion. That management decision was worthy of note after a routine title search revealed that property taxes for the station's main studio building at 29 Martin Luther King Jr.  Way had not been paid since the 2014 fiscal year, showing a $273K lien on the property from the County Assessor.

Pacifica is also struggling to resolve unpaid pension payments for employees dating from the 2014-2016 period. The network maintains, as a historical accident, two different retirement plans for its low paid employees, a 403(B) plan that provides an employer match on employee contributions and a defined benefit pension plan that provides an additional 2% of salary employer match. The 403(b) plan was intended to replace the defined benefit pension plan back in the 1990's, but due to some administrative ineptness, both retirement plans were written into a union contract and neither employee union, CWA nor SAG-AFTRA, has been willing to allow the plan replacement for the last 20 years. Pacifica has periodically been late on the pension payments before, most noticeably in 2011-2012, when a few months delay caused scathing national denunciations of then ED Arlene Engelhardt from the California Labor Federation, but the complete defaults in 2015 (on the 2014 contributions) and in 2016 (on the 2015 contributions) seem to be unprecedented. The three year liability (as the 2016 contributions also need to be paid this year) represents about $300K in back payments. The payments are overdue because of being mandated in the union contracts. The pension plan itself was written as a voluntary profit-sharing plan based on employer financial health. The parallel 403(b) retirement plan is fully funded. Some resolution of the 20 year old double-retirement plan snafu would assist with Pacifica's financial stability going forward. 

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Pacifica gets noticed—sad

In the case of astronomical arrears owed to ESRT, the WBAI manipulators—true to form—have been playing the victims of their self-generated mismanagement. They wrongfully and publicly point their fingers at a legitimate creditor and beg, with unjustified hostility, for undeserved mercy. This is par for the course for opportunists who routinely recite a litany of culprits upon whom they blame their own shortcomings, including an exodus that has resulted in an all-time low listenership.

In recent years, wiser people, with genuine concern for the station's welfare and a desire for it to regain its integrity, have attempted to lend Berthold Reimers and his coterie du jour well-founded advice, but they are routinely ignored.

Over the years, WBAI has suffered under much bad management, but none as detrimental as that feigned by Berthold Reimers, a clueless clerk who shirks the responsibilities for which he is paid over $100,000.00 annually and obstinately refuses to recognize that listenership is, in great measure, commensurate with program content and quality. If the product is not the programs, what is he trying to sell?

Turning the station over to a small, confused segment of the New York area's black population and granting substandard producer/hosts permanent on-air presence has had the effect of discouraging listeners—of all beliefs and ancestral origins—from seeking intellectual stimulation and a broader scope. The concept upon which Lewis Hill founded Pacifica in the late Forties is as attractive as ever, but it is no longer practiced. The audience that made the intellectually curious tune in and give financial support dwindles with each pedestrian amateur show thrown together, with each race-based propaganda effort, and each lie told. 

Using Pacifica's original mission as a sales tool while not following it, WBAI and its sister stations are in the main morally bankrupt centers for scam activity and mis-information. The few dedicated voices still heard on the spotty network of five Foundation-owned stations and distant affiliates increasingly speak to an empty room.

Now the sword of Damocles hovers more perilously than ever. Madame Defarge is about to add the last name to her interminable knitting, and Pacifica is finally noticed, albeit for the wrong reason.

Here's an article by Ernesto Aguilar, a former Program Director at KPFT, the Houston station. It appeared in Radio World and is excerpted in Spark News. 

Radio World article in PDF format.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 10 PNB Finance meeting?

Probably, but we don't know, because they closed the door.

Preliminary nothing

These audio clips may not make much sense—they come from a good friend who knows better than to drink the eyedrops. :)

The last two may or may not be that same meeting continued, but they form a good audio likeness of these amazing free-for-alls.

The argument meeting continues

But wait! There's more!!!