Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Exile Report: Lydia's Scorecard

[This blog bears sole responsibility for the head graphics]

Berkeley-Independent national board members Grace Aaron, Jan Goodman, Jonathan Alexander and Bill Crosier have called for another special meeting on finances. Board chair Tony Norman announced he was unilaterally cancelling the July 28th meeting in advance and board secretary Janet Kobren cancelled the posted meeting notices. But Houston listener rep Bill Crosier indicated in a public email that the called meeting would occur despite their actions. "The meeting is still on and will happen, regardless of whether you continue, in your childish manner,  to cancel the meeting listing on the kpftx calendar. I wish you would be willing to cooperate, but we’re going to have the meeting on July 28, whether you like it or not".

A more lengthy statement on why the special meeting is being called can be read here.

The special meeting is scheduled for Thursday July 28th at 8:30pm EST, 5:30pm PST. It is not known if the 14-member board majority will again boycott the meeting in their entirety as they did the previous special meeting on the financial crisis. If the meeting achieves quorum (which takes six members of the majority breaking ranks), then it will be streamed via the kpftx.org website. If the meeting does not get to a recognized quorum of 10, then the directors present will reconvene on an alternate telephone conference line and the meeting will be streamed here. {PNB Uncensored Channel}. An audio archive will be available after the meeting.

If the meeting is boycotted,  the directors present will hold a Community Town Hall in the second half of the meeting. After a discussion among themselves, including the 4 elected directors from WBAI who have been excluded all year, board members will take questions and comments from the public which can be emailed, starting now and throughout the meeting, to questionsforpnb@gmail.com. 

In the 9 months since Lydia Brazon took over as the latest volunteer executive director, Pacifica has slid into a hole so deep it may not ever get out. Pacifica has not had an executive director for 21 of the last 28 months -  nor have they scheduled an evaluation of Brazon's performance. Pacifica in Exile has decided to remedy that oversight.

So how is Brazon doing? There are a few problems.
  • Losing the experienced archives director, discouraging the Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force from helping to raise funds for the archives, losing the preservation fellow housed at the archives and not ensuring adequate central services funding nor developing an alternative plan for funding PRA before the potential loss of as much as 50% of Pacifica's audio history.

  • No 2016 organizational budget, no realistic plan to pay for required annual audits, payroll, health insurance for employees, directors and officers liability insurance and other necessary expenses. Allowing stations to develop draft budgets with unrealistic revenue estimates that guaranteed 2016 deficits, despite warnings this would happen (and it has).
  • Retaining an attorney who has significant conflicts of interest that prevent him from providing unbiased legal help.

  • Using restricted grants for operating expenses.
  • Allowing the General Manager of KPFK to violate the union agreement and bargain in bad faith.

  • Not getting timely audits done as the law requires.

  • Not requiring WBAI, WPFW and KPFK to develop a workable plan to send out promised premiums/thank-you gifts to donors or at least to contact donors with undelivered premiums.

  • Refusing to update the PNB on any investigation that might have occurred regarding allegations of copyright infringement.

  • *Failing to ensure that WBAI has at least one working telephone with a public number.

  • Not requiring WBAI and WPFW, nor helping them to, develop a workable plan to reverse their dramatic drops in listener support.

  • Failing to present a realistic strategic plan for Pacifica to increase the overall number of individual listeners and the time they spend listening, to improve the quality of programs, to increase the per day fund drive totals, to increase both on air and off air fundraising, improve the financial accounting infrastructure so financial reporting is done in an accurate and timely manner or establish professional human resources capacity.

  • Failing to ensure that KPFA repays funds from the bequest received last year that were intended for the Pacifica Foundation after the PNB voted last year to require those funds be given to the national office.

  • Failing to ensure compliance with all federal, state and local laws, regulations and reporting requirements including Title 7 training.
Grade: Fail
Since Lydia Brazon has been interim Executive Director (iED) of Pacifica, the financial, legal, and organizational problems have continued to multiply, and member numbers continue to dwindle. Plans for reversing the acute downward slide are nowhere to be found. Please sign the petition to tell the PNB it's time to let Lydia Brazon go as volunteer iED.

Pacifica needs a new interim Executive Director who will work full-time to preserve all of the stations and put Pacifica on a course to return to sustainable operations. 

Given the rate of acceleration of Pacifica's financial decline, the special meeting on the 28th may tackle some pretty grim subjects, among them the prospects of taking one or more stations temporarily dark or future prospects in a bankruptcy court.

In the month since the last special meeting on finances was called, the official board of directors has done almost nothing; passing a motion to pay the 2014 audit fee and then not paying it  - and quibbling over which units would get political convention pledges, which are turning out to be so meager they may not even cover the direct costs of producing the coverage. The one thing the board did do was miss WBAI's payroll on July 15th. The CFO has warned of other upcoming payrolls that are likely not to be met (Including Washington's this week). With directors liability insurance expiring on August 11th, being on the Pacifica board of directors is becoming an increasingly risky proposition.

While some board reps have chirped about how bankruptcy could be a fresh start (William Campisi - KPFA), (Jose-Luis Fuentes - KPFA), (Brian Edwards-Tiekert-KPFA), the reality is that entering into voluntary bankruptcy is a process fraught with risks, from creditors issuing their *own* reorganization plans - on their terms - to the FCC repossessing Pacifica's licenses. In the case of New York  and Berkeley, the radio licenses might be released back into the commercial band (both stations are convertible), ending any ongoing existence for either as non-commercial radio stations. 

Less drastic actions might include local management agreements (LMA's) or temporary shutdowns in order to quickly cut expenses and reboot struggling stations with a different operational plan. Cash infusions, while only a temporary bandaid over ongoing losses, may be possible from the mortgage or sale of the national office building contingent on securing an up to date audit report. Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding, the lowest hanging fruit for a cash infusion, has been pretty much removed from the picture by the board majority shenanigans with the audits. The late audits that began in 2014 have cost the network $2,000 a day for more than two years. At this point, $1.75 million in grant funding is unrecoverable, and the remaining $500,000 would require the rapid submission of two audit reports, one of which has not been started, and an immediate cash outlay of about $150,000.

To ask questions about the difficult decisions facing the board and Pacifica's members, send your thoughts and inquiries to questionsforpnb@gmail.com on or before July 28th. 

All 5 Pacifica stations are in the midst of another election cycle. Many feel this election is the last chance for Pacifica. Please vote beginning on August 15th. You can visit elections.pacifica.org for more information. For any ballot related question at any station, you can contact King Reilly, a KPFK member, for assistance at kingreilly@roadrunner.com

If you would like to support either or both of the legal complaints filed by Pacifica members, you can visit the Clean Up Pacifica Project for more information.

A timeline of the now two year old coup by the Siegel/Brazon faction can be seen here.

Null re-enters with a rescue plan.

As WBAI slowly slithered across its largely pre-empted schedule of largely third-grade programs, the gloom only got gloomier. Hawking the same old packs of lies and venom, the phones in the contracted answering center on Long Island seemed as quiescent as an acned teenager's bargain Nokia. 

Still, dribs and drabs trickled in to be promptly removed from credit cards of gullible victims, but it was clear that not even a small dent was being made in the mounting debt. Even manager Berthold Reimers, never one to foresee disaster, could predict that this fund drive was destined to set another record for failure, but he had issued an order that Gary Null was not to be allowed participation. This in spite of the fact that Mr. Null has a long history of fundraising success. 

The two had been at it again in their long-standing off and on relationship. Null had put on hold another lawsuit against the WBAI/Pacifica mob, one that—among other infringements—rightly accused Reimers and some of his cronies of illegally duplicating copyrighted disks. This could potentially end what is left of the station's life, but not as quickly as an empty piggybank. The WBAI oinker is starving at this point—the station's water cooler is dry, there are no paper towels in the bathroom and the studio phone lines have been dead for a couple of months, which severely affects several live shows. Then, too, a small fortune in rent money is owed, the postage machine is empty and salaries are seriously in arrears.

We hear that morale at the station has reached an all-time low; Berthold Reimers, ever the victim of his own ineptitude and lies, is rarely seen, and some hosts report hearing a pack of hungry wolves clawing at the door to 388 Atlantic Avenue. Barely had this latest drive begun when reality—sensed by everybody else for at least a year— finally hit the Haitian wannabe, so he took a mouthful of crow, picked up his phone, and called Gary Null.

It is still not clear why Mr. Null wants to continue his association with WBAI, but he responded positively to Reimers' SOS and quickly proposed a bizarre solution. Bizarre, because, like so many other things Null suggests, the plan appears to counter reality, suggesting an imagination that rivals the fantasies of Reimers. 

Yesterday—Sunday, July 24—they shoved aside "professor" Ron Daniels and his reparations scam as Null, who is on the road, called a laptop in WBAI's make-believe studio and, with resident dunce Haskins grunting in the background, explained his plan for the rescue of WBAI. 

Essentially, he will attempt to sell 20-25 weeklong stays at his retreat for $2,500 per person. Five hundred of that will go to WBAI and, he believes, completely clear up the backlog of "thank you gifts," which go back a couple of years. I believe his place is in Florida, so takers will presumably have to pay their own way to get there and back, but they will be picked up at the airport.

Andrea Katz, the runway runaway, will coordinate things on WBAI's end and, Null hopes, make public the number of gifts sold. It gets a bit complicated, but here is Null's entire plan in his own words. As I cannot in good conscience support any attempt to bail out, rather than dump Berthold Reimers, I removed the phone number, so be forewarned that it is lengthy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

You're hired!

There are still people who genuinely care about WBAI's disintegration (pun unintended) and have made efforts to put it back on track and turn it in the right direction. Such attempts are, as some of us have experienced, not only ignored by local management, but also mocked by those who feel threatened by it. It's a trite scenario lifted straight from the pages of a well-worn Hollywood script. A study in frustration that has us testing the edge of our seat even when the outcome is as obvious as the plot line. 

We have seen this played out on WBAI in recent years. A steady chipping away at the original principles (underlined or simply understood) has left the NYC area with  the shell of a radio station that once was a beacon of enlightenment, artistic vision and thought-provoking cultural and political insight. 

WBAI is no longer a station that reflects the likes and dislikes of its listener sponsors, a lone voice in former FCC Chairman Newt Minow's wasteland that engages in dialogue with an audience that keeps it on the air. It has long since lost the trust of that listenership and, indeed, the listenership itself. Today, it has been reduced to an outlet where inarticulateness and shallowness dominate a stagnant program schedule, a barely known speck on the FM scale that narrowly aims sales pitches and race-flavored propaganda at a small, gullible fraction of one ethnic community. It is a station that will sell us tap water as a "cure" for everything but the common cold, tell us that we have among us reptilians who are likely to steal our auras; that there was no moon landing in 1969, it was a studio fantasy with actors and a lunar hologram; that the trans-Atlantic slave trade never took place, because Africans migrated to North America on their own hundreds of years earlier and built amazing pyramids and cities. Of course, these cities are long gone and unrecorded, because it was against the law to publish books in the New World, or something like that. It's difficult to keep up with the lies they come up with—tell Haskins and others of his ilk that his obsession with slavery is being challenged by a newcomer's theory, another black man, and he is likely to have a nervous breakdown.

Apropos breakdowns, I think you might find interesting the incident that led up to Andrea Katz becoming the eternal Interim whose job as Director of Development shows neither direction nor development after several years. Word has it that she has become Reimers' unofficial gofer, but there was a time when she actually tried to introduce some sense into his compulsive dysfunction. She is now all but forgotten, yet—we are told—still on the payroll and, essentially, a victim of incompetent management.

Like Reimers himself, Ms. Katz is a Pacifica expense whose presence as a paid employee is inexplicable and almost—as 'indigopirate' so eloquently suggests—surreal:

It’s a little like the worst nonexistent episode of The Twilight Zone ever. No, worse than that… like watching the slow, lingering disintegration of something once living, once whole, once alive, once capable of growth, of… of… consequence…. No, worse than that, like an incarnation of the pathetic fallacy… an incarnation of self-loathing projected in impotent hushed fury against a wall of indifference, a wall of absence… the raving meandering madness of would-be performers as a simmering, stammering, guttural fear gnaws within them… that they are in fact absent an audience, they themselves inconsequent, they themselves absent… yet compelled to tell themselves in whispered voices that they aren’t alone, that they matter… as cardboard molders about them and the lights flicker ever dimmer, their voices fading, even in their desperation, their stridency, their despondency, their despair.

As somewhere in the night another voice whispers: Fear Rules. 

The video centered on the rash departure of Ms. Katz was posted by the producers of the reality show and brought to our attention by "Just a Listener," a concerned former devotee of WBAI whose past attempts to help the station were ignored. Friday, when the hiring of Ms. Katz was brought up and questioned in a comment by Ed Manfredonia, it occurred to me that it is a good, if regrettable example of the irrational hiring practices that form the basis for so many of Pacifica's problems. I decided to devote a blog entry to it, because it offers an important detail to anyone who might still be wondering what is wrong with WBAI's mismanagement. In the end, the slow trip that had brought WBAI to the edge can be traced to unprofessional, ill-conceived hiring practices. Berthold Reimers himself is living proof of that. 

Andrea Katz clearly has personal problems for which she should be given help, but hiring her to handle the station's public relations was not her mistake as much as it was Reimers'. It points to a systemic Pacifica problem that is as fatal to the organization tangibly as it is to the spirit that gave it birth over sixty years ago.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When budgets won't budge

As Pacificans are transfixed by the wonders of their electoral processes, allocating their ever-diminishing resources to elections rather than to the tedium of programming, budgeting, personnel, or structural reform, we have the silence which speaks volumes from the Pacifica National Board Finance Committee Meeting of 19 July 2016.

~ ‘indigopirate’
Please click on the green heading above

If at first you fail.... fail again, and again!

As the WBAI Summer fund drive plows on, Berthold Reimers, the brain-dead radio station's ne'er-do-well, credulity-defying "GM" continues to pound it into the ground. 

Following two failed fund drives, he offers what is left of the station's audience more of the same: over-priced digitalized revisions of black history by two recently departed con men, fictional tabloid-like "documentaries", possibly fatal "cures", and whatever else the resident or imported flimflammers can foist upon the gullible. They still call these dubious rewards "thank you gifts" and while credit cards are guaranteed to be tapped, delivery of the products is a game of chance.

Apropos games, the team of players remains the same. In fact, most of this round's infomercials are recycled non-fulfillments, some going back a year or more.

Whether it is a manifestation of panic or a new masks-off approach, the live presentations have deteriorated to a point where the distinction between an open microphone and an assault weapon is almost as obscure as a Reimers sighting.

Somehow all that came together Tuesday morning when announcer/board operator Reggie Johnson presented an extended version of his "From the Soundboard" show, now in its eighth year. Looking back, this offering has often been uncharacteristically worthwhile, with the host's enthusiasm compensating for his lack of preparation, but Mr. Johnson is letting loose these days, and that does not serve anyone well.

Highly recommended, but buy it elsewhere.
Tuesday's guest was percussionist/producer Jeff Haynes whose production, "The Storm King" is a wonderful two-volume CD release featuring an eclectic musical "score" written around a narrative spoken by the late Pete Seeger. Reggie Johnson showed excellent judgement when he chose to focus a program on this remarkable product, but he did not do it or Mr. Haynes justice as he rambled on in a most annoying, repetitive manner. The four CDs, offered as a premium for $120, are available elsewhere with swift, guaranteed delivery, but such information is never revealed on the "truth and justice" station. As Johnson hammed it up, repeated himself, and took side trips down Ego Lane, one began to feel sorry for Mr. Haynes, an accomplished intelligent man who showed remarkable tolerance throughout the ordeal. 

One also had to wonder what went through the gentleman's mind when the agony of a well meant but ill advised and shameless pitch was heightened by a surprise visit.   

Apropos surprises and the imbecile at the helm, you may recall that Berthold Reimers did not include Gary Null in this fund drive. The two have a long history of an off-again, on-again relationship that entwines Null's lawsuits and Reimers' banishments. Given that both are averse to telling it like it is, their game is often difficult to follow. When the latest round began with the "GM" leaving the "Guru" off the fund drive schedule, and given the perceived (possibly true) notion that Mr. Null has the Midas touch, some thought this move on the part of Reimers to be suicidal.... but wait.... there's more! Another reconciliation brought Null back yesterday.

This produced a widely distributed incredulous e-mail from Null friend and apologist, Stephen Brown:

Breaking news. It appears that Berthold contacted Gary and they have arrived at a mutually satisfactory agreement by which Gary will pitch and a portion of the money he raises will go to fulfill backlogged premiums and new premiums. You will have heard his pitch for the retreat today, in his 2nd hour. That should raise $30,000. If enough people respond, he will do a second week for a second $30,000. (100 responded in first 20 minutes; if all are accommodated, that could mean $50,000. However, that was only the first 20 minutes; I don’t know how many more responded.)

Stephen M Brown

And so it goes....