Wednesday, April 23, 2014

FYI: Union Complaint Filed against Pacifica

The following is a press release from Pacifica Radio in Exile, published here—as before—for everyone's enlightenment and to invite comment. This is not R. Paul's BlueBoard, so the door is open wide for all viewpoints, although not for sandbox pixel pap—you know what I mean. 

Berkeley-SAG/AFTRA has filed a  complaint at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Pacifica Radio, for unilateral contract modifications and bargaining in bad faith with the union local at WPFW-FM in Washington DC. Acting/interim/disputed chair Margy Wilkinson approved the seeming contract violations at an April staff meeting when presented by WPFW's general manager Michele Price. The complaint report can be seen here. 
The full board of directors has not been notified of the grievance more than two weeks after it was filed at the National Labor Relations Board. One of the conditions attached to Summer Reese's contract as executive director was that the board be informed of all pending litigation and grievances *immediately*. Wilkinson has also continued to hold privately the workplace investigation report Pacifica ordered to address hostile workplace complaints filed against the recently rehired CFO. 

Temporary/interim ED Bernard Duncan has not returned from Los Angeles to the Berkeley headquarters after falling ill 3 days into his first week of employment. 

An open letter signed by hundreds of the network's staffers and supporters objecting to the breach of Reese's contract can be found here.
Pacifica's financial situation continues to be extremely perilous, driven largely by severe cash shortfalls at the local stations. DC station WPFW is down to $4,000 in its operating account with no clear way to pay the end of the month payroll and WBAI has about $250,000 in unpaid bills piled up. KPFT in Houston faces a March 27th deadline to get up to full power after 4 FCC extensions. Station managers are improvising without clear guidance from national about how to meet their obligations without enough cash on hand. Slow progress is being made on the overdue bank reconcilations at KPFA, but recent financial reports presented by the local board treasurer at the last two local board meetings both contained math errors and overstated earnings. The new audit completion date is anticipated to be no sooner than the end of June. 
A FAQ about the events of the last 75 days can be found here. 
The PDGG directors have called a special meeting for April 27th to address falsified minutes and the on-going lack of corporate counsel, but are not sure their colleagues in the majority will attend the meeting. The amended PDGG vs. Pacifica complaint can be found here in a 137-page full complaint and a 24-page Memorandum of Points and Authorities

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sow's ear and pearl on a Sunday morning . . .

The difference in quality and content that separates the new "High Praize" program and "Through the Opera Glass" has never been more glaring than this morning.

Daulton Anderson's program—his third for WBAI—was another adulterated mixture of pseudo gospel music and the kind that makes people consider heathenism. Among the non-gospel fare this morning, he threw into the mix Edward Hawkins' unfortunate version of Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord". We were led to believe that this program would take us to church, literally, and feature weekly live remotes of wonderful choirs and soloists. That, as it turned out, was but a sales pitch from Berthold Reimers, and it isn't the first time he has colored the truth to hide his own inadequacies.

"Through the Opera Glass" has been on WBAI's air for over a decade and is hosted by several people, all of whom love the music and don't have to read liner notes and internet blurbs when telling us about it. This morning, the host was Manya LaBruja and the three-hour program was truly worthy of Pacifica's air. Ms. LaBruja presented a delightful portrait of mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, based upon her interview with the singer and produced with a professional flair that has become rare at WBAI. This is the caliber of programming that the station needed to return to, and it would have made a great premium.

A stark contrast between two programs. I recommend that you visit the WBAI archive and listen for yourself. I also suggest that Mr. Anderson's program (which is also heard in a similar version on WHCR) be replaced by a real quality presentation of gospel music.   

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The status of talk radio...

With the fate of WBAI and Pacifica up in the air, and opposing factions deciding what to do with Lew Hill's dream, and how to do it, there is much speculation as to the current state of radio, the value of Pacifica's stations, and the order in which they might be disposable.

Of course, the listeners, who pay for all of this, are left out of the equation, but I think we all want to know what the general picture is these days. Does WBAI's middle-of-the-dial position and commercial status mean much any more? It used to be the cherry on top, but that was before we could affordably fit an entire broadcast month on a card smaller than a thumbnail.

Although it does not directly have a bearing on Pacifica or WBAI, you might find the following discussion interesting, This is from Ed Schultz's radio show and the guest is media consultant Holland Cooke, who had just returned from the 2014 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in Las Vegas.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Going over the top with that race card...

Comedian activist and sporadic office seeker Randy Credico was a call in interview on KPFA's "Flashpoints" show this evening. A couple of former co-hosts were also interviewed as Robert Knight was being remembered. The sentiment went over the top, as one might expect, but the women were relatively calm compared to Credico, who launched into a tirade against WBAI and Pacific, blaming their fostering of racism for Knight's death. Host Dennis Bernstein, made quite uncomfortable by the outburst, will hear none of this, so he stops Credico. All this is done to live piano accompaniment by ragtime player Terry Waldo, who can barely be heard due to a bad connection.

As most readers of this blog know, I have good reason not to personally mourn this departure, and I hope I don't offend anyone by being up front with it, but I wish—for the sake of Knight's family and friends—that this had been handled with some dignity. Knight had, after all, spent decades at WBAI, and they tell me that he used to do good work.

I am not posting the entire Bernstein segment, it's simply too maudlin, but here is Randy Credico:

A good Report to the Listeners

The video image of Tony Ryan walking back and forth at an LSB meeting with a sledgehammer on his shoulder is difficult to forget. However, that was in 2009 and we don't know what provoked it. Watching that meeting is painful, not so much because Mr. Ryan came overly prepared, but because the shouting by attendees, finger-pointing by a self-righteous board member, and general disorder in the room is one of the red flags that tell us why WBAI is on a downward trajectory.

Mr. Ryan conducted the studio meeting, because he was holding down Haskins' shift today—that made a very big, positive difference. Also at the meeting is Jim Dingeman, who has worked very hard to straighten out the premiums mess and, I believe, had a hand in setting up this report to inform listeners of the work WBAI's CAB is doing. He brings up the absolute necessity to change the station's programming, but this is a subject Reimers still seems to be avoiding. A call-in listener, however thinks that at least 50% of the current on-air offerings must be replaced.

Tony Ryan deserves praise for wanting to throw out a bunch of computers that were recently donated to WBAI. They are, he says, outdated and, thus, more likely to create headaches than to ease the work. This does not sit well with Jim Dingeman, who was instrumental in acquiring these machines, but Ryan is absolutely correct. Here's a good use for his sledgehammer! Reimers, who does not contribute to this disagreement, should go out in the world and get someone to donate new computers.

The unexpected death of Robert Knight last night was announced at the beginning of the report, but very casually, almost matter-of-factly. As you may know, I considered Knight a contributor to WBAI's demise rather than an asset, and found his programs to be utterly unsuitable for a Pacifica station, but he was associated with the station for decades and, just for that, should have been recalled with more dignity. I guess that will come, but here was an opportunity shamefully wasted.

Here is the actual report. Let us know what you think. I see Tony Ryan in a much different light now, but I still find his weekend music program wrong for the station, and—alas—I also continue to be skeptical when it comes to the station's future. Ryan and Reimers paint the rosiest picture yet, but we've heard that song before.