Sunday, April 19, 2015
Pacifica in Exile News 4-18-2015
Here is Tracy Rosenberg's latest Exile News Letter. It's long, but interesting and full of good links.
Shutting Down While Breaking Even
Berkeley-On a sad note, long-time KPFA board operator and music host Wesley Burton was killed in an automobile accident in the early hours of the morning on Saturday April 18th driving home after hosting Sideshow Radio, a late night hip-hop show that ends at 2:00am. Burton leaves a wife and several children.
The board majority had a propaganda mismatch last weekend as the Save KPFA faction sent out an email crowing about what they perceived to be positive financial results. PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert: "the figures for FY 2015 show Pacifica as a whole on a break-even trajectory after 5 months. If we get CPB funds reinstated this spring, we should post a healthy surplus." The Save KPFA faction, apparently tired of being quoted, have stopped publicly posting their email blasts at savekpfa.org, so use this link if you want to verify.
Within a day, not having gotten the memo, KPFK-Los Angeles's interim GM Zuberi Fields announced a one week emergency April fund drive because the LA station, the financial powerhouse of the network for the past 5 years, "was faced with the possibility of having to shut down as it faces $300,000 in outstanding debt". This was followed a week earlier by a memo to KPFK members apologizing for not sending premium gifts. The station has been beseiged with 30+ chargeback/cancellations from disgruntled members every month, per their bank statements.
Fields added in a supplementary email to staff: "Some board members are supporting corporate underwriting and/or selling off of some of the (Eastern) stations, but we fervently hope to avoid these plans." Fields did not specify which board members were supporting selling off some of the Eastern stations or where he received this information, but his statement is contradictory to those of board majority members who continue to categorically deny in public that there has even been a flicker of discussion about selling stations.
The premise of the KPFK emergency fund drive was to try to sign up monthly sustaining members (a la WBAI's BAI buddy program). KPFK appears to have had some success doing that, but sustainer money ($10-20/month) does not come in all at once, so KPFK will end up with less than a 1/3 of its "outstanding debt" resolved, which was the nominal cause of the emergency fund drive. The reason for the latest financial crisis in LA might stem from the information in this report from the second call center service hired (after Tea-Party-connected Comnet was sent packing). Telerep's report for the disappointing February fund drive shows them answering about 4,500 out of 5,800 calls during the drive. Both California stations continue to report severe membership dives, with KPFA dropping from 18,200 members in the summer of 2012 to 15,700 by the summer of 2014 (a loss of 15%) and KPFK dropping at a similar ratesover the past two years.
The mismatch was not only rhetorical. The CFO accidentally sent a financial statement to the finance committee on April 14th that had network services payments (transfers between divisons) double-counted. For FY 2013. The year that just got audited and supposedly has closed books. Both Salvador and auditor Armanino are still refusing board member requests for a list of accounts payables and accrued expenses after review indicated that expenses had been double-recorded in multiple fiscal years.
Salvador's CFO report indicated that he and the Pacifica National Office still could not log into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting online reporting system and six weeks after the completion of the 2013 audit was finally done, have still not submitted the numbers to CPB. Ironically, this means Pacifica has not reported the 2013 numbers by the deadline for the 2014 numbers, which passed on April 17th. The rogue board's audit follies have now led to the loss of $2.2 million dollars in funding (an amount that would pay all of Pacifica's non-Democracy-Now bills).
Pacifica has not signed a letter of engagement with an auditing firm for the fiscal year 2014, which ended over six months ago. It also appears doubtful Pacifica will meet the 6-30-2014 deadline for state filing of the 2014 audit, placing their nonprofit status in jeopardy with serial violations of the Nonprofit Integrity Act. Pacifica is currently under investigation by the CA Attorney General Charitable Trusts Division.
Requests for cash flow reports continue to be ignored, with the CFO writing to the finance committee that he would not produce cash flow reports because "a cash flow projection report is a management tool that should be prepared by the local station/unit management since they have the information on what they expect to receive and when they expect it. They also have knowledge of what expenses or costs have been actually committed and payable". This seems to impy that Pacifica's CFO does not have knowledge of the amount of money that can be expected to come in or what costs have been committed to.
At New York's WBAI, it has come to light the station still has no lease in place for its office in Brooklyn. The proposed lease came to the national board twice in December of 2013, but both times was postponed by LA board member Lydia Brazon. The Brooklyn lease was never brought back to the national board for the entire year and a half duration of the rogue board under Wilkinson. During that time, WBAI borrowed tens of thousands of dollars from its Brooklyn landlord, a loan that was paid back in 2014 and was not reported to CA's attorney general.
Last fall, Pacifica's board majority played fast and loose with FCC rules on 3rd party fundraising, soliciting on-air pledges for health organization Partners in Health for an Ebola clinic in West Africa. The fundraising effort, which was initiated at KPFK on the Sojourner Truth show and repeated in several LA time slots as well as NY's WBAI and DC's WPFW, raised about $70,000 for Partners in Health. Pledgers were motivated by promises that 50 cents of each dollar pledged to Pacifica stations would be sent to Africa to fight Ebola via Partners in Health. The fundraising effort was initiated without first obtaining a waiver from the FCC.
Now the NY Times has reported that Partners In Health's ebola effort was deeply troubled with international health officials describing "a pattern of safety lapses". The Port Loko clinic was closed after two clinicians came down with Ebola (one American and one Sierra Leonean) and 17 PIH staffers were medically evacuated. Medevac evacuations from the Ebola hot zone back to the US are estimated to cost $75,000 each. The Sierra Leone government quarantined 2.5 million people in Western Sierra Leone for three days March 27-29 in an emergency lockdown shortly after the PIH workers were evacuated. NY Times reporter Sherri Fink used the PIH infections and evacuations as an example of the treatment discrepancies for foreign and African medical workers throughout the Ebola epidemic.
At the time, many Pacifica listeners were befuddled by the radio network choosing to support the virgin Ebola relief efforts of a group that had never worked in Africa before, rather than supporting veteran field medics Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). The independent intiative from one programmer received limited, if any, vetting from management or the local and national boards, who were not informed prior to the decision to raise and then donate the Ebola funds.
Pacifica finally has a new executive director, after a year with none. The choice is former KUHF CEO John Proffitt, an NPR veteran who led the University of Houston's radio station for 26 years. Proffitt was not the first choice of the board's majority faction who did not support his candidacy and instead offered the job to labor writer Bill Fletcher Jr, who declined. When the board majority was told to offer the position to the 2nd most highly ranked candidate, Proffiitt in January, they balked and refused, instead insisting that the entire board redo its selection process, in hopes of securing majority support for another candidate. After a two month delay, they proved unable to do that and have reluctantly gone ahead and offered the job to Proffitt, who accepted.
Proffitt's first big decision will be the selection of a new permanent general manager for LA station KPFK, which has not had permanent management since January of 2014. A pool of five or six candidates selected by the Los Angeles local station board will be made available for him to interview shortly after he begins the job on May 11th.
This story is still developing, but Los Angeles' KPFK is dealing with a hate speech issue after the Latino community was up in arms over some of the station's evening Spanish language programs, which were accused of slandering rape and molestation victims and defending a guest who has been accused of sexual predation. The programs are in the process of being translated from Spanish for review. Board majority member Rodrigo Argueta, who the KPFK staff attempted to recall from the national boad in 2014 before being stopped by attorney Alan Yee, hosted one of the programs that caused the uproar. Here's a sampling of listener comments posted to the KPFK website:
I am extremely disappointed that Insurgencia Femenina (mind you a space for women) was used as a platform by Rodrigo Argueta to not only slander the names of long standing community organizers and at the same time minimize and berate a survivor of child molestation who called in to confirm she was molested by the man they spend two hours (Voces de Libertad/ & Insurgencia Femenina) defending. What kind of sensationalist unbiased slanderous programming is being allowed to be programmed at KPFK. We demand the immediate removal of Rodrigo Argueta from further programming. All this during Sexual Assault Awareness Month - what a damn shame. -joel
Shame on Voces de Libertad and Insurgencia Feminina for allowing Rodrigo and Cuco to spread their propaganda and rhetoric regarding a RAPE AND SEXUAL MOLESTATION VICTIM who called in last night! Shame on those two men for defending a known Sexual Predator and shame on them for re-victimizing the women who have came forward with these allegations. Patriarchy is alive and well! KPFK is an awesome amazing much needed service to our greater community. I would love to see Cuco and Rodrigo removed from your station, their words and tones are inexcusable.
The PNB will finally hold an in-person meeting, 16 months after the last one, in Los Angeles from June 12-15. No location has been disclosed.
The last national board meeting on April 9th was fairly uneventful, but had a few humorous intervals. Former Siegel and Yee lawyer Jose-Luis Fuentes apparently misplaced a board majority memo and nominated DC's Tony Norman as the new board chair (WIlkinson is stepping down as chair less than two months after running for re-election) instead of LA's Lydia Brazon, who he was apparently instructed to nominate (as is observable from the pregnant pause in this sound snippet).
When Wilkinson was confronted with a motion by KPFA UCR-affiliated listener rep Janet Kobren seeking to instruct her to make sure successor ED John Proffitt receives a complete set of transition documents, she had a bit of a fit, taking personal offense and pointing out that she is not being paid a salary. Kobren did not withdraw the motion, but the board majority voted it down, leaving Proffitt to make due with whatever he gets.
Finally, an attempt by the personnel committee to establish regular hiring policies across the five-station network, a fairly obvious need given the stratospheric toll of employment lawsuits, was foiled by what appeared to be an inter-board majority spat. KPFA programmer and PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert took umbrage with the motion shepherded by personnel committee chair and likely incoming chair Lydia Brazon. Edwards-Tiekert objected to hiring policies being standardized saying that should be left up to "staff" to decide. It should be noted that KPFA's current Indiegogo campaign, underway since April 2nd, has not yet raised as much money as the station recently paid out for the last EEOC claim caused by staff hiring mistakes.
KPFA's Community Advisory Board (CAB), a CPB-mandated advisory body created a big storm at KPFA's local station board meeting when they reported on a February 22nd community meeting they sponsored and UCR board member Andrea Prichett put forward a comprehensive motion to encourage more local community news coverage at the Berkeley station, which removed five hours of AM local coverage in May of 2014 and replaced it with a syndicated program from Los Angeles. The CAB's outreach effort reported requests for more local news and the restoration of a program council were the most consistent responses from listeners.
On a similiar note, KPFK's local station board was slated to discuss a similiar motion from their local governance committee, but since the meeting audio is not yet posted, the outcome of the discussion is unknown. Here is the motion: Motion from Governance (passed December 15, 2014, 3-1-1) "Whereas strip programming on KPFK occupies most of the drive time (peak) programming, the LSB and station management shall replace these strip programs with non-strip programs in order to open up the airwaves to many other voices and analyses. This shall be implemented within 60 days".
At KPFA, news reporter Ann Garrison wrote this article puzzling about the actual meaning of the oft-quoted mantra of "local control".
The Berkeley station, whose dependence on bequests from deceased donors already led it to the brink of a quarter million dollars in personnel cuts in January of 2015, was saved from disaster by mortality as two members of the legacy circle passed on in March of 2015, dropping about $900,000 on the station. While this sounds like an amazing windfall, the station may blow thrugh much of the money rather quickly as $100K was already gone when the bequests were announced on April 11th, the station has another $62K in past due bills to pay, a semi-monthly payroll of $75K at the end of the month, and looks to have to cover substantial shortfalls against budget in the next month as the station canceled a one-day on-air fundraiser slated to raise $50K on April 15th and has a monumental goal for its May fund drive of $733K. (The station's February fund drive raised $544K). The station was also recently quoted $70,000 to repair its elevator and has to do some structural work to fight mold from the creek that runs under the station's foundation and has agreed to loan Texas station KPFT $100,000 to replace its damaged transmitter.
Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at firstname.lastname@example.org.