Monday, June 1, 2015

Pacifica tremors...

Very little escapes the scrutiny of Tracy Rosenberg. Here is her informative June 1, 2015 release.

Berkeley-Controversy continues to rage at Pacifica's Los Angeles station KPFK-FM, after former board chair Margy Wilkinson appointed former board member and factional crony Leslie Radford as the new permanent general manager at Pacifica's LA station KPFK, one day before vacating her position as interim executive director. Incoming ED John Proffitt was driving across the country to begin his tenure on May 11th when the hire was made. The maneuver has thrown Pacifica into chaos and deeply depressed fund drive revenues at KPFK. As recently as 2013, KPFK was the network's most successful fundraiser. 

57 of the network's staff (all but one of the paid workers) signed a letter objecting to the hire and demanded a meeting with the station's local board to discuss the situation. Their request was denied, with unelected board secretary John Garry (Garry is not a member of the board but was appointed as an ex-aficio secretary after none of the board's 24 elected members volunteered to fill the position) using his title as an "officer of the board" to formally deny the meeting.  An informal meeting was held on May 27th in response to Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar's demand. Six local board members (out of 24) attended voluntarily, only one of them from the majority faction.

The meeting focused on Radford's objective qualifications for the job, having worked for the past 15 years as adjunct faculty at LA-area community colleges teaching public speaking and Intro to Communications classes, mostly in theater and performing arts departments. Radford has an MFA in Drama. Prior work experience includes stints as an administrative coordinator at a small community theater association and a health insurance firm.  The requirements listed for the job included 3-5 years of management experience in radio or related media, a requirement that objectively Radford does not meet. A report was issued by the local search committee and confirms the committee altered the criteria to eliminate the media management requirement. "Criteria included ability to work collaboratively with a large and diverse paid and unpaid staff and group of volunteers, and with governance; experience with management, finances, budgeting, and development (fund-raising); community engagement and knowledge; communication and leadership skills, etc.

Dueling open letters were sent, including one from KPFK news reporter Dan Fritz, objecting to the shoddy treatment of African-American interim GM Zuberi Fields, a letter signed by most of the staffers opposing the last-minute hire, and an unsigned letter supporting the hire posted by local board member and GM search committee chair Michael Novick said to be from unnamed "Spanish-language programmers and programmers of color". The Novick letter doesn't speak directly to the hire and instead labels those questioning the hire as "xenophobes and bigots", somewhat disregarding the many programmers and workers of color who signed the letter opposing Radford's hire.  The Novick letter pays tribute to  former KPFK manager Eva Georgia who resigned after lawsuits alleging same-sex sexual harassment and abusive behavior were filed by three different women (Mollie Paige, Esther Manila, and Shari Epstein), and then corporate-counsel Dan Siegel was reprimanded by Chartis insurance for conflict of interest after serving as both Pacifica's attorney and Georgia's personal lawyer simultaneously. Georgia resigned after she was found to have charged KPFK for limousine rides to work.

Former national board vice-chair Bill Crosier, who served with Radford on the national board in 2010, commented "One problem with your reasoning. You are assuming qualifications are a requirement (or at least desirable) for the position. But is that the Pacifica way?  Rhetoric, support of PNB members' Pacifica political positions, and one's position on social issues are usually what matters.  Qualifications can get in the way of things like that.  Does she have management and leadership experience and abilities, including the ability to get and keep trust and support from staff to motivate them to do what needs to be done even with big challenges ahead?  It appears that Leslie has lost almost all of that kind of support from her prior dealings with KPFK and on their LSB, even before day 1 of her job". 

Radford's first memo to the station's staff, declared the current fund drive which has been extended after barely reaching 1/2 of the budgeted goal, a "no goal drive". Radford's memo is probably a tacit admission that her hire has had a negative impact on KPFK's fundraising, which had recently picked up after interim GM Zuberi Fields, who was passed over for the job, appealed to listeners to help bail the station out in April.  Rumors are flying that the station is preparing for 50% staffing cuts, which if true, would constitute an $850,000 reduction, larger numerically than the 2013 WBAI staff reductions. Such devastating cuts would be a disemboweling of the unit with the highest listener support numbers in the network as of September 30, 2013 - in less than 18 months under the board majority.

Radford's return to KPFK after leaving the local station board in 2011, has led to the return of some of her factional cronies, including former board member Ian Johnston, who was banned from the station's premises for assault in 2009. This still shot from KPFK's security camera in 2009 shows Johnston grabbing by the arm African-American IT director Jonathan Alexander, a SAG-AFTRA member, in KPFK's lobby in 2009. A few weeks later, Johnston came to a KPFK local station board meeting brandishing heavy metal handcuffs and trying to perform "arrests" on those whose disagreed with him. Police were called and he was banned for life from KPFK's premises and affiliated off-site events. Alexander has stated that Johnston's return to station premises endangers his physical safety at work. The Siegel-Brazon majority faction heavily endorsed a banning of KPFA programmer JR Valrey in 2013 for a Facebook post declaring an intention to picket a KPFA fundraising event with signs, but has been silent on Johnston's physical assault and threats and unwilling to enforce the 2009 ban.

Radford's first morning of work on June 1st is reported not to have gone smoothly, with a novice programmer breaking FCC on-air obscenity rules in the 5am to 6pm hour, an awkward interruption of the 8:00am program Uprising, and fund drive receipts of less than $250 total reported three and a half hours after the fund drive opened for pledges at 6:00am.

In other news, Berkeley station KPFA continues to suffer negative blowback from the May 6th censorship of Guns and Butter, a popular public affairs program. The ham-handed censorship, which is unusual at the free speech network, which has no record of program directors vetoing particular guests, provoked over 200 negative reviews and over 400 comments on the station's Facebook page. The comments have since been deleted by KPFA management.  The program's proposed subject of discussion, California's mandatory childhood vaccination bill, is controversial, but KPFA insists their censorship action has nothing to do with the vaccination issue itself, but was directed at WBAI host Gary Null, whose documentary on the vaccine controversy Silent Epidemic, interviews doctors with concerns about the current regimen of childhood vaccines and parents of children who may have suffered adverse effects.

KPFA's justification for the censorship meandered into the guest's views on things other than the subject matter of mandatory childhood vaccinations, and made some questionable claims regarding the network's use of paid premium gifts for donors. The claims were wrong enough to provoke a letter from Essential Publishing and Seven Stories Press rebutting program director Laura Prives' claims and caused national board member Steve Brown to suggest that Pacifica should formally retract the statement.

In discussing the matter on-line on the Facebook platform, several Save KPFA-affiliated local station board members showed a disturbing lack of knowledge about public media fundraising. Board member Mark Hernandez publicly advocated for DVD duplications of copyrighted work.

It costs $2 to make a copy of a DVD and that much if you do it wholesale with a case and printing on it.

And factional cohort Kate Gowen made the claim that filmmakers and authors donate their work for free to Pacifica to use as premiums, a comment proved largely untrue by the $115,000 in premium purchase costs accrued by the Berkeley station in the first six months of the current fiscal year

Plenty of authors featured during pledge drive donate copies of their books to support the station.

The next in-person meeting, the first in 15 months, is set for June 12-15 in Los Angeles, with the board meeting at the Aris and Carolyn Anangos Center, the building board chair Lydia Brazon manages for her employer, Aris Anagnos, who is a six-figure Pacifica creditor.  Pacifica has not yet announced the in-person meeting dates and location on

CFO Raul Salvador gave less than two weeks notice on May 6th, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. Salvador's tenure was marked by workplace complaints, a year-long delay in independent audits that cost Pacifica millions in public media funding, and an investigation launched by the California Registry of Charitable Trusts in December of 2014.  New ED John Proffitt announced at the last finance committee meeting that he will have to pay Salvador to "answer questions via telephone" and would be executing such an agreement. It was not disclosed how much Pacifica's members will be paying for Salvador's telephone availability.

Pacifica has not started the independent audit for the year ending 9-30-2014, ensuring that it will miss both Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding eligibility and the California State Integrity Act deadline of June 30, 2015 - 9 months after the end of the fiscal year.

Only 31 days ago, Pacifica's board executed a McCarthy-style purge when it threw LA listener rep Kim Kaufman off the board for financial whistleblowing. Kaufman, who sent a package of supplementary documents to California's Attorney General after noting several omissions in Pacifica's response to the initial document request, stated she engaged in an act of whistleblowing.

Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at

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  1. They have better drama in California than we do at WBAI. I'm jealous...


    1. Don't worry, the storm is on the horizon, it's imminence can be heard in Haskin's increasingly hysterical outbursts.

    2. I think Deep Purples' Stormbringer would be the perfect soundtrack...

      Comin' out of nowhere
      Drivin' like rain
      Stormbringer dance
      On the thunder again
      Dark cloud gathering
      Breaking the day
      No point running
      'Cause it's coming your way


    3. I can almost hear Mimi sing this one... with greatly extended lyrics, of course!

  2. I'm gonna make a donation now , here is my 2 cents . THIS SUCKS !

  3. Mimi Rosenberg channelling her inner Margaret Prescot now.

  4. WBAI uses a call center that charges by the minute, right? The call center wants to keep people on the phone as long as possible to make the most money possible per call, right? What's the lowest donation they accept?


    1. Yes, as far as I understand, with a minimum per call. It's one of the many hidden costs that make the published totals useless. We also don't know how much the station is paying for the merchandise, how big a cut it gets from offered "services," or what kind of deal they have when they dangle Apple products to recruit "buddies." Bear in mind that people are also charged an unspecified amount for shipping and handling, which was an add-on Kathy came up with a couple of years back. The whole thing is a scam—Reimers apparently makes up figures that will give the impression of success when that is never the case. These books are double cooked, because yet another set of figures comes from the PNB. Oh, and then there's the Mitchel Cohen count.

      I should also remind skeptics that the winner of this drive's great iWatch Sports giveaway was to be announced today, June 1 - was it? The winner was to be given a choice of size and color, but the host of "On the Count" told listeners couple of weeks ago that he was looking at the many watches, giving the impression that they were on a table before him. Hmmmm Many years ago, I produced a daily audience variety show for CBS in Philly. We gave away prizes that ranged from a bottle of perfume to New Year's Eve in Paris, and I ordered every item from a New York-based prize agency for 50% of the actual prize. What I am saying is that there was method in the madness, it wasn't about running to the store and purchasing the prize. Remember when Reimers told Katz that he didn't have the promised iPad, because there wasn't enough money to buy it? These people haven't a clue, which is why they soon won't have a radio station.

      Getting back to the current fund drive, this time around, they aren't even bothering with made-up tallies—the poor, gullible listeners who submit their credit card number have become victims rather than contributors.

      I hope the rumors of all this being looked into by Albany and D.C. are true. It's high time for a perp walk.

  5. I am so sick of the Iggy Pop ID. Like WBAI ever plays Iggy, let alone The Stooges. The Jane Fonda one is just really annoying. Can't they get someone to go to some movie premier or something and get some new IDs? You'd think they'd have a Michael Moore one, at least...

    Oh, listen... They're doing the Timothy Leary School of Broadcasting style again - Tune in, turn on and lots of drop outs...


    1. They like to use dead black people, like Heron and Solomon Burke. I bet if they heard the station today, some of the old promo spot people would demand to be removed.

  6. Tom Seaver had a better station ID than any of the current ones on WBAI. He also made better pitches.

    1. Great! Not even Null or the Blos are knocking it out of the park

  7. So that's it. LSR radio is in deep trouble from coast to coast, very little sense of community in-house, cronyism, unresponsive attitude and unprofessional activity , and this facebook resource is full of droll rock quotes. So much opportunity for digital communication but we don't reach out for it. Take back your radio.