An unvarnished blog that dips into the past and comments
on the present of WBAI-FM, a once significant, intelligent New York
radio station that for years has suffered chronic abuse from within and now
nears extinction. Your comments are welcomed and will not be censored.
UPDATE ADDED JULY 31, 2015 For Immediate Release July 30, 2015
KPFA Secession Documents
Berkeley - The KPFA Foundation, a new California not for profit organization, was incorporated in the State of California on September 24, 2013 under Entity # C3606802. The Articles of Incorporation, which can be seen here, steal the entire 1946 Pacifica Foundation mission statement and quote it as the mission of the new not for profit organization. The name of the person incorporating the new nonprofit is Margy Wilkinson, who signs the Articles of Incorporation. The corporate headquarters of the KPFA Foundation is the Siegel and Yee law firm at 499 14th Street in Oakland, California. The agent for service of process is attorney Dan Siegel. The Articles of Incorporation for the KPFA Foundation do not vest any other parties besides Wilkinson and Siegel.
The articles for the KPFA Foundation were secured from the California Secretary of State's office by Pacifica National Board secretary Janet Kobren, affiliated with the United for Community Radio group, which has generally opposed the actions of the current board majority, which many suspected were working towards the dissolution of the foundation and the acquisition of its radio licenses. Siegel, in a conversation with the then-executive director in November of 2013, shortly after the KPFA Foundation was incorporated, referred to the term "organizational darwinism" to express his belief that all five stations and the historic audio archive should not remain owned by the Pacifica Foundation.
In the 18 months since the Save KPFA/Justice and Unity Caucus/Grassroots KPFK coalition took over control of the national board, financial chaos has ensued with missing audits, severe financial record-keeping issues, Corporation for Public Broadcasting ineligibility, and an investigation by the California Registry of Charitable Trusts. Recently KPFK-FM, saddled with a former community college instructor as a general manager by Wilkinson, has descended into virtual insolvency, with the nation's biggest radio transmitter west of the Mississippi River barely able to raise $100,000 in a solid week of 24/7 on-air fundraising, joining New York's WBAI on the list of failing units despite being the network's biggest earner for most of the previous 5 years.
KPFA's secession, as planned by Wilkinson and Siegel, would likely leave the foundation insolvent and probably forced to sell the remaining radio licenses and buildings to pay off outstanding debts, many acquired by the actions of Siegel as corporate counsel and two-time executive director, including the 2007 Democracy Now contract, which is responsible for $2 million+ of Pacifica's debt load.
Members of the current board majority appear to be unaware of the incorporation of the KPFA Foundation by Wilkinson and Siegel to privately secure KPFA's radio license and real estate assets upon the dissolution of the Pacifica Foundation. Several of them have loudly protested their opposition to network breakup and scoffed at rumors that such an effort was underway, among them WPFW's Tony Norman, Benito Diaz and Pete Tucker, WBAI's Cerene Roberts, Houston's Adriana Casenave, Los Angeles' Lydia Brazon, Brenda Medina and Rodrigo Argueta and KPFA's Jose Luis Fuentes. Several of these (Norman, Diaz, Roberts, Casenave, Brazon, Fuentes and Argueta) enthusiastically retained attorney Siegel to represent the Pacifica Foundation in the PDGG vs Pacifica lawsuit (which asserted that network breakup was in the offing at the hands of the board majority) and again in the Registry of Charitable Trusts investigation. Siegel is also said to be acting on behalf of Pacifica in discussions of proposed staffing reductions at KPFK-FM with the SAG-AFTRA bargaining unit.
Wilkinson, whose three year elected term ended in December of 2013, wrested the chairmanship of the Pacifica board of directors after a tie vote and then dispatched the executive director a month later and inserted herself instead, a position she held with brief interruption until May of 2015. Attorney Dan Siegel left the Pacifica Foundation board in January 2014 to pursue a campaign for mayor of the City of Oakland, replacing himself with an associate attorney at his law firm (his employee) Jose Luis Fuentes, and taking on the role of de facto corporate counsel for the Pacifica Foundation, representing the foundation whose assets he intends to relocate in front of the California Attorney General. Siegel and Yee, according to financial documents released at the Pacifica National Board meeting in June of 2015, is collecting thousands of dollars every month from charitable contributions to the Pacifica Foundation.
On September 24, 2013, Dan Siegel and Margy Wilkinson were members of the Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors, with legal duties of care, loyalty, and disclosure to the 501(c)3 organization, the Pacifica Foundation, on whose board they served as elected representatives of Pacifica's listener-sponsors.
Duty of Loyalty is a term used in corporation law to describe a fiduciaries' conflicts of interest and requires fiduciaries to put the corporation's interests ahead of their own. Corporate fiduciaries breach their duty of loyalty when they divert corporate assets, opportunities, or information.
Duty of Care is a term used in corporate law to describe the requirement that members of the board of directors must act in good faith for the company's best interest. They must believe that their actions promote the best interests of the company based on a reasonable investigation of the options available.
Many corporate law experts also recognize a Duty of Disclosure, described by Professor Bernard Black at Stanford Law School as: the third core fiduciary duty of directors, which has emerged in American law over about the last 15 years, and has been required for public companies for a long time, is to provide reasonably complete disclosure in two cases: when shareholders are asked to vote, and when the company completes a conflict-of-interest transaction. UPDATE
July 31 2015
For Immediate Release
“KPFA Foundation” Headquarters Relocated to 1925 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley-On July 31, 2015, a revised Statement of Information was filed with the California Secretary of State moving the corporate headquarters of the “KPFA Foundation” (entity #C3803602) from the law offices of Siegel and Yee at 499 14th Street in Oakland, California to the Pacifica Foundation at 1925 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley, California.
Last night, there was another phone-based meeting of the Pacifica National Board's Finance Committee. John Proffitt has returned from his New York visit and you may note that the relative optimism he expressed when surrounded by some of the stick-to-the-wall program producers has more of a panic feel when he addresses the PNB.
The transmitter situation seems to be of greatest concern; he describes the debt owed to the Empire State Building as "staggering" and mentions that the arrears cited by the ESB is "significantly higher" than the figures given by Berthold Reimers (no surprise there). We have for many months been fed lies by Reimers crony, Mitchel Cohen and ignorant minions like Haskins, giving the impression that—while the situation could be better—there is reason for optimism. That, of course, is unadulterated bull. You may have seen the following in Tracy Rosenberg's latest Pacifica in Exile newsletter:
"...the NY station continues to run its antenna from the Empire State Building, paying $14,000 a month and collecting $35,000+ as a debt-to-be-paid-later each month. WBAI's 15 year antenna lease at the Empire State Building runs through 2020."
If I read that correctly, the rent has not been lowered, as was implied, it has just been switched to something you will hear John Proffitt refer to as "the partial payment plan." Add to that the fact that the lease for the Atlantic Avenue premises is still being "negotiated." The amazing fact is that Berthold Reimers still has his $100,000.00 a year job!
Apropos the most incompetent manager in WBAI's history (and they have had some dooseys), he has apparently appointed Jeannie Hopper (whose bland "Liquid Sound Lounge" show is embarrassing) to the PD position. The LSB is allegedly looking for a person for that job, so expect further confusion. At this point, we have no idea of the number of paid employees Reimers has put in place, nor have we heard any official word on the recent fundraising tallies. Apparently, however, the income is way, way below the desired/needed total. Tracy Rosenberg's new Pacifica slogan comes to mind: "Speaking half-truth to power". That is too generous, I think.
As if all this weren't sufficiently farcical, it might interest you to hear that Mr. Proffitt, in whose hands the fate of Pacifica seems to rest, will be going on a European vacation in August!
Anyway, listen to the WBAI portion of last night's meeting. It starts with R. Paul Martin, who—as usual, and rightly—complains over being kept in the dark by Berthold Reimers. And here, in case you wish to listen to this three-ring circus in its entirety (1 hr. 10 mins) is a link to the entire meeting.
For generations, WBAI has been in the hands of self-serving opportunists who couldn't see beyond the mirrors they held up before them. Inevitably, the outbreak of egola spread to the Pacifica board and if you are still wondering why Lew Hill's distant dream of intelligent radio had a short life, you should listen to audio of the board meetings and read the words of chronicler Tracy Rosenberg. Here, dated July 26, 2015, is her latest:
Berkeley - Despite receiving over $9.3 million dollars in charitable contributions between October 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015, Pacifica Radio has indicated that it is unable to pay a $55,000 outstanding bill to auditor Armanino LLC in order to meet legal requirements to continue operating as a licensed not for profit organization in the State of California. California's Nonprofit Integrity Act requires all California charitable corporations with gross revenues of $2 million or more to prepare annual ﬁnancial statements audited by an independent certiﬁed public accountant (CPA). The audited ﬁnancial statements must be made available for inspection by the Attorney General and the public no later than nine months after the close of the ﬁscal year covered by the ﬁnancial statement. Pacifica's deadline was June 30, 2015. The radio network is in the middle of an investigation launched in December of 2014 by the Registry of Charitable Trusts at the California Attorney General's office.
Executive director John Proffitt said he is unable to requisition any of the network's funds to pay the bill, although financial statements issued by the national office and presented by PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert at the national board's June 2015 meeting, indicated $2.013 million dollars in the network's 22 different bank accounts and $1.382 million in unrestricted funds. The accuracy of those financial statements, however, may be uncertain, as bank reconciliations just prepared at LA station KPFK a year after the fact, revealed over $171,000 in financial transactions not recorded in that one station's general ledger between March and October of 2014 alone. Proffitt says he has "asked" Berkeley station KPFA to pay the bill from the proceeds of $941,000 in estate bequests received in March of 2015, following up on a Pacifica National Board motion instructing him to do so, but despite the passage of the motion on July 9, 2015, no action has occurred.
Failure to comply with California's charitable requirements can lead to the loss of not for profit status across the country and the loss of FM non-commercial licenses which per federal law can only be licensed to not for profits.
The seeming inability of Pacifica's executive director to utilize the 501(c)3's income stream to maintain charitable compliance and the inability of the network's trustees (the national board of directors) to control network assets sufficiently to maintain legal operations as a California not for profit organization, indicate a serious operational breakdown in the 15 months since the Pacifica National Board engaged in a "coup" in early 2014, abruptly terminating executive management and introducing a year of chaos under volunteer management. Fiduciary responsibility is lodged in the network's 22-person board of directors.
Berkeley's KPFA indicates it has only $400,000 remaining in its operating account as of early July - 3 and 1/2 months after the receipt of almost $1 million dollars - and is planning to use up the rest in sustaining local operations over the summer by canceling the summer fund drive and spending down its remaining cash in July and August. The station spent tens of thousands of dollars on new carpets and elevator repairs in the spring.
The network's financial chaos has manifested most acutely at Los Angeles' KPFK-FM, which has suffered a dizzying drop in the past 16 months from the network's most financially successful unit to the brink of complete insolvency. Four days into its summer fund drive, KPFK is already $52,000 behind budgeted goals. Recently installed general manager Leslie Radford stated in a report to the local board the budgeted goal of $750,000 was "a realistic estimate of what is needed to fund the station through September".
The station's fund drive has been troubled after the layoff of the station's volunteer coordinator led to virtually empty fund drive rooms, missed pledge calls and station staff struggling to answer pledge calls after fund drive volunteer coordinator Teddy Clinkscales was "demoted" out of the job. The 2014 usage of tea party call center Comnet discouraged many long-time fund drive room volunteers and exhausted the station's financial resources with over $50,000 in bills during the previous year.
The LA station's credit card, tagged with a few thousand in retail purchases days before CFO Raul Salvador's resignation in May, continues to confuse with a mysterious March 29th, 2015 charge for a $600 hotel stay in Washington DC, a week before the LA station launched into an emergency fund drive in early April to avoid having to shut down.
New manager Radford, a former board member installed by volunteer ED Margy Wilkinson over strong protests by all but one of the station's staffers and without sufficient resume qualifications for the job, has suggested she may sell the station's historic 1915 Mason Hamlin grand piano to "make the payroll". In her first month, Radford has largely concentrated on installing activist friends at the station, giving away slots of airtime and inserting a new volunteer community affairs coordinator, whose activities have included providing security for the Pacifica National Board's June 2015 visit at a cost of $900, and playing obscenity-laced music in the early hours of the morning.
Today is the last day for Pacifica members to file applications to run for local board seats at their stations. Application packages can be accessed at elections.pacifica.org. The elections will replace the 50% of Pacifica's governance that has been squatting in their seats for a year and a half after their elected terms ended in December 2013, including the former IED and nominal former chair of the board Margy Wilkinson, who inserted herself into both positions in 2014 after her three-year elected term had ended. Pacifica formally postponed elections in 2013 due to financial stress and in 2014, a rogue board of directors simply failed to hold an election at all.
Texas station KPFT-FM has been saddled with a lightning-damaged and outdated transmitter since 2012. Finally, a new solid state transmitter has been ordered, with a loan from KPFA for about 3/5 of the $160,000 price tag. But the station, whose fund drives have been consistently 20% off-goal, possibly due to the constriction of its signal range caused by failing transmitter equipment, didn't factor in the $18,000 freight bill, so this Indiegogo campaign was launched to fill the gap.
In New York, WBAI-FM is continuing occupancy at 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn for the third consecutive year without a lease. The lease, which has been on the table since at least December of 2013, has gone unsigned by three consecutive national boards and 4 consecutive executive directors. The unfinished space is currently housing a makeshift non-soundproof broadcast studio and the NY station continues to run its antenna from the Empire State Building, paying $14,000 a month and collecting $35,000+ as a debt-to-be-paid-later each month. WBAI's 15 year antenna lease at the Empire State Building runs through 2020.
KPFA's vaccine controversy extended beyond the initial censorship of Bonnie Faulkner's Guns and Butter interview with WBAI/ Progressive Radio Network host Gary Null to enmesh several other shows on KPFA's schedule including The Asian-Pacific Express (APEX) and The Project Censored Show. When both programs dipped their toes into California's SB-77 issue, they too found themselves experiencing station restrictions, namely the deletion of social media promotions (Facebook posts on KPFA's Facebook page) of the programs. An Upfront broadcast at the same time that took a more positive view of the mandatory vaccine legislation (which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown) did not have its social media promotions similarly removed. Programmers convened meetings with the station's program director Laura Prives to discuss what social media guidelines are in effect and current interpretations of 501(c) 3 restrictions, very different issues than those Prives raised to justify the Guns and Butter decision made earlier.
With election season upon us, Pacifica in Exile readers can expect a full helping of campaign slogans, flyers and postcards from the various candidate slates in their signal area. Pacifica in Exile will be collecting real and satirical campaign slogans and providing a gallery of them, to help the network grapple with the structural changes that most observers suggest lie ahead for the troubled governance system. Please send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org: either real or spoofs and this publication will feature the funniest ones in future editions.
Today's submission:"Speaking Half-Truths To Power".
I was going through some old papers yesterday when I came across the following 1964 memo to Pacifica's Board of Directors from the Foundation's President, Hallock Hoffman.
It gives us an interesting idea of the WBAI situation is it was in the early days, when its Manager was Joseph Binns. I was working at the station then, having graduated from volunteer to announcer, as we then called the board operator in Master Control. I had not yet met Lou Schweitzer, but I would have understood his concern had I seen this memo.
WBAI was a wonderful station that in many ways reminded me of the government-run networks I grew up with in Europe. It was however, a bit on the strained high-brow side, which was more a reflection of Joe Binns' taste than of Pacifica's mission. Still, 99.5 was an extraordinary place to stop in for intellectual nourishment and sophisticated humor.
Not long after this memo was written, the paid staff (with one exception, Baird Searles) got together and submitted individual letters of resignation to Hallock. We had all agreed that better management could have avoided the dire financial situation that kept the station precariously balanced on the edge of existence, so we made our decision to stay or go contingent upon a change at the top.
What followed is a long story, so suffice it to say that I unexpectedly found myself replacing Joe Binns and revising our program schedule. I had no idea that the man who gave WBAI to Pacifica now recommended that it be sold, but it explains why Hallock suggested that Lou and I get to know each other. We had lunch and whatever it was I said made Lou rethink his recommendation. He took a renewed interest in the station and I don't think I exaggerate when I say that we struck up a close friendship.
You might find the memo interesting, not just for what it tells us about Lou's thoughts on selling the station, but also for Hallock's opposing arguments.
Linda Perry and others were present, microphones in hand, last Wednesday, when Berthold Reimers—his tongue undoubtedly dry from licking his problems—brought John Proffitt to 388 Atlantic Avenue for an introductory meeting with a select group of the station's ingrown. An edited recording of clips from meeting was quickly prepared to serve as propaganda puffery in the Reimers vein.
You may have heard WBAI's extracts here and read some of the comments they generated, but I thought you should read an anonymous summary and assessment that was posted to the BlueBoard late last night. Responding to Indigopirate's likeminded comments, the writer captures the reality of WBAI's situation and the transparency of Proffitt's performance too well for me not to reproduce his words here. He has even added an extra presence to the official WBAI photo.
The brief interview with John Proffitt does not inspire hope or confidence.
In fact, it sounds like the same old tired and overplayed bullshit.
Proffitt’s observation that Pacifica is having “financial difficulties” that “need to be dealt with first and foremost” is like a doctor being summoned to attend a corpse that is several days deceased and who, upon his arrival, remarks that something must be done about the smell right away. And describing WBAI as an “incredible radio station” makes Mr. Proffitt sound like a dishonest, ignorant and naïve fool in denial with really bad judgment, unless he actually means that WBAI is incredibly bad, as well as boring, deceitful, irrelevant, outdated, bigoted, stupid and pointless.
Perhaps some attention should be given to the cause(s) rather than just the more superficial symptoms. In particular, why Pacifica is having “financial difficulties”… but I do realize that using reason and critical thinking is highly suspect and frowned upon within Pacifica’s ever-narrowing purview, so I am simply going to indulge for the sake of the rhetorical exercise, with the assumption that Effendi Proffitt is doubtlessly frequently surrounded and distracted by babbling imbeciles competing for his attention in order to complain about how much their asses hurt and how very important and indispensable those butthurt asses are, and that nothing I say here will really make any difference.
WBAI (as well as all the other Pacifica stations) is a listener sponsored radio station. That means (at least, in principle) that the station does not depend on commercial advertisers for its revenue (although the incessant, unending plethora of bogus infomercials that the station now relies on so heavily seems to contradict that utopian idea, as well as making the fervid and entrenched opposition to underwriting appear that much more contradictory, ironic and asinine). Still, the concept of listener sponsorship does imply that a non-commercial station directly relies on its listeners for income, and if there are fewer and fewer listeners, income will necessarily decline as a consequence (big surprise, there). So, the question then becomes: Why are there so few listeners willing to support the station? Well, perhaps people don’t like the call letters, or maybe they don’t like the frequency, or perhaps it is the fact that WBAI is found in the middle of the FM dial in one of the largest media venues in the world… And if those explanations seem implausible (if not outright ridiculous), then the possibility might be considered that the fundamental reason there are fewer and fewer listeners (and thus, less incoming revenue) to the station is maybe - just maybe - because…
THE PROGRAMMING SUCKS.
Incidentally, that just might be a consequence (at least, in part) of many, many years of abysmally bad management (hint, hint). That Proffitt has not seen fit to remove the current “General Manager” (whose only activity and interest in the station seems to be managing to keep on receiving his 100k per annum salary, while demonstrating utter dishonesty and sheer ineptitude, not even being able to produce timely financial reports using amateur accounting software, seemingly preferring to remain in hiding and incommunicado) suggests that nothing has changed and that nothing will change until it all inevitably comes to an overdue and predictable end.
Personally, whether or not this particular ED is capable (or even willing) to recognize and acknowledge reality is of no importance to me, since I no longer listen to the station. Why bother? There are so many better, more interesting, progressive, forward-looking, helpful and relevant alternatives. My interest in the station, at this point, is simply to see how much longer it will take for it to go down the drain once and for all (as well as for laughs and a certain fascination with the floridly abnormal psychology the contestants display). It is a real shame… WBAI was once the most remarkable radio station I had ever heard, and I dearly loved and valued and supported it. But no more… time and tide are relentless, and rust never sleeps.
In all fairness, however, it should be said that Jack’s acknowledgment of money problems is notable for its candor, since there have been so many denying reality for so long within Pacifica. So, while the good sense of anyone willing to become involved with all this nonsense at this point is highly questionable and suspect in the first place, such an admission does constitute a step forward (albeit on increasingly thin ice). It remains to be seen just how much the new Executive Director can actually accomplish (or even simply attempt) before any number of comrades thrust sharp, pointy objects into the region of his solar plexus while solemnly and unctuously declaiming, “For the Watch!”
This is probably an exercise in futility at this point, but let us assume that Mr. Proffitt's unfortunate remarks are lines from a tactical script. What do you think he needs to do as he sets out to clean up and restore a station and, indeed, Foundation victimized by a history of vandalism at the hands of incompetent, self-serving amateurs and armchair political activists? Add your voice to the exchange:
I really think the problem in a conversation like this is how people lose sight of the real problem and start breaking it down to a black radical programming issue alone. No, the main problem is monotonous, myopic programming that beats endlessly about the same few topics, without any range of opinions.
I am all in favor of a couple of hours a week of black radical reparations, etc. programming in the mix, as an example of a ideology that exists out there. I am NOT in favor of taking up at least half the air time with it, however.
Another main problem is that WBAI is riddled with disreputable and corrupt people from top to bottom, who are only out to sell products/services and/or gain political credence and/or masturbate their egos, like the self-esteemed Ron Daniels.
The truth is very few people want to hear what WBAI has to offer, which is born out by how the beg-a-thons are bringing in less and less money. Considering how products are needed to raise money rather than just the programming, the story is clearly written for all to read. WBAI exists because it sells items some people want, not because of its programming.
WBAI is a hobby station, at best, allowing nobodies to air their nonsense in front of a tiny audience that can’t sustain the station financially. WBAI is the bottom level of radio broadcasting, even below college radio or lease time stations. It is simply irrelevant in any way, whether politically, culturally or in the media.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. WBAI’s main audience of supporters is made up of people in their 60s, often ill and incapable of leaving home. It is their accompaniment in a lonely life, devoid of even internet access. WBAI’s end will come as these people die off and are not replaced.
No matter what else happens, time is against them. —SDL ___________________________________________________
This is a very good comment. I would add a few things:
- The problem isn't just the subject matter that is covered on WBAI. It is how these subjects are covered and what the programming offers the audience. Virtually every program on WBAI is the same thing: a host spewing opinion on subjects about which he or she knows very little. You get little in the way of new information on any topic. You rarely get exposed to the latest thoughts or analysis from the leaders in whatever subject is being covered. Researching, organizing and presenting new information and conducting substantive interviews - all entail work. Time and effort. It is much easier to simply let the same people who have been around for 30 years squat in front of a mic and spew. The hosts have no special expertise in the subjects on which they opine, and they do no preparation for their programs. So it has about the same value to the listener as comments on Youtube. A few programs like DN do break from this pattern, but they are few in number. And even DN's value is diminished because it's reporting is so one-sided that you can't totally trust what you are being told.
- Since the fund drives are now about 50% of the airtime and since they all involve what is effectively the sale of products, how is this any different than commercial advertising? Presumably, the concern with advertising is that if WBAI accepts ad revenue from Corporation X, the station's crack investigative reporters won't be able to do any hard-hitting investigative stories on Corporation X. Of course, WBAI has no such team and does no such reporting. But even if it did, why is the concern any different with respect to the companies that produce the premiums? In fact, WBAI could have easily allowed advertising in a way that minimized the risk to journalistic integrity. Accept ads from local small businesses, cap the number of ads from any single business, cap overall station revenue from advertising, put in place an independent review board to be activated in case of any potential journalistic conflict, etc. There were lots of options which could have reduced the risk to near-zero. But all of that requires thought and planning and work. The trifecta of evil at WBAI. Well, it's too late now. Even if they reversed course and solicited advertising, what business would take them up on it? —Anonymous
These days, if they have heard of it at all, very few people give any thought to WBAI, but, in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, it came as close to being a cultural salon as any extrasolar gathering could. In a broadcast communications wasteland where Madison Avenue and D.C. lobbyists called the shots, WBAI and its two West Coast sister stations offered an intelligent, unfettered alternative, an outlet for vision, substance, and a focused backward glance. This concept was new to America's fast-growing electronic media and it could only be realized with independent support: listener sponsorship.
It was an extraordinary experiment that got off to a slow start, but worked as it began to attract some of the 20th century's most creative and visionary individuals. Pacifica stations were oases where the accomplished and aspiring sought intellectual sustenance.
Sad to say, the stations also eventually began to attract people of less noble needs—opportunists who saw in Pacifica's open microphones a chance to pursue personal interests. The metamorphosis was slow and almost seamless, but it spread beyond on-air narcissists and exploiters to local management and, indeed, the National Board itself. You will get an idea of how far the abuse went when you read the observations by "Indigopirate" that follow this piece.
If you are reading this, you probably have some familiarity with today's Pacifica and, perhaps specifically, WBAI, a station to which I came as a volunteer in 1961 and left as General Manager in 1967. It is a very different station today—not only in terms of reflecting a changed culture, which was to be expected, but, regrettably, in terms of intellectual level, broadcast quality and attitude—all of which have been lowered. A few producers are still in place, but their programs have become aberrations.
For the past five years, WBAI's General Manager has been Berthold Reimers, a man who has shown neither intelligent judgement nor devotion to duty. In fact, he has barely shown himself during all this time, a period in which the station's financial and intellectual status has maintained a steady decline. This has not gone unnoticed by the listenership, which today is at an all-time low. WBAI's programming is stagnant, locked into a racist black ghetto mentality groove of limited appeal that no longer is a viable source of revenue. The solution, as management sees it, lies not in improved programming and a return to broader focus, but in extended, often fraud-based fundraising that has taken on the form of hour-long infomercials of which a handful is repeated ad nauseum.
To some of us, whose only vested interest in Pacifica is to see it and its stations restored to their former significance—the recent hiring of John Proffitt as Executive Director brought hope.
Here was a man with broadcast management experience, a man whose history with the Foundation was an association with KPFT, the least misdirected Pacifica-owned station. We did not hear him speak at great length, but what little he had an opportunity to say publicly made sense and gave the impression that he was as appalled by the Board and station-level incompetence as one might expect a professional administrator to be.
Admittedly, some of us found it odd to see a person of Proffitt's experience and apparent levelheadedness accept a mission impossible, but maybe he knew something we didn't, so why not wait and see. It was already rumored that he would fire Berthold Reimers on this trip to the East, so that would open the door to recovery—albeit ajar.
Proffitt came to town Wednesday and immediately attracted opportunists like Frank Lefever (the man has no shame), who characteristically intruded himself as Reimers conducted an ass kissing tour of the Atlantic Avenue premises and arranged a meeting with a select group of the station's producers. With a lump of sugar in their midst, the flies wasted no time.
L to R: Linda Perry, Sally O'Brien, Proffitt, Fran Luck,
Janet Coleman, Shawn Rhodes at 388 Atlantic.
Thursday morning, Linda Perry's news was solely devoted to this event and we heard Proffitt express unconvincing optimism, which prompted a "Thank god" from hopeless host Haskins. That this was a deceptively edited puff piece became clear as a slightly longer version quickly appeared on the station's web site and during station breaks. It is deceptive and aimed at a dumbed-down audience. In the meantime, WBAI is airing the usual infomercials, although the next fund drive is not scheduled to start until July 20.
We are hearing desperation that could have been avoided under proper management. From what we heard at this week's Pacifica Finance Committee meeting, thousands of dollars are unaccounted for and important questions regarding Reimers' activities are begging for answers, so we could still see that long overdue pink slip handed to a do-nothing GM. —Chris A.
The following comment was submitted by the astute observer known as 'Indigopirate', who is no stranger to WBAI and its past.
The truism is that a fish rots from the head. I’m not personally knowledgeable as to the internal dynamics of the Pacifica National Board and its internal politics at the time of the mid-1970’s, but I am personally familiar with their putting in place a WBAI Local Board dominated by Percy Sutton cronies in the late 1970’s who had a very personal agenda of pushing a ‘minority’ ‘community’ line to transform WBAI into a part of their Inner City Broadcasting empire. These were politically connected folks, and at that point in their lives and careers they were cashing in, in a very big way. White liberal guilt-tripping along Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers lines and anti-semitic accusations were significant if not indeed the principal elements involved in that process.
The first fruits of that effort were Anna Kosof as station manager and Pablo ‘Yoruba’ Guzman as program director, and the move to reformat the station as a Salsa station as part of Inner City Broadcasting. The ensuing staff rebellion and occupation of ‘The Church’ at 359 East 62nd Street temporarily derailed the PNB sanctioned and Local Board directed attempt to redefine the Pacifica and WBAI missions as ‘progressive’ ‘community’ political advocacy primarily along ‘minority’/‘community’ lines in place of the original ideals which had led to the station’s and the network’s rise to cultural significance and indeed for a time some prominence.
When that first effort failed the subsequent effort saw Guzman move on, then Kosof in turn, and the rise of the self-proclaimed revolutionary Samori Marksman. This second effort proved enduring, as the overwhelming majority of the remaining talented staff had either previously seen or now saw there was no interest in the sort of radio that had led WBAI and Pacifica to cultural prominence, and that its replacement, thinly veiled leftist political advocacy and conformity, with all other remaining programming tolerated only at the margins only as what the program director referred to as ‘bourgeois nonsense’ intended to draw contributions from the dwindling remains of the previous WBAI audience (and who were frequently privately stereotyped and characterized by Marksman in explicitly antisemitic dismissive terms of contempt).
The rot, then, historically, began at the head, and continued, and continues still.
The remarkable thing is that the slow disintegration of the fish has been such a slow process. I suppose that’s a simple reflection of having had a signal which reaches a metropolitan area of 20,000,000 or so population. In that sense it isn’t remarkable at all.
How could one not, with such an enormous potential audience, not find enough to sustain oneself?
Just as we sense a glimmer of hope in ED John Proffitt's visit to WBAI, there is this on the Thursday morning propaganda show! Yesterday, Reimers had Proffitt meet some of the station's producers. Linda Perry's "news" report conveniently excludes the questions asked, but it is said that Hank Kee had a good one. The rock was lifted and it appears to have revealed Proffitt and Reimers in warm—perhaps, staged—embrace. Question: Is Mr. Proffitt playing the game or did we so completely misread him?
If you are still buying overpriced premiums or otherwise donating your money to WBAI, this audio moment from the July 14, 2015 Pacifica Finance Committee meeting should be of special interest to you.
It is the complete, unexpurgated WBAI financial report delivered this week to Pacifica by the station's baffled Treasurer, R. Paul Martin. You will note that Mr. Martin is kept as much in the dark by GM Berthold Reimers as is everybody else, but—notwithstanding repeated attempts at coverups by such apologists as cronies Frank Lefever and Mitchel Cohen—Reimers' utter ineptitude comes as no surprise. Apropos Lefever, he didn't waste any time kissing ass as he intruded himself upon Mr. Proffitt at 388 Atlantic Ave. today. It does not require keen perception to see Reimers' behavior as that of a misplaced dilettante with much to hide (including himself). More puzzling is the fact that Pacifica either condoned or ignored the systematic dumbing down and violation of its most consequentially located radio station.
As this is posted, Pacifica's newly hired iED, John Proffitt, is in New York City for a brief visit, more aptly described as a reconnaissance. We are told that he is a man with solid experience in the broadcast management field, and that seems to be borne out by his observations thus far. If he does not immediately fire Berthold Reimers, our early impression of Mr. Proffitt will have to be reassessed.
In the previous post, you heard an excerpt from Martin's report, but here it is in its entirety. Listen and you will understand why some of us have so readily predicted the end of WBAI. You will also become curious as to what happened to the funds recently raised to build a new studio, the one that, according to Mitchel Cohen, is under construction. You might also wonder what advice was purchased for the thousands of dollars allegedly spent on "consultation fees," and why the "deal" Reimers supposedly made with the Empire State Building not only remains a secret but also cannot be discussed in open session.
"At the rate KPFK is bleeding, it could take the network down pretty soon."—Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Pacifica Finance Committee Chairman
After some technical problems that—given the severity of the situation and consistently muddled (manipulated) accounting—quite naturally aroused suspicion, last night's Finance Committee meeting finally popped into the stream. As expected, it paints a Bergman-like picture of the present situation, with a faint glimmer of hope coming from Berkeley and Houston, but not one that is likely to cast a light on KPFK and WBAI.
R. Paul Martin's attempt to report WBAI's situation offers pathetic confirmation of Berthold Reimers' gross ineptitude, if not downright violations of the law. After five years of mismanagement, ineptitude on the local level cannot serve as an excuse—Pacifica itself must bear blame for allowing such obvious abuse to continue.
Pay attention to the salary/consultation expenditures, which, in more ways than one, are at odds with reality. I think Indigopirate put it well:
"...to date, we’ve seen no appropriate correspondingly desperate attempts to slash staff, or to take one or more stations off air to reorganize and relaunch after seeking new monies from foundations for a fresh start, etc. Nothing of that sort, at least nothing visible. Visibly, this is still very much in the circling the drain category.
I think in many ways this reflects the subculture these people represent. They’re essentially incapable of action, and particularly incapable of bold action which entails risk. They’re quintessential coffee ‘progressives’ and ‘revolutionaries’."
THIS RUMOR JUST RECEIVED at 11:15 PM "I heard from a generally reliable source @ the station that Reimers has been fired...not confirmed because I do not have a second source, but the report I have is of his termination." —Anonymous Can anyone confirm?
She was WBAI's PR woman, she feigned shallowness, she spoke of gay-friendly homeless angels, she sold cure-all drops of Double Helix Water at a premium price to ailing listeners, she was fired, but—with a quarter century of service behind her, so to speak—she stubbornly clung to Mr. Microphone, oozing her heart of mind into every orifice of the station's capsule community.
When a delusional Knight crawled off to oblivion, this remarkable voice for the voiceless was quick to fill his weekly air time, undergoing a spiritual reboot that perfectly complemented that magical, much maligned water and earned the coveted Null imprimatur.
In the following audio slice of this delicious pie, you might wish to pay attention to Catarinia Profundus' generosity. This selfless spiritual soul invites you to share her timeless gift of wisdom, person to person, at another time, another place. In the meantime, here is a sample link...
The outlook is not what Mitchel Cohen and Berthold Reimers see through those rose-colored glasses, but Mr. Proffitt appears to have his feet on the ground. By all calculations, as it were, Berhold Reimers ought to prepare for departure.
This is but the last minute and a half, or so. Make of it what you will. Proffitt is coming to WBAI, although not as promised by Reimers and his cronies. Hear his presentation from the July 8 meeting (above). And this just popped up on the WBAI site...
A new web site has been launched to help Pacifica listeners learn more of the inside info they need to know. If you are disenchanted and find yourself listening sparingly, don't give up hope. There are still people on the inside who care what becomes of your station and the Foundation that ultimately sets its course.
Listeners to WBAI and other Pacifica stations often have trouble understanding why there are so many internal problems. One major issue is that mismanagement has helped to create serious chronic debt and a personal need to cover it up. Air time given over to fundraising drives has increased and morphed into one- or two-hour long infomercials that often benefit outside marketers of questionable products and services. We see this practice escalating as returns to normal programming all but vanish. The listenership has dwindled to an all-time low at WBAI, but nothing is done to inspire its return. The level of programming remains sub-standard and even the station's own web site maintains management's secrecy. When some figures for the last (and, alas, ongoing) drive finally leaked out, we were given a multiple choice option as to what had been raised!
Fundraising marathons are by nature intrusive, but there was a time when the programming was intelligent and only one annual drive sufficed. There were always some problems that had to be discussed and solved, but there was a weekly live program for that: Report to the Listener. It's the kind of open discussion one can have when there are no secrets, but today, when even the WBAI GM's whereabouts is unknown, such a report and exchange is not possible. Oh, they have had a couple in he past decade, but—like the station itself—they were outrageously dishonest.
WBAI's management has the vision of a bat in sunlight. It is inept, irresponsible and corrupt. Unfortunately, much the same can be said of the Pacifica National Board's current ruling faction. One can blame Pacifica's problems on a number of factors, but most stem from problems with governance—the people who members of the stations elect.
The first step in remedying this (if it is not already too late) is to restore the intellectual level of the listenership and encourage participation in the Board elections. This is one important reason why a faithful group of true Pacifica supporters has launched a new web site. The Pacifica in Exile newsletter (Tracy Rosenberg's labor of love) has been around for quite some time, its purpose being to help concerned Pacificans get the news behind the news of Pacifica. This new web site is a new step in that direction.
The articles posted on the inaugural site will help you understand the issues, and rest assured that there are many more to come. I hope you become a regular reader so that you may keep up with who's doing what, and better prepare yourself to cast an informed VOTE in the upcoming delegate (board) elections. —Chris Albertson