Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Are the answers blowing in the wind?

Inquisitive by nature and chosen mission, the undaunted Tracy Rosenberg feels it's time for the Pacifica Finance Committee to pull some arbitrary secrets out from under the table and answer some questions. She made her suggestion in a letter posted today:
Now that it's* finally been released: a few questions. Please address these at the finance committee meeting:

1) Direct Mail Expense: The PNB was told the national office sent out a piece of direct mail in December of 2015. There is $4K in income credited as direct mail revenue and another $35K in donations to the PNO. There are no direct mail expenses accrued in the fiscal year by the PNO. 

2) Satellite Fees. In 2015, this expense was accrued at $5.7K a month or $68k a year. It has never been lower than $67K annually for the past five years. In 2016, it is accrued at $3K a month which is less than 50% of previous years. Why?

3) PNO insurance Expenses are accrued at $74K, when they are much higher. $274K in FY 2015. Has insurance been dropped and if so what insurance has been dropped, or are bills not accrued?

4) Audit Expenses accrued are $18K since October. Why are the auditor bills of $75K to $100K as described not accrued? Did the auditor do no work and send no bills In January and February of 2016?. The accrued amounts are from November and December of 2015.

5) Legal bills were accrued by the PNO in the amount of $47K. Why were resources directed to legal instead of the audit? What are the legal bills for? Why are $37K of them accrued prior to the filing of a lawsuit against Pacifica in January?

6) Administrative expenses at the PNO did not drop by a factor of 80% in February. The expenses are simply not entered. Why is this the case in early April when this statement was released?

Nothing seems wildly inaccurate, although the tower utilities are missing for February, but it is somewhat incomprehensible that listener support is at $432K for the year after three fund drives. The station may not cross the $1 million mark in revenue. Two things that come to mind are that you have to take a look at the programming because you have a 25% income drop and secondly that the no-premiums mode of fundraising may be costing money rather than saving it.

1) The only accounting point is that $37K for consultants is a lot in the first five months of the year. WPFW has spent about 10% of its income on consultants in 2014 and 2015, after getting those expenses down in 2012 and 2013. I'm not sure popping those numbers way up again is a good practice. 
The noticeable change is that the $900K decline in listener support from FY 2014 to FY 2015 has maintained through 2016, a huge year over year drop that needs an explanation. Going from $2.2 million to $1.3 million in a year is a catastrophe and there has been no recovery. Completely apart from the structural problem with ESB. Whether it is listener dissatisfaction with the programming, the failure to send premiums or both, leaving it unremedied for more than a year is completely crazy. 
1) As with WPFW, close to 10% of income is being spent on consultants,. Does the finance committee know what these $43K in consultant expenses are for and has there been discussion of their use at both East Coast stations?

2) Election expenses. WBAI has not accrued the bill for the printing, postage and counting of the LSB election ballots. Simply Voting must have sent a bill by now and certainly the printing and postage has been accrued so where is it?

3) Credit Card discounts. Something is wrong with these numbers. Credit card processing fees are fairly uniform and WBAI is reporting the same amount as KPFA on 1/2 the income and 5x WPFW for just $100K more income. If $21K is being paid to process $553K in income, then other arrangements need to be made. 

4) Fund drive expenses. I assume this is the call center service, but again $48K in five months is almost 10% of income. This doesn't seem like a sane way to do things. 
1) Election expenses. KPFT has not accrued the bill for the printing, postage and counting of the LSB election ballots. Simply Voting must have sent a bill by now and certainly the printing and postage has been accrued so where is it?
A significant amount of expenses are missing and have not been accrued in January and February. 

1) Payroll expenses need some explanation. The January figures, while expected to be higher due to the return to 80% time, are higher than the 100% payroll from last year. If back seniority pay was paid out or other concessions due to arbitration, that should be recorded differently than as 2016 payroll because that's not what it is. The February payroll number is $59K less than January's and only $20K larger than December. Is $20K a month all it cost to bring the entire staff from 50% time to 80% time?

2) Why does KPFK have $4.7K accrued for "National Board expenses and travel"

3) Election expenses. KPFK has not accrued the bill for the printing, postage and counting of the LSB election ballots. Simply Voting must have sent a bill by now and certainly the printing and postage has been accrued so where is it?

4) Who was paid an LES salary for KPFK in December? Didn't Cookie go missing in action?

5) Credit card discounts have largely not been accrued.

6) Why are development expenses in February $8.8K negative?
1) Website income. KPFA is coming up dramatically short on website income because the majority of it is being added to the listener revenue category at the end of fund drives, now for periods in excess of two weeks after funds drives are completed. This has already opened up a $40K gap between budgetary projections and actuality

2) Events income. Unrecorded for January and February. Website records events on Jan 20, Jan 26, Jan 28, Feb 3, Feb 10, and Feb 18. 

3) Tower utilities missing for December and February
General Accounting Notes

1) The recording of direct mail solicitations makes no sense. The expenses are broken out, the income is not, making it impossible to see how much revenue came in from the $20K in direct mail costs that are expensed. That income should be broken out in the category called "direct mail revenue" which currently contains only $4K for an expense of $20K.
2) The recording of website income makes no sense. In order to assess how much money comes in via the web, it needs to be placed in that account by all the stations or you can't tell. Many stations don't break it out at all or like KPFA they hide the majority of it in the listener support line. That doesn't allow you to assess how effective your online fundraising efforts are or are not.
3) The $4.7K assessed to KPFK for national board meetings and travel got lost and never made it into the consolidated income statement. The amount that is there $3.8K also needs an explanation because there was no national board meeting travel in October and November of 2015. 
4) The only election expenses accrued besides NES and LES salaries is $15K by KPFA. The printing, postage and Simply Voting charges do not all belong to KPFA nor are they likely to only total $15K. 

Have a good finance committee meeting. Hopefully you can clear up some of these things and correct them in the March financial statement.
*Pacifica Financial statement ending 2-29-2016 


  1. Consultants for what? The only thing I can think of that would legitimately fall under a consultation for WBAI is when they hired that guy last year to teach the staff how to pitch better. I don't know if Tony Bates expenses go under consultants.

    Once during a pledge drive, Forlano called the call center on air to show listeners how easy it was to pledge. The person who answered the phone dragged the call out forever, even Forlano was sounding stressed at it. If I am correct, the call center gets paid per minute for taking calls. Get it, yet? Yeah, they are trained to keep people on the line as long as possible because that means more $$$.


    1. I recall the pitch instructor who was hired by Murillo, but I don't recall hearing any improvement on the air, nor did the income go up—if anything these people grow worse with every shortfall.

      I also recall them saying that a designer was being consulted for the new studio! Any of my closets would make it into architectural Digest before that dump with its car table, low wall-high ceiling and skylight.

      I don't know what they list Bates under, but I am too that he gets airfare, room and board, so you know it doesn't end there. That's why I said that listener-sponsors should demand full accounting before they throw another penny into Reimers' hole (take that anyway you wish :))

    2. The way Bates & Davis drool over each other, I wonder if she isn't part of his "travel package," too...


    3. A budget of $1.3 million would not cover the transmitter rent, studio, central services and regular expenses assuming they paid in full but they're not paying the ESB in full and are reportedly behind on studio rent so they should be OK albeit with a growing debt. There is no staff to speak of unless the consultants are de facto employees. Obviously I'm missing something because this makes no sense. Despite all this, there is still no change to programming where it matters. Apparently that program grid is set in stone. Perhaps the Spring for The Green fundraiser will resolve everything.