Saturday, June 11, 2016

Little by little: Pacifica's last gasps?

Erasing The History of Pacifica

Berkeley- Pacifica Archives Director Brian De Shazor has announced his resignation from Pacifica Radio, effective June 30th. De Shazor's resignation provoked a strongly worded rebuke to Pacifica from Dr. Josh Sheppard, director of the Radio Preservation Task Force at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Sheppard stated De Shazor's resignation forced him to retract a Library of Congress offer to apply for grant funding to support the archives and would amount to several hundred thousand dollars in potential lost funds. Sheppard went further, stating the Library of Congress would change Pacifica's status to that of an endangered archive and advised Pacifica management that "abandoning maintenance of the archive and the consequent degradation of these materials will effectively erase the history of Pacifica". Sheppard's full letter can be read here.  Pacifica had recently threatened significant cuts to archival preservation staffing. 

Discussions about the network's deteriorating financial position at the June 2 national board meeting led to attorney Jose Luis Fuentes, a former Siegel and Yee employee, denouncing his comrades-in-arms as "drinking Kool-Aid" and describing the network as a "gravy train". CFO Agarwal also weighed in saying flatly that he did not understand who was accountable for financial decision-making. Agarwal said he has placed the network's planned delegate election, which continues to solicit candidate nominations for 2017 board seats, on hold. You can hear the statements by Fuentes and Agarwal here.

CFO Agarwal also released a spreadsheet to the finance committee summarizing amounts owed by each unit for shared network services. The spreadsheet indicated current fiscal year debts of $50,600 from NY's WBAI and $106,500 from DC's WPFW. LA station KPFK still owes at least $140,000 from the June to September 2015 period. GM Radford has not indicated any intention to make payments and says she is pursuing an $80,000 loan to fulfill unsent premium gifts. 

Interim Exec Director Lydia Brazon announced at the June 2 meeting she had received an email "on the 31st" from KPFA general manager Quincy McCoy indicating neither April nor May network service fees would be paid timely by Berkeley's KPFA (an amount totaling $69,300) and the station had to "borrow money to make payroll". Brazon's declaration was strange, since KPFA concluded a three week fund drive with gross pledges of $628,000 on May 27th, 4 days prior to "the 31st". You can hear Brazon's announcement here. An inquiry to KPFA's local station board treasurer about how much was borrowed to make the payroll and the source of the loan did not get a response to date.

A motion by Houston listener rep Bill Crosier to take emergency actions to recover financial viability including the repayment of restricted funds, preparation for emergency work furloughs if needed, a board fundraising task force and operational assistance for the NY and DC stations, was tabled by the board of directors.

Even members of the Siegel/Brazon faction appear to have lost faith in the information they are receiving from Pacifica volunteer ED Lydia Brazon. Houston listener rep Adriana Casenave launched a directors inspection at all five Pacifica stations in the first week of June, demanding copies of:
  1. Every single bank statement from every single bank account at all 7 of the units from October 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016;
  2. The check registers for every single bank account at all 7 of the units from October 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016;
  3. The list of bank deposit signatories for every single bank account at all 7 of the units;
  4. Lists of every single foundation employee at all 7 of the units with hire date, job title, and rate of pay;
  5. Payroll registers from all 7 of the units
  6. A list of financial recordkeeping deficiencies reported by the audit firm with indications if, when and how they have been addressed by management.

Casenave co-sponsored a proposed bylaws amendments restricting directors from carrying out inspections using agents who are not members of a Pacifica board, but did not let that stop her from designating a Berkeley listener-member who was not a member of any Pacifica board to help carry out her inspection at KPFA. Pacifica's local boards will be reviewing the proposed bylaws amendment, which is contrary to California Corporations Code sections 6311-6313, in the next 6 weeks.

WBAI's fund drive concluded after 35 agonizing days with a minimal take of $280,000, barely 60% of the goal and covering only about 8 weeks of the station's operating expenses. Top fundraiser, unpaid host Gary Null, was kept off the air for most of the fund drive, a heavy contributing factor to the meagre $8,000 a day in pledges. Null made a statement on-air about his show being pulled from the fund drive, which can be heard here. A 2004 report prepared for the WBAI local station board surfaced earlier this week. The 80-page report contains dozens of thank you letters from a bevy of Pacifica managers and producers, as well as other public radio stations, for Null's hefty fundraising totals from the mid-80's to just a few years ago.

In a few host changes at the California stations, volunteer coordinator/security guard/Radford roommate Adam Rice threw in the towel on his hourlong perch during overnight profanity-thon Safe Harbor after only six months, handing it over to attorney Nana Gyamfi, one of the Uprising replacement hosts. Rice's announcement, punctuated with a "thank god" over being released from fundraising and hosting duties, can be heard here. At KPFA, anti-police-brutality organizer and actress Cat Brooks came on board as a co-host for the 7am Upfront program. Brooks was the campaign manager for former Pacifica board member and current corporate counsel Dan Siegel in his 2014 Oakland mayoral campaign. Siegel finished in fourth place.

In LA, GM Radford has her eye on dismantling the joint California news product, the Pacifica Evening News. Radford informed a KPFK staff meeting the Pacifica Evening News product was "reactionary" and she hoped to replace it with a KPFK-generated daily newscast.

One of the four music programmers who left KPFK in disgust after Margy Wilkinson appointed Radford manager of the LA station, former Melting Pot host Michael Barnes, has threatened legal action against Pacifica Radio if his name, program listing and reruns of his old shows are not removed from the KPFK website. Barnes' sayanora to KPFK is here. Despite the May 25th threat of legal action, Melting Pot remained listed as a KPFK program on as of June 11th.

A new podcast joined the small collection on KPFA's website, dubbed Area 94.1. The mystery podcast, a cowboy busted-dreams kinda thing focusing on a country music DJ with a tendency to alcohol-induced blackouts, turned out to be the handiwork of KPFA's general manager, a fact only revealed at the end of the podcast. The monologue describes an encounter between our drunken DJ (whose eyes look like "pissholes in the snow") and a community college student cum stripper with rosy lips, ample breasts and buttocks and a stuck-out tongue, who turns out to be lusting after the drunken DJ's son. You can listen to it here.

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  1. Fading into history, deservedly so…

    ~ ‘indigopirate’

  2. OMG Radford is insane. 'Making Small Talk With Jesus'? What the hell is that? Yeah and while we're at it, lets get rid of Pacifica Evening News. She makes Reimers look good.
    I thought Jose Luis was a Siegel stooge. I wonder if his attitude has anything to do with leaving Siegel and Yee.
    As soon as I saw Steve Brown's name on the report, I smiled. He may be doing more work now than when he was on the board. Leaking reports at just the right time, suing the PNB, defending Gary Null etc. etc.

  3. I heard "You're Crazy If You're Up This Early" on archive. Randy Credico had a >1/2 hour interview with Phil Schaap about Louis Armstrong. Randy's show is the only thing on WBAI worth listening to. It should be on a more listenable time and given at least an extra hour. He is less than mediocre as a comic but is very engaging as an activist and social commentator. I give credit where it's due.


    1. I agree that Credico is a bad comedian and a good talk show host. I caught most of his show with Phil, a man I have known personally for many years, but whose verbosity and tendency to present his assumptions as fact is bothersome. I have actually heard Phil describe a studio incident that simply did not occur (it was my own session, so I was there, he was not).

      I can't blame Credico, because he does not know Phil off the air, but he did know Robert Knight whose self-serving lies he perpetuated.

      Today's program would have been better if Credico had done some homework and asked Phil some substantive questions. This was a very shallow show on a man who was anything but that. Credico is probably an interesting man, but it is appears to me that he failed to grab the ring even though he managed to touch it.

    2. I've heard Credico a couple of times now and basically agree - a lousy comedian but decent when being more serious in discussing political and social matters. I say give him one of those early evening slots like Halper's.

      Credico reminds me of my John Leguizamo saying - lousy comedian, good dramatic actor.


    3. What I dislike about Phil Schaap is his lecturing "the rest of us" about slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, since he has no "white man's guilt" because he's hip. Neither Rich Conaty nor Jonathan Schwartz, who is biracial, smear that in the listeners' faces. Phil: When you point a finger at others, three fingers point back at you.


    4. Phil's lengthy talks take up precious time that could be used for the music. It is especially annoying to me, because much of what he says is uninformed speculation. He also has a nasty streak that came to the fore when he trie to have George Avakian ejected from the memorial service held for his father, Walter Schaap, at St. Peter's Church. George and Walter were close friends and colleagues. George had voiced his displeasure with the misinformation Phil put into the liner notes of some Columbia albums produced by George.

      I did not know that Jonathan Schwartz was biracial. He does a good show and I rather like his personal anecdotes, which he keeps to a minimum and doesn't "invent." Rich Conaty doesn't talk a lot, but I love his 78's.

  4. I recently stated that the Archives is where Pacifica should put its focus, as the stations are basically done for and throwing good money after bad. Reading the above tells me that these old tapes will, probably, be in tomorrow's trash, at some point. It's very sad because they are a true oral history, with many stories and/or views the mass media rejected.

    Radford is a raging politico out of time and space. She reminds me of a post 60s wannabe revolutionary cheering on the SLA or something.

    Borrowing $80,000 to fulfill unsent premiums she stated, only a few months ago, were going to be ignored. I wonder what changed her mind.

    I think WBAI's new low in donations is a permanent state. No matter how much WBAItes talk about finding new listeners, making more money, etc, it isn't going to happen and is delusional wishful thinking. Even the much spoken of Left Forum doesn't want to hear their shit.


    1. The Archive is Pacifica preserve, almost everything else is discardable filler. Something must be done to keep the Archive intact and continue the enormous job of digitising this treasure.

      WBAI will never get out of its financial hole unless there's a thorough change (upgrade) in personnel. I don't see that happening, however.

      Pacifica has, for all intents and purpose, committed suicide.

    2. So did Edwin Armstrong, inventor of FM...


    3. Blame that one on Sarnoff et al.

      Lou Schweitzer turned me on to Major Armstrong and the biography, "Man of High Fidelity" That led me to do a lengthy interview with his widow, who drove a Pierce Arrow and was a delightful character. After his suicide, she continued fighting the many lawsuits, and won every one of them. BTW, she was Sarnoff's private secretary when she and Major Armstrong met.

    4. I know. It was meant as a joke.


  5. what a baleful, dreadful crew...the bitterness is overwhelming...Pat Cooper would bluch

    1. Randy: You could not swallow your bitterness for 10 minutes on the Tonight Show and had to equate the then U.N. ambassador with a Nazi and imitate Johnny Carson in front of him, thus slitting your throat. You go down to Argentina and find mothers of the disappeared and parade them around N.Y. saying that family members of incarcerated inmates in N.Y. prisons are in the same boat? And you're not bitter? You are a JADROOL.


    2. Randy, as far as I know:
      No one here hired Berthold Reimers.
      No one here had a hand in creating a dumbed-down program schedule.
      No one here gave the nod to the sale of bogus health products.
      No one here sanctioned the rampant distortion of history WBAI airs as fact.
      No one here opened the door to hateful racist rhetoric.
      No one here made unauthorized duplications of copyrighted material for sale over WBAI.
      No one here claims to be a proponent of "free speech" yet hangs up on dissenting alls.
      No one here systematically gives out false figures of income and expenditure to obscure their own ineptitude.
      No one here sells and takes listeners' money for products (legit or bogus) that are never delivered.
      No one here rigs elections to keep their faction in the majority on Pacifica's Board.
      I could go on, but I think you might get the idea.
      Conversely, there are many people here who have attempted to submit to Reimers' ideas that could work positively for WBAI. Some have even volunteered to help arrange meaningful benefit events, but their emails and calls are not answered. I am among those people, but my attempts to contact Reimers or someone in his office have been in vain. Once, I offered to donate a good number of hardcover copies of my Bessie Smith biography to a fundraising effort, but my offer was ignored.

      So, take a swig of Double Helix Water and tell me, who among us is "baleful"? Do you even know the meaning of that word?

      What selfless action have you taken to help WBAI build an audience or win back that overwhelming number of listeners who tuned out as the station's raison d'etre was tossed in the dumpster?

    3. @Randy Credico: I think the only thing you have accomplished with your first posting to this blog is to demonstrate immaturity and hypocrisy. Lashing out with insults rather than civil disagreements, especially after people, including myself, complimented your radio show is simply a foolish thing to do. You've basically come off as someone who can't accept others' opinions and beliefs, particularly those who were working at and/or listening to WBAI before you ever did.

      The only baleful thing here is you to yourself and your program. You've turned away those who would be most likely to listen and support your show in one single, ill thought out and reactionary posting. I can see why you are a failure in your profession and are reduced to doing a radio program at no recompense at such an hour.

      Lastly, don't make any equations with Pat Cooper, who was a genuine comedian.

      @Chris: See what I mean by WBAI being a cult? This is the same emotion based lashing out that cultists do when their cult is questioned.


    4. I see what you mean and it lends credence to my early assessment when I first became aware of Credico as he attempted to defend Knight's mean-spirited behavior.

      The lower WBAI sinks, the more miscreants it attracts.