Monday, June 20, 2016
Pacifica: Curiouser and crookeder?
Berkeley- Troubles continue at Pacifica's archives following the announcement of long-time director Brian De Shazor's resignation. Boston PBS station WGBH wrote to say they were withdrawing the American Archive of Public Broadcasting National Digital Stewardship Residency from Pacifica and would be removing their resident from the archives.
Pacifica's five stations, in addition to being delinquent on paying their shared service fees to the archive, which range from $1,500 to $4,900 a month, have declined to use the archive's products as premium gifts and have pulled CD/DVD duplication services away. Archive premium purchases dropped by 300% in 2016 from 2015 numbers. Several stations, including KPFA and WBAI, have purchased their own duplication machines. These decisions have resulted in Pacifica staffers de-funding the archives and endangering the survival of valuable historical records.
Three national board members from LA (Grace Aaron, Jonathan Alexander and Jan Goodman) plan to introduce a resolution at the KPFK local station board and then to the Pacifica National Board in support of the archives. The resolution can be read here.
Pacifica's national office released May 2016 income statements last week. You can see them here. The month of May is the last one in Pacifica's fiscal year when all five stations run full-length on-air fund drives. All 5 stations posted operating deficits except Los Angeles' KPFK. Per GM Radford, KPFK owes $249,000 to Pacifica's national office since May of 2015, making it a prime mover in the network's inability to pay for the 2014 audit or upcoming board elections.
Year to date operating deficits are KPFA (-$64,000), WPFW ($-244,000), WBAI (-$374,000), KPFT ($-21,000) and KPFK at (+$106,000). In addition to the piling up debt for WBAI's tower rental, a significant trouble spot is DC's WPFW where the May fund drive effort netted less than a single month of payroll expense. WPFW is experiencing a trench in listener support revenues in 2016 similar to that at WBAI in 2015, with listener support numbers dropping by 30% in a single year.
PNB member Bill Crosier called for an emergency national board meeting to address the financial crisis for Sunday June 26th at 7pm EST. It is not known if board majority members will choose to attend. Crosier commented in his meeting call:
"Pacifica's financial situation is looking worse and worse, with no apparent plans (at least, no effective ones) to stop or reverse our financial crisis. Motions to deal with our finances were tabled by the PNB at the last meeting, before we even had discussion on the motions. We need a special Pacifica National Board meeting to deal with this. I, and two other Directors (Grace Aaron and Jan Goodman) are hereby calling for such a special Board meeting to deal with Pacifica's financial crisis, on Sunday, June 26 at 7 pm EDT, and hope all of you can participate. Per the Pacifica Bylaws (Article 6, Section 2), any three Directors may call for a special PNB meeting, and we are doing so. Sam Agarwal, our CFO, has been telling us for months that things cannot continue as they have been, with the cash flow situation becoming increasingly critical. Also remember that Mr. Agarwal told us that WBAI and/or WPFW may not be able to make payroll by the end of June. We can't wait until our July 7 PNB meeting to deal with this."
Despite CFO Agarwal's statements that 2016 board elections are on hold due to the lack of funds to pay for them, Pacifica continues to act "as if", hiring a six-person election team, soliciting candidate nominations and even setting up "waiver hotlines" at New York's WBAI to issue free memberships to individuals not able or willing to donate $25 or volunteer for three hours. The waiver program appears to be administered by the Siegel/Brazonites, who direct applications to a mysterious email address at firstname.lastname@example.org. The current state of things is that candidate nomination packages are due June 30th and members need to renew their memberships for 2016 by the same date in order to be able to vote. Whether these dates will remain in place or the election will occur at all is a matter of speculation. To quote national board member Jose Luis Fuentes, "I'm not sure what Kool-aid we're all drinking".
KPFK general manager Leslie Radford released a payable report confirming the $249,000 debt to the Pacifica National Office and another $100,000+ in debts as well, including $25,000 in backed-up premiums, and $25,000 owed to a funder for a restricted fund taken by then-ED Margy Wilkinson in 2014. Radford prepared a budgetary Powerpoint presentation for the board in which she notes the budget for the next fiscal year is $550,000 in the red. You can see it here. Radford also informed her local board that her choice for KPFK's long-vacant business manager position had failed to submit info for a background check and then disappeared. The phone number for the prospective hire is now disconnected.
KPFK's security guard cum volunteer coordinator Adam Rice, sent out another folio on the eve of KPFK's latest fund drive, which kicks off on June 21st. (The last one ended on May 20). The folio announces schedule changes in overnight profanity-thon Safe Harbor. Rice's own Music To Resist By bites the dust after less than six months, a week after an announcement that Nana Gyamfi would take over hosting duties, and the In Session on-air therapy show will retire. In Session will be replaced by Geek Radio, which promises to cover conventions and comic books. Music To Resist By will be replaced by a one hour interview show hosted by former congressperson Cynthia McKinney. The folio contained a link to the KPFK website program schedule, which listed neither new program and continued to aggravate former Melting Pot producer Michael Barnes by listing his program in the Fridays 8-10pm slot. Barnes left the station and removed his show in November of 2015, saying he was "done with the place and how badly it was managed". Barnes threatened legal action against KPFK in May of 2016 if they did not cease listing his program as a KPFK broadcast.
At KPFA's local board meeting on June 11th, Siegel/Brazonite Jose Luis Fuentes, whose anxiety about Pacifica's financial distress has been palpable, confronted general manager Quincy McCoy about announced plans to add two new union producing positions and two part-time hosts to the station's 7am Upfront public affairs program. McCoy had confirmed moments earlier that KPFA had issued layoff notices to union employees and run out of money between fund drives and had to take out a loan of an undisclosed amount from an undisclosed source to make the payroll, now $1.95 million dollars a year. McCoy responded with the assertion that the Upfront program had raised $246,000 in the station's just completed May fund drive. The actual figure was $69,690. Neither the board treasurer nor the PNB treasurer corrected the general manager. The real-time pledge reports from the May 2016 fund drive can be seen here.
The 4 new part-time positions which will be offset by one reduction, will add approximately $100K to annual personnel costs, pushing the Berkeley station above the $2 million dollar a year mark. McCoy noted that contract negotiations with Local 9415 of the CWA will begin shortly and that he hoped to reduce personnel costs by $200,000, presumably to offset the new hires. Sister station KPFK in Los Angeles recently lost a union arbitration proceeding with SAG-AFTRA in Los Angeles with the arbitrator finding the LA station had violated the union contract by implementing involuntary pay cuts and laying off two employees from the bargaining unit last fall.
The KPFA general manager's soft-core podcast rolled on with a new episode, "The Green Chair". It begins: "I love doing it in the chair, Lexie said, smiling as she gently pushed my body backwards into the faded green wingback. I like the sound it makes when we get a rhythm going Jesse, she said, as she slowly stepped out of her skirt and climbed on my lap, legs straddling my thighs, sinking deeply into a caress, kissing me deeply on my neck and mouth". 75% of the podcasts on the KPFA website, which was described as opening space for new voices, are produced by existing KPFA staff.
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