Sunday, July 3, 2016
Pacifica: Iceberg ahead!
Newsletter July 2, 2016
Berkeley-The emergency PNB meeting on finances with the CFO went off as planned on June 26th, despite attempts to block it. You can listen to the full 90 minute audio here. CFO Sam Agarwal's written report prepared for the meeting can be read here.A shorter (28 mins) audio segment with selections from the meeting can be heard here.
One of the three directors who called the meeting implored his colleagues not to boycott it, saying: "This is the time for more transparency, not less, and it's not the time to be blindly following those who are about to make us jump off the cliff. I again urge you all to participate in today's special meeting on Pacifica's financial crisis so we can have a proper discussion about this. It's urgent and important. We need it NOW". The rest of Bill Crosier's email can be read here.
KPFK staff rep Jonathan Alexander added: ""No long speeches people, it is obvious if you take your fiduciary responsibilities seriously you will give up your Sunday afternoon and deal with this serious financial crisis as our one and only paid executive thinks we should. If you don't take your responsibilities seriously, watch Game of Thrones and resign from the board. This is business people and we need to take care of it. As an employee of Pacifica, I cannot believe how little some people care about the needs of the foundation. Either you care or you don't. See you at 4 o'clock".
Crosier later stated: "One thing I forgot to mention on the stream - this date was selected because several PNB members did not want to meet when other Pacifica meetings were scheduled, and I gave the PNB plenty of time and asked for suggestions on when to meet. Finally, I gave them three possible days for the meeting when we could avoid conflicts with any scheduled Pacifica meeting, and absolutely NO ONE objected to meeting today. So that's why we scheduled the meeting for today".
Pacifica's coordinating committee met a few days later and mandated a secret closed session to discipline members who participated in the June 26th emergency meeting on finances, including Pacifica's CFO. Board members angry at the unsupervised talking outside their control included volunteer executive director Lydia Brazon, disputed PNB member Cerene Roberts, PNB secretary Janet Kobren, and the board chair and vice chair, Tony Norman and Adriana Casenave. The group called the emergency meeting a "breach of process" and the planned discipline "a very important matter".You can hear a brief selection from that meeting here.
A few days later, the personnel committee met and discussed for over an hour how to evaluate the chief financial officer (who has only been on the job for 6 months) without mentioning once filling the vacant executive director position, which has been occupied on a part-time volunteer basis by Lydia Brazon for over 9 months. Pacifica has been without an executive director for 20 of the last 27 months.
There are many punishment and exclusion exercises going on with disciplinary proceedings scheduled for the July 7th national board meeting (Aaron, Goodman, Alexander, Crosier and CFO Agarwal), and the KPFT local station board on July 13 (Allen, Reiter, Lamb, White and Crosier again). Pacifica is awaiting a court decision from NY Superior Court on the exclusion of NY's elected national board delegation (Rhodes, LeFever, Steinberg, Young). The NY court decision will be issued on or before July 20th.
Pacifica's NY station has been without telephone service since at least June 23. You can see the memo to the station's staff here. Hank Kee and others have reported the telephones are to remain disconnected "indefinitely", pending payment of a bill to Verizon said to total $28,000. FCC regulations and federal law require all FM outlets to have a local or toll-free telephone number at the main studio location. (Title 47 C.F.R. 73.1125 Section e). If the amount of the unpaid bill to Verizon is $28,000, it indicates some problems with the veracity of reported financial data, as the WBAI telephone expense accruals reported as of May 31, 2016 totaled $15,000 since the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, 2015. Either WBAI has not made payments on its telephone bill for more than a year, or the station has more expenses than it is reporting to Pacifica's National Office.
KPFK listeners were grieving after LA Observed printed a leaked memo to staff from GM Radford where she explained she was wiping the station's 8pm-9pm public affairs and arts strip which includes Indymedia On The Air, Deadline LA, Poets Cafe and LA Theaterworks, effective July 11th. The programs are to be replaced with 5 hours of unknown programs in Spanish. Radford did not provide the names or the subject matter of the new programs or who would be hosting and producing them. KPFK will now broadcast exclusively in Spanish from 8pm to midnight on Mondays through Thursdays.
The LA Observed article was illustrated with a paper "on-air" sign described as "makeshift" by author/photographer Kevin Roderick in a dig at the station's deterioration. Pacifica's Berkeley station KPFA, New York's WBAI, and Houston's KPFT are ignoring the national board's June 2015 proclamation that each station must add five hours of weekday spanish language programming. Radford is insisting she is being forced to implement it. KPFA unpaid staffer Richard Wolinsky, who is a management confidante, posted on a Facebook page that "his understanding is that the spanish language mandate is not going to be enforced" (at Berkeley's KPFA). GM Radford has received instructions from the LA board to restore Sonali Kolhatkar's program Rising Up to five day a week broadcast and restore Something's Happening to its full length from midnight to 6am, but has insisted that boards do not have any authority over programming.
Ongoing problems with KPFK's website after the webmaster was laid off last September, took a comic turn during the launch of the station's June/July on-air fund drive. The station's online "web store", where donors can select premium gifts online, began the fund drive describing KPFK as a family run furniture store and the categories of products available as beer, wine, soda, mixers, and spirits. Screenshots can be seen here. Even after the embarrassing mistakes were fixed on June 23rd, problems remained. The membership department indicated the online inventory of gifts included many that KPFK was not prepared to fulfill. GM Radford indicated two weeks ago to her local board that KPFK still had not acquired about $77,000 in premium gifts owed to the station's donors. At an average cost of $15 a premium, the backlog may be as high as 4,000 unfilled orders.
Employees and volunteers at Berkeley's KPFA were startled to get a letter from management asking them to pony up to replace the computers. The radio station completed a fund drive on May 27 with $628,000 in pledges and has a 3 million dollar a year budget. The request sent out on the staff list asked for financial assistance from workers and volunteers to replace computers too old to upgrade to Windows 10 and specified cash or checks were preferred. KPFA's 2016 budget allocated $25,739 dollars for computer maintenance, of which only $2,089 had been spent as of May 31, but the station is operating at a deficit with revenues $290,000 short of projected as of May 31, prinarily due to budgetary assumptions of gifts and bequests that have not occurred.
Current, the industry magazine for public broadcasting, covered the unfolding disaster at the Pacifica Archives, where at least 3/5 of the collection has not yet been digitized and faces physical disintegration within a decade and a half. Josh Sheppard at the Library of Congress said "“Our fear is that the archive will cease to exist" and repeated his statement that Pacifica was erasing its own history. Both the Radio Preservation Task Force at the Library of Congress and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) headquartered at WGBH in Boston, have withdrawn staffing and funds procurement assistance to Pacifica after Brian De Shazor resigned as the Archives Director.
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 have dropped sharply. 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 and Pacifica's most grant-fundable program.
Pacifica's delegate election season *may* be here (or maybe not) and the usual suspects are up to the usual shenanigans. In Los Angeles, volunteer coordinator cum security guard Adam Rice used on-air time to take pot shots at the incumbents on KPFK's local station board. The incumbents won overwhelmingly in 2015 in the most lopsided victory in Pacifica election history. Rice, defiant or simply oblivious of the rules prohibiting such behavior, declared himself a candidate just days later.
And at New York's WBAI, a secretive committee created by the Siegel/Brazon faction to approve free voting memberships was shut down by national election supervisor Lynne Serpe, who issued a 16 page decision confirming that less than a majority of the local board lacks the ability to give away free voting Pacifica memberships.
If you would like to support either or both of the legal complaints filed by Pacifica members, you can visit the Clean Up Pacifica Project for more information.
A timeline of the now two year old coup by the Siegel/Brazon faction can be seen here.
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