Friday, August 12, 2016

Exile Newsletter Aug. 10, 2016


Berkeley-On July 28th, a second special meeting on finances was held, once again boycotted by the entire board majority, with an attempt to unilaterallycancel the meeting by board chair Tony Norman. You can listen to the entire meeting here, a highlights reel here, and read  a written summary of recommendations here.

The Siegel/Brazon board majority did attend the August 4th board meeting a week later, a meeting which which focused primarily on bylaws amendments, elections and disciplinary retribution. A highlights reel can be heard here. Among the subjects discussed: 

After a two-year delay, New York station WBAI was re-licensed by the FCC, although the station's lack of a local or toll-free telephone number since June 23rd place it in violation of broadcasting law (Section 47 C.F.R. 73.1125(e)). The Siegel/Brazon majority on the national board celebrated with Brazon announcing "The really good news is that WBAI has been granted their license renewal until June 1, 2022. That is really important in that it allows us to proceed with a lot of things (giggle) including negotiations that we have with debtors {sic} and so forth". License renewal is what permits a sale or lease transaction of a broadcasting license. License renewal has no value in a negotiation with a creditor due to FCC prohibitions on using the value of broadcast licenses as collateral.

In order to assist with the "proceeding", the majority also passed a vague motion authorizing Brazon and corporate counsel Dan Siegel to take some undetermined action towards the WBAI local station board, which has not met all year due to the national board refusing to seat 4 elected WBAI directors.  Brazon spoke up to inform the board they could expel members of the WBAI local station board with a 2/3 vote. Pacifica is awaiting a court decision from New York's Supreme Court on the matter of the 4 excluded NY directors. 

The national board considered a motion from the WPFW local station board to cancel their election for the second straight year, due to less candidates than available board seats. Board chair Tony Norman, who is overstaying a 3 year elected term that ended in December 2015, spoke up in favor of the idea, although as with the previous year, the action may extend his own personal term on the board. Minority director Grace Aaron mentioned the inherent conflict of interest in the impacted board members choosing whether or not an election to replace them can go forward or not. The board voted down the DC proposal to cancel the election. 

With election ballots mailing from Conneticut on August 15th, Pacifica members eager to see a change can weigh in. Pacifica in Exile's election endorsements will be sent directly soon. They can also be checked out online.  Please use the sharing icons to repost on your choice of platforms or to email forward to friends. As the endorsement statement says: "So if we can say just one thing, it is this. Pay attention. It matters who you rank on your ballot. Don’t guess. If we want Pacifica to change direction, the direction needs to change". 

The board's latest attempt to amend network bylaws dissolved into a spat, with the end result that the current set were "tabled", which did not stop the board majority from forging ahead with a new process whose submission deadline is set for August 15th, or next Monday. The abrupt deadlines serve to prevent proposed amendments from being submitted from any parties besides the majority directors, as neither local station boards nor rank and file Pacifica members have time to meet their larger signature requirements. WBAI director Cerene Roberts insisted that it was very important proposed bylaws amendments be voted on before the election seats new members on the boards. 

The spat is about whether local board members may vote by remote access, using Skype or a telephone connection. Houston's local board says no, that is contrary to the bylaws. KPFA's local board says yes, and it is not contrary to the bylaws and the bylaws amendments do not pass without those remote votes. KPFA's "remote access policy" which was written in June of 2016 after 5 months of excluding remote voters on KPFA's board, authorizes remote participation for bylaws amendment votes but not for meetings which select national directors. It isn't clear how voting rights can be defined differently based on the subject matter of the meeting. 

PNB secretary Janet Kobren asked the national board to adjudicate the mess but the Save KPFA majority on her local board flipped out and indicated they wished to remove her from the national board. Attorney William Campisi wrote: "So, if that is still the bylaw, then as I read that section is {sic} takes a 2/3 vote of a majority of KPFA Delegates to remove one of KPFA's PNB Directors from the PNB,  I believe that you have been and that you are conducting yourself in a manner which is adverse and/or harmful to the Foundation.  If I can find other Delegates who feel as I do, then at the next LSB meeting we may seek to remove you from the PNB.  If you find that "intimidating", then you do not understand the system in which you are involved". 

The 2014 audit, almost two years after the end of that fiscal year, threatens to make an appearance after $35,000  was removed from KPFK's bank account to pay for it following the station's last month-long fund drive. Preliminary financial statements last seen over a year ago, had Pacifica losing a million dollars in 2014, even after jettisoning 70% of WBAI's payroll and the $650,000/year Democracy Now contract from the previous year. A statement of the audit charges can be seen here, including close to $12,000 in finance charges. In order to soften the blow, the national board told KPFK the payment would waive future shared services payments, despite KPFK's unpaid $250,000 default on national office loans in 2015. Houston director Bill Crosier strongly dissented, saying the decision to starve the national office of funds was like "cutting off the blood flow to your head - not a healthy thing to do". 

KPFK faces an unknown amount of financial restitution to employees after arbitration with the SAG-AFTRA union did not go well. The union was upheld on all grievances brought to arbitration including inadequate notification prior to layoffs, contract violations and illegal withholding of severance pay. KPFK GM Radford and unofficial corporate counsel Dan Siegel have not been able to settle with the bargaining unit, so the arbitrator will likely determine the amount of restitution to be paid. Both Radford and Siegel as well as Brazon were warned multiple times Radford's actions were in violation of the union contract, but did not heed the warnings and Pacifica members will now have to pay for their mistakes. 

GM Radford continues to ignore a recommendation from the station's local board to reverse two prominent program changes that have been big money-losers: cutting three overnight hours from Something's Happening and using host Sonali Kolhatkar only two days a week at 8:00am. The venerable Something's Happening, formerly one of the most listened-to overnight radio programs in the country and one of the few Pacifica programs to ever put up numbers competitive with commercial radio, brought in over $100,000 a year in the almost completely non-monetized overnight hours. 4 years of numbers from 2012-2015 are available here, with a nostalgic comparison with the salad days of 2006, where the program raised the same numbers in a mere 3 fund drives a year, rather than the recent 5-6 per year. In its debut 8 months, replacement program Safe Harbor has yet to raise $20,000 in on-air pledges over three and a half fund drives and some 144 hours of pitching. KPFK recently announced they would "close their fund drive room" from midnight to 5am as they start yet another drive. In the June/July fund drive, Something's Happening raised $21,789 to Safe Harbor's $2,530. 

Led by Houston listener rep Adriana Casenave, Pacifica's personnel committee is in full-speed mode to evaluate CFO Sam Agarwal, who has been on the job for barely seven months. The committee has somehow decided an annual evaluation happens before a year is up, and before searching for an actual chief executive, with the job of Pacifica's executive director vacant for 23 of the last 29 months, including the last 8. Casenave, the personnel committee chair, has been angrily critical of the CFO, accusing him of abetting "secret underwriters".  CFO Agarwal's August report to the national board, which he was unable to give at the last board meeting, can be read here. 

Houston's KPFT lost its program director of more than a decade, with Ernesto Aguilar moving on to a new position at the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB). The Siegel/Brazon majority on KPFT's local station board immediately recommended not replacing him, or as one board member suggested, hiring a student who would take less money because they have no experience. Meanwhile  newly-seated local board member Kevin White warned his colleagues in the majority that in their eagerness to replace long-time station manager Duane Bradley, they were crossing some lines. White stated: "I really must warn everyone in the most serious terms that LSB members, like Maria Castellanos, MUST NOT scream at any employees of the foundation ever. This is including General Manager, Duane Bradley. You are not to scream at any employee, even privately, but most particularly not in public and not at an open meeting."

7 comments:

  1. The WPFW situation is interesting in that it is the only station with a lack of candidates. On the surface, it seems like a good idea to declare the candidates elected but this is the second time it has happened. If they just declare candidates elected then there may not be much incentive to work any future elections. There is also that whole democratic deficit thing. At any rate, people like Norman shouldn't be affected. Their terms would end with the election. They should have ended already but that is another topic altogether. Any remaining seats would be filled by the new board.

    The remote access issue is silly. The meetings are once a month. The delegates assemblies are once or twice a year. There is no money for payroll and yet we're going to make sure 'John Smith' can dial in because he can't be bothered to show up at a meeting? Having said that, the PNB should probably consider this if open meeting rules are affected otherwise leave it to the stations to handle on their own. Just put it on the agenda after the audits and the budgets please.

    Is now really the time to handle bylaws amendments and why the rush? WBAI doesn't even get a vote on this until after the election.

    KPFK is off the hook on central service payments. How nice. Please tell Radford to make the check out to WBAI or better yet just pay Verizon directly.

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  2. Made the mistake of listening to Null's Friday replacement host pitching an enzyme balancing cure premium. She then repeatedly gave out the disconnected number. Not once did anybody correct her.

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  3. One major problem that KPFT (and the other outlets as well?) is the way they dis their listeners. Ex: constantly saying we always need volunteers to help us. What they DON'T say is that you fill out what really is a job application. Then, you're kept on file and ONLY if a need comes up does anyone bother to contact you. No one sends you even an auto-generated "thanks for applying" email. Trying to reach any of their staff takes literally 2-3 months minimum. Even if you leave a voice mail saying you're interested on donating, 99.9% of the time NOBODY bothers to contact you. I've had that happen at KPFT, KPFA and BAI.

    If you just want employees who will work for free, stop wasting people's time with this volunteer bs. You can play semantics games with calling them "interns" or other things. But in the real world, you'll end up getting sued. Then again, no damages to be gained from Pacifica.

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  4. Bai gets their license renewed while at the same time they're violating FCC rules. This just proves that the entire FCC Board are all political hacks.

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  5. Since Verizon is owned by Comcast, why hasn't Comcast sued BAI for the $28,000 (if that's really how much their bill is)? It's not like they don't have the money and legal power to do it.

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  6. Did I read right that KPFK, essentially, was forced to pay $35,000 to get out of $250,000 owed and future money, too? If so, good deal!

    SDL

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  7. Just FYI. Verizon is not owned by Comcast.

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