Monday, October 31, 2016

Exploiting or Supporting?

You may recall Margaret Prescod's hysterical fundraising recently, when Ebola made a troubling reappearance in Africa. There was some question as to the legitimacy—not to mention logistics—of sharing donations with an outside charity. I don't know how or if that was resolved, but the practice continues and seems, in fact, to have become a trend.

With the Pacifica stations under-supported, sharing their steadily diminishing incomes with outside charities is folly. This is especially inadvisable during a station fund drive that already is destined to fail. WBAI's drives are now routinely extended and the human element that originally characterized these annual marathons has been replaced with endlessly repeated hour-long, dishonest infomercials that amount to marketing of products and services, most of which are available to the listener elsewhere and at a fraction of the pitched price. There is also good reason to believe that these commercials increase the station's losses by further discouraging the exodus that has brought total listenership to an all-time low.

Currently, listeners are told that 50% of select purchases will go to help Haitian earthquake victims or protesting Native Americans in North Dakota, a claim that some meet with understandable skepticism, considering WBAI's history of collecting money for products never mailed. Since only relatively small amounts can be piggybacked to worthy (some say, worthier) causes, one might also wonder if exploitation enters into the equation. After all, WBAI now seems to be focused on exploitation with its often exaggerated gloom and doom marathon leitmotif.

The legality of this double decker fundraising approach is still a question—it can be done legitimately, but there are procedures to be followed and Pacifica is notorious when it comes to following guidelines.

Kim Kaufman, who sits on KPFK's Finance Committee was curious when she heard Margaret Prescod give a benevolent shout-out to the people at Standing Rock, so she sent the following to to the station's manager, Leslie Radford. It opened up an exchange that you might find illuminating. Be sure to open the link attached by Tracy Rosenberg—it has the pertinent figures.

Saturday, Oct. 29- 6:34PM

Dear Leslie -

I heard a repeat fund drive show today (Saturday) from yesterday (Friday) where Margaret Prescod was raising money for people at Standing Rock. 50% of funds raised will go there, same as the 50% of the money raised for Haiti earlier in the drive. My questions are:
  1. Were waivers gotten from the FCC to raise money for third parties in Haiti and Standing Rock?
  2. Margaret said all the money donated was tax deductible. I believe she said the funds for Haiti were going to Partners in Health. Is that where it is going? She said the people at Standing Rock need things like water, beds, tarps, blankets, school equipment, etc. She did not name any third party organization. To whom or which organization will receive these funds or is KPFK going to purchase these items and ship them to North Dakota?
  3. Your budget is based on a ratio of premiums at about 5% of the listener support money raised (not pledged) in FY2017. (Historically it has been closer to 12%). The Haiti and Standing Rock pitches were at 50%. Why was this decision made to send 50% of the money we raise outside of our own organization which desperately needs the money? This need for KPFK includes:
  • You show a deficit for November in your budget which means you cannot pay bills at the end of November (or earlier, depending on how reliable one believes FY2016 numbers are);
  • About $70k is still owed to listeners for premiums from FY2015;
  • $250,000 is owed to the National Office from FY2015.
  • The FY2017 budget presently includes only paying 50% to the National Office. You have said you will shut down the phones, computers, translators/repeaters/ booster and on-air programming from midnight to 6 am, among other things, if you have to pay this.
  • Five days were added to this 22 day fund drive, budgeted at 138 days for the year (now at 143 days), to make up for the additional funds KPFK will be sending to Haiti and South Dakota. 
I am not questioning the worthiness or the need in Haiti or Standing Rock but I think the listeners need some clarity on these decisions that affect them.

Thank you in advance for your response.

KPFK Finance Committee

Leslie Radford's response:


We have verified with our FCC attorney that waivers are not needed.

As it says on the KPFK website, the money for Haiti went to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.

The money is deducted from listener collections and not added to premiums expense because the listeners designated this money directly to these organizations. Again, you can see this on the website. Our MEMSYS pledges show $569,208 as I write this, but as you can see on our website we still need about $19,000 to reach our $550,000 goal.  That’s because the check we wrote for Haitian relief and the check we’ll write on Monday for Standing Rock are deducted from listener collections, our pledge drive income account, and not counted as premiums.

I assure you that the 50% we retain from both our Haiti Emergency Relief and Standing Rock hours have been very strong pledge hours. We haven’t added fund drive days to do this—again, we’re still about $19,000 short of our goal.  But calculated roughly, our Standing Rock hours (I’m not going to go back and calculate the Haitian relief hours right now) are bringing in $2096 per hour after deducting the contributions to Standing Rock (and without the cost of premiums). The other hours over the past two days (those with premium costs) are bringing in an average of $1564.

It seems that we have come across a way to raise money that our listeners like and is truly in line with our mission. All of us have been looking for ways to raise money that don’t alienate our base listeners, and we might just have found one. Apparently, they want to “double their value” if we’re teamed up with pressing progressive needs, and are willing to give more than twice their donation to do that. I don’t know what you call this except a win-win.
Leslie Radford
General Manager, KPFK 90.7FM
This prompted a question from Tracy Rosenberg:

Hi Leslie,

Would you mind providing a copy of an FCC attorney informing you that waivers are not required for third party fundraising in writing?

I do not mean to be skeptical, but since the Federal Communications Commission underwent a vast rule making on a national scale to discuss the relaxation of this rule (which has not occurred), I find it a bit hard to believe that Pacifica is magically exempt. 

In the past, you have informed us a counsel assured you that layoffs and salary reductions you engaged in at KPFK were not in violation of the SAG-AFTRA contract, only for us to find out that was not the case. So it would appear  expensive to simply take your word for it (although it is possible counsel simply gave you terrible advice). It would be helpful to know which of those two failures occurred. 

No one is saying that you cannot engage in 3rd party fundraising if you follow the proper procedures. But shortcuts can be expensive. Since you are planning to cover the costs of the previous shortcut by shutting down KPFK's translators and repeaters, not fulfill premium orders and banning air conditioning, I am not sure what your recourse would be if this short cut is as misguided as the last one.

Please provide that to the local and national boards in writing and copy the Radiowaves list serv.

Thanks, Tracy
Tracy then provided some details at PacificaRadioWaves

Regarding Haiti and Ms. Radford's comments:

I don't have firm numbers for the Standing Rock third party fundraising, but I'm enclosing the data regarding the Haiti fundraising at KPFK, which was done for 24 broadcast hours during the last drive at KPFK (along with hours at WBAI and WPFW). 

Net proceeds to KPFK after a 50% cut of the gross amount raised is $1,225 per Haiti broadcast appeal hour. If Ms. Radford is correct that the average fundraising hour at KPFK grossed $1564 less 10% premium cost for a net of $1,408, then it would appear Haiti appeals were no more and possibly less profitable for the station than the normal fundraising programs.

This is not to divert from the primary request for confirming correspondence from an FCC attorney regarding proceeding without a waiver, but simply to attach assertions made about fundraising to actual data. 

Unless FCC regs have pretty recently been changed I doubt that any FCC attorney would say that waivers are not required. Its always been a pretty strong policy at the FCC that non-commercial stations can raise money on the air only for themselves. This was a big issue in the sale of KUSF to the University of Southern call (which transformed it into KDFC) only about three years ago.  This issue among others held up FCC approval of the sale for more than a year.  I could be wrong, but I really doubt that the FCC has recently changed its policy on this.

To be clear, it has given short term waivers for disaster relief like Katrina or Sandy, but they are always for a very limited amount of time, usually a specified few days.

Spreadsheet updated with the addition of five more hours of 3rd party fundraising on 10/28 to bring the total to 29 hours at KPFK this month, with additional hours at WBAI and probably WPFW.

KPFK net per 3rd party fundraising hour is $1,284. 

Another letter from Tracy to the KPFK GM:

Monday, October 30, 2016

Hi Leslie, 

The reason I am writing again is that you seem to have re-worked your previous claim regarding the increased profitability of third party fundraising forays into "We make $354 more per pitch hour", from the previous usubstantiated claim of $2,046/hr. 

As with your previous assertion, that appears difficult to document from the fundraising sheets put out by the station. 

The data from KPFK's fundraising hours from Monday to Fridays during the last drive from 5am to 7pm when 3rd party fundraising techniques were not used is $1,277/hour. As previously stated, the total for the 29 hours of third party fundraising less the amount immediately donated is $1,284/hr.

I assume that to arrive at the number you presented, if the data was consulted at all, you included the midnight to 5am hours when KPFK's fund drive room, per your instructions, is "closed" and evening foreign language broadcast hours.

Providing confusing and unsubstantiated information to staff members and board members is not actually the GM's job description, and in addition to requesting yet again a written confirmation of advice given to you by an FCC counsel that a third party fundraising waiver is not required, I would ask you to be less foolhardy with the distribution of data that is not factually supportable.

KPFK fundraising totals - October 2016 fund raising drive M-F 5am to 7pm excluding 3rd party fundraising and weekends: $383,355
Broadcast hours 300

KPFK fundraising totals - October 2016 fundraising drive - Haiti and Standing Rock appeaks - post--donation total: $37,252   Broadcast hours: 29.




  1. Standing Rock is not a charity or natural disaster. It's a political demonstration.


    1. Thank you for pointing that out--I should have, but it had been o long day..

      Listening to the Tuesday morning racism of Pamela Brown (who hits her space bar several times between her meaningless words) and the daybreak dunce, Haskins, I am reminded of the telling fact we have not seen these BAI bozos show concern for the plight of people of "no color". What colossal small-minded idiots they are.

  2. KPFK is not paying central services or premiums and is trying to stick Pacifica with the bill for the settlement and yet they're writing checks for disaster relief and a political demonstration? This is either disingenuous or incompetent or both. Even a casual look at the numbers in those emails presents questions. Don't go down this road Reimers. Besides, don't you (Reimers) still have a phone bill? How about reimbursing that lady for the Gary Null retreat? How about catching up on your premiums? How about.....How about...How about....

    1. How about replacing Berthold Reimers with someone who is honest, competent and truly, concerned over the future of WBAI?

      It should have been done years ago, at the first sign of his unfitness for the job... that would be during his first 2 or 3 months.

  3. Dr. Ron Daniels is in the habit of always letting those listening to his Monday morning show know that he is donating $100 at the beginning of every WBAI fundraiser. With all the free WBAI/Berthold Reimers advertising he is getting concerning his "State of the Black World" conference [are non-black people allowed to attend?] in Newark, NJ from November 16th-20th he's getting a pretty good deal for his money.

    1. He is a glib con artist and, yes, he is running straight-out commercials for his current scheme on WBAI, courtesy of Reimers. I suspect that the shared Haitian connection has something to do with that, but the common denominator may also well be race-based.

    2. Companies do this all the time. They contribute to causes that align with their interests. If Daniels really is contributing money at every fundraiser, then that's about $600 a year. The real questions should be about the quality of his show and is he helping bring in listeners and money.

    3. Regarding that "real question", whatever quality his show has is attributable to his fluent presentation, but that positive is—in my opinion—cancelled out by the dishonesty of his messages, such as the perpetuation of Ben-Jochannan/Clarke distortions of history.

  4. thank you for this reminder, as we are over-logged and drowned in so much chaos, we 'forget' what is what. Also your other perceptive & informative comments are helpful too.