|DECEMBER 11, 2016|
Monday, December 12, 2016
Toxic Pacifica trio in cahoots.
ARE TWO MEETINGS BETTER THAN ONE?
Berkeley - The upcoming week features not one, but two, Pacifica National Board meetings on December 13 and December 15. The long-scheduled December 15th meeting is when the board will select two affiliate directors for 2017 from among 5 applicants, and a recently called special meeting was initiated by directors Cerene Roberts, Adriana Casenave and Janet Kobren for December 13. The reason for the sudden meeting on the 13th isn't entirely clear with the meeting notice saying the meeting is about 2016 local board elections and the FY 2014 audit. The 2016 elections were certified as complete last Wednesday. A draft of the FY 2014 was distributed to Pacifica's audit committee last Monday. Roberts, Casenave and Kobren have not indicated what motions, if any, they may be presenting for board for consideration.
Pacifica's national board last met on December 1. The 3-hour meeting didn't come to much. The board did not address proposals from the KPFA local station board to swap WBAI's signal, transfer KPFA's broadcast license to the control of Margy Wilkinson and Dan Siegel's KPFA Foundation, or face a dissolution lawsuit. An 18 minute summary reel of the dissension-filled meeting can be heard here. On it, KPFK listener rep Jan Goodman asks again for the board to be sent the KPFK SAG-AFTRA arbitration judgment from September (it was sent - finally - a few days ago). Then the board, based on advice from FCC attorney John Crigler, prohibits local station boards from allowing members to vote and participate by telephone or video conference. In practical terms, the prohibition was pointed at KPFA's local station board which has had large amounts of telephone participation in the last few months due to local members residing in the state of Oregon and in Ventura in Southern California. Crigler's memo can be seen here. KPFA listener rep and former ED Margy Wilkinson strenuously objected, but was abandoned by the rest of the Siegel/Brazon board majority in a 10 (y), 1 (n), 5 (a) vote. KPFK listener rep Jonathan Alexander asked if the eagerness to violate CPB open meeting requirements yet again was an example of sabotage. Pacifica's national board has dispensation for telephone-only meetings because the meetings are live-streamed on the Internet. KPFA's local station board does not stream their meetings.
Pacifica in Exile provided a copy of National Election Supervisor Lynne Serpe's final certification of Pacifica's 2016 election results. That certification letter can be seen here. WBAI's local station board convened a meeting on December 7, 2016 following the certification, and elected four of their members to represent WBAI on the Pacifica National Board for the rest of the 2016 term, which is scheduled to end on January 26, 2017. The announcement to the Pacifica National Board can be seen here. WBAI has been restricted to 25% representation on the national board since January of 2016 due to the board majority's refusal to seat elected directors from WBAI. The directors elected for the next 6 weeks are Frank LeFever, Alex Steinberg, Kathy Davis and Cerene Roberts. Pacifica's bylaws require equal representation on the Board of Directors for all five stations.
The long-delayed financial audit for the year ending September 30, 2014 has finally surfaced in draft form and was provided to the Pacifica audit committee, which voted to approve it after a robust 15-minute conversation with the auditor, who was at an airport and unable to answer most of the committee's questions. The audit will not be released until Pacifica pays another $20-$30K still due to auditor Armanino. The most notable features of the draft audit statement for the year that ended 26 months ago, are savings from the end of the $650,000 annual expense for airing Democracy Now (the contract ended on 9-30-2012, Pacifica continued to accrue the expense without a contract in 2013), savings from a 75% reduction in payroll at WBAI implemented by former ED Summer Reese in late summer 2013, and a $651K increase in total accounts payable. This brings the national debt to $3.5 million and divisional debts (station-specific) to $1.1 million with the largest station amount at KPFA which owed $327K at year end. The bottom line loss on the draft audit was -$791K. For the third consecutive year, auditor Armanino altered audit practices to recognize no accounts receivable in the form of pledges made during fund drives that had not yet come in.
Armanino billings from December 2015 total $195K, more than 3 times the audit estimate of $60K. (You can see a copy of Pacifica's last income statement here. The audit charges appear on line 93). When asked the reason for the substantial overrun, IED Lydia Brazon told the national board that $50K of the billing was for preparation of the 990 tax form, not for the audit. Further investigation proved that statement wrong. $97K additional was billed between June and September of 2016, a period of time when Pacifica management was saying the audit was completed and the the hold-up was the need to pay for it. That does not appear to have been the case.
WBAI's Community Advisory Board tried to tackle concerns about the audit delay straightforwardly by proposing a national fundraising effort to raise about $100,000 for a bi-annual audit for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 at once, to bring Pacifica back into legal compliance by June of 2017. In order to comply with California law, Pacifica needs to complete both the FY 2015 audit, which was due in June of 2016, and the FY 2016 audit, which is due by June 30, 2017 - only 7 months away. Their proposal can be read here. Getting back into compliance would end the risk of punitive action by California's Attorney General, restore at least $750,000 in public broadcasting grant funds for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and allow directors and officers liability insurance to be restored. KPFK listener rep Grace Aaron brought the WBAI proposal to Pacifica's audit committee, but the committee voted it down with negative votes from KPFT listener reps Wesley Bethune (national director) and Nancy Saibara-Naritomi (both not re-elected to their positions), WPFW listener reps Nancy Sorden (national director) and Ron Pinchback (national director), WBAI listener rep William Heerwagon and KPFA listener rep Janet Kobren (national director).
Archival reel to reel tapes continue to be shed on Ebay at an alarming rate. A new seller appeared in late November crowing "We recently purchased a huge archive of KPFA Radio station". You can see the listing here. Quarreling about the archives broke out on Facebook when the chair of the Library of Congress' Radio Preservation Task Force, Dr. Joshua Sheppard, who has been trying to draw national attention to the endangered status of Pacifica's archival collection, found himself attacked by KPFK volunteer coordinator Adam Rice. Rice called the professor a "vampire", "carrion-eater" and "unprincipled" in an exchange that can only be described as a textbook example of how not to speak to a past funder. Sheppard replied with restraint saying he did not want to be "dragged into intramural ultra local baiting politics". In addition to his work at the Library of Congress, Sheppard is an assistant professor of media studies at Catholic University. His latest letter to ED Brazon can be seen here. You can see the Facebook exchange between Sheppard and Rice here.
IED Brazon continues to allow third party fundraising on-air without securing the required waivers from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Donations have been collected for Haitian hurricane relief and to support the Standing Rock pipeline protests. The issue came up at the November 13 KPFK local station board meeting, when GM Radford and IED Brazon were questioned separately by concerned board members. You can listen to a brief snippet here. Radford, who had previously insisted that "counsel" told her waivers were not required, hinted darkly at "pending litigation". IED Brazon stated " "Oh, FCC. I don't know that we got a waiver. I haven't seen a waiver requested. (Q) Do you know if its required? That's the question. (A) Uh, I think that it is required. I believe it to be required. And um, it has been required for years and we haven't gotten them for years and they've never moved on us (Q) So you don't know that we've gotten one. (A) No". .
As a matter of factual accuracy, the last 3rd party fundraising to occur at a Pacifica station prior to the Ebola-Gate controversy in 2014 was back in 2009. An FCC waiver was secured in advance to solicit funds for Haitian earthquake relief. Willful violations of broadcasting regulations can result in fines or the denial of re-licensure.
Pension payments continue to be a problem, with Pacifica management in default on pension obligations. 2015 pension payments missed the legally required deadline earlier this year. The previous year's payment, due in 2015 for 2014 salaries, wasn't handled properly. Non-union employees, including those at the national office and KPFT in Texas, have not been paid at all, and SAG-AFTRA employees at KPFK (and perhaps some of the other unionized stations) slipped extra checks equal to the 2% of their salary that should have been remitted via the pension fund. The payments were probably made in order to remove the issue from the KPFK labor arbitration where it likely would have generated an even larger fine than has already been assessed. The side payments were problematic in two respects: a) for the employees involved, the distributions were no longer taken out pre-tax, causing them to pay taxes on their pension distributions as supplementary income and b) as a violation of ERISA law which prevents the discriminatory distribution of pension payouts to only some eligible employees and not to others who are also eligible.
The Pacifica Evening News startled its radical audience when it parroted the mainstream press on the "Prop Or Not" fake news report, a shady hit piece in the Washington Post which claimed several prominent left wing alternative news outlets were distributing "Russian propaganda" and should be investigated by the Department of Justice. One of the targeted outlets, Truthdig, airs on KPFK, which broadcasts the Pacifica Evening News, although the November 25 news story didn't mention that Truthdig Radio was a Pacifica show. After a local uproar, the Pacifica Evening News issued a pallid update on November 28 which quoted Glenn Greenwald's excoriation of the red-baiting report. You can hear both reports here. KPFA programmer Bill Mandel, who recently passed away, helped build the reputation of the network for courage when 56 years ago he told HUAC "If you think that I am going to cooperate with this collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of the United States Constitution, if you think I will cooperate with you in any way, you are insane".
The publisher of Truthout, one of the targeted outlets along with Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report and Naked Capitalism, stated in an appeal to other members of the alternative press. "Unfortunately, the WaPo article has been shared widely, even by other people in progressive and independent media. And the fact that PropOrNot’s criteria for “fake news / Russian propaganda” are being taken seriously by anyone with a large audience should, in my opinion, concern us all. If it hadn’t already happened before, we are definitely at the point where the “fake news” debate is being weaponized as a way for corporate media to attack independent media"
For those interested in fund drive details, KPFK local station board member Ken Aaron did an analysis of KPFK's last fundraising effort, looking at the impact of various premium gifts used across broadcast times and frequency. The report is available here. It is a useful example of how local board members with management skills can contribute supplementary data and analysis to their local stations to better inform fundraising efforts
The Community Media Center of Marin taped a discussion on November 21 for btoadcast between PNB members Margy Wilkinson and Bill Crosier with 2010-2014 PNB member Tracy Rosenberg and hosted by Peter B. Collins. Audio from that hour-long discussion can be heard here. A video of the panel can be seen here.
Twit Wit Radio's satirical look at the KPFA Local Station Board's "proposals" to force the swap of WBAI's signal or privatize the Pacifica Foundation can be heard here.
A timeline of the now more than two year old coup by the Siegel/Brazon faction can be seen here.