An unvarnished blog that dips into the past and comments
on the present of WBAI-FM, a once significant, intelligent New York
radio station that has chronically suffered abuse from within and now
nears extinction. Your comments are welcomed and will not be censored.
If you are following the ESB mess, you should peruse the following documents. The first one is from the law firm that represents the Empire State Building in the case against Pacifica. That is followed by an affidavit submitted in the name of Pacifica's CFO, Sam Agarwal, and one signed by Berthold Reimers, containing his spin.
I don't know who actually wrote the two something-for-nothing pleas, but they have Reimers' tired I-didn't-do-nuttin' all over them.
While the dysfunctional self-destructing Pacifica Board wasted hours shouting bitter nothings at each other, the stark reality came ever closer. Now—thanks in good measure to Berthold Reimers' incredibly inept pretense of "leadership" and a succession of his superiors' utter failure to do anything about it (i.e. kick his ass outta there, to be blunt) the day of reckoning is but a few days away. I have not spoken to Bill Crosier about this in any detail, but I strongly suspect that some of the information comes from Berthold Reimers and is an attempt to put the blame on others, including the storm, Sandy, a ludicrous excuse that Reimers regularly uses to get himself off the hook.
Asking WBAI producers to "educate the listeners as to what the situation is" saddle demonstrates how little Mr. Crosier has been told about Reimers and his cronies. Unless these "producers" are given something to read, they will only make things worse as they will surely compound the lies that are already out there. These are the same people who gladly pitch phony cures and other frauds when participating in Reimers' endless marathon fundraisers. The sad truth is that WBAI would not be in this critical situation were it not for amateur management, self-serving on-air opportunists, and a National Board riddled with ignorance and corruption. Asking the perpetrators to put bandaids on the wounds they themselves have inflicted will not work, they need to be shown the door and what is left of the listenership needs to be made aware of their permanent departures. Even that, is probably too late—they essentially killed the station a few years back and it isn't likely to start breathing again.
The following from Pacifica's iED, Bill Crosier, says it all, but any stories from the "producers" should be taken as the last gasp. I still applaud Bill Crosier for trying, but, quite frankly, WBAI is a candidate for mercy killing—there is nothing left to save, there are no "celebrities" who give a damn anymore, and there is no audience. Read Bill Crosier's plea, wish him the best, and let us know what you think
URGENT • URGENT • URGENT
Dear Producers at WBAI and the rest of Pacifica,
We are in as grave a situation as Pacifica has ever been.
As you may know, the Empire State Building (ESB), which houses the WBAI transmitter, has refused to negotiate with Pacifica in a lawsuit over our antenna lease. It has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ) in NY State Supreme Court against WBAI/Pacifica not-for-profit and non-commercial radio. They claim WBAI owes them $2.1 million (increasing each month) on our lease for the last 3 years. The onerous lease goes until 2020.
The case goes to the Judge on June 30.
WBAI's operations -- and Pacifica's -- would be put in serious jeopardy if the Judge grants the MSJ.
There's of course a much longer story here involving the ESB taking advantage of the World Trade Center's antenna being destroyed in 9/11, which eliminated its competition, and forcing WBAI to have no choice but to sign an unconscionable lease with large increases each year and is now more than 4 times the present market rate!
It is imperative that ESB officials quickly become very aware that the public, including politicians, celebrities, press, and listeners, care about WBAI. We must make the ESB calculate that the loss to their good will from many sectors is not worth it.
We have to take action very quickly - this week!
What Producers Can Do Immediately:
Producers are the first line of contact with the public. Please spend a portion of each of your shows in the next week helping to educate your listeners as to what the situation is. And then most importantly urge them to:
1. Contact their elected officials, including those in New York's City Council and state legislature, and express their concerns.
2. Call the ESB switchboard to talk with Anthony Malkin, the CEO and President of the Empire State Building. Leave a message for him if you can't speak with him, so think in advance about a short message you can leave.
Callers should request three essential actions by the Empire State Building:
1) withdraw the Motion for Summary Judgment,
2) be reasonable and negotiate with WBAI/Pacifica in good faith, and
3) release WBAI from the remainder of its onerous lease with no penalty.
The phone number for the Empire State Bldg switchboard is 212-687- 8700. Request Anthony Malkin, the CEO and Chair of the Board of Empire State Realty Trust, which owns ESB and several other buildings in New York.
There will also be upcoming Press Conferences and other activities where turn out from producers and listeners will be essential. Please be on the watch for such announcements soon.
Talking Points for Producers to Inform Listeners:
* In 2001, when 9/11 happened, WBAI covered it live, and stayed at the mic round-the-clock reporting from downtown Manhattan. After the destruction of the Twin Towers, broadcasting stations in the NYC area had few options for rental of transmitter space. The Empire State Building took advantage of their virtual monopoly on good antenna space after 9/11, and so forced a now deceased former Pacifica Executive Director to sign an unconscionable contract whose rent now has risen to over $50,000 a month.
*This highly questionable 15 year contract also involves extraordinary annual increases of 7% of the license fee for using the antenna. in addition to an annual cost of living increase based on the inflation rate. This is why the monthly payments, which were (barely) affordable when the new lease was signed in 2005, are now so outrageous. The Empire State Building has refused to release Pacifica from the contract which has three more years of escalating payments to go.
*Since the Conde Nast building was built at 4 Times Square, and the new Freedom Tower were built, other good antenna space is available, and the amount being charged WBAI is now much higher than other options that are now available for about $12K per month.
* ESB's response, when we told them we could not afford the exorbitant increases per the lease but could pay them the market rate, was not to be reasonable or fair, but to tell us that we should sell the WBAI license or trade it for one with a much smaller coverage area! In other words, they suggested that we cannibalize our signal in the largest media market in the country, so they could earn excessive profits.
* The ESB receives public assistance in one form or another (abatements, etc.) but the ESB has no not-for-profit rate, and worse it is charging WBAI at 4 times the market rate!
* The Empire State building is owned and managed by the Empire State Realty Trust. Anthony Malkin is the Chairman, CEO and President. It is an international entity including investors from Qatar, Japan, Norway and Austrailia. At one point Donald Trump was involved in legal actions and ownership of the building.
* WBAI's best chance of achieving financial stability is to move to a comparable location elsewhere with comparable coverage area that is available now (but not in 2005), at 25% of what's in the current ESB lease. That it is why it is so important that listeners make their views known to the Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the building.
*The mission of Pacifica has always been to serve the public. WBAI has been a pioneer in coverage of the global ecological issues, climate change, social justice, anti-war protests and the economic crises. The station has provided in depth coverage of the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements and of the Dakota pipeline protests, as well as ground-breaking coverage of the Arts, Women's Liberation, and Gay Liberation. Every public radio station in America has based itself on the example that Pacifica pioneered. Pacifica invented listener-sponsored radio. Pacifica is not just a reporter of news, but a news maker. A strong, united Pacifica is needed now more than ever. We cannot let the forces of elitism win!!
Again, please ask listeners to contact their elected officials and also to call the Empire State Bldg. and ask that ESB:
withdraw the Motion for Summary Judgment,
be reasonable and negotiate with WBAI/Pacifica in good faith, and
release WBAI from the remainder of its onerous lease with no penalty.
The Switchboard for Empire State Bldg is 212-687-8700; request Anthony Malkin, ESRT CEO and Board Chair.
And remind listeners that this is just the first action in our fight to save the station!
Together, we will fight to continue standing up for the rights of the people who are often forgotten, and to keep WBAI's free speech voices strong and continuing to broadcast news, public affairs, analysis, and culture that you don't hear on other stations.
This meeting of the Pacifica National Board was called for 8:30 PM and went straight into Executive Session (i.e. not streamed). We do not know what went on between 8:30 and 10 PM, but at that time the green curtain was raised and this became a Special Meeting.
Here is the latter part of this amazing Pacifica session. Don't ask me what came out of it, but ask yourself if there could be a better demonstration of why the Pacifica Foundation has hit the rocks. Listen to as much as you can stand as Cerene Roberts—her balloon deflated—does her worst and posts over a dozen infantine e-mails in as many minutes; the Uhuru guy grunts, and Adriana screams that she cannot be heard. Who needs Barnum & Bailey?
Part I should suffice and make you thoroughly disgusted, but, for completeness... be forewarned, this is very long, totally unproductive, and all too real!!!
These days, WBAI constantly brags about its perceived uniqueness and that is not entirely wrong, for I can think of no other NYC station that is as amateurish and dishonest. Not true, however, is their claim of singular honesty. They like to tell their listeners that what they just heard can "only be heard" at 99.5. They are—or so they wish you to believe—driven by a "truth to power" pursuit.
There was a time when that would have been a true statement and I wish Bill Crosier the best of luck as he braves the deceitful elements and tries to get the station back on track.
I thought of this as I came across two vintage commentaries by the remarkable renaissance man, Orson Welles. When he spoke these words a week apart, July 28 and August 4, 1946, over the ABC Radio network, it brought national attention to an ugly sequence of incidents that was as revealing as it was commonplace. Wilson's hypocritical WWI slogan, vowing to "make the world free for democracy", remained as hollow and discriminatory in FDR's follow-up World War. Welles' broadcasts brought Isaac Woodard, Jr. and the racism he suffered into sharper focus, but it obviously did not do away with it. The opening comment here, by our friend, 'indigopirate' (see below) contains a link with details
I hope you will take a half hour to listen as Mr. Welles relates, comments and follows up on a shameful racist incident that took place in Aiken, SC and is all too similar to what we hear regularly in today's news, over 70 years later. His comments on world politics and our Congress sound equally current, and he does a fine job of responding to a complaint from the Mayor of Aiken.
The National Finance Committee (NFC) met on May 2, and June 13, 2017. The local Finance Committee met on April 13, May 4, and June 8, 2017.
At the April 13, 2017, local Finance Committee meeting there was no quorum. The WBAI General Manager complained that the National Office was making mistakes in the Profit & Loss Statement, and they were carrying as payables bills that have already been paid. The General Manager also said that a collection agency lawyer had come to the station for payment of an Associated Press bill, and that bill was paid. He said that he would reduce the Verizon bill by about $20,000. The General Manager lauded the use of Quickbooks and Volusion over the standard MEMSYS and Great Plains software which are standard in Pacifica.
There was again discussion of the local Finance Committee wanting to get more, standard financial documents from the General Manager two days before each local Finance Committee meeting. The General Manager said that he had been working with the National Office on this to get us that information. The General Manager said that WBAI had about $16,000 cash in bank on that date. The General Manager said that the National Office was writing off some of WBAI's Central Services arrears.
There was concern raised regarding who would know about WBAIs finances if something happened to the General Manager.
The General Manager said that WBAI owes the Pacifica Radio Archives about $42,000 in Central Services fees, and he said that the National Office was owed about $79,000 in Central Services fees. He said that WBAI still owed WPFW $19,000 which he is not paying, and the station still owes WHCR $25,000.
At the May 2, 2017, NFC meting Alex Steinberg was elected Chair, I was reelected Secretary.
At that meeting the CFO reported that the Audit committee would meet to select an auditing firm for the FY15 audit. He reported that Pacifica is prepping for the auditors, but that the process has been going slowly. The CFO said that WPFW and WBAI dont have Business Managers sp theyre getting help from the KPFT and KPFK Business Managers to complete their accounts and the National Office is helping out as much as possible. The CFO said it was encouraging to know that both stations are coming around nicely and should be able to wrap up their audit preparations in a reasonable time. He said that KPFT and KPFK are in reasonably good shape and that the National Office has gotten lot of information from them; they have Business Managers and do audit requests. The CFO said that KPFA is the holdout, theyve been extremely late in submitting everything for the audit. The CFO is in communication with them, he said that KPFA will definitely cause delays. The CFO said that the stations have to do their preparations and only then can the National Office prepare for the auditors. He said that he couldnt give a firm date for the FY15 audit yet. The CFO said that the other big bottleneck is the staffing issue at National Office. He said that its difficult to hire skilled personnel because the National Office cant compete with others in terms of wages. He said that there is a backlog of work, and a lot of work has to be done before the audit can be started. The CFO said that he is getting help from the Business Managers and some part-time help at the National Office. He said that maybe by May 31, they could wrap it up. He said that the California Attorney General has given Pacifica till August 27, 2017, to complete the audits, which is a tight schedule.
The CFO said that to get the FY15 audit done a lot has to happen, and Pacifica has to change the culture of how the organization manages the whole process.
The CFO said that as of May 2, 2017, there was about $555,000 outstanding for Central Services in the last 15 months or so. He said that WPFW, WBAI and KPFT have outstanding Central Services payments. He said that more than a third of the budgeted Central Services fees have not been paid, and were seeing the results. He said that thats why Pacifica doesnt have the money to pay for critical services. He asked the NFC for help. He said that there are no consequences for non-payment of Central Services, and the National Office reminds stations, but it has no authoritative force behind it. The CFO said that stations are withholding payments and are balancing their books on the back of the National Office. The CFO called for an enforcing mechanism. He said that if a station is in difficulties they can ask for a waiver, but it should not be at the stations General Managers discretion. The CFO said that even when the stations get money they dont pay their Central Services fees anyway. He said that the National Office needs a motion that stations are bound to make payments or they have to look at their business model.
The CFO said that the only thing that can work is holding the General Manager and Business Manager of a station responsible. Not all NFC members agreed with this approach.
At this NFC meeting a motion was passed calling for 36 hours of pitching at all of the stations during the Spring on-air fund raisers to be devoted to raising funds to meet National Office expenses.
At this meeting the NFC also passed a motion recommending that the PNB give the CFO direct managerial control of all Business Managers and accounting personnel for the next year, and that the CFO have the authority to apply disciplinary measures through the General Managers of the stations, including adjustments in salary, termination and awarding of bonuses based on performance of all accounting personnel under the CFOs charge. The motion also provided for the General Managers to provide timely financial information to the CFO or the General Managers may face disciplinary actions initiated by the CFO and approved by the ED if they fail to comply.
At this meeting the NFC voted to recommend to the PNB that it rescind the SCA motion that delayed the FY17 budgets.
At this meeting the NFC voted to meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month starting in June.
At the May 4, 2017, local Finance Committee meeting the General Manager reported that WBAI had about $7,700 cash in bank, and about $5,276 cash on the WBAI premises. The General Manager said that he was catching up on paying bills, including paying for premiums for the then ongoing Spring on-air fund raiser. He said that the National Office was not posting entries properly and that the FY14 audit may need to be adjusted. He said that WBAI probably owes the Empire State Building (ESB) about $2.1 million, and the station owes everyone else about $200,000. This includes owing PRA about $20,000 and seven months of National Office Central Services at $16,890 a month. The General Manager said that all of the information about WBAIs finances that would be needed for the FY15 audit was already at the National Office.
In answer to a question the General Manager said that bills are paid in order of what keeps the station alive: office rent, ESB tower payments, phone, payroll and consultants. He said paying for premiums is also important.
In answer to a question the General Manager said that all premiums for the Spring on-air fund raiser are 100% licensed. He said that there were 1,494 premiums that had not been shipped at that time.
The General Manager outlined his working arrangement with the KPFK Business Manager. He said that he didnt know who was double checking figures at the National Office, but that hed found a $500 mistake in a Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) form that had been filled out. He said that the CPB forms are asking harder questions this year.
There was a discussion about how a Gary Null retreat premium was being handled. The entire retreat premium is given for a $2,500 donation. The General Manager said that the listeners send $2,500 to Gary Null and Gary Null sends $500 of that back to WBAI. The retreat expenses are $2,000. The committee had a discussion about this and raised the issue of who gets the tax credit for the donation to WBAI from this retreat premium. Committee members suggested that WBAI get the $2,500 donation and send Gary Null the $2,000 retreat expenses; this way listener sponsors get their proper tax credits. It was suggested that the General Manager check with an attorney regarding how these premiums are handled.
I sent a memo to the interim Executive Director and CFO regarding the above. That memo is Item #1 in the appendix of this report.
The General Manager said that he would get the local Finance Committee a list of outstanding bills.
Questions were raised regarding the hiring of a marketing firm called Yellow Magnet, which the General Manager said would market WBAI programs on social media. The General Manager said that they had been paid a $10,000 retainer. He said that he hoped to triple the BAI Buddy sustainer program this way. The local Finance Committee was skeptical about this company and the plan. This subject was also included in the memo I sent to the interim Executive Director and CFO, which is Item #1 in the appendix. The General Manager said that he would bring the contract signed with Yellow Magnet at the next local Finance Committee meeting.
Questions were also raised regarding a financial premium from a representative of a company called World Financial Group. To some local Finance Committee members the companys methods sounded like a multi-level marketing structure. Two committee members who are licensed financial professionals said that the premium was illegal because a paid employee of the company was pitching it on the air. The General Manager said he would stop the premium and get the committee more details on this at the next meeting. The committee also asked for the contract WBAI has with the World financial Group. This issue is also included in the memo in Item #1 in the appendix of this report.
At the June 8, 2017, local Finance Committee meeting the General Manager did not show up. The committee looked at the Profit & Loss Statement For the Six Months Ending March 31, 2017, from the National Office at this meeting. Discrepancies were noted on line 92 of that statement. The National Office is not using the right figures for WBAIs ESB rent.
The CFO had sent out a spreadsheet showing each stations situation with regard to Central Services payments. The CFO did not want me to tell the local Finance Committee the amount of WBAIs FY16-FY17 arrears on Central Services fees payments because a public discussion would be, detrimental to the finances of the station and [would] not solve the problem.
The committee discussed the chronic problem of not being able to get full financial information from WBAI Management regarding the stations finances.
At the NFC meeting of June 13, 2017, the CFO reported that the FY15 audit is going well. He said that the auditors are satisfied with Pacificas progress so far, they have been provided most of the information they needed. They have done sample testing with information from the stations. The CFO is meeting with the Business Managers every week to expedite the process.
The CFO again emphasized the need for radio stations to pay their Central Services fees. He said that the National Office has not gotten about $850,000 in Central Services fees over the past two years. He said that every month about $44,000 of Central Services fees are not paid due to three stations. He said that this is having a serious impact on the National Office finances. He again said that Pacifica doesnt have an enforcing mechanism for the mandated Central Services fee payments. He said that he wanted the NFC to consider making a motion about this.
He said that the recent on-air fund raiser to raise money for the audit got about $200,000.
This will be used for getting the FY15 audit. He said that Pacifica doesnt have the money, at this time, to pay for a FY16 audit.
I brought up the issue of the CFO not wanting the Central Services arrears of stations to be publicized. He reversed his previous statement and said that it was all right to do so. As of June 2, 2017, WBAI is $168,900 in arrears on its Central Services payments due since October 1, 2015.
There should be transparency about the finances of WBAI, but the CFO said that a vendor had cancelled a contract with one station because the vendor came to doubt the credit worthiness of that station, due to financial information it had learned about. Transparency is not free of problems.
The CFO said that the lack of funds at the National Office also makes it hard to hire and retain people, and that the California Attorney General had noted that Pacifica has not only been delinquent in getting its audits done, but has not been timely in filing its 990 tax returns. This is all due to an under-funded National Office.
When I brought up the issue of the discrepancies which had been noted on line 92 (the ESB rent) of the Profit & Loss Statement For the Six Months Ending March 31, 2017, the CFO was surprised and said that it sounded like a serious mistake which will throw that months income statement completely off. He said that he would revise that line.
The NFC passed a motion mandating each General Manager to make sure that the station they manage can generate enough revenue to pay the following three expenses each month, in full and on time: The staff payroll, Health care costs and the allocated Central Service Payment. There is a provision for disciplinary actions if a General Manager cant cover those three expenses. The question is whether this can work in Pacifica. A copy of the full motion is Item #2 in the appendix.
The NFC adjourned to an executive session meeting after this public session was over to
discuss a legal matter of a confidential nature.
The WBAI Spring 2017, on-air fund raiser ran from May 2, 2017, to June 4, 2017, a total of 34 days. In the daily tally reports the final tally is given as $338,695. This makes the daily tally about $9,962. The WBAI FY17 budget calls for a daily tally of $14,000 a day. The goal for the entire on-air fund raiser was $434,000.
A complaint was lodged regarding two of the premiums used in the Spring on-air fundraiser. I have seen on a public mailing list an E-mail from the interim Executive Director to the effect that two WBAI premiums, the Zapper and the Orgonite premium were ordered removed from the air. These two premiums appear to have been responsible for the two best tally days of the Spring 2017, on-air fund raiser. The claims made for both premiums were dubious.
The aforementioned Profit & Loss Statement for the first half of FY17 shows WBAI with a deficit of $131,472. It shows a Listener Support line of $945,889 which appears to incorporate almost all of the revenue that the station received in those six months, except for a $50 donation. As Ive pointed out before, this lumping of all revenue into the Listener Support line is not good. It inflates the stations Listener Support and it masks how the station is doing on the other revenue lines. This makes it hard to make good financial decisions regarding revenue sources and can result in erroneous financial statements to various agencies that require accurate accountings of non-profit organizations finances.
WBAIs and Pacificas finances continue on a serious downtrend. The General Manager estimates WBAIs ESB debt at about $2,100,000. The National Office is limping along. Pacifica and WBAI are very fragile financially right now. The major on-air fund raisers for 2017 are over, the Summer on-air fund raiser is generally less remunerative than the others are, and all of Pacifica has to get to FY18 before significant funds can be raised again. It all looks dire.
The next NFC meeting will be held on June 27, 2017, and will begin in executive session to consider legal and financial matters of a confidential nature. The next local Finance Committee meeting will be held on July 6, 2017, at WBAI, 388 Atlantic Ave, 3rd floor, Brooklyn, NY 11217. The public is invited to attend.
We have been told by Reimers and his coterie that the telephone problem has been solved. People can once again call in to be on the air during shows. The pesky problem was blamed on Verizon.
Not surprisingly, it would appear that the truth is different. Here's the ever eloquent Michael Haskins taking a call on Monday's morning show. He seems to blame T-mobile and belies Reimers' alleged solution. Having wasted most of his show's first hour on nonsense, much of which was barely audible, Haskins takes a fairly normal call, which leaves time for only one more.
This second caller is a former WBAI engineer and co-worker who tags himself (herself?) as Blue Spider and has two unfulfilled pledge promises. Rattled, he delivers the following amazing gibberish. I share it with you, because I think it typifies the audience WBAI attracts these days, and Haskins' handling of it is equally hare brained.
Imagine, this is the radio station that forged new paths, and served thinking people as a beacon in the mist. If you have the time and patience, I recommend dipping into WBAI's archived programs and listening to what—besides the deluded Haskins dunce—it foists on that remnant of listeners. Go to last Monday between 6 and 8 AM, or any morning, for that matter. Amateurish and shallow beyond description.
Here is an interesting, useful piece posted to the WBAI LSB-Public list by N. Marty Jameson, a member of the station's Finance Committee. I hope it is discussed and possibly acted upon at the next meeting of this committee, which will take place tonight, June 8, at 7:00, at 388 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. It is open to the public.
Last week, when Pacifica's interim (we need to change that) Executive Director, Bill Crosier visited me during his brief stay in New York, I told him of my belief that WBAI's drastic loss of audience can, in large measure, be attributed to increasingly inept, dishonest programming.
In that connection, I mentioned Tony Bates' pitching of DVDs that blatantly exaggerate the history of African influence and achievement over the years (as if the truth were not sufficiently impressive) and the embarrassment of various amateur doctors pushing bogus "cures", etc. Bill was not learning anything from me that he didn't already know, but he has a tough—if not impossible—task to perform, so the more he hears about the wrecking of Pacifica, the better.
I also brought up Geoff Brady's weekly program, "In Other News", a one-sided super marked tabloid of the air aimed at the gullible, which serves as free promotion for self-published loonies. In that connection, I mentioned the "Zapper", a recently offered fund raising premium that has been likened to the banished and infamous "Double Helix" water, an alleged miracle cure-all. Overwhelming complaints finally forced Berthold Reimers to flush the Double H drops, but history repeated itself during the last five-week beg-athon when Brady introduced the Zapper. This is a battery-charged gadget whose properties even Ripley would have questioned.
Bill Crosier, a scientist, told me that it was bogus and, indeed, to his credit, he pulled the plug on it. This did not sit well with Geoff Brady who decided to challenge Pacifica's iED on the air last Monday night. Here is that segment of Brady's show:
Another negative aspect of WBAI's programming is the abominable technical ineptitude that often makes it virtually unlistenable. A graphic case in point is Michael Haskins' work. He calls himself the station's "chief engineer" and boast of having been there for decades, but listen to what he foisted on his handful of listeners last Monday morning. This is a long sample and, since it has no substance, I suggest that you limit your listening to spot checks, but the man can't read a simple sentence and he has no sense of dynamics, so the volume is all over the place, from barely audible to explosive. Worst of all, of course, that this perennial bozo is as uninformed and hare-brained as Trump. His morning show is, in every aspect, among the worst shows on WBAI.
The following anonymous brief is the first I have heard from someone who attended last evening's public meeting at 388 Atlantic Avenue.
If you were there, please post your impression—how many attended, etc. Typically, WBAI simply continued airing the old infomercials.
The town hall discussion went pretty well Chris. There was a lot of criticism of Reimers and Bates especially about treatment of producers. There was also criticism of producers for not promoting more or doing things like station ID breaks. There was also talk of expanding outreach and marketing efforts. The biggest problem appeared to be lack of communication from and to management. —Anonymous
Berkeley-The Pacifica National Board met twice in the month of May, on May 11 and May 25. The meetings featured slow but steady progress intermixed with a not inconsiderable amount of disruption from the remnants of the Siegel/Brazon faction, who no longer hold a majority on the national board. Most of the board's open sessions are point-of-order-athons, making them a frustrating listening experience for the network's worried members. The independent board majority uses the Maestro Conference service, a popular conference call service, in order to maximize the efficiency of the meetings, but has used the service's features sparingly and only after numerous warnings.
IED Bill Crosier, who has been unable to provide a report to the board verbally on any board call since February, (5 consecutive times), provided a written copy of his planned report for the board's May 25 meeting, which can be read here. His previous written reports from March 23 and March 2 can be read by clicking on the links here and here.
Highlights include ongoing settlement negotiations for the unpaid tower rent lawsuit with Empire State Building, which has paused litigation to engage in discussions which have been occurring in New York City, where Crosier and CFO Agarwal have been for the past week. Crosier is holding an open meet and greet with NY-area listeners at WBAI on Monday May 29 at 5pm.
Pacifica is also in dialogue with the Ebay seller who acquired a large quantity of Pacifica's old master tapes after Pacifica's national office failed to pay storage bills and the storage company sold off the contents of a storage locker. Other Minds, a Bay Area nonprofit run by KPFA's former music director Charles Amirkhanian, is assisting with attempts to return the materials to Pacifica's custody.
The national board acted to reverse the "SCA Motion" initiated by Cerene Roberts in 2016, which attempted to reallocate sideband rental revenues away from Pacifica's National Office, cutting its self-generated income in half with no replacement. The effort placed the entire 2017 budget process into such chaos that not a single divisional budget was ever approved by the 2016 national board for the current fiscal year. Pacifica's controller Efren Llarinas had stated in several 2016 finance committee calls that he did not know how to implement the SCA motion. The move rolls back planned fee increases of $20,000 and $50,000 respectively for stations WPFW and KPFA, which had faced them due to smaller sideband rental revenues.
The national board also rescinded a mandate for each station to add an additional 5 hours of Spanish language-only programming to their existing grids. The mandate from June of 2015 had been implemented more than two years later, by only one station - Los Angeles' KPFK - and ignored by the other four stations. Each Pacifica station has some existing bilingual or Latino-focused public affairs and cultural programming, but only KPFK schedules large blocks of time for Spanish language only programs that are inaccessible to non-Spanish-fluent audiences.
In the closed session on May 25, the board selected an audit firm to begin the delinquent fiscal year 2015 audit (for the year 10-1-2014 to 9-30-2015). The Independent board majority has had a struggle with the Siegel/Brazon remnants in the network to get the late audit going, despite a deadline set by the California Attorney General for receipt of the completed audit report by the end of August 2017. If Pacifica does not make the deadline, then it will face state suspension of its tax-exempt status due to severe audit delinquency.
An anonymous source indicated that prior to the audit firm selection in the national board's closed session, a Siegel/Brazonite board member moved the 2017 audit committee should be disbanded and the selection process began all over again from scratch. The motion was defeated by the board's independent majority, which then went on the select one of the four audit firms that had submitted proposals. On March 2, Pacifica listeners nationwide donated over $200,000 to help the network catch up on the delinquent audits.
Throughout the network, Pacificans continued to react to the revelation that KPFA board chair Carole Travis had been soliciting celebrities to join the board of "Big Tent Radio", a new nonprofit she claimed to be starting to acquire Pacifica's assets after it "collapsed". Two of the recipients of Travis' appeals sent them to Pacifica IED Crosier, who issued this statement in response. Travis' "Big Tent" follows her involvement in the previous iteration of the "KPFA Foundation", a nonprofit created by former Pacifica corporate counsel Dan Siegel and former Pacifica IED Margy Wilkinson in secret. It is now formally registered with the Registry of Charitable Trusts with Pacifica's 1949 mission statement and Siegel as the chief executive officer and chief financial officer. Big Tent Radio has not been incorporated so Travis' appeals were either for the KPFA Foundation itself under a new name or for a nonexistent nonprofit that has no board to join. The website www.bigtentradio.org has been purchased by some unhappy with Travis' actions.
Calls to remove Travis from Pacifica governance have been heard throughout the network, including from sources as unlikely as former IED Lydia Brazon, an erstwhile ally of Travis, Wilkinson, Siegel and Save KPFA. Brazon, apparently a bit sore about her February removal as Pacifica's executive director, helpfully drafted a resolution for the national board to remove Travis and sent it to the national board unsolicited.
A lengthy conversation about Big Tent Radio was held at the KPFK local station board on May 21. You can listen to selections from that here. It contains a choice bit of revisionist history from Siegel/Brazonite Lawrence Reyes, who while waxing indignantly about Travis' actions, comes up with the novel assertion that both he and Brazon opposed the similiar actions of Wilkinson and Siegel when the secret existence of the "KPFA Foundation" was uncovered in 2015. What actually happened on the national board in 2015 can be heard here. Both Brazon and Reyes voted three different times: once to not add censuring Wilkinson to the board's agenda, once to rule out of order a motion to no longer use the services of Siegel as Pacifica's corporate counsel and once to prevent then-ED John Proffitt from investigating the creation of the "KPFA Foundation". Brazon cast the tie-breaking vote to prevent an investigation from going forward.
Twit Wit Radio's satirical look at the Big Tent Radio revelation can be heard here.
Finally, because you can never have too many lawsuits, the Siegel/Brazon remnants filed in Alameda Superior Court a 3-part lawsuit designed to try to recapture the national board majority after their large losses in the 2016 board elections. The lawsuit is being prosecuted by Harold Smith, the longtime law partner of Harmeet Dhillon, chair of the California Republican Party. Smith was her law partner for 8 years from 2006-2014, starting up his own firm in 2014. Dhillon, who infamously delivered a prayer for Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention addressing him as “a warrior and a leader” following Jefferson Sessions’ nomination of Trump, is the spouse of former national board member Sarv Randawa who represented Berkeley’s Save KPFA faction on Pacifica‘s national board for five years from 2004-2008. Dhillon and Smith previously pusued two other lawsuits against Pacifica, representing Siegel/Brazonites Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Rodrigo Argueta in 2011.
The complaint can be read here. It asks the court to restore LA listener rep Sharon Brown, after Brown was found to hold a seat on the Los Angeles Small Business Commission and was ruled ineligible by KPFK's station board by an 18-1 vote, due to the bylaws restriction on board members holding political appointments. It also asks the court to restore Efia Nwangaza to an affiliate director position by continuing to throw out the votes of NY's representatives. And the lawsuit asks the court to issue a pre-emptive injunction against any removal of Adriana Casenave for refusing to cede the board chair position to the newly elected board for three meetings in February and March of 2017. Plaintiffs Brown, Casenave and Nwangaza are suing board members David Beaton and Mansoor Sabbagh as individuals as well as Pacifica as an entity and claim in their complaint that Pacifica is "failing to protect the Foundation from attempts to dismantle it" - apparently trying to use the actions of their erstwhile allies in Save KPFA (Wilkinson, Siegel and Travis) to support their lawsuit.
Saturday morning: Jim Dingeman has just posted a confirmation and updated the time. Please note that it is now set for 5 PM on Monday. Or is it?
A post by Alex Steinman on Nalini's listserv is casting some doubt regarding the veracity of the town hall meeting (see below). My source was a post by Jim Dingeman, whose growing frustration with WBAI and Pacifica is ever growing (and understandably so).
Alex Steinberg wrote:
This is a mistake. There is no meeting on Monday. I just confirmed with Bill Crosier and he knows nothing about this meeting.—Alex Steinberg
To which Jim Dingeman replied:
That is inaccurate
I set up this meeting many hours ago and mentioned that it would be a mass meeting
I have had to for years when head of the cab chair meetings like this
Frankly it would be a positive event
If people have changed their mind
So be it
But there was no mistake
Is the fake news policy of WBAI now spreading to its genuine supporters? I leave it to you to interpret—Remember, Steinberg tends to be snarky and, as noted, Jim is teetering on the edge of exasperation. Will the fat lady sing to an empty house?