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 for years has suffered chronic abuse from within and now
nears extinction. Your comments are welcomed and will not be censored.
Strategic Planning Means Lengthy Incoherent ‘Discussion’, Right?
As ever, Pacifica is incoherent. As ever, Pacifica is unintelligent, irrespective of perspective. As ever, Pacifica is talentless. As ever, above all, Pacifica drifts, and drifts, and drifts…
There is an abundance of incoherence, of tentativity, of doubt evident in the audio of this meeting.
One might have thought that the combination of a fundamentally desperate situation and the fortunate acquisition of a loan of debt consolidation might have meant focus. Might have meant urgency. Might have meant prioritization. Might have meant…
Well, this is Pacifica.
This is the most recent meeting of the Pacifica National Board Strategic Planning Committee. It was formed a few months ago. Thus far, it’s decided to break itself into subgroups.
As of this most recent meeting, months having passed, the subgroup meant to address strategic planning with respect to programming hasn’t bothered to meet. The subgroup meant to address finance hasn’t bothered to meet. The subgroup meant to address infrastructure hasn’t met.
This, then, tentative in the extreme, is the state of the subgroup devoted to definition of purpose, of ‘mission’.
It runs two hours, in full, I’ve managed to reduce it a bit, but it’s still a very, very long slog indeed.
Here’s what matters here if anything matters here and – guess what – nothing matters here:
The Strategic Planning Committee of the Pacifica National Board shows literally no sign of progress, nor of progress toward progress.
Thus far it has a tentative first draft of a possible survey.
Now, as a simple outside observer, a wandering pirate, one might see neither consensus nor any sign of movement toward consensus as to Pacifica’s purpose, aka ‘Mission.’ It’s clearly leftist, of some sort, only a single member voicing the argument that, given a fair presentation of information people can reach their own conclusions.
Nor is there any interest evident as to any possible purpose other than political.
One member hopes it might be possible for Pacifica to unify the left.
Another hopes it can be a powerful voice to stand for something and against something else.
Have you ever wondered why the left is so easily parodied? Impossible not to parody?
To be fair, in other worlds, a pirate may see signs of possible useful development amongst the youngest age cohorts.
None of these, of course, are represented in Pacifica. Nor are they sought, other than in an abstract thought or two that they ought be supporting Pacifica’s ‘mission’.
A leftist, narrowly focused, diffuse, incoherent, wandering and meandering undefined ‘mission’ that Pacifica feels it ought more formally define.
Someday. Soon. Very Soon. No Rush. No Rush.
We need to converse.
Care to guess where this leads, and where it ends…?
The following audio clip is what member Tony Leon (WPFW) had to say at the meeting.Very much in the spirit of the foundational principles, that education and discussion were to serve the public, making it possible for them to listen and to judge… not to take a position of advocacy for a narrow line, which has long been Pacifica’s course for decades.
Needless to say he was politely ignored. Note the tone in the Chair’s voice as he gives him permission to speak in the last portion of the clip.
The segments are separated by click track, unaltered internally.
Thisis as best I can determine as an outside observer, a clear and comprehensive description and characterization of Pacifica’s financial situation and a probable short term projection as to intent as to next moves, as presented by Grace Aaron of KPFK at the recent public meeting of June 17, 2018.
It is of course representative of her perspective and that of KPFK.
One point I’d like to note is that in the course of this presentation and Q&A Ms Aaron refers to the reason for the reduction of the FJC loan amount from ~$3.7m to ~$3.25m, which hadn’t been at all clear to me previously, and with respect to which I was sharply critical.
I stand corrected.
As for other points, a hasty swarm of notes:
As of Ms Aaron’s statements as of 17 June…
Pension audits are confirmed, as is IRS investigation.
A new pension plan administrator has been hired or is in the process of being hired.
The reason the FJC loan was for a lesser amount than previously thought and hoped had to do with unanticipated complications with respect to the intended use of KPFK’s antenna as partial collateral for the loan, due to the Forest Service, which controls the land on which the tower is situated, refusing necessary authorizations.
A further breakout of that situation and some ensuing relatively minor complications is provided.
The negative, however, is that the difference in what has in fact become available compared to what had been hoped for is that the financial situation is ‘very, very tight’.
The bulk of the pension arrears appear to flow from KPFA and KPFK, but the details are as yet unclear, pending completion of the pension fund audits, which is expected to be a messy and a lengthy process.
The terms of the FJC loan are being made available, but the actual loan document, which is subject to confidentiality restrictions, is and will not be available other than perhaps to the Pacifica National Board in Confidential Session.
‘I think we’re a mess financially’ is Ms Aaron’s overall assessment of the financial situation. The first priority is to put Pacifica’s finances in order, which is of the highest priority of Livingston and Aaron, hence the hiring of a CPA firm to put things in order. ‘The executive director is absolutely focused on this’. Everything has to be rebuilt. That’s the work that has to be done.
The CPA firm, once contracted, which is expected to happen soon, will take over all financial functions of the National Office.
Aaron continues to state that when Pacifica’s financial house is in proper order it should be possible to win back CPB funding.
Some doubt is expressed as to this, the doubt taking the form of an argument that audience declines are part of the reason for the loss of CPB funding.
Aaron’s position appears to disagree with these doubts, and to intend to re-secure CPB support, and then pivot to putting the FJC loan on a longer-term, lower interest, self-amortizing basis.
‘By the next meeting there will be more good news about that.’
As for the indigo pirate’s take: Aaron appears well grounded, determined, and capable. The actions and decisions taken by Livingston and Aaron appear to represent very real progress in an attempt to save a very bad situation reflective of many years of chronic failures, incompetence, infighting, etc.
The question remains as to whether they can pull it off, given the situation, in which with respect to audience and programming they are still far behind the power curve, the tendency of Pacificans to turn upon one another with little need or provocation, and whether or not it will matter to anyone other than present players, if they can.
This isn’t the 1950s or 1960s, which was the heyday of this organization and of these people, and despite the occasional reference toward that fact, I see no real sense that they meaningfully grasp that fact, or the tenor of the times.
I don’t see them seeing the future, I see them seeing a renewed past as their future.
There is indeed both IRS and Department of Labor investigation as to the state of Pacifica pension funds.
The estimate as to the shortfall with respect to those pension funds is ~$750,000.
The estimate as to the funds missing from Pacifica’s Endowment/Restricted funds is ~$640,000.
The full terms of the $3.7m loan to Pacifica are apparently subject to nondisclosure restrictions, which terms will not be made available.
It is known that ERISA violations may trigger default on that loan, but it is thought that that formal violation is not likely to be enforced – the lender has never previously enforced such or comparable terms, as it is explicitly dedicated to the support of public radio.
It is clear that though it’s been low key in many ways, Livingston has already accomplished a good deal of cost cutting, particularly in the area of accounting and finance, the contract being given to META to handle Pacifica’s accounting on a centralized basis represents a considerable saving, monthly, compared to the previous cost of the CFO and his staff.
All in all, the Pirate’s impression is mixed: Some progress is clearly being made and there is at least some degree of increased functionality. Yet cash flow continues to be negative, balance sheets are massively negative, and listenership and the present fund-raising model are clearly negative in the extreme.
As to what may or may not happen next, I have no idea.
As to whether or not it matters to anyone other than present players, the answer is fairly clear.
Here, brought into sharper focus by a shadow of the IRS and highlighted by the ever-present fabrications of Berthold Reimers, is the June 13, 2018 WBAI Treasurer's Report. Inept and seemingly untouchable, GM Reimers still lives in a future of his own making as he enlarges the hole he began boring several years ago.
FY2016, Pacifica‘s third biggest loss in history: "slightly more than $2m"
Auditors turn Pacifica’s unaudited loss of $0.8m into more than $2m
Auditors say IRS are coming knocking to audit the pension fund(s)
Auditors qualify the annual accounts (bad news for both CPB application & possible restructure of FJC loan)
PNB directors personally liable for the $0.5m plus deficit of the endowment funds account
This was the news delivered last Monday night by Pacifica’s auditors to the Audit Committee. The pension accounts proved the main stumbling block: the accounting records are so incomplete and chaotic that the auditors couldn’t quantify the liability with the required degree of confidence. The lack of verifiable accounting data have finally caught up with Pacifica, smacking it in the face with a reality check. The auditors, by their judgment, were forced to qualify the accounts because the hole in the pension accounts was material. The material knock-on is that it compromises, probably fatally, both any grant applications, especially to the CPB, and any attempt to re-structure the FJC loan, which would have put off the day when Pacifica has to cough up the principal (which seems to be $3.7m, not $3.2m, according to WBAI LSB’s motion at last Thursday’s PNB https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/pnb180607/pnb180607_5350_agenda.pdf). Given what the auditors told the Audit Committee it’s almost certain that the FY2017 accounts will also be qualified. But that task won’t fall to Doug Regalia and his colleagues: after a year immersed in Pacifica’s record-keeping hell, they’re out of there. Self-preservation is a great motivator – it just seems to elude the PNB.
1) The need to qualify the financial statements (especially because of the pension accounts) and the IRS coming knocking:
4:01 "We felt that because of certain circumstances – the most I think important one being the pension plans not having completed audits or tax filings for at least a couple of years on one of them, and at least one year on another – is [sic] a scope restriction that prevents us from having an unmodified (or an unqualified) opinion […]"
And the size of the hole? 5:13 "[…] it's an unknown, and how significant of an unknown is it, we, we don't know, but we believe it's a very important matter. I believe the IRS feels it's very important. Generally, if you ask an auditor, if the IRS considers something to be important, and if the IRS is pursuing an investigation in an area, and it is just beginning, that's going to give any auditor a pause, and it's going to cause them to carefully, as best as they can, understand the circumstances and then determine what impact, if any, that situation might have on the audited financial statement."
6:24 "[...] the matters involved, which in this case probably would be an IRS audit investigation, and I'm aware of, of these kinds of activities, and you're probably looking at a 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-month process, and that's being optimist I think, and then upon the conclusion of that, oh boy, you're goin' to have a lot more information probably to better assess what impacts those results have in regards to the financial statements, and then at that time you might be able to issue an unqualified (or an unmodified) opinion [...]"
46:03 "[…] that's the problem with these uncertainties, we don't know, it, it could be larger, I mean, it could be there could be some serious issues involved with the conduct of, of these pension plans, you know, you've got – I, I can't even imagine the, the issues that the IRS might raise in an audit or audits with the pension plans, and I, I think that one is starting soon, and I, I, I've been through this often – "
Eileen Rosin (chair): "You think that you believe that the IRS will audit us directly?"
Doug: "[...] What we're saying is that there are just too many unknowns [...] it's an estimate, and, and accounting rules do provide for estimates [...] and is that the right figure? Phwwwur, I, I have no idea, it could be a third of that, it could be twice that, I, honestly I don't know. But it's, it‘s in recognition of the fact that there is some unknown liability, and I think the important part here is that you're telling the reader [of the auditor's report] that we acknowledge there's an issue here, and we're just not certain [of the magnitude] [...] I think in about two years you'll have enough information to determine what the number should have been." Two years. Two years. The pension problem is not a minor detail.
In common parlance, the figure given (not stated) is a guess, not an estimate. Estimate-talk gives the illusion of precision, it’s ideological, a precision that dissolves when Doug says, "and is that the right figure? Phwwwur, I, I have no idea".
2) Pacifica posts its third biggest loss, "slightly more than $2m" (20:14). This comes as a bit of surprise because the draft income statement gave it as a loss of $803 489 (Tracy Rosenberg’s blog, 5 January 2018 http://pacificainexile.org/archives/2531). So the Finance Office were out by a factor of 2½. As Doug would say, that’s a material difference.
Total income was down, c. 9%, $11.5m in fiscal 2015 to "10.5[m] almost" (the draft income statement had $10.6m). This was combined with rising expenses, c. 7%, $11.7m in fiscal 2015 to c. $12.5m (the draft had $11.4m, so out by c. 10%). Guess having a budget in sight can discipline the mind – maybe.
The loss of c. $2m is more than 2010’s $1.975m but less than 2009’s $2.701m and 2013’s $2.824m. But it’s more than twice the combined losses of the previous two years (2014’s $771k and 2015’s $168k). Looking forward, the draft income statement had the 2017 loss as $218k, so we’ll see. If it’s out by x2½ it’ll be $500k, but will anyone be surprised if it’s $1m?
3)Doug was met with silence when he explained (48:27) that if Pacifica were to expire then the directors would, as of 30 September 2016, be personally liable for $639 212. This is because the permanently restricted endowment account has nominal assets of $1 116 055 but Pacifica only holds assets of $476 843 for that account; the difference is the deficit. When did this arise? The 2008 statements give no quantitative info; the 2009 statements are not on Pacifica’s website; and the 2010/2011 double report notes a deficit as of 30 September 2011 (p.17) but gives no further details, not even its size. The next year’s statements show that this figure was $800 598. So it seems the deficit may have arisen during 2011, so it’s a fixture (pardon the pun). And anyway, Pacifica would never be broken up, would it?
4) Auditor's note regarding going concern status: "that's an issue, that's been an issue for a couple of years now" (9:38). Doug didn’t say what opinion was given in the auditor’s report, so I think we can assume it wasn’t negative – but we’ll see.
a) the 2017 audit will almost certainly also have a qualifying opinion because the pension liability will remain unquantifiable. With two years’ statements being qualified it is highly likely that a CPB grant application would fail;
b) likewise, the same fate for any loan application permitting the restructuring of the FJC loan, which currently requires the principal, which seems to be $3.7m (WBAI LSB), to be paid c. 31 March 2021;
c) although it seems Pacifica is trying to hire a book-keeping firm, there is no evidence that the repeated annual loses will end any time soon; so . . .
d) with annual income stagnating, if not falling (c. $11.5m 2013 thru 2015, c. $10.5m 2016), and any programming battles yet to start, reinforced by organisational inertia and political myopia, all of this means that there’s only one place where cash can come from: Pacifica’s members will have to vote to agree to a WBAI signal swap so that at least $5m, if not $7m, will be available to pay FJC and fund the recurring annual deficits through to 2025 or whenever. —Jara Handala Here again isthe open session Audit Meeting.on Someone get the door... And here aresnippets from the same meetingcollected by Indigo.
June 11, 2018 — a night like any other, these days.
Indigopirate came down with a nasty case of déjà vu, but there were small clusters of confirmations and clarity on those phone lines:
All in all, for Pacificans, a Night of Real Accomplishments!
An aside, or Three: There is a longstanding observation that leftists and progressives are, sadly, far more devoted to their Positions than to actually accomplishing anything.
Positions, you see, are All Important.
They shape everything, determine everything, and are powerfully magically irrelevant and confined to the dustbins of thought from which they first arose and will be forevermore consigned.
(They are, however, the proud earnest children of those presenting them to fate, history, and the world, proof that they matter (if only to themselves and an exceedingly small Circle of Friends (and Enemies))).
A high order, to be sure. Not having as much as a grade school graduation, I would never have qualified, but I think I managed to keep WBAI on a fairly even keel, nonetheless.
I agree with most of the requirements, but confess to being bothered by this line: "Women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBT candidates are strongly encouraged to apply."
It should go without saying that Pacifica seeks a person of unquestionable professionalism, skill and experience—someone who understands Lew Hill's original concept and is willing to adhere to a policy of open-mindedness, honesty and service to the listener-supporters. These are qualities that have been missing for several years. The above quote suggests the very kind of preference Pacifica needs to abandon. Gender, sexual persuasion, ethnic origin, age and physical fitness ought not in any way be among the determining factors. Look back a few years and you will see how detrimental such selectivity has been to WBAI. Diversity is essential, but it must be reflected as broadly as possible and that can only be done if hiring decisions are unencumbered by personal agendas.
The common denominator has to be an eternal quest for a higher intellectual level. The hired applicant should bring a stack of pink slips.
A downloadable PDF file of the following is linked to at top.
Pacifica - Executive Director
The Pacifica National Board (PNB) seeks an Executive Director for our five-station network (KPFA, Berkeley, California, KPFT, Houston Texas, KPFK, Los Angeles, California, WBAI, New York, New York, and WPFW, Washington, DC) as well as the Pacifica National Archives and our growing Affiliate program.
About Pacifica: Started in 1946 by conscientious objector Lew Hill, Pacifica’s storied history includes impounded program tapes for a 1954 on-air discussion of marijuana, broadcasting the Seymour Hersh revelations of the My Lai massacre, bombings by the Ku Klux Klan, going to jail rather than turning over the Patty Hearst tapes to the FBI, and Supreme Court cases. Those cases include the 1984 decision that noncommercial broadcasters have the constitutional right to editorialize, and the Seven Dirty Words ruling following George Carlin’s incendiary performances on WBAI.
The Pacifica Foundation operates noncommercial radio stations in five major metropolitan areas, operates the Pacifica Radio Archives with decades of historical audio, and syndicates content to over 300 affiliate stations. It invented listener-sponsored radio.
In consultation with the Pacifica National Board (PNB), Local Station Boards (LSB) and our management and staff, we have created the profile of the ideal next ED for Pacifica. We will select from and consider candidates who most clearly demonstrate the following skills and characteristics:
Industry knowledge: Experience with and knowledgeable of media, especially listener supported radio, journalism and trends in technology and consumption of media, including:
A high level of understanding of dynamics, issues and trends in media, public and community media, journalism and radio, and ability to lead Pacifica in these areas;
Knowledge to be able to provide oversight to maintain the quality of a complex physical plant (studios and transmitter sites for each station), including managing the strategic and financial challenge of maintaining its effectiveness;
Technologically competent, comfortable with/aware of digital and social media, able to keep us abreast and current with all different platforms.
Communication: Highly developed public and one on one interpersonal and communication skills, with an open, engaging style, including:
Is inspiring and respectful, connecting in a real way with people;
Comfort with and command of the range of communication channels, including speaking, writing and social media;
Being a skillful listener;
Able to flex style depending on stakeholder group and situation;
Is an effective spokesperson for Pacifica.
Leadership: We seek a Strategic, focused, experienced and mission-driven individual, with a mature set of leadership abilities, who will help grow and maintain a positive, aligned culture within Pacifica, keep the organization improving in effectiveness in serving the people in our communities (the physical communities served by our transmitters and beyond) and at the same time help us become and remain financially sound in this turbulent economic time, who also:
Has an open style, but is also an effective decision-maker and change agent;
Shows up – in our organizations and communities, and with the PNB and LSBs;
Puts the mission and success of Pacifica first;
Is a fair, powerful team leader and builder, to help Pacifica gain alignment while encouraging varying perspectives, and to help make the organization highly effective at serving its mission;
Is politically savvy and diplomatic;
Provides direction and accountability for organizational and staff results, including clearly communicating strategy, goals and expectations;
Has great people skills including being able to flex style – comfortable and effective at dealing with a wide range of stakeholders – from our smallest communities to statewide legislative, business and community leaders;
Is committed to and comfortable with diversity, both within the institution and in the communities we serve.
Problem Solving and Decision Making: Expert decision-maker who:
Has the ability to prioritize and determine significance of a particular issue, understands who to include in the problem-solving process, and knows what and how much information is needed;
Is able to effectively analyze and use data in the decision-making process, and makes decisions in a timely matter;
Is good at follow-through – clearly communicates decision, designs and administers effective execution, with appropriate pre-determined success measures and time-posts; and
Demonstrates strength with process mapping and developing effective processes.
Financial Acumen: Experienced, competent financial manager with the ability to provide overall direction to Pacifica including in the financial area, comfort with dealing with money, as well as providing partnering (in the case of the CFO), mentoring and supervision in the area of financial management to the National Office (including our finance team at the NO), the leadership of our five stations, the Pacifica Radio Archives and the Affiliates program. Critical financial skills include:
Experience: Advanced business knowledge, including ability to deal with a complex, difficult financial environment, with managing multiple financial issues and priorities at the same time. Aware of and capable with developing and managing budgets, cash flow, income generation and facilities;
Judgment: Proven ability to make meaning out of complex and ambiguous business situations. Ability to provide context for decisions based on outcomes of past actions. High level of self-awareness in making decisions;
Troubleshooting: The ability to analyze the business performance of and provide guidance to the Pacifica National Office, the stations, the PRA and the Affiliates program, including providing such performance indicators as needed by the PNB to allow for effective policy oversight for Pacifica.
Integrity: Our most important asset is the trust our donors and audience have in our programming and in Pacifica as an institution. A key to the recovery and growth of Pacifica will be to create a new shared sense of internal cohesion and shared purpose, with the ED providing clear, transparent leadership and modeling integrity for the entire organization. Our next ED will:
Be an authentic, courageous, ethical person of substance with strong self-awareness;
Have clear, high standards for him or herself and others;
Be honest with him or herself and others;
Understand and practice confidentiality when necessary as well as organizational and financial transparency;
Understand and have commitment to journalistic independence, integrity, and ethics.
Fundraising: Excited about generating financial resources for Pacifica.. Effective fundraiser with demonstrated track record, knowledgeable of and expert at the ED role in fundraising and resource development, including in a listener supported environment, who is:
Comfortable with asking for money for Pacifica;
Strong as mission spokesperson and in relationship management aspects of fundraising (both individual and institutional);
Has a comprehensive understanding of fundraising strategies and methods in public media (membership, underwriting, and major and planned-giving) and beyond;
Able to develop Pacifica organizational fundraising capacity, and effective at helping initiate the process of moving us beyond our reliance on pledge and membership-based revenues into philanthropic fundraising (adding to and displacing while maintaining and growing total results), including identifying and dealing with any internal cultural and operational blocks to success with expanding and diversifying our income streams.
Conflict Management: Comfort with and skilled at managing conflict, both limiting negative and encouraging healthy conflict.
Experience: Demonstrated success working in and managing an active, sometimes stressful environment.
Knowledgeable and intentional about the practice of conflict management;
Welcomes input, able to process and respond constructively to input including challenges while maintaining composure, able to flex or hold ground as situation requires.
Vision: In the context of the challenges facing Pacifica, as well as changes the Internet is having on availability and use of media, display ability to project our needs out into the long-term future; see and understand future trends in media, in related fields and the world, and the impact on Pacifica’s operations and:
Be a big picture person;
Have a learning orientation, including demonstrated methods for gathering, assimilating and making meaning out of information about the changing media, technology and demographic landscape;
Balance vision with doing.
Able to enroll others in working together to execute vision.
Management: An organized, results-oriented manager with strong relational skills and experience leading a team as well as managing change. Someone who:
Is committed and effective leading a staff, including supervising, developing and mentoring.
Has the mindset of an effective manager, including attention to detail;
Is able to multi-task effectively across a broad range of areas, quickly shifting gears and prioritizing tasks across diverse areas and practices.
Is committed to and has a record of effectively managing and developing diversity in staff and board.
Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent;
10 years’ experience in progressive, listener supported media or related field;
Five years supervisory experience.
Women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBT candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. Pacifica is committed to fostering a diverse workplace.
For more information contact Livingston Associates at 410 243 1974.
The following comment is from Ken Mills' SPARK NEWS—the authoritative news outlet for non-commercial radio:
KEN SAYS: Great work Tom and all. I’ve always know that Tom Livingston is a solid “radio person” and supervising this project proves it. There is no other feeling quite like lighting up a 10,000-watt FM transmitter and having it work. We hope this is another step in the creation of the new Pacifica Radio.
THE DEADLINE FOR APPLYING TO BECOME PACIFICA’S NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR IS JUNE 15th
Last Friday we featured the just-announced search for Pacifica’s new permanent Executive Director.
Apparently the search is on a fast track because the deadline to apply is June 15th.
Hiring a new Executive Director is an important of the effort to remake Pacifica Radio. According to what we’ve seen and read, Pacifica is now turning the corner. But it still has a long way to go before it is solvent.
In the past we have called Pacifica “the nation’s most dysfunctional and embarrassing media organization” because that is what it was for at least two decades. Now there is a chance for a new day and new way for this uniquely American broadcaster. This can be a new chapter for the curagious organization that literally invented listener-supported public radio.
On Friday we discussed both the positives and negatives of the job. Whoever is chosen to be the new ED needs to go into the job with their eyes wide open. Thanks to Tom Livingston and the Pacifica National Board, there is new momentum and desire for Pacifica to succeed.
If I was at a different point in my life and career, I’d apply for the gig myself.
This is an opportunity for someone to make a difference. For the good of noncommercial public radio, the good of radio broadcasting in general and the good of our democracy when we need it the most, please consider applying today.