Tuesday, August 30, 2016

As WBAI turns to dust...

 WBAI is a station that simply does not have a sense of humor. Not so sister station KPFA--listen to this, which I lifted from Tracy Rosenberg:

Twit  away...

... And again!

Monday, August 29, 2016

A noteworthy resignation

Sorry for the length, I couldn't get this into Mediafire using iPad.

I'm writing to submit my resignation as a KPFA Delegate, effective at 11:00 am Pacific on September 10, 2016 (the date and time of the next KPFA LSB meeting). At that time, my resignation as a KPFA delegate will automatically remove me from the PNB, and the National Finance Committee.

I'm leaving KPFA to begin a year-long journalism fellowship at Stanford, and don't feel I can be an effective representative of KPFA's staff while I'm not spending any time at the worksite--so I'm stepping down.

Since I'm going off the air, off the payroll, and off the board, I wanted to leave you with some suggestions about addressing our crisis that are franker than I might have before.

To start, five limiting principles:

1. Assigning blame for our crisis is usually a distraction from fixing it. I've spent almost 10 years in Pacifica governance, and I've never heard a blame-fest produce any solutions. The only conversation the board should be having is "given our circumstances, what do we do now?"

2. Fundraising tactic wish-lists are not going to solve our problems. Good ideas need personnel to implement them. The personnel we have left are already stretched thin, working like mad with the skills they have to raise whatever money they can -- it's not sufficient.

3. Incremental cost cuts are not going to solve our problems. While it's possible to make trims here and there--and they will help--we can't make cuts deep enough to close our deficits without compromising our ability to keep fundraising at current levels.

4. Extending fund drives further is a swift path to an early grave. Many of our stations have already hit a wall of diminishing returns on extended fund drives -- the incessant pitching drives their audience away, so there are fewer and fewer people left to request money from with every passing fund drive.

5. Whatever you think the limitations of our current staff and management are, finding someone brilliant to replace them is unlikely. We pay well below market rate for just about every position in the network; we carry the stigma of being a conflict-ridden, financially-distressed organization; and we subject our managers to acrimonious, often borderline-abusive interactions with members of our local and national boards. Great job applicants are not beating a path to our door--which means leadership purges are unlikely to produce a messiah to deliver us from our problems.

What we need are structure-level changes. That's what our auditors and our insurers are talking about when they ask for a recovery plan. A lot of the things I'll outline below are controversial, not all of them are things I endorse, but I think you need to pick among them, discuss under what conditions some might work, what compromises you're willing to make, and chart some kind of course change--because our present trajectory has us pointed at a cliff, and moving toward it at high speed.

1. Stop the bleeding: Put WBAI into an LMA. This would entail handing control of WBAI (and responsibility for paying its bills) to another nonprofit, while Pacifica maintains ultimate control of the broadcast license. In the past, we've had offers from multiple nonprofits that are compatible with Pacifica's mission.
     Something has to give: WBAI has almost nothing left in the way of money, audience, personnel, nor facilities to re-build itself from. The cost of renting WBAI's tower ($660,000/yr and rising 10% every year) and mataining a legally-compliant station in New York is simply more than Pacifica can afford. The LMA option could eliminate roughly $500,000/year in deficit, and hopefully leave WBAI with a much larger audience than it has today.
    If we can't negotiate an LMA arrangement that would cover the bills, then the final option would be to approximate the same result internally: strip WBAI down to the FCC-mandated minimum number of staff on-site, simulcast one of the West Coast stations during most of the day, carry their pitches during fund drive, and have all the phone room, data entry, billing and premium fulfillment operations associated with fundraising happen out of that West Coast station. That arrangement would cost less. There's a decent chance it would raise more. If it doesn't raise enough to fix the problem, at least you'll have exhausted every option short of a license sale.

2. Save our History: re-locate the Pacifica Radio Archive to a University. Our collection of reel-to-reel tapes currently takes up an entire floor of KPFK's building, plus two rented storage units, plus the work of five paid employees to maintain and slowly digitize. We've had two universities offer to house those tapes at their expense, while Pacifica retains ownership. This could provide a lot of upsides: Pacifica's stations would be relieved of the dues they pay to the Archive; the National Office wouldn't have to keep floating PRA's payroll when those dues come up short, KPFK would get an entire floor of its building back, which it could rent out to shore up revenues. And, in all honesty, a well-resourced University might take better care of the collection than we've been able to, be better-positioned to pursue preservation grants, and digitize that collection faster than the crawl we've been moving at.
    This option could eliminate up to $300,000/year in net costs, and potentially produce tens of thousands of dollars in rental income for KPFK.

3. Fix what we can: focus turn-around efforts on WPFW. Like WBAI, WPFW's deficits approach $500,000/year. Unlike WBAI, WPFW doesn't have insurmountably high overhead.
    If we could put out the fires in a couple other parts of the network, then focus our personnel and resources on WPFW, we could probably turn it around. That would entail getting assistance and advice from the National Office and sister stations on best practices on every front, from how the books are being kept, to how fund drives are being run, to how bills and solicitations are being manged.
     Again: I don't think this type of detailed troubleshooting is possible unless and until we fix some of the other problems in the network first, and give the stations enough breathing room to put time into helping each other out.
    If we can't turn around WPFW under our own power, you should consider requesting LMA/PSOA proposals like we have for WBAI.

4. New revenue channels: the Affiliates Program. The Affiliates Director made a proposal last year to set up an underwriting cooperative for affiliates, which she said would both encourage more stations to join our affiliates program, and result in small direct revenues to Pacifica. The board basically shot it down over the income-splitting formula she proposed (which was problematic, but fixable), and opposition to having anything to do with underwriting (which is a question of political principles that we never fully debated nor resolved). Last year's board left the door open to considering a revised version of the proposal, but management never followed up -- if this is something the PNB doesn't have principled opposition to, it's something you could direct staff to start working on again. This is an actionable proposal for bringing more money in the door -- all it's waiting for is the PNB to decide where it stands.

5. Fast money. We need an infusion of one-time cash to to keep from going under while the long-term solutions listed above go into effect--without it, we will be in court with our creditors (and possibly our unions) within a matter of months, if not weeks.
   There is only one real option I can think of: the real estate we own next to KPFA's studios. It comprises one parcel and two buildings in Downtown Berkeley that are rotting away for lack of maintenance. One of them currently houses the National Office's accounting staff (about four people).
   This is the only real estate we own that isn't crucial to broadcast operations. If we can't get a mortgage against that property, we should sell it before our inability to make payments on other obligations gets a lien slapped on the buildings.
    The National Office Staff could squeeze into KPFA's studios for the time being; KPFA could re-locate the stored items it can't throw out.
    It pains me to propose this, because that real estate is something that the people at my station -- KPFA -- worked hard, and gave hard, to purchase and pay off. But it's a valuable, mostly-idle asset that we're neglecting -- and we desperately need a cash infusion to have a chance of getting out of our downward spiral.
    I would strongly oppose a sale of the parcel if that sale were the only measure on the table--the infusion of cash would only help us delay facing our structural problems. But if the proposal to sell is attached to a plan for addressing our structural problems--something like what I've outlined above--it makes sense.

Most of the moves above will require considerable time from staff and management to develop into actionable proposals that the board can vote on -- so it's important for the board to signal, now, which directions it wants to move in, so that staff know the time they do put into developing plans won't be wasted.

The ideas above also leave unresolved the bigger questions facing us as a media organization: How do we bring younger generations to our work? How do we move beyond terrestrial FM broadcasting, and spread Pacifica's work on digital platforms, social media, podcasts, etc.? And how do we pay for that?
   I don't have easy answers -- it's part of what I'll be exploring during my year at Stanford -- but I do know we can't make progress on those fronts until we've put out the fires. Until we've stopped the bleeding and put some money in the bank, we have nothing we can spend pursuing promising but risky new ideas. And until we've moved our staff and boards beyond perpetual crisis-response mode, we won't be coming up with a lot of brilliant ideas to pursue.

Above all, we have to do something: every day that we don't make major changes, is a day that we go deeper into debt, a day that we lose more room to maneuver, and a day that our audience grows a little bit smaller. Deciding not to do anything is the worst decision we can make.

Of course, deciding not to do anything is mostly what we've been doing. We are an organization that is ruled by inertia. Our boards fight over everything, and decide almost nothing of importance. Our managers have dozens of bosses and no direction. They've learned that initiating change themselves is a great way to get attacked -- so they keep their heads down and try not to get noticed.

Our governance structure contributes heavily to this organizational paralysis, and you have the power to change it. Pursue bylaws amendments that shrink the size of our boards, so they are less prone to factionalization, and so the meetings are less chaotic. Consider longer terms for PNB members, so there's not constant churn, and board members have time to build mutual trust. If those still leave the boards divided and dysfunctional, then revisit whether STV is working. It almost always produces narrowly-divided boards--maybe a winner-take-all election system that gave the organization a clear direction would be preferable to our power-sharing system that produces little more than acrimony and stasis.

Good luck,

Brian Edwards-Tiekert
KPFA 94.1 FM
1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley CA 94704

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Another damaging deception by Reimers...

 Apropos the recent nine hours of  literally dead air, it is just one of the latest instances of Berthold Reimers deceiving the people who work at WBAI, as well as what is left of a listenership his ineptitude has steadily discouraged.

The abrupt cut-off occurred in the middle of something that is all too rare on Reimers' tattered weekly schedule: an intelligently produced and presented program. A highly knowledgeable member of the Creative Unity Collective was paying tribute to audio engineers whose work has enhanced and taken along a new path the recording industry--It was a tribute inspired by the death of Rudy Van Gelder, just a few days before. Reimers has a long-time debt to settle with WBAI and its listener-sponsors. Now he can add this CUC producer/host to the growing list of individuals he has victimized.

Here is what Frank Lefever posted elsewhere earlier today:

 I sent copies of Berthold's E-mail to the Staff, and I've posted about
it up on the bleepin' blue board (http://listenerforums.net/01info.htm),
but the real revelation here was that Berthold, and Tony Ryan, had been
informed about this by a memo from the Empire State Building (ESB) guy
on August 17, a full 10 days earlier.

Berthold forwarded the two E-mails from the ESB guy, dated August 17,
and August 26, at 8:59 AM on August 27, after a number of us had had the
experience of finding the station off the air with no explanation. Randy
Credico was particularly upset this morning. He's not been through
situations where the station is suddenly off the air before.

Even after six and a half years some people's radio management OJT is
still inadequate.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

CFO's report to the PNB--and more.

I picked up the following from Tracy Rosenberg:  PNB meeting last night. If you didn't hear it, check out kpftx or the summary reel here: https://soundcloud.com/tracy-rosenberg/pacifica-national-board-8-25-selected

I wanted to bring to your attention two Berkeley things that came my way today. The first is a memo from the KPFA manager to station staff. It's attached below. Its emphasis is that KPFA's financial position is much worse than seems to have been previously communicated. 

I'll add a few things, which is that moving up the fund drive to September 7th, while presumably a short-time fix for inability to pay the September 15  payroll, is going to exacerbate the problem of getting all the way from September to December.

Shortening KPFA's fund drives so they do not make enough to pay 3 months of expenses was a management decision. While it did pop up the daily totals, the final result has been not enough money to make it to the start of the following fund drive. 

You may want to instruct KPFA they need to run this next fund drive for 20-25 days and/or extend it until KPFA  reaches a goal that approximates the amount of money needed to operate until the December fund drive. 

The second thing is to correct a mis-perception in the note. 

"Remember the Foundation is supposed to be there to help us financially, not the other way around". 

Not really. Pacifica was founded in 1946, 3 years before KPFA went on the air. It predates KPFA and was founded to hold the license and do the administrative schmutz. 

I can't encourage people enough to actually read the Theory of Listener-Sponsored Radio by Lew Hill. In it , he makes a strong case that fundraising rests with programmers, indicates the strength of relationship with their audiences, and argues for the meritocracy of the listener donation as the criteria for programming decisions:

"Listener sponsorship is an answer to the practical problem of getting better radio programs and keeping them. I will emphasize that neither a “Public Be Damned” nor a “Down with Commerce” attitude enters into this formulation.  It must have occurred to you that such a principle could easily revert to the fabled ivory tower.  Some self-determining group of broadcasters might find that no one, not the least minority of the minority audiences, gave a hang for their product, morally responsible or not.  What then?  Then, you will say, there would be no radio station—or not for long—and the various individualists involved could go scratch for a living.  But it is the reverse possibility that explains what is most important about listener sponsorship.  When we imagine the opposite situation, we are compelled to account for some conscious flow of influences, some creative tension between broadcaster and audience that constantly reaffirms their mutual relevance.  Listener sponsorship will require this mutual stimulus if it is to exist at all.  We make a considerable step forward, it seems to me, when we use a system of broadcasting which promises that the mediocre will not survive.  But the significance of what does survive increases in ways of the profoundest import to our times when it proceeds from voluntary action.  Anyone can listen to a listener-sponsored station.  Anyone can understand the rationale of listener sponsorship—that unless the station is supported by those who value it, no one can listen to it including those who value it.  This is common sense.  But beyond this, actually sending in the subscription, which one does not have to send in unless one particularly wants to, implies the kind of cultural engagement, as some French philosophers call it, that is surely indispensable for the sake of the whole culture.The survival of this station is based upon the necessity of voluntary subscriptions from 2 per cent of the total FM audience in the area in which it operates"


The second kerfluffle here today was with the broadcast of Dave Zirin's show Collision. I'll include the archive below.  Dave was absent and the show was hosted by Etan Thomas. The first 30 minutes consisted of an all-male panel discussing the 1999 Penn State rape case, specifically with regard to filmmaker Nate Parker. I got several emails from listeners extremely upset with the tenor of the conversation. After I listened to it myself, I could see why. The victim, who committed suicide in 2012, was tried and condemned ex-post facto by an all-male jury coming up with gems like: 

'The women change their minds about sex and we end up in handcuffs". 

"I'm not for reprimanding just one side". 

Basically it was 30 minutes of the argument that women make fake rape charges to bring men down and the now-deceased victim, who committed suicide in 2012, drank alcohol.

Finally, a woman guest, Karen Hunter, who has a show on Sirius XM, came on and vigorously argued with the host for the final half of the show.

It was an alienating and dehumanizing thing to listen to in a female body. You talk so much about younger listeners, but you cannot attract them when the host sounds like their crazy wUncle Freddy in the closet muttering about whores who entrap nice young men. Understanding of rape has progressed a lot since the 1950's and this was really way behind the times. 

So the question becomes how do you have some kind of discussion so there is improvement in a) how rape gets talked about and b) some ability to provide enough program direction and editorial guidance so that no one ever broadcasts again an all-male panel savaging a rape victim?



Thursday, August 18, 2016

As Pacifica is torn apart...


Kathy Davis having transported me into Morpheus' arms, I will be back in a few hours. In the meantime, you might wish to read this and comment on it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cha Cha Nooga, anyone?

Since it came under faux "democratic" rule and was Robbied by an extraordinary succession of self-serving amateurs, Pacifica has been moving on a steady downhill course at a snail's pace.

Today, PNB members—some legitimately seated—make up a ruling majority of corrupt schemers and mindless followers. Thus, even when Pacifica or any of its stations are faced with life-or-death situations requiring immediate attention, the disruptive majority will create an artificial gridlock by shifting the focus to discussing discussions, setting low-priority agendas or just strewing verbal tacks on paths not yet taken.

One example of opportunistic obstructionism was the recent decision to increase air time for Spanish programming equally at all stations, not considering whether there is a network-wide need for such a change.

Programming at Pacifica stations was designed to meet the intellectual needs of their respective audiences while also offering an alternative to commercial media's daily dose of pap. Popularity was never a priority if it did not contain substance not found elsewhere on the dial. For example, a program of ethnic music was probably inherently delightful, but Pacifica's early PDs knew the value of authoritative presentation—that added touch which often separated our stations from the rest of them.

There are numerous reasons why Pacifica stations in recent years have experienced drastically declining listener response. Fund drives are conducted with a callous lack of integrity, having become fraudulent frenetic exercises in greed. Although as basic as water being wet, the lesson never learned by these dilettantes is that one redesigns and improves rather than force feeds upon the consumer such faulty products as dominate Pacifica's current weekly program schedules.

The PNB plurality instinctively lends a deaf ear to any sound suggestions as it incants a convenient mantra: MaƱana!

"Problems" are rarely pinpointed and almost always lessened by diversion rather than tangible solution. Opinions—whether potentially beneficial, or not—were obstructive inevitably ephemeral Always deteriorating  aIn recent months, there has been some discussion in and around Pacifica's largely dysfunctional National Board

Time spent by these Boards and Committees squabbling over non-problems should be devoted to eliminating much dross and raising the over all program standard. It will not happen—these opportunists will continue squabbling until the fat lady sings.

Kevin White who experienced an unsuccessful attempt to keep him off the KPFT LSB earlier this year, has written an open letter to the PNB expressing his thoughts on the recently implemented escalation of Latino programming.

Kevin makes some good points, so I hope you read his letter as posted below. In the meantime, the Norseman in me has me wondering how Houston's Eskimos feel about KPFT's country music offerings. 

Here is Kevin's letter:


After doing a bit of research around the network I can say that none of the Spanish-speaking programming is grabbing an audience and is certainly not paying for itself at cash-strapped Pacifica radio.

While we have programming that we're proud of, such as KPFT's seminal Spanish literature program, Nuestra Palabra (http://kpft.org/programming/newstalk/nuestra-palabra/) which is ground breaking here in Houston, but creating random blocks of Spanish programming right in the middle of the English programming is way too jarring and it makes it difficult for Spanish Language programming to find an audience and it drives away the English speaking audience we have.

Furthermore, in Modern Houston, there is no need to "give a voice to the voiceless" to Hispanics who frankly do not need our rather patronizing help. These are not your grand parent's Latinos. There are many many Spanish-speaking sources of unique and original programming, created and controlled by the Latinos themselves, who are already established, from radio, newspapers, television, and to dozens of cable channels that offer a wide variety of Spanish cultural packages.

Suddenly dropping one language and switching to yet another is not a very professional plan to build audiences. And the Spanish speaking shows we do have do not pay their bills.

And again, it's patronizing. it's just as insulting as having a monthly KPFT committee where a six foot tall white guy explains oppression to some rather shocked people of color. It's comic at best, but in the end is extremely colonialist and sends a negative message that KPFT feels it needs to "help out these poor, helpless Spanish speakers who are like children and need us to give them a hand out." There is nothing of the kind needed. Spanish-speakers are the fastest growing minority in Texas and have proven over and over that they don't need a second-rate hand out from us.

There is an independent spirit among Latinos that we need to respect at Pacifica. You see white people and black people begging on the street, but you hardly ever see a Latino doing it. They have a culture where they do things for themselves. We should learn from them.

These new Spanish programs that have been ordered by the PNB have not done well financially. While the shows are ignored by LA's Spanish speaking audience, they have been killing off their once lucrative time slots.

Yes, it's shameful that KPFT's demographic is "white men from 55 to 64 years of age," but if you really want to save KPFT, we need to open up the microphone to a much younger and hipper demographic. Pacifica is young-people Kryptonite. We need younger programming.

More Spanish programming right now at our stations would just be falling into the Siegel/Brazon plan to scuttle the foundation so they can be sold off to the highest bidder. They don't care for Latinos, they just want to profit selling off our licenses. That's why they worked to get WBAI's license renewed. It's for profit.

—Kevin White

Friday, August 12, 2016

Exile Newsletter Aug. 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The "Thank You" grift hustle...

As the WBAI Summer Fund Drive all too predictably runs dry and slumps into forced overtime, mis-manager Berthold Reimers and his cronies remain clueless as to the reasons why. Not so, the remnants of a listenership that once saw the station as a beacon of enlightenment. 

It is no secret that WBAI's listener-sponsors have dwindled down to the lowest figure in the station's 56-year history, chased off by pedestrian programming and producer/hosts whose work insults even the mildest intelligence.

In recent years, an increasing number of devoted listeners sensed the slow dilution of program substance and bemoaned the ever narrowing scope of WBAI's audience focus. The station was clearly veering farther off course, but this change was not part of a need to keep up with an evolving culture—Pacifica's DNA was designed to do that—it was regression, a deep dip into an era of ignorance and racial division. WBAI was in the hands of taking several steps back to reflect a mindset that and an a mission drift, but it had made it through coups, attempts to make it the rhythmic vent for a salsa fad, and content as it underwent a mission drift too incredulous not to dismiss. Even the somewhat watered down Pacifica station contrasted impressively everything else found on the radio dial. 

And so it went, gradually moving towards the very broadcast concepts Pacifica founder Lewis Hill had set out to contrast.

When Pacifica decided to become more overtly democratic, adopting the parliamentary procedures of Robert's Rules to include the election of listener-sponsors and staff to its national and local governing bodies, the seeds of decay were sown.

Before that, the Pacifica Foundation board was comprised of established people from the academic and business worlds. They hired the Managers who ran the stations more or less autonomously, submitted annual budgets for the National Board's approval and gave regular reports at regular meeting throughout the year. Pacifica rarely involved itself in the day to day operation of its station, and then only with a suggestion. As WBAI's manager, I can only recall one such occasion: A Board member suggested that we changed the broadcast time of our weekday "Programs for Young People," but I disagreed, and that was the end of that.

Berthold Reimers—his paid staff reduced to a handful of opportunists—surrounds himself with opportunists who know as little about broadcasting as he does, producer/hosts who ignore the station's principles and aims in favor of satisfying their own egos, personal agendas and limp "activism". They purport to be standing up for the rights of "black and brown" people, but their racist approach has the opposite effect. They jealously guard what they consider to be their turf, some having been either lack or obscure the vision that once drove WBAI to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. We made that journey by reporting the truth and giving an outlet to real visionaries whose experiences and insights mattered and influenced the thinking of burgeoning leaders.

When flower children roamed Greenwich Village streets. WBAI was a reasoned voice in the wilderness. Supported financially by listeners who craved a grounding look over their shoulders as well as a clearer view ahead. In return, they asked only for the station's ongoing development and existence.

That's the premise upon which the Pacifica Foundation was created in 1949 by post-war Bay Area peaceniks. It introduced to the U.S. a radical broadcasting concept motivated by the horrors and senselessness of global conflict as well as by a communications industry that seemed not to have learned the inherent lesson of war: a radio station that maintained a high level of intelligence, sought the truth, and was tethered only to its listeners.

When the concept materialized in the form of Berkley station KPFA-FM, it was received well but in moderation. Ten years later, it was still on the air and—along with KPFK, a North Hollywood sister station—discerningly challenging commercial broadcasters. Not everybody loved Pacifica's stations, but they won wide respect among a public and colleagues who recognized the need for alternative voices.

Applied to Pacifica, "alternative" did not necessarily translate into contrary or rebellious attitude—although that was sometimes implied—but rather into freedom of speech, unconstrained artistic expression, microphone access based upon ability, substance and vision rather than popularity, and something as basic as a flexible air allowance. A program was only as long or short as the time it took to deliver it.

In 1959, Louis Schweitzer—a remarkable businessman, the son of a successful Russian immigrant—decided that Pacifica was on the right path, so he made the Foundation a no strings attached gift of WBAI-FM, his small but powerful New York City station that had served to satisfy an abiding interest in audio technology. It was a commercially licensed station located between NBC and CBS on the dial, but Lou wanted it to reflect his cultural interests, so he accepted advertising from the likes of Steinway and MOMA, not Proctor an Gamble. "On your way from NBC to CBS," he liked to say, "stop in for refreshment."

It was Pacifica's near-European approach to radio that made me move my FM dial to 99.5 in late 1960. I had lived in the U.S. for two years and spent most of that time working in commercial radio, but here was something I could love and identify with. Soon, I was a WBAI volunteer, then a salaried board operator, and eventually the Station Manager.

I admired the high level of intelligence WBAI's programming mirrored, but just as impressive was the staff's common goal and high spirit. It was not a picture of perfect harmony, but the internal disagreements were what one might expect to find in a work place driven by political idealism, artistic expression and a determination to beat the odds against survival in what FCC Commissioner Newton Minow described as a vast wasteland. 

In its formative years, the Sixties, WBAI served as a vital link to the past and a crystal ball gaze at what lay ahead. Its own future seemed assured by the extraordinary caliber of people it attracted on both sides of the microphone—a cultural revolution was taking place and WBAI seemed made for it.

What happened? Simply put, how did the Riesling turn to Ripple? Theories abound, the transition team of opportunists changes gradually with each hiring mistake and many are gone and forgotten as current occupants—now abetted by a corrupt PNB voting majority—reach the nadir of WBAI's existence. 

A few stalwart savants continue to deliver isolated moments of intelligence and enlightenment, but the never perfect, always remarkable little station some of us remember remains hijacked by people of minimal thought and maximal self-interest—an obscure rubble in the country's largest and most significant radio market, a stagnant third rate racist outlet where hare-brained neer-do-wells compete for undeserved attention.

Riddled with lies and deceit, this is a complex, confused story that is likely to remain untold, but many factors have led WBAI to the end of its tether. The last straw may well be found in the station's fund raising scam, a conduct that has crossed the border of criminality and rendered the terms "honesty", "integrity" and "morality" meaningless.

The so-called "studio" at Atlantic Avenue is not equipped to take calls from listeners, that service having been cut for non-payment of a $28,000 bill. Because "Off the Hook," like many live WBAI programs, is designed for two-way communication with its listeners, the show's technically savvy producers improvised a temporary connection, as evidenced in the attached audio excerpt.

It should be noted that OTH creates its own premiums and delivers them to the station manager ready for shipment to consumers (who have paid a price that includes s&h). Management (i.e. Berthold Reimers) collects the paid fee, but—with alarming regularity—fails to follow up on the station's obligation. As you will hear on the attached audio clips from last Wednesday's OTH, this criminal practice on the part of management is systematic and dates back at least two years.

These calls are but a short sample of commonplace complaints; bear them in mind the next time you hear Reimers or a crony like Mitchel Cohen deny any wrongdoing. Think of this, too, when you hear Tony Bates distort black history or offer a bogus "cure", or when Haskins, Davis, Reggie Johnson or any of the other deluded deceivers refer to WBAI as a "free speech" station that deserves your donations.

The truth is that WBAI is where these con artists lie, repeatedly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WBAI Treasurer's Report: Aug. 10, 2016

Here is R. Paul Martin's WBAI Treasurer's Report filed August 10, 2016 and including CFO Arwal's July 7, 2016 Report to the Pacifica National Board (sans illustrative diagrams, which were not posted by RPM).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Unethical and immoral, indeed

Please click on letter to improve readability

Just the facts, people....

Last Thursday, July 28, Bill Crosier, the PNB Director from KPFT, called a Special Meeting to discuss Pacifica's financial crisis. Predictably, this did not please the PNB's majority faction whose members tend to keep their heads in the sand whenever reality surfaces, so a quorum was not achieved. However, perhaps for that reason, they had a productive  and focused discussion that centered around actions that could be implemented fairly quickly to increase revenue and, as Crosier put it, "Avoid extremely unpleasant consequences that might be just around the corner if we don't change what we're doing".

"It seems clear that all of us, at all of our stations, need to be willing to give a little," Crosier added, "and to support our managers in making programming changes that can increase listeners and donations, so that our stations and our mission can survive. The current path is unsustainable and will lead to devastating consequences very soon, if actions are not taken now to increase revenue and/or cut expenses.  We cannot keep delaying action on this, as each week we wait puts us closer to either bankruptcy or severe actions that might be needed to prevent that."

Bill Crosier is among the few clear-headed Pacifica board members, as this Report bears witness to. It is posted here in answer to his request that it be distributed.

Report from July 28 
Special Meeting on Pacifica Financial Crisis

Several members of the Pacifica National Board met on July 28 to discuss our financial crisis and what we might do about it. Questions and suggestions from other Pacifica members were also requested and some of their suggestions are included here.

We started with a review of the most recent CFO report, which clearly showed how urgent and important it is that we take actions immediately to either bring in more revenue, and/or cut expenses

We then briefly discussed what the very serious implications might be if we don't take effective actions immediately to deal with our financial crisis. The implications are likely to include loss of health insurance, bigger layoffs of paid staff, automation of stations that are failing financially, or bankruptcy if inadequate actions are taken (or taken too late). Bankruptcy would likely be extremely expensive, requiring not only the above actions to cut costs, but also selling of possibly all of our buildings to pay not only creditors but also for the expenses of the bankruptcy itself. So clearly we need to act now to avoid that, even if we have to change some of the ways we are doing things.

Below are some of the suggested actions to be considered, many of which involve improving programming and emphasizing the financial aspects much more than now. Management, especially at stations that are failing financially, should be required to implement at least some of these immediately. Managers who cannot or will not make changes may need to be replaced.

* Continue mission-related programming but remember that shows with few listeners nor supporters are not helping either our finances nor our mission.

* Continue shows that might not directly relate to our mission (example: music programs) but which bring in substantial funds and which effectively subsidize other mission-critical shows with significant listenership but which don't bring in many donations.

* Each station should identify the shows that bring in the most revenue (especially compared to other shows in similar time slots), and which have the most listeners, and either repeat them (on different days or times) to give them more air time, or make the shows longer (if the producers are willing).

* Each station should identify the shows that bring in the least revenue and that have the least listeners (compared to other shows in similar time slots), and replace them with shows that are proven to bring in more money.

* Shows that do well in terms of listenership and revenue, could be put in better time slots (or better: left where they are and repeated in better time slots).

* Shows that do not do well could be moved to an online-only web stream, or removed completely.

* GM's and PD's from each station should try some successful shows from other stations (including from our affiliates) as replacements for low performing shows. There is little risk in removing a low-performing show, and if adequately promoted, a good replacement should generate more revenue by the next fund drive. If not, then it could be replaced with yet another show after a few months, again with little risk. Shows that are doing well should get more air time (or repeats), if possible, or at least should be left alone.

* Station managers should be encouraged, not criticized, for adding shows that have done well at other stations. They should not be encouraged to keep low-performing shows with few listeners nor supporters in the schedule - we cannot afford to do that.

* Management should require program hosts to help pitch for their shows that are carried on other stations, by mentioning more than their local station when pitching (to make the pitches usable at other stations, similar to what many NPR program hosts do), by recording pitches for other stations, and/or by pitching live for other stations. A combination of these would be best. If such pitch assistance was guaranteed, it would be much easier for other stations to carry the programs produced elsewhere.

* Get promised thank-you gifts sent to donors, or at least contact them and ask if a substitute gift would be OK. This is critical for re-gaining past donors!

* Call major donors and lapsed donors, thank them for their past support, ask if they still listen to the station, resolve any issues such as not receiving thank-you gifts, and ask them to give again - either as a one-time gift or set up for automatic monthly sustainer donations.

* Promote shows via social media, encourage/require programmers to promote their own shows, do more cross-promotion (where hosts tell their listeners about other shows) on-air. This costs nothing but could help get more listeners, or help current listeners find more shows they may enjoy, thereby encouraging to them to donate more.

* Accept underwriting by small businesses and non-profits, with limitations on how much any one company or organization can pay us.

* Reduce expenses via consolidation across Pacifica of some services (example: Voice Over Internet telephone service, credit card processing with text to donate, etc.) by starting with a vendor that does well at one station and contracting with them for all stations.

Some specific Pacifica-produced shows that are popular, do well financially (especially if you ask the hosts to pitch for your station), have national appeal (or would with minor changes), and have been suggested for sharing on other stations include:
  •   - Arab Voices with Said Fatou (from KPFT)
  •   - Arise with Bill Fletcher (from WPFW)
  •   - Behind the News with Henwood (from WBAI)
  •   - Bradcast and Green News Report with Brad Friedman (from KPFK)
  •   - The Collision (where sports and politics collide, from WPFW)
  •   - Coming to America (immigration call-in show, from KPFT)
  •   - Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies with Dean Becker (drug war news, from              KPFT)
  •   - Economic Update with Richard Wolff (economics from a Marxist perspective, from      WBAI)
  •   - Exploration with Michio Kaku (from WBAI) (science, produced erratically, though)
  •   - Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein (news & analysis, from KPFA)
  •   - From the Vault, from Pacifica Radio Archives
  •   - Guns and Butter (from KPFA)
  •   - Hard Knock Radio with Davey D & Anita Johnson (from KPFA)
  •   - Her Sex, Her Health with Dr. Alexandra Somotas (call-in show, from KPFT)
  •   - Jimmy Dore Show (political satire, from KPFK)
  •   - Law and Disorder (from WBAI)
  •   - Letters and Politics with Mitch Jeserich (news & commentary, from KPFA)
  •   - The Monitor with Mark Bebawi (news analysis, from KPFT)
  •   - Nuestra Palabra (Latino writers, in English, from KPFT)
  •   - Off the Hook (technology, from WBAI)
  •   - Pacifica Evening News (from KPFA) (might need to change for non-California               stations)
  •   - Partisan Gridlock with Geoff Berg (call-in, politics with some satire, from KPFT)
  •   - Personal Computer Show (from WBAI)
  •   - Politics Done Right with Egberto Willies (call-in, from KPFT)
  •   - Project Censored Show (from KPFA)
  •   - Roy of Hollywood with Roy Tuckman (late night big money-maker, from KPFK)
  •   - Rising Up with Sonali Kolhatkar (news & analysis, from KPFK)
  •   - Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod (news analysis, from KPFK)
  •   - Spare Change with Larry Winters (music with progressive political slant, from                KPFT)
  •   - Technology Bytes (tech news & call-in computer help, from KPFT)
  •   - other music shows from KPFT and WPFW that do well

Shows from our affiliates that have been suggested 
to replace low-performing local shows:
  •   - The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen & Susan Bruce (news analysis)
  •   - Counterspin, from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) (spin analysis), 30           min.
  •   - Gary Null show (health & wellness, independently produced, sometimes on WBAI)
  •   - Peace Talks Radio
  •   - Ralph Nader Radio Hour
  •   - Sprouts (variety of topics, from various affiliate stations), 30 min.
  •   - Talk Nation Radio with David Swanson (peace news & more)
  •   - This Way Out (LGBT news)  - Planetary Radio, 30 min.
  •   - Thom Hartmann Show (call-in, current events, 3 hr each weekday, edited to 1              hr/day by KPFT)

  - plus many others available at Audioport

Recommendations from the last (July 6) CFO Report:
1. Focus must shift from cost cuts to revenue growth. We cannot cut our way into prosperity. In the absence of any tangible plan on the table how to grow the business, Foundation is forced into the default option of cost cuts.
2. IED and WPFW Station Manager to jointly, prepare, a 30-60-90 day plan, consult with CFO, and present to PNB within 15 days from today, with specific details how to sustain the current operations
3. IED and WBAI Station Manager to jointly, prepare, a 30-60-90 day plan, consult with CFO, and present to PNB within 15 days from today, with specific details how to sustain the current operations
4. IED and PRA Interim Director to jointly, prepare, a 30-60-90 day plan, consult with CFO, and present to PNB within 15 days from today, with specific details how to sustain the current operations (and contingency plan if Stations fail to make payment of Central Services)
5. PNB to authorize CFO to demand payment of Central Services from the Station, where it is in 3 months arrear, in preference over payment of other bills, except for payroll and health insurance
6. Highly recommend that we upgrade Great Plains to latest version, even if we may have to take external financing

See also these Other Suggestions to Increase Revenue, from the June 26 Special Meeting on Pacifica's Financial Crisis.

Here is an audio of the full meeting. (Courtesy of Tracy Rosenberg)