On May 21, 2015 a group of people met in Berkeley to talk about our vision for KPFA independent community radio media and who we think would be good candidates for the Local Station Board in the upcoming election. Some topics that came up were needs for local community news and public affairs, unionization of unpaid staff, non-censorship, livestreaming, community-sourced media, financial transparency and membership accessibility for lower income people. Follow up meetings are continuing. Continue reading
by Isis Feral
I was raised by several generations of labor organizers, and in every labor dispute my side is easily chosen. I don’t cross picket lines, and I always stand with the workers against their bosses. The current conflict inside KPFA is the first time I’ve ever seen my community divided on an issue concerning labor solidarity.
While labor struggles are usually strictly polarized, it is important to keep in mind that KPFA is a nonprofit community radio station, where the traditional class lines are much harder to draw. In theory the community is in charge of the station, or at least it should be. It’s the community who pays the bills, and who this station claims to serve.
Community radio is supposed to be by and for the community, more like a movement than a business. The majority of KPFA workers are community members, who donate their labor for free. As some tasks require consistent, daily attention, a limited number of workers must be paid for their time, because volunteering the necessary hours would interfere with their ability to make a living. The line between workers and management is blurry, to say the least. To complicate matters, several unionized workers recently held management positions, or effectively behave like managers.
For some time now a group among the paid workers and their allies on the Local Station Board (LSB) have largely held control over the management of the station. With the capitalist economic crisis crippling our communities, the station’s income has understandably been less. When budget cuts had to be made, they were agreed to by this group, but were never implemented. This happened two years in a row. With each new budget, the cuts were deeper, because the previous cuts were never made. Now the necessary cuts are deeper still, because KPFA funds were massively mismanaged: More money was spent than was coming in, including a million dollars the station had in reserve. The height of incompetence was achieved when a six figure check intended to earn interest sat in their general manager’s desk for a year instead of being deposited, apparently unnoticed even by their treasurer. Recent payroll funds had to be borrowed from another station. The station is broke and we’re at risk of losing it altogether.
On the LSB this managing group was represented by the slate calling itself Concerned Listeners. Right before the last elections this slate renamed itself Save KPFA, in what appeared to be an effort to confuse and solicit the support of voters who remember the original Save KPFA, which had the polar opposite intent of this group: The original organization officially formed in order to defend community control of the radio station in the 1990′s. This new group, on the other hand, has actively attempted to dismantle community oversight, and to defer control to a small percentage of KPFA staff, who call themselves KPFA Worker. The appropriation of another organization’s name, and attempt to benefit from its history, was just one of several unfair campaign practices this group has been involved in over the years. Among other things, they repeatedly used the airwaves to gain support for their slate, without giving the other candidates fair access to do the same.
The new Save KPFA is representing the issue as a labor dispute, and is claiming that the union of the paid workers is getting busted. Let me be clear: There is currently NO union busting going on at KPFA. Because of the deficit, and a refusal to actually implement budgets these people had agreed to, the axe that is falling now is impacting some of their own people, not just the jobs of others that they themselves have threatened to eliminate, or eliminated already. These cuts are being represented as going by a “hit list” against progressive programmers, but actually they are being made by seniority, and follow the guidelines of their own union contract, unlike the cuts they have advocated themselves. It’s terrible to see people losing their jobs, but this is not union busting by any stretch of the imagination.
The real union busting that happened at KPFA was in the 1990′s, when the Pacifica National Board, which was at the time undemocratically appointed, hired professional union busters, the American Consulting Group. They busted the independent, progressive United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), which represented all KPFA workers, both paid and unpaid. Local 9415 of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) swooped in like a vulture, and became an exclusive job trust for the paid staff. Many people now refer to the managing faction of the still unionized workers as the “entrenched staff”, and some call the CWA a “scab union”. From the start the CWA played the divisive role of an elitist private club, rather than that of a union. To this date unpaid workers, who currently make up about 80% of KPFA’s workforce, are barred from membership. Many of them have been donating their labor to KPFA for many years. Without them the station and community radio cannot exist.
Unpaid staff represented by the UE were entitled to such benefits as travel expenses and childcare. The latter is particularly relevant in considering what happened to Nadra Foster in 2008, when she was accused of misappropriating KPFA resources, after printing out a few sheets of math homework to keep her children engaged while she was working. This accusation lead to her getting banned from the station, charged with trespassing, and beaten and injured by the cops, who were called by management without any interference from the entrenched staff. Even in the aftermath their names are conspicuously absent among those of 74 of their fellow workers, who condemned management’s use of police force, and expressed solidarity with Nadra.
The year prior, right before the 2007 LSB elections, the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO), which is the closest thing to a union for volunteering workers at KPFA, was decertified (a friendly name for union busting) by station management supported by these Concerned Listeners. This move eliminated the rights of many of the unpaid staff to participate in the elections. In 2005 a leaked email among members of the entrenched staff and their supporters, the suggestion was made that perhaps the LSB should be dismantled altogether. Under their management the Program Council, previously in charge of deciding programming, has also been effectively stripped of its power. Does this sound like community control?
As a child of the labor movement, I am appalled to see people, who are behaving as management at the station, opportunistically exploiting their on-paper union membership to solicit the support of the labor movement and the left, while they are refusing to comply with the very union contract, that was negotiated on the backs of their sacrificed fellow workers. I believe that the fake Save KPFA (on Indybay someone refers to them as “Slave KPFA”) and the KPFA Worker group are misrepresenting this as a labor dispute in an attempt to politically legitimize their turf war. What they are teaching listeners about community building and organizing labor are disastrous lessons to be aired on a supposedly progressive radio station, and represents a grave disservice to the community at large, and the labor movement in particular.
The recent “informational picket” was another example of this group merely posturing as organized labor. Using the word “picket” to describe a protest, which does not have the explicit intent to blockade, teaches people that real picket lines are negotiable, that it’s okay to cross them. Historically picket lines are not merely gatherings where we exercise free speech. They are a very specific form of direct action. Picket lines mean don’t cross! It’s not a matter of semantics. Picket lines are THE militant direct action tradition of the labor movement. Of course, this point is likely lost on KPFA’s current union staff, since their right to strike was bargained away for higher pay by the CWA, as they betrayed their fellow workers of the UE.
The Pacifica management of the 1990′s recognized that the UE represented not just workers, but that the workers in turn represent our communities. Replacing the UE with the CWA created a deep division within KPFA, and paved the way for what we are witnessing today. The current crisis is part of a long history of attempts to undermine community control at the station, and to turn it into just another main stream professional media outlet. But one doesn’t have to be a professional to understand what generations of working class people have taken for granted as basic common decency: Any labor organization that does not represent all workers has no business calling itself a union.
Union corruption has become a stereotype used by conservatives to rally working people against unionizing. What they conveniently leave out is that unions belong to workers, not to paid union bureaucrats who corrupt the union’s integrity, as well as their own, as they negotiate compromises with the boss. When there is such corruption, it’s the responsibility of the rank and file to reclaim the union as the tool for which it was intended. A union’s primary purpose is to unite workers. The CWA must be held accountable, not be rewarded with community solidarity, for its divisive role at KPFA. If the union continues to refuse membership and the right to collective bargaining to the majority of KPFA workers, unpaid workers owe it to themselves and their communities, to organize union representation for themselves elsewhere. I urge the KPFA community at large, including those paid workers who still remember what solidarity really means, to encourage and actively aid such efforts.
Note: The author is an autonomous activist, who is not affiliated with, nor endorses, any of the LSB election slates, nor any other organization, but writes strictly from her own conscience. The embedded links in this text are not exhaustive evidence to support my views, but merely a small selection of additional information I found personally helpful in illustrating my position. I encourage all to do your own research and fact-checking and reach your own conclusions.
November 17, 2012
|© 2012 Support KPFA||Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha|
Article as flyer: Peace to KPFA
Whenever there is a conflict, there is always an escalation in rhetoric, like when there was the divisive and inflammatory charge a few years ago that the Pacifica National Office engaged in union busting. We should avoid getting caught up in the rhetoric and address the real problems and concerns.
One underlying problem is financial. The trauma of the layoffs in 2010 was the consequence of the station increasing the payroll by 140% between 2000 and 2009. Even with the cuts made in 2010, income has not kept up with the expenses.
One area of friction is programming. It stands to reason that a trade union looking after the financial security of its members will prefer programming which appeals to a more affluent audience. But the mission of Pacifica is to be the commons of the airwaves, to represent a broader and more diverse community, to include marginalized and under-represented voices. [Lew Hill, the founder of Pacifica, was a conscientious objector. One such program was the Morning Mix, which was a show begun in 2010 and produced by members of local activist community; however, in 2014 it was inexplicably replaced by a show produced in LA.]
Another area of friction is the working relationship between paid and unpaid staff. Originally, both were represented by one “industrial” union. In 1996, it was replaced by a “craft” union which only represented the paid staff. This created a class system resulting in an uneasy working relationship between the paid and the unpaid staff.
So what to do with these conflicting needs and interests? How does a union look after the financial security of its members in a non-profit organization that relies on donations by listeners, does not make profits and must live within a balanced budget?
The management and the union should work out a staffing level that is sustainable over the economic ups and downs, and avoid the temptation to add more paid staff during the economic boom times as happened in 2001-2006. Achieving a sustainable paid staffing level is a challenge, but it would help address the main source of tension. It could curtail the seemingly endless appeal for funds. It could put a stop to the unseemly practice of measuring the value of a program by the amount of money it brings in – a sad and ironic state of affairs.
The primary task of the station should be to fulfill the mission of Pacifica. We should bring back the locally produced show, the Morning Mix, during the morning “drive time.”
It is important to note that KPFA has always relied on a large number of volunteers who produce the majority of programming. At KPFA there simply is not enough money to pay all those who contribute to the station. Progressive organizations like KPFA should have one all inclusive union for everyone who works at the station. While the notion of workers’ rights resonates to all within the progressive community, it must be remembered that it is about respecting and honoring ALL workers.
Instead of taking sides, we as listeners should encourage the paid and unpaid staff to work together and help each other to produce the best in progressive radio. It is time for the staff, paid and unpaid, and for the listeners to embrace the democratic victory that was won in the legal and street battles of 1999-2001. It is time to stop dividing the station.
1. Listener Support: There has been a claim that cancellation of the Morning Show in fall of 2010 resulted in sharp decline in Listener Support.
The audited financials show that steep decline in Listener Support occurred between 2006 and 2010, before the change. (Adjusted for inflation, since 2010, Listener Support is back to the 2000 level, irrespective of the morning programming line-up.)
2. Salary and Benefits: Some have charged that Pacifica usurped local control and engaged in union busting.
The audited financials show that between 2002 and 2006, under local control, the station added way too many people (the payroll more than doubled), and between 2006 and 2010, under local control, the station did not address the steep decline in Listener Support. By the fall of 2010, the station was in danger of insolvency, which is the only reason that the Pacifica National Office stepped in, to bring expenses in line with income. (Adjusted for inflation, even with the cuts that were made in 2010, Salaries and Benefits are still above the 2000 level.)
3. Central Services: There has been a claim that there was massive overspending at the Pacifica National Office. Central Services pay for network administrative services like FCC licenses, audit, insurance, legal, Pacifica archives, and national programming like Democracy Now! (Adjusted for inflation, since 2010, Central Services has been below the 2000 level.)
United for Community Radio
KPFA and Pacifica are a priceless resource.
We have the opportunity to be a force for change –
by amplifying the voices of the millions whose needs and desires, opinions and culture are overlooked, marginalized or silenced by the mainstream media.
1. A Community Resource – To reclaim the mission of Pacifica and KPFA as a commons, with broad and diverse participation, and not to be controlled by any particular group or party.
2. Both Station and Network – To maintain the integrity and financial viability of KPFA and the Pacifica network – the national office, all five stations, the 180 affiliates, and the Archives. To develop a financial recovery and sustainability plan for KPFA to ensure its continued survival.
3. Democratically Governed–To support governing boards that are elected by proportional representation, and that collaborate with, ensure accountability, and exercise oversight of station management.
4. Program Council – To reactivate the Program Council, including representatives from the listener community and staff (unpaid and paid), to evaluate current and proposed programs.
5. A Voice for Progressive Social Movements –To advocate for news, public affairs, music, arts and cultural programming that incorporate the voices of people’s movements and communities – including struggles for protection of human and labor rights, civil liberties and the environment; for social equality, self-determination of peoples, and freedom from imperialist domination and war. To balance the often difficult news with programming that is uplifting and facilitates human connections. We envision a vital and imaginative radio station that resonates with those reached by our signal.
6. Mutual Respect– To recognize and respect the essential roles of unpaid and paid staff and apprentices, volunteers, management, and listeners. To foster cooperation and equal access to resources and training within the station, including the right to union representation, thus empowering both paid and unpaid staff to better fulfill Pacifica’s mission and potential. When major issues relating to Pacifica and KPFA are reported on the air, on the website, or at KPFA events, it should be in a fair and accurate manner.
7. Listener Input – To ensure that the listeners have opportunities to provide input to the station through various forms of feedback, including two annual, bylaws-mandated Local Station Board (LSB)-hosted Town Hall meetings, regularly scheduled listener call-in shows and surveys.
8. Web Presence – To improve KPFA’s web presence, including searchable archives by show and by subject, with links to background information and related stories. To work to integrate video, transcripts, live streaming and social media. This will help us to reach current and potential communities of listeners with KPFA’s unique content.
To the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB):
I am appalled by Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Mal Burnstein’s insults to KPFA Apprenticeship Co-Director and LSB staff representative Frank Sterling during the board’s last meeting.
Frank is the heart and soul of KPFA at this moment in time. Not only because he is trying to lead the station, kicking and screaming, into the new Web-based media universe, but also because he donates so many hours to the Apprenticeship Program and engages with the KPFA community that is trying, against all odds, to stand up to perpetual war, climate catastrophe, and plutocracy’s fierce determination to own and control every last dollar and resource on the planet.
These “leave it all to the professional manager” and “the board is just there to fundraise” mantras are equally huge insults to KPFA’s listener community. Continue reading
(Submitted by listener-representative Andrea Prichett to the KPFA Local Station Board, 4-11-15 Developed by Carole Wolfey. The board has agreed to take up this proposal at their next meeting, Saturday, May 9, 11 am – 4 pm. See below for a link to the audio of the board discussion thus far.)
The LSB asks that KPFA General Manager and staff work with community members to develop a coordinated station-wide plan for providing local news and public affairs programming in alignment with KPFA’s mission to cover local events and topics with a depth, insight and broad signal range that no other station can do.
This plan may include exploration of possibilities to increase access to information from the community such as:
2. Establish a list of people involved with social justice, political, economic and environmental issues from our local geographical areas who we can invite to contribute to local news and public affairs programs as citizen journalists.
3. Expand recruitment and training of program interns for news and public affairs. Articulate requirements for becoming an intern and make these requirement broadly known and available on our website to attract people who are skilled and/or interested in contributing to programming.
4. Develop and communicate a system for programmers to be able to receive and use recorded segments from community members for news and public affairs programs.
5. Utilize Twitter, Facebook and live stream channels to get up to the minute information for news and public affairs programs.
Coordinate a station-wide system for providing local news
and public affairs programming
7. Develop a protocol that clarifies when/how to cover breaking news in our signal range and to pre-empt programming in significant and emergency situations.
8. Expand use of video channel and live streaming channel to cover local news and public affairs and cultural events.
Communicate regularly with listeners and viewers
about local news and public affairs.
9. Develop outreach materials to let people know about station coverage of local news and public affairs programs and feature it on the website, the video channel, Twitter and Facebook. Include information about all the station resources including KPFA, KPFB, KPFA video channel, KPFA Facebook, KPFA Twitter, KPFA on You Tube and kpfa.org with program archives.
10. Post written local news and public affairs stories on the KPFA website so that they can be accessed through computer searches.
11. Increase (through training and recruitment of volunteers) our capacity to provide responses to emails and calls that are received at the station.
Here’s the audio of the Local Station Board’s initial discussion of this proposal as well as a discussion of policies and procedures for pre-emptions and special programming at KPFA.
I can’t always respond to developments within the Pacifica Radio Network at the time they occur, so this is a look back at one of this year’s most noteworthy Pacifica National Board (PNB) votes. On 02/12/2015, the PNB voted to give the Pacifica Foundation CFO authority over the business managers at all five Pacifica stations.
This has remained on my mind because of its glaring inconsistency with the longstanding “local control” platform of the SaveKPFA majority on the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) and their PNB delegates. I have never seen a SaveKPFA explanation of how this could be compatible with the “local control” they hailed five months earlier with “Finally, local control at KPFA,” a 07/12/2014 post to the SaveKPFA blog. This vote put newly re-hired CFO Raul Salvador in a position to hire and fire and give orders to the business managers at all five stations from coast to coast.
Janet Kobren, who ran for the LSB with the United for Community Radio caucus, introduced the motion. The SaveKPFA caucus then joined her in voting for it after Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a SaveKPFA staff representative, introduced this substitute wording:
The hire and/or termination of any Business Manager shall require approval by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
The CFO shall also directly supervise all accounting functions performed by Business Managers and shall participate in all evaluations of Business Managers.
The CFO may seek PNB approval for the termination of a Business Manager whose unit manager is unwilling to terminate him/her at the CFO’s recommendation.
How could this be “local control”?
During Summer Reese’s tenure as IGM and GM, the accounting staff at the PNO charged that the 2013 audit could not be completed in 2014 unless KPFA’s Business Manager Maria Negret agreed to open KPFA’s books for the PNO’s lead accountant Maria Gaite. This audit had to be completed in order for Pacifica to receive the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funds that it ultimately did not receive in 2014.
At one point I became so exasperated by the back and forth about this that I wrote to ask former KPFA General Manager Richard Pirodsky what the real problem was, and this was his e-mailed response:
“That the reconciliations should have been done long ago is the start of the problem. But it has been overcome at other stations. (Maria G. and Joyce had to do all of KPFK’s work, and work at KPFT, WPFW, and WBAI had to be re-done. All this delayed the entire process.) The holdup at KPFA came from the Marias (G. & N.), [Maria Gaite at the Pacifica National Office and Maria Negret at KPFA], not being able to work together. Maria G. wanted copies of all necessary documents. Maria N. wanted Maria G. to come over to the KPFA business office and work with her. She offered access to the original documents and Maria G. (or a chosen PNO staffer) was free to make copies of any documents that needed to be taken back to the PNO. But Maria N. and Maria G. just don’t get along and don’t seem to agree on much. As with so many aspects of Pacifica, personality conflicts preclude even the discussion of compromise or cooperation.”
I have two responses to that message:
1) Richard Pirodsky was KPFA’s General Manager at the time. This PNB resolution centralizing control of Pacifica’s finances in the national office had not yet been passed, so he was at that time Maria Negret’s direct supervisor. He was the local manager in local control, as the SaveKPFA caucus seemed to advocate, and a million dollars is a lot to lose over a “personality conflict between the two Marias.” Didn’t he feel compelled to tell KPFA’s Maria Negret that he expected her to cooperate with the national office to get the audit done, as all four other stations’ business managers had?
Apparently not, and now, despite the loss of a million dollars in CPB funding in the name of local control, KPFA’s local manager has even less local control than before.
2) What could have been the risk in releasing KPFA’s books to the Pacifica National Office for the audit, as every other station in the network had? And why, after the current Board majority ousted Executive Director Summer Reese and rehired CFO Raul Salvador, was the PNB majority, and more particularly the SaveKPFA caucus, so eager to throw “local control” out the window? The only logical conclusion I can come to is that “local control” was a useful mantra only until the SaveKPFA caucus and its allies were able to put Raul Salvador back in charge of Pacifica’s finances at the national office.
If they can explain this otherwise, I’ll do my best to listen with an open mind.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist, a contributor to the KPFA Evening News and a member of KPFA’s elected UPSO Council.
This commentary was provided in response to an article “Is Pacifica Worth Saving” written by former KPFA news volunteer Matthew Lasar and printed in the Nation Magazine. The original article can be found here.
Matthew Lasar has penned a self-contradictory, historically confused (especially when it comes to WBAI radio), and slippery* op-ed in the current issue of The Nation magazine. Because it was published in The Nation, that ensures that it will unfortunately have prominence in the same milieu on which WBAI radio relies for much of its funding.
Lasar’s article has already received some interesting discussion on various listserves. Some of us will be discussing the essay this Sunday, Feb. 22, at 1 pm in WBAI’s conference room at 388 Atlantic Avenue, 3rd floor, Brooklyn. If you’re in town, feel free to join us. Note: This is an informal meeting, not an official meeting of any body. Also please note: the elevator is not accessible for a few weeks longer, while the ground floor is being re-modeled to put in a coffee and wine bar, performance space, and an audio booth.
I and others will be writing commentary on this piece, and if you want to receive them please drop me a line.
*I write the word “slippery” to embody my frustration with Matthew Lasar’s slipping and sliding — sort of a bait and switch — from one allegation to his conclusions, such as they are, that really have nothing to do with what he’d just alleged.
I’ll give one minor example here of “slipperyness”, where Matthew jams together different criticisms as though there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between them, and let it go for now:
Matthew writes that “the network has for the most part financially abandoned Free Speech Radio News, a crucial daily news service for community radio stations across the country.”
I certainly appreciate FSRN. But if that really is such a “crucial daily news service for radio stations across the country”, then why is Lasar blaming Pacifica for causing FSRN to flounder and almost go under? What about all those hundreds of stations for which FSRN is, according to Lasar, so “crucial”? You mean those hundreds are not sustaining it?
And how about at least mentioning that “the network” repeatedly bailed out FSRN over the years, instead of framing FSRN’s difficulties as Pacifica having “abandoned” it? A little history, please.
One has to unfortunately read through Lasar’s commentary stopping and thinking about every word, because, as in the case above, he’s sliding in emotionally charged terminology along with some pretty obvious (and often wrong) “facts”.
For example, Lasar makes confusing pronouncements about “community radio” throughout his piece. He’s against it. He’s for it. If we don’t break out of that model we’ll get no funds. But we need to serve the community. But not the issues of interest to that community. Which is it? Look at NPR’s success, Lasar says — shockingly, without mentioning at all WNYC’s (NPR’s outlet in NYC) recent $11 million grant, or PBS’s funding from Exxon and the oil industry. Is that what he wants for Pacifica? Well, no. And then “yes”. And then “no” again.
One more quick example here. More loaded slipperyness. Lasar writes that “the politicized chaos led to lawsuits galore. According to one audit, in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, “legal fees” ran to $466,676 and “settlement fees” ran to over $71,000. For 2006, settlement fees came to $131,000; add another $150,000 for 2007.”
Yes, there are large legal fees. But what are they actually about, and are they the result of “politicized chaos” as Lasar claims? They’re not. Some of them are legitimate sexual harassment suits, brought on by extremely poor management and human resources supervision by the side that Lasar had endorsed over the years, and that began to be rectified under Grace Aaron, Arlene Engelhardt, and Summer Reese — much as I strongly disagree with other of their decisions. Then there are other legal expenses, like defending against the vile lawsuit filed by WBAI’s former Program Director Bernard White against Pacifica (which is being billed incorrectly and unfairly to WBAI, which did everything right, here). That one has cost over $200,000 for Pacifica to defend against — even though Pacifica’s defense prevailed and White’s lawsuit was thrown out of court in a VERY strongly worded judicial decision ripping Bernard White’s claims to shreds.
To carefully review Lasar’s historical mish-mash, his running together of things that have little or no relation to each other, and his “solution-free” approach is an exercise in tedium.
My own view? Pacifica’s bylaws need to be revised but not discarded, and that can be done rather simply. Directors should serve terms of 3 or 4 years each, and not completely turnover every year (and the fighting that goes along with it). Lasar correctly compares that “process” to the film Groundhog Day, but in despair he offers no way to fix it, when it really is so easy — a formal amendment to the bylaws to do that, to make every Director’s term 4 years instead of one year. (It’s amazing to me that not a single Director to the national board in all these years has introduced that straightforward amendment, which should receive support across factional lines.)
He also posts wrong information here about the Directors themselves, but I’ll leave that aside ….
Finally, Lasar bemoans Pacifica’s current operating deficit of $2.17 million, “with liabilities leading assets by over $4 million. Much of this money is owed to Democracy Now!” Wow, sounds like a lot, especially to us poor and working class folks who measure such debts in individual personal terms. (Wring hands here!). Well, here’s what I say:
THAT’S CHICKENFEED when it comes to owning a radio network in the United States, and good management could easily reverse that debt in two years (on the outside) by advertising and promoting the stations’ best shows, especially WBAI, and expanding the listenership.
Throw in the fact that $2.5 million or so is owed to Democracy Now! according to Pacifica’s (expired) contract with DN! Amy Goodman has thus far been exemplary in not pressuring payment of that debt, no doubt appreciating the $550,000 the network provides to DN annually for the last 13 years for that great show. So, if Amy continues to not call in her chips (thank you, Amy!), Pacifica’s debt comes to under $1.5 million, a re-negotiable amount, despite the way that Lasar rather maliciously portrays interim Executive Director Margy Wilkinson’s comment that Pacifica owes debts to lots of people. (I’m sure Margy said a lot more than that about stabilizing Pacifica, but that’s the only thing that a biased Lasar chose to quote from her.)
What Lasar avoids is presenting solutions. I admit, it’s probably difficult for him to do that when he has such a confused analysis. And those solutions are, as I’ve said, really not difficult.
1) Advertize to promote the stations’ best shows, with an aim of doubling the listenership and membership, especially in New York City where WBAI’s signal atop the Empire State Building has the potential to reach 17.3 million people more who simply never heard of us!
2) Bring Pacifica’s internet and social media presence into 2015. Use the webpages to generate revenue. (There are many good proposals out there for doing this, including ads and underwriting on the websites (but not on the air!).)
Lasar writes: “There are too many people within Pacifica right now who cannot remember a day when they did not post a Facebook comment or send an e-mail attacking someone.” I think the problem is the opposite — there are too many producers who refuse to use the modern tools to build audience, and weak managements that don’t either require the producers to do this properly or provide someone on staff at the stations (and network) to guide them in promoting their shows, and the station.
3) Bring MORE community voices into programming, not fewer. Expand into large niche audiences like high schools, taxi cabs (especially in NYC). Restore the vibrant volunteer culture, the community, that has been indeed thwarted by all the fighting and that Lasar denounces because, he says, volunteers are “difficult to supervise”. No we’re not, if our supervisors have any smarts. (Lasar’s argument is used today to outsource some of the key community-building projects of the stations. And yet, he contradicts himself (again) by bemoaning the funds spent on doing that!)
4) Put resources into rebuilding the award-winning WBAI News Department, which NATIONAL (not local, as Matthew infers) tore to shreds, laying off the entire paid staff at WBAI. (WBAI used to have 35 or thereabouts paid staff members. It now has seven, including engineers.)
5) Introduce cross-faction amendments to the bylaws to improve the structure and governance.
6) Develop even further the good work of the Affiliates program. There are over 180 affiliated stations right now. That’s a HUGE national footprint for alternative, non-commercial coverage.
I could list a dozen more. My problem with Lasar’s piece is that he doesn’t do so. He ends with an admonition, to “pay attention”. Duh!, like no one has been doing that? Where’s he been? Oh yea, he himself chose a side in the faction wars. He needs to re-think his participation there, especially if he’s going to present “the” history of the Pacifica network.
Pacifica is incredibly important to hold onto and build, especially in this time of resistance to global capitalism, fascism, and the destruction of our planet.
To conclude (thank god!) ….
Matthew Lasar offers the dismantling of the network as one option in defining “success”, even though he doesn’t favor it (I think. Can’t tell for sure from his article.)
There are zillions of separate radio stations all over the map being podcast as well as broadcast over the airwaves. What makes the Pacifica network so important and different is the context in which it is operating, the capitalist-imperialist-planet destroying system, which invariably enters into the network in various ways, and we have to keep pushing it out and rescuing it from those forces, some intentional and some not. It’s the difference between an organ in the body — say, a liver — and the entire organism. While a body cannot live without a liver, the body (network) is far greater (in actuality, as well as in potential) than the sum of its parts.
For Matthew Lasar to pose the “creative disassembly” of the organism as a possible way to save the individual stations belies an utter failure to appreciate the reasons for why we spend so much time participating in the network, regardless of faction. When disassembly becomes part of a definition of “success”, it is both obscene and intellectually bankrupt. It shows absolutely zero understanding of the importance of the total organism, thinking that “well, at least we saved the stomach” — as though that would mean much of anything in this current world.
The thing to do is to do the opposite of what is expected within the rules of capitalism, just as Syriza is doing (thus far) in Greece. And that is, we should concentrate on aggregating more and more independent radio stations into the totality, more and more listeners, and not chop up that totality and trick ourselves into believing that that is doing anything worthwhile.
former Chair, WBAI radio Local Station Board (2008-2012)
and currently Coordinating Volunteers for WBAI
I will start with the updating of the 2013 Financial Statement.
[About the audit] Again, we’re still waiting for …. err, working with the registrations to get the remainder of the other schedules, and the documentation. We are in contact with Armanino. Through recent conversations with them, we found out that the continuation of the Pittfield work will be based on, entirely, the completeness of the documentation to avoid higher cost and a partial payment of this years audit fees. To date, Armanino has billed the Foundation $77,000 of audit and tax preparation fees. Thats versus what was proposed in the original engagement letter of about $50,000 between audit and tax preparation fees, so we are way over that already.
We have made initial payment of about $11,000 against the 2013 fees. There are about $28,000 still unpaid and carried over from 2012 fees. Right now our oustanding balance with them is about $96,000. And in order to continue the bill work we have to commit some kind of payment against that. With our current financial condition, we are actually working to see where we can get the money, the funds to do this. I will report on that later.
That is with the  audit.
The same is true with the plans for the 2014 audit. We had planned — the audit committee a couple of weeks ago had passed a motion to recommend the iED and CFO hire CPAs or accounting professionals to ensure the preparation of these other schedules to meet the March 31st deadline.
We are in process of hiring them, who would be both knowledgable in accounting as well as the Great Plains accounting software to help with the preparation of these schedules and the year-end reconciliation both for the national office and the support for the other radio stations.
It is estimated that those accounting professionals may cost up to $6,000 per month per person. We are anticipating that we probably will need at least two accounting professionals and will be on temporary assignment for at least 2-1/2 months. This will cost the Foundation an estimated $30-40,000 thru March, and since this amount is of deep concern as funds are limited, Margy and I are kind of working with the stations, and unfortunately the stations are also having some financial issues which I will report later in this.
On the status of the CPB, we are still working on achieving 100% compliance with the technical and legal requirements. . .
On the status of the CPB, we are still working on achieving 100% compliance with the technical and legal requirements, and in conjunction with the AFRs we anticipate that by the time we file our reports for the deadline of March 31st we will be in compliance with that, according to our compliance officer.
The pension plans: our 3rd party administrator is still working on the 2012 and 2013 pension catch-up payments that should have been funded by now, but due to some of the legal issues relating to that, our 3rd party administrator is still researching, and they are advising us that it is taking longer as more research is being done. They have requested more information on employees affected by this pension deposit, so we are providing that to them.
On the tax and finances, since the last two weeks our biggest two radio stations, KPFA and KPFK operations, are both experiencing a cash crunch that’s resulted in the last December 15th, 2014 payroll barely being funded for both stations, and this is, since I got here, has never happened before. As of today, Thursday [December 18, 2014], the cash balance for these stations are very low. The funds are being monitored on a daily basis. We’re kind of in a crisis mode. The National Office management — we are working with KPFA and KPFK management to strategize and prioritize disbursement. These low balances are due to the low pledges from the ongoing December fund drive. The funds for these two stations will be questionable in the next couple of months prior to the next fund drive in early February or late January 2015.
On a station-to-station rundown, KPFA as of yesterday had a $77,000 balance in the bank of which $42,000 is being reserved for the station’s health care bill. This leaves a balance of about $35,000 with the coming payroll for December 31 estimated between $65 to $70,000. In addition, it is estimated that pending and immediate bills are projected to be $86,000.
Now, the tough situation in the entire network demonstrates a need for more drastic actions.
Their December fund drive was based on about 60 percent of goals. KPFA only paid 50 percent of the November Central Services, and has not paid December, either.
KPFK as of yesterday had a balance of only $37,000 in the bank. The coming payroll for KPFK is estimated at $65,000 per pay period. Likewise, KPFK only paid 50 percent of November Central Services, and has not paid December 2014, the monthly fee of $36,000. There is doubt that KPFK may not be able to fully fund their December 31st 2014 payroll. A fundraising concert is scheduled this week to augment the funds at KPFK. However, payroll runs about $130,000 per month, while healthcare bills amount to about $24,000.
KPFK on the other hand remains to be the more stable station amongst Pacifica stations. They are currently current with their health care billbacks and central services.
WBAI remains to be in a tough cash situation. As of yesterday, their balance was only $18,000, where as payroll for December 31st is estimated at $22,000. The station has not paid November and December health care costs as well as Central Services. WBAI still owes two months of health care bills from fiscal year 2014. Their monthly health care bills are about $9,000. So it’s going to be difficult for WBAI to even pay the health care bills for December.
WPFW has a balance of $63,000 as of yesterday. Payroll is about $22,000 per pay period. We believe that WPFW will be able to sustain their operations through their next fund drive. However, the situation will be tight towards the back.
Now, the tough situation in the entire network demonstrates a need for more drastic actions. The National Office relies heavily on the success of each radio stations to sustain its operation. The National Office is also faced with the challenges of paying prior years’ financial obligation. Its efforts to cut costs in the National Office resulted in its ability to pay these past two bills through proper management of available funds and proper scheduling of these payments.
The management team of Pacifica, that includes the Executive Director, CFO, the general managers, program, technical and operational managers are deeply concerned with the condition of Pacifica and they are working together to come up with a solution on a national level, rather than from their individual stations. They are already aware of the respective stations’ financial issues, and are making efforts to rectify their stations’ deficiencies. However, as a group they believe that the PNB should take more drastic actions that only PNB is able to execute and implement.
Transcript by Mitchel Cohen:
Please note that some footnoting is needed. For instance, a “pay period” is used in some places, while what is owed in payroll for the month is also used. This might lead to confusion. A “pay period” is every two weeks. And, of course, while we have a static picture as of Thursday projecting expenses into the near future, funds continue to come in to be applied to the upcoming pay periods. And I am not familiar with some of the terms, such as “registrations”, etc.
I have also isolated the questions and discussion from directors of the PNB regarding the CFOs report, and removed around 14 minutes of procedural motions, votes and chatter. You can hear it here: