Beholden to Nobody but the Listeners

By: Susan da Silva

To me the most important plank of the United for Community Radio (UCR) platform is the one that will preserve Pacifica as an independent entity where free speech is valued.  I’m referring to this part of the platform: Refuse corporate underwriting or advertising.  

These are desperate times at Pacifica.  Many people say: “There simply is not enough money, so why not take advertisements?”   The answer is that taking corporate money will change Pacifica and KPFA in ways that are unacceptable. 

Keep Corporations Out of Our Daily Life - photo credit below

Keep Corporations Out of Our Daily Life – photo credit below

At this point, at most Pacifica stations, there is no outside entity beyond the FCC who has any say about what is on the air.  Sometimes what goes out is not polished, sometimes it’s not politically correct, sometimes it causes us to protest. All that is good in my opinion.  That’s what makes us trustworthy.  We are accountable to each other and to the listeners, no one else.  Each person who speaks, speaks for themselves. With corporate underwriting would come outright censorship and self-censorship.  We might as well be NPR! Those who say that they never feel pressured by their advertisers, are not being totally honest, in my opinion.  They don’t even realize that they are self-censoring.

In this world ruled by corporations, Pacifica is a unique network, a place where no outside corporation can tell us what to say or feel or think.

Bring The People In - photo credit below

Connect with the People – photo credit below

So how do we get the money we need?  We do it with programming that connects to many parts of the community, programming listeners really want.  We do it by bringing new voices to the air.  We do it by reminding the listeners that we don’t take corporate money, and that we listen to them and allow them to vote for board members. We do it by being fiscally responsible enough to not leave millions of CPB dollars on the table.  (Pacifica has not received CPB money for several years because of their inability to complete an audit.)

Somewhere along the line Pacifica stopped taking budgets and audits seriously.  That nonchalance has brought us to the brink of losing our network.  I believe that hard fiscal decisions need to be made immediately.  I believe that once we get our financial house in order, we can go forth with the support of the listeners and that we will not need corporate funds to do so.

If you don’t want corporate underwriting and advertising on your Pacifica station, please vote for the UCR candidates.

“Keep Corporations Out of Our Daily Life.” – photo by Brooke Anderson from “Our Power Festival” in Richmond, CA.

“Connect with the People.” photo by Brooke Anderson from “Our Power Festival” in Richmond, CA.

Tom Voorhees

Tom Voorhees

Tom Voorhees

2014 Volunteer of the Year from the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) membership, National/International engineer
for community stations,  early KPFA unpaid staff

I am Tom Voorhees, a member of and a candidate for the KPFA local station board (LSB).

I will work to restore the former high level of KPFA’s news and public affairs programming necessary for all of us listeners to understand critical issues requiring our attention and action. KPFA’s longstanding policy has been to sponsor vigorous debate from all viewpoints, on controversial issues.  Current management policy, by contrast, appears to avoid controversial issues via censorship.  It has refused to air at least one program because of content.  I am very concerned about the dumbing down of my hometown radio station by existing KPFA management and the current local station board majority.

An example of KPFA’s dumbing down is the partial replacement of FSRN grassroots national and international news by Feature Story News, a provider of mainstream news to commercial radio stations.  Recently KPFA management and the LSB majority have chosen not to identify on air the source of news dispatches from FSN and other commercial news networks.  The KPFA program council, representing listeners of all colors and local community interests, was eliminated.  The program council needs to be reestablished for KPFA to be truly responsive to the overall Bay Area listener community.

For two years management has neglected to apply for millions of dollars in CPB grants, resulting in severe financial stress and degraded news content.  I will work to restore the proper financial auditing so this funding can be regained.

I intend to restore KPFA and Pacifica’s important role in ending self perpetuating endless wars around the world.

I started in community radio through journalism and radio shop at El Cerrito High School.  I was an engineering volunteer at KPFA in the 1960s.  In the 1970s I assisted the startup of the Ink Works movement printers’ collective in Oakland.  In the 1980s I was an engineering consultant to the Sandinista civil infrastructure for radio broadcasting and hydroelectric power in Nicaragua.  In 1999 I was one of the organizers of the first independent media center as part of the WTO resistance in Seattle. Independent media centers now exist all over the world.

Tom Voorhees works on KDPI tower

Tom Voorhees works on KDPI tower

In recent years as an engineering volunteer, I have assisted many new community radio stations to get on air, with most becoming Pacifica affiliates. Recent on-air successes include KFFR in Colorado, KRFP, KDPI and KRBX in Idaho, WVQR on Vieques and Culebra islands in Puerto Rico, KHOI in Iowa, and KSJU in Washington State. As a result I was voted 2014 volunteer of the year by the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) membership.

Having been a community radio and alternative media startup activist most of my life, I promise to find a way to make KPFA and all five Pacifica stations financially viable again.

Endorsements (among many):

Michael Parenti, author
Joe Wanzala, former LSB/PNB member.
Veterans for Peace, East Bay Chapter #162
Marilyn Langlois, Richmond Planning Commissioner
Bruce Dixon, managing editor at Black Agenda Report

Official Q & A

1. In what ways are the station moving in a positive direction, that you would want to continue or perhaps improve?

The all-volunteer weekend news with real live local reporting of labor and antiwar demonstration events is a good starting point. The paid staff weekday KPFA news should follow the lead of the weekend news and should not rely on unidentified mainstream commercial news services as they have recently started doing.  The weekend news also has an expert Africa reporter with on-the-ground Africa experience of whom the weekday news could make much better use.

2.  In what ways are the station moving in a negative direction, that you would want to stop or change? What changes would you work for?

Tom Voorhees (top) WVQR Stub tower STL repeater dishes going up! Vieques in Puerto Rico, 2013.

Tom Voorhees (top) WVQR Stub tower STL repeater dishes going up! Vieques in Puerto Rico, 2013.

Bring back the morning mix featuring local critical issues and discussion of effective solutions.Restore the full FlashPoints investigative budget for critical world issues.  Improve union news reporting on Bay Area and national grassroots organizing efforts.  Greatly increase coverage of antiwar organizing efforts as was the founding purpose of KPFA in 1949.  Provide detailed information on the predicted recurrence of the 2008 financial collapse, as nothing has been done to prevent it happening all over again in the very near future.  Also some additional consumer financial protections have been removed or watered down which KPFA could do much better at reporting.

3. What key experience, connections, skills or traits would you bring to the Local Station Board to advance the station’s mission?
I have fifty years of connections and cooperation with key antiwar and grassroots organizers.  Together we have worked to provide communication in support of project organizing efforts.  For example, we pioneered the concept of the Independent Media Centers and then created the infrastructure to allow worldwide communication about the 1999 Seattle WTO demonstrations on world wide RFPI short wave radio broadcasts and satellite uplinked video and audio receivable around the world for local rebroadcast.   I have a lifelong background in radio engineering, including estimating project costs, contract administration & compliance, contractor supervision, and quality control, all of which I will use to assure that KPFA and Pacifica have the best infrastructure possible at the lowest possible cost.
4.  What ideas do you have for helping the station and the Pacifica Foundation meet the financial challenges currently being faced?
photo by Daniel Arauz

photo by Daniel Arauz

I do not support the selling off of some Pacifica stations to solve the problems caused by mismanagement of CPB block grant applications by KPFA and Pacifica management. I will work to dissolve the unauthorized clandestine KPFA Foundation, which is a word-for-word copy of the Pacifica foundation incorporation.

On August 6, 2015 the majority of the Pacifica board refused to discuss the secret corporation to acquire the KPFA broadcast license. In the eyes of the FCC and with some additional perfection the shell KPFA foundation could become partially eligible on September 24, 2015 to receive all five Pacifica station licenses.

If KPFA and Pacifica can demonstrate a renewed interest in challenging the military industrial complex and its constant war efforts there will be no need for the above takeover plan as listener financial support will return in much the same way as Bernie’s support is taking off

Pacifica’s Finances Call For Drastic Action

Pacifica at the CrossroadsChief Financial Officer Report to The Pacifica National Board
December 18, 2014

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 year’s audit fees. To date, Armanino has billed the Foundation $77,000 of audit and tax preparation fees. That’s 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 [2013] 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.

KPFKOn 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:


Pacifica National Board Minority Position (report)

Janet Kobren talking at a fundraiser for the 2010 Gaza freedom flotilla. Ms Kobren participated in the Flotilla and organized the fundraiser

Janet Kobren talking at a fundraiser for the 2010 Gaza freedom flotilla. Ms Kobren participated in the Flotilla and organized the fundraiser

Prepared by Janet Kobren, PNB Listener Director from KPFA*

I am one of nine Pacifica Directors for Good Governance (PDGG).  Since being seated on the PNB on January 30, 2014, I and my fellow PDGG colleagues have witnessed a majority of 12 of the 22- member board put the Foundation at financial risk by violating meeting notice requirements and recklessly rushing through major personnel decisions, in the dark of executive sessions where the majority has manipulated the meeting process, misemployed Roberts Rules of Order including showing favoritism.

 They have acted without official process or documentation, and disallowed discussion or independent legal consultation on very sensitive motions (except outside the meetings, and perhaps by majority and obviously biased directors that happen to be lawyers), all of which may take the Foundation down by opening it up to possible major lawsuits, jeopardizing our insurance coverage, and losing our CPB funding and the re-licensing of WBAI.

Informed by our fiduciary responsibility, the PDGG voiced objections during all PNB meetings and proposed alternatives by submitting motion after motion, all in vain, as they were either voted down or not included in or disappeared from the agendas. Accordingly, the PDGG felt we had no other recourse but to go to the courts.

We filed a lawsuit on April 3rd at the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, case number HG14720131. And although, for technical reasons, the judge denied us a temporary restraining order (TRO) on April 9, she nevertheless scheduled an expedited preliminary injunction hearing in Oakland on May 6.

PDGG fears that there may be no Pacifica network by the end of year and believes that outside intervention is the only way that Pacifica can be saved.

*Presented during the “Pacifica National Board Report” agenda item of the April 12, 2014 KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) meeting.