KPFA’s budget in the black; challenges remain at Pacifica

KPFAclockKPFA is doing well right now, with an upcoming budget under consideration by the Local Station Board (LSB). But problems elsewhere in the Pacifica network continue.

Financial support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for all five Pacifica stations is being withheld, after the network was cited in an audit for “insufficient accounting practices, misreported revenues and failure to comply with CPB rules on open meetings and financial transparency,” according to Current, an online magazine covering public broadcasting published by American University. At the same time, CPB ombudsman Joel Kaplan published a series of two reports (here and here) about questionable fundraising practices at Pacifica’s New York station, WBAI.

In our last issue, we reported that Pacifica’s interim executive director Summer Reese, who also serves as chair of the Pacifica National Board (PNB), had unilaterally put KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips on leave, even after KPFA’s elected LSB passed two resolutions overwhelmingly objecting to her actions, and hundreds of listeners signed this petition.

Radio historian Matthew Lasar interviewed Phillips, who makes it clear that Pacifica’s move to oust him is thoroughly political. “For about a year, remembering that I was employed by Arlene Engelhardt at Pacifica, I basically did her bidding,” Phillips told Lasar, saying he “realized over time that what she’d expected and what she implemented was the wrong strategy.” He explains why in this frank and revealing interview.

Pacifica’s Reese, whose supporters currently control the PNB, is also refusing to initiate this year’s bylaws-mandated elections, in what appears to be an attempt to prevent members from exercising their right to elect new leadership. Listeners have been signing this petition, initiated by Grassroots KPFK, urging that the election process be started immediately.

Meanwhile, layoff notices went out to all staff Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City last month. The station has long been running huge deficits, a situation compounded by unwise changes in programming and a declining listener base. “The status of Pacifica’s ability to cope with the situation is unclear,” writes Matthew Lasar in his RadioSurvivor blog. The cuts, which must be negotiated with the staff union, AFTRA, are expected to save $900,000 a year, according to Current.

In better news, the Pacifica Radio Archives, a separate unit at the network that preserves historic recordings, has won a $128,000 grant from the National Archives and Records Commission to save over 1,600 tapes in a project called “American Women Making History and Culture: 1963-1982.”

“Loyalty” lawsuit against KPFA listener-activists dropped

Some of the hundreds of listeners who pledged to restore the Morning Show
Some of the hundreds of listeners who pledged to restore the Morning Show

A lawsuit demanding over $800,000 in “damages” from four KPFA listeners who tried to raise money for KPFA has been dropped, with its initiator agreeing to pay all costs for SaveKPFA‘s legal defense team.

The SLAPP suit had been filed against the Morning Show 4 — elected KPFA board members Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — who led a 2011 SaveKPFA campaign that collected over $60,000 in pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show, after Pacifica claimed it had cancelled the show for financial reasons.

Hundreds of listeners made financial pledges in that campaign, but Pacifica refused to accept them. Shortly thereafter, KPFA partisan Daniel Borgstrom and his lawyer, former LSB rep Richard Phelps, slapped the four SaveKPFA board members with a lawsuit demanding $800,000 in “damages” for the fundraising activity, which they claimed was “disloyal” to Pacifica.

While Pacifica formally took no position on the suit, national board members such as treasurer Tracy Rosenberg had been publicly proclaiming the existence of the lawsuit as a “win” for her side. In January 2013, she and her allies on the PNB even passed an Orwellian anti-dissent “loyalty” measure targeting the SaveKPFA‘s activists, threatening to boot them from the board should Borgstrom win his lawsuit. Outraged listeners and staff wrote to the PNB when the measure was introduced earlier this year (a sampling of the letters is here.)

Thanks for your support, and congratulations to everyone who has worked to support KPFA through these difficult times!  Please renew that support by making your pledge to KPFA during this week’s fund drive.

URGENT: KPFA’s spring fund drive needs your immediate support!

KPFA-radio-dialProgrammers have been pouring their hearts into KPFA’s fund drive for over two weeks, so far raising over $436,000. The problem? That amount is quite short of the drive’s $750,000 goal.

“Let’s all step up to the plate and let KPFA’s staff know we value and support them,” said SaveKPFA‘s Margy Wilkinson, an elected member of the station’s local and national boards. “They have been working under very difficult circumstances for some time,” she said, “and if KPFA comes up short in its current fund drive, we fully expect some in Pacifica management to use the shortfall as a pretext to push for retaliatory cuts at KPFA.”

SaveKPFA encourages you to contribute what you can to KPFA by calling the phone room at 800-439-5732 or 510-848-5732, or by donating securely online at Phone room volunteers can describe the thank you gifts available, or you can peruse a list at the website.

Lend a hand, smooze with fellow listeners

Another way to support the station is come to KPFA’s phone room and help answer phones — every day of the fund drive starting at 6:30 am. Volunteers are really needed. There are usually tasty treats donated by bay area cafes and bakeries.

Remember, renewing or starting your KPFA membership gives you a vote and a voice in how Pacifica and KPFA are run. Another round of elections is coming up this fall for local and national representatives, and it is crucial that we elect smart, caring people to these posts. Giving at least $25 annually to KPFA makes you an eligible voter.

There have been some interesting developments at KPFA and in Pacifica, and we promise to cover them in our next SaveKPFA newsletter. For now, we have only one urgent message: please take a moment to give generously to KPFA!