Call for “evidence-based” programming, while KPFA’s manager blames staff and listeners for funding decline

Aileen Alfandary, co-director of KPFA’s News, explained to local KPFA board members on May 21 how top-down program changes have damaged the station. | LISTEN TO 4 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP

She asked the station’s board to require management to adhere to “evidence-based” decisions, and presented the graph at the right comparing hour-by-hour fund totals for the first two weeks of the recent fund drive to those a year ago (when the Morning Show was on 7-9am).  Here’s an audio clip of Alfandary’s comments at the meeting.

Thanks to all of you who gave during KPFA’s fund drive. It was the longest in over a decade, but the projected shortfall was dramatically reduced in the final week as listeners answered a call from (supported by SaveKPFA) to pledge in support of KPFA’s staff.

Morning fundraising averages per on-air host, KPFA spring fund drive

The entire shortfall came from a decline during the morning hours of 6-10AM, in the wake of the cancellation of the Morning Show and related program moves. “Year over year, fundraising during those hours dropped by more than $5,000 per day — $90,000 over the course of the drive,” according to a detailed analysis of pledges by, “and likely would have dropped much more if KPFA programmers (and former Morning Show staffers) Philip Maldari, Mitch Jeserich, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert hadn’t stepped in to fundraise during those hours.”

Just published Arbitron ratings show that during the last 3 months, KPFA’s audience share has declined once again — a sign that listeners are tuning out. KPFA’s audience dropped from 139,200 in February 2011 to 113,100 in April 2011.

Unfortunately, during the last week of the fund drive, interim general manager Andrew Phillips unleashed an on- and off-air attack on the KPFA staff and listeners who were working so hard to raise those funds, calling them a “fifth column” which constituted an enemy within the station. Phillips was brought out from New York and installed by Pacifica’s Arlene Engelhardt as KPFA’s interim manager just 3 months ago. Here’s an audio clip, or you can watch a short video with excerpts of his performance from the board meeting captured on cell phone here or listen to the entire 4 hour recording.

Hourly average pledges during 8am "special programming" period of fund drive

Phillips, along with interim program director Carrie Core, was installed by Pacifica’s Arlene Engelhardt with no input from the KPFA community. Here’s the full story, including audio of Phillips and responses to his claims. (If you’d like to respond too, you can do so here.)

The SaveKPFA-affiliated majority on KPFA’s local station board wrote a letter to Phillips in April emphasizing the need to consult objective evidence, such as Arbitrons, in making programming changes. SaveKPFA has also presented management with its survey of nearly 1,000 listeners showing overwhelming dissatisfaction with Pacifica’s autocratic changes.

Survey results show 91% support Morning Show return, listeners ready to act

Thanks to all of you who participated, SaveKPFA has just completed our first-ever survey. The survey was a response to KPFA management’s announcement of drastic programming changes — all without consulting KPFA’s listeners.

Seventy percent of those surveyed said the changes would decrease their listening time, and 65% said the new changes would decrease the likelihood they’d give financially to KPFA. Of the specific changes announced by management, pariticipants most opposed proposals to move or eliminate the 9 AM broadcast of Democracy Now!, and to move Hard Knock Radio and Flashpoints to the morning hours. In all, 948 people responded to the poll.

Your responses have already had an impact: SaveKPFA representatives Margy Wilkinson, Mal Burnstein and Barbara Whipperman presented the survey results to KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips — he told them his plans to scramble KPFA’s morning lineup were “in abeyance,” partly because of “enormous push back.”

91% say “restore the Morning Show”

The strongest positive survey response came in reaction to an option management has not yet put on the table — restoring KPFA’s Morning Show. A whopping 91% of participants registered support.

One wrote: “We need professional journalists covering local and national stories in depth. I miss all of the Morning Show, but especially the environmental news, the film reviews and the coverage of local politics and culture.” Another respondent: “Since the Morning Show is gone I don’t feel the tie to the Bay Area anymore. . . . I’ve been a supporter for 8 years, but this year I decided not to pay my pledge unless the Morning Show returns.”

Many expressed support for Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio, but not for broadcasting them in the morning, which, as one listener wrote, seemed like a plan “set up to fail.” Over 90% of respondents supported the right of KPFA’s journalists to cover developments in the network and opposed any corporate funding.

Strong support for changing Pacifica’s bylaws

Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents said they’d support a recall of incumbent board members involved in misconduct, and about the same percentage said they’d support changing Pacifica’s bylaws to give KPFA more local control.

Of the 14% of respondents who said they are not currently KPFA members, nearly half (47%) said they’d be willing to become a member in order to vote on restoring local control at KPFA.

Since there is no way to randomly survey everyone who listens to KPFA, this survey used what statisticians call “snowball sampling.” SaveKPFA distributed the survey to its growing email list, and posted invitations in places KPFA listeners were likely to visit — such as the Facebook pages for Alternet and Democracy Now! Participants were encouraged to pass the survey along to other KPFA listeners. To avoid vote-stacking, survey software prevented anyone from completing the survey twice from the same computer.  | READ COMPLETE SURVEY RESULTS

Impartial oversight of vote still in question

After an outpouring of listener pressure, management finally certified the recall election to proceed, but has been vague about how it will conduct the vote, or if it will follow Pacifica’s own rules and mail the ballots before year’s end. Hundreds of KPFA listeners signed the recall petition, which lays out the charges of election fraud, email theft, and the destruction of programming by Rosenberg. Hundreds more have signed a second petition demanding that a neutral third party oversee the vote.

Many who signed expressed their frustration with Pacifica’s actions against KPFA, led by treasurer Rosenberg and executive director Arlene Engelhardt. For instance, listener Fred Hosea writes: “The dysfunction, drama, loss of listener support, and mismanagement of the past year amount to an intolerable failure, with Tracy Rosenberg and Arlene Engelhardt at the corrupting center. Rosenberg must go with all due haste, with Engelhardt to follow.” | SEE PETITION OR PETITION SIGNATURES

Help SaveKPFA spread the word
To raise funds to cover possible legal costs and the expense of contacting all of KPFA’s 20,000 listeners, SaveKPFA has set up an online account for those who would like to support our work. (Of course, we encourage you to support KPFA as well.) If you’d like to be added to SaveKPFA’s endorsers’ list, please email us with your name and how you’d like to identified.

Pacifica admits it failed to deposit pension money
Pacifica has finally admitted that it was not depositing employees’ pension contributions into their accounts in a timely fashion “for the past few years.” The network has sent a memo to staff claiming it was a “misunderstanding,” and acknowledging that it must repay the missing deposits with interest. Since early October, KPFA’s union has been investigating the apparent diversion of funds, calling it a form of wage theft.