Changes on the horizon at Pacifica, as a financial crisis threatens KPFA and the rest of the network

KPFA listeners and staff are deeply concerned about the worsening financial and governance crisis at the 5-station Pacifica network, including the mortgaging of KPFA’s building in Berkeley to pay off the debts of New York station WBAI.

The Los Angeles Times has just published an investigative article by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Hiltzik, which looks into Pacifica’s financial and governance problems.

A recent audit shows Pacifica with an operating deficit of $4.6 million, writes Hiltzik, who adds that “the chief drain on Pacifica’s resources has been WBAI,” including a $1.8 million debt for its unpaid antenna rent.

The national board has refused to deal with WBAI’s financial problems, instead voting in 2018 to mortgage KPFA’s building and other property for an ill-advised $3.25 million loan.

KPFA’s studios were built by donations from Bay Area members, who did not intend them to bail out a failing New York station. Payments on that $3.25 million loan are now coming due, and threaten to tank station budgets. A balloon payment for the balance is due in April 2021.

When WBAI could not meet its payroll multiple times last fall, Pacifica’s then-interim executive director John Vernile sounded the alarm. But after making changes at the station to reach more listeners and save money, a dysfunctional Pacifica National Board ousted him and put WBAI back into the hands of those who have mismanaged it for years.

Structural change? Court orders Pacifica bylaws vote

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered Pacifica to put bylaws changes proposed by a group of KPFA & KPFT members to a network-wide vote.

Details are at RethinkingPacifica.org, including a news blog about developments. The proposal is endorsed by Larry Bensky, former national Pacifica correspondent | Heidi Boghosian, executive director, The Muste Foundation; co-host of Law & Disorder Radio | William Fletcher, Jr., writer/activist, host of WBAI’s “Arise!” | Peter Franck, past president, Pacifica Foundation (1980-1984) | Matthew Lasar, Pacifica historian, author of Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network | Carol Spooner, former PNB member (2002-2004) | and hundreds of others 

If approved, the bylaws would create an 11-member board, 5 directors elected by station listeners and staff, and 6 directors who are well-known radio professionals and community leaders, among other changes. You can read their biographies here.

KPFA has posted a timeline of the vote. Ballots are due to be sent on February 18 to all members. Stay tuned for more information.

Support KPFA’s work

The staff at KPFA came together for live coverage of the historic impeachment hearings last week. Please take a moment to thank them by renewing your membership or making a donation.

Or attend an upcoming KPFA benefit talk, such as journalist E.J. Dionne (February 27), economist Richard Wolff (February 28), and SUNY professor Gretchen Sorin (March 11). See all upcoming events at KPFA’s website.

Vote for SaveKPFA board reps by Oct. 15

Elections for KPFA’s Local Station Board representatives ends October 15, at 8:59 PDT

SaveKPFA
is backing a unity coalition of smart, responsible candidates for KPFA’s board. Please vote for ALL of the United for Independent Radio candidates, in the order below, to keep KPFA and Pacifica healthy.

1. MARK VAN LANDUYT
2. CHRISTINA HUGGINS
3. ANDREA TURNER
4. CAROL WOLFLEY
5. AKIO TANAKA
6. LILY KIMURA

ENDORSERS include Margy Wilkinson, Sally Sommer, Adrianne Lauby, Akio Tanaka, Aileen Alfandary, Christina Huggins, Andrea Turner, David Bacon, Bob Baldock, Philip Maldari, Sherry Gendelman, Carole Travis, Timothy Lynch, Barbara Whipperman, Carol Wolfley, Sharon Adams, Curry Williams, Kathy Horsley, Zach Pine, David Wofford, Pam Reynolds, Don Goldmacher, Alison Paskal, Kit Olsson, Sabrina Jacobs, Emily Sykes, Gianna Ranuzzi, and Luci Riley.

To read more about the candidates and issues, or to add your name as an endorser, go to www.unitedforindependentradio.com.

WATCH YOUR EMAIL

Your vote really matters! Please look for your email ballot and vote. If your email is registered with KPFA, you will get an e-ballot from vote@simplyvoting.com on August 15. The ballot company Pacifica hired is absolutely reputable. 

We strongly urge you to update KPFA with your current email by going to this ballot request form on Pacifica’s website. That form also allows you to request a paper ballot if you prefer one.

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP: Forward this newsletter to your friends on social media and email, and urge them to vote in KPFA’s Local Station Board election. Or ask them to visit www.SaveKPFA.org or www.unitedforindependentradio.com to learn more about the candidates.

QUESTIONS? Please email us at votesavekpfa@gmail.com

VERY SERIOUS DEVELOPMENTS AT PACIFICA

Dear KPFA/Pacifica listener,

As you may have heard, KPFA’s national foundation, Pacifica, is in a critical financial crisis, in large part due to debts from the network’s New York station, WBAI. We hope you’ll take a moment to read the update below and then write the national board at pnb@pacifica.org.

On Oct. 7, Pacifica’s interim Executive Director, John Vernile, was forced to lay off WBAI’s employees, cancelled local programming, and replace it with curated programs from around the network called “Pacifica Across America.” You can listen to it online at www.wbai.org, and read Pacifica’s press release about WBAI here

We’ve also posted long-time activist and former board member Carol Spooner’s assessment here, and Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar’s reflections here.

In a sobering report to the Pacifica board last month, executive director Vernile had warned that the network was in a “spiraling cash flow crisis that must be immediately addressed,” and that it “will not survive without decisive leadership, coupled with a clear-eyed approach to sound financial management…” The changes at WBAI are needed to “stabilize and secure” the network and WBAI.

Nevertheless, several of Pacifica’s national board members are now trying to overturn the WBAI action, even though that would be financially unsupportable and could mean the end of the network. We need your voice to protect Pacifica and KPFA – please write the national board to support the executive director at pnb@pacifica.org and copy SaveKPFA at votesavekpfa@gmail.com.
 
The New York Times reports here, and KPFA reached out to listeners with a message last year about this situation. It was also covered in the East Bay Express, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Mercury News.
 

Please circulate to your friends, and also keep up to date with a new Facebook group, Pacifica Protectors.

Questions? Contact us at votesavekpfa@gmail.com.

E.J. DIONNE
February 27
Code Red: How Progressives + Moderates Can Unite
RICHARD WOLFF
February 28
Understanding Socialism
GRETCHEN SORIN
March 11
Driving While Black
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