Why killing the Morning Show doesn’t add up.
The Morning Show was KPFA’s biggest fundraiser, raising three times what it cost to produce. So why, in November 2010, did Pacifica’s executive director kill KPFA’s most popular local programming?
First, the big picture. KPFA was hit by the global financial crisis just like everyone else. When the economy tanked, so did KPFA’s fundraising, pushing the station into six-figure deficits.
But KPFA had already addressed its deficit. In the months prior to cancelling the Morning Show, KPFA’s local managers cut roughly $500,000 in annual spending on personnel, through buy-outs, attrition, and hour reductions – all without controversy. Pacifica knew this.KPFA had sent charts detailing the financial situation to the entire Pacifica National Board five weeks prior to Pacifica’s sudden layoffs of Morning Show staff.
So, why did Pacifica kill The Morning Show?
• The financial crisis at Pacifica was (and continues to be) worse than KPFA’s. KPFA was able to use its reserves to stay current on bills, while it whittled away at expenses – during the same period, Pacifica racked up over $1.1 million dollars in unpaid bills (that number has since grown to over $1.6 million).
• Pacifica uses KPFA as a cash cow. Pacifica’s audited financial statements show the rest of the network owes KPFA $1.4 million. In 2010, Pacifica was using KPFA assets as collateral for a $100,000 line of credit. And it was pressuring KPFA to create a large surplus so it could pay Pacifica extra.
• KPFA staff were standing up to Pacifica. As a staff-elected representative on KPFA’s Local Station Board, Brian Edwards-Tiekert pushed back on attempts by Pacifica to seize station funds. The Morning Show invited Pacifica’s executives onto to the airwaves, and challenged them about how much they were taking from KPFA, and about Pacifica’s spending priorities. KPFA’s union picketed in front of Pacifica’s offices against proposed cuts.
Pacifica used KPFA’s finances as a pretext to eliminate its political enemies.
Of the three people Pacifica gave layoff notices to:
3 were outspoken critics of Pacifica.
2 were worker-elected representatives on KPFA’s Local Station Board
0 were the least-senior staff members at KPFA.
Pacifica chose to keep the Morning Show off the air.
• Pacifica had to rescind the layoff of Morning Show producer Laura Privesalmost immediately – but assigned her to work on a different show.
• Pacifica had to reinstate Brian Edwards-Tiekert – with back pay – when it conceded his union
grievance, but it assigned him to work as a News Reporter, not a Morning Show Host/Producer.
• Pacifica rejected offers from KPFA listeners to pay the cost of reinstating all Morning Show staff, then paid an expensive anti-union law firm over $70,000 to defend the one layoff it prevailed on.
• When Pacifica gave the staff of The Morning Show the required 30 days’ notice of
their layoffs, they offered to keep producing the show, but Pacifica took them
off the air immediately, and rather than let them keep producing the Morning
Show, paid them to do nothing.
What’s happened since Pacifica killed The Morning Show?
• Plummeting pledges. During the four hours impacted by Pacifica’s changes – 6 to 10AM – fundraising dropped by over 50% – more than $8,000 per day.
• Lengthening fund drives. To make up for the drop, KPFA has had to add nearly three weeks to
its fundraising calendar – an increase of 30%
• KPFA has stayed afloat – despite Pacifica’s best efforts to blow all the station’s money on $400/hour attorneys. Because KPFA’s local management had made major spending cuts shortly before the Morning Show was killed, and because KPFA dramatically lengthened its fund drives after the Morning Show was killed, KPFA managed to nearly break even in 2011.
• Our station is in grave peril. Long pledge marathons drive away listeners; fewer listeners means fewer donations. KPFA’s already experienced diminishing returns from lengthened fund drives – the Winter 2012 fund drive was extended to a record 24 days, but still fell nearly $125,000 short of its goal.
SEE ALSO: Why is KPFA broke? | About SaveKPFA