In his last newsletter, KPFA interim general manager Andrew Leslie Phillips released first-quarter financial figures for KPFA with little comment. One year ago, the station’s first-quarter results showed it better than budget by $237,000. This year’s figures show the station has fallen $60,000 short of budget in just three months. Yikes!
The plunge is mostly due to a drop in fundraising during the morning hours. But the situation is actually much worse than it looks. SaveKPFA‘s analysis of KPFA’s fundraising calendar shows that the station made up from the fundraising plunge during morning hours by massively lengthening KPFA’s fund drives. In the 12 months after the Morning Show was cancelled, on-air time spent fundraising jumped by 19 days, a 30% increase. And time spent fundraising is budgeted to increase still further this year. By contrast, less than two days of normal fundraising would raise enough money to pay the salary and benefits of Aimee Allison, the only Morning Show staffer whose reinstatement Pacifica has managed to block.
This is a serious problem. Long fund drives are more than just annoying: they drive away listeners, which means, eventually, there are fewer people left to ask for money. Other stations — most notably Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City — have followed this path into a downward spiral. WBAI now spends one out of three calendar days in fund drives. Yet, in a signal area with three times the population of KPFA’s, it has fewer listeners, raises less money, and runs the largest deficits in Pacifica.