|Dear Pacifica Radio Members of KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WBAI, or WPFW,
As you may have heard, last Monday Pacifica’s interim Executive Director, John Vernile, went to WBAI in New York City. He laid off the employees, and cancelled local programming, replacing it with curated programs from all around the network called “Pacifica Across America.” You can listen to it online at www.wbai.org.
Understandably, many WBAI listeners are upset and do not understand what happened or why.
The Pacifica National Board will be voting very soon on whether to ratify Mr. Vernile’s actions — the PNB appears to be split down the middle — 11 to 11. They are being inundated with upset and angry messages from WBAI listeners. They need to hear from the rest of us who do not want to lose our stations or see the whole Pacifica Network go down.
You can reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some background info: In April of 2018 Pacifica took out a $3.25 million loan to payoff a judgment against Pacifica for WBAI’s unpaid rent for their broadcast tower on top of the Empire State Building and to break the lease. That loan is secured by everything Pacifica owns, and it comes due in full on April 1st, 2021. So far, there is no clear plan to come up with the funds to pay it off. In that context, Pacifica’s move to stop the financial bleeding at WBAI makes painful sense.
Here is a message I sent to the PNB this morning. Perhaps you could use it for some ideas for your own messages in support of Mr. Vernile’s actions.
Dear PNB Members,
I urge you to vote to support John Vernile’s very painful, difficult and courageous actions at WBAI last Monday.
I believe the best hope for Pacifica now is strong and stable executive leadership with a cohesive board to back him up. The lender (on the $3.25 million loan) is watching Pacifica carefully, and very worried about their loan, I am sure. Seeing that strong action has been taken to stop the bleeding at WBAI, and seeing that the board supports that action, would be reassuring to them. Then, I believe John Vernile would have a reasonable chance to negotiate with them about extending the term of the loan. Without that, I would not be surprised to see them foreclose on their loan (as is their right under multiple conditions we have not been able to fulfill so far).
We, the whole network, have done our best for WBAI. It wasn’t enough, and has exhausted the reserves and resources that are necessary to get the rest of our stations on a better footing.
The audits tell the story, and I’m sure the lender carefully reads them. As of the last audited financial statements (9/30/17) WBAI owed $4 million in inter-division payables to the National Office and the other Stations. That included unpaid Central Services and other funds advanced to WBAI to cover expenses. WBAI’s total net deficit as of that date was ($6.6 million), including $2.36 million in accrued rent.
You can see for yourself here: https://www.pacifica.org/finance/audit_2017.pdf
Ten years before (as of 9/30/07) WBAI’s interdivision payables were $502,389, and they had a net deficit of ($99,603). See for yourself here: https://www.pacifica.org/finance/audit_2007.pdf
That is a total loss of $7.1 million over the past 10 years at WBAI.
The individual station info is in the “Supplemental Information” at the back of the audits.
Both Hurricane Sandy and the Empire State lease took a terrible toll on WBAI.
The rest of the network did the best we could to help WBAI … the national office cut everything they could, and more. I say more because for a couple of years there they didn’t have the staff or money to do critical things like do the audits (the 2017 audit was filed 2 years late!).
We (the rest of the network) sold the National Office building (paid for by KPFA listeners as part of the mortgage on the KPFA building).
We (the rest of the network) loaned them money. We (the rest of the network) picked up as much of the slack as we could with national expenses and increased Central Services payments. We (the rest of the network) got them a new transmitter.
And, finally, we (the rest of the network) mortgaged the KPFA, KPFK, and KPFT buildings (and everything else we own, including intellectual property at the Archives, all our furniture, fixtures, equipment, etc.) to get the loan to payoff Empire State and break the lease.
But our financial condition continues to deteriorate across the network. Listenership and donations continue declining. We have to change. We have to keep WBAI on the air with programs from elsewhere, while we strengthen the rest of our stations. Then, if the lender gives us a couple more years, we can reinvest in WBAI and bring back local programming … stronger and better I hope.So, again, I strongly urge you to support John Vernile. Our lender is watching. It is important for any negotiations with them that John have the strong backing of his board for stabilizing Pacifica and turning things around. Without that, I really do fear that all will be lost.
Best wishes and many thanks,
(PNB Member 2002-2004)
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