Top Menu

What I would do to Save KPFA, by Brian Edwards-Tiekert

Following former Pacifica National board member Carol Spooner’s commentary on what’s going on at KPFA, station programmer Brian Edwards-Tiekert contacted me, asking that I publish his perspective on the station. Edwards-Tiekert is a former staff representative to the KPFA Local Station Board, and was the co-host of KPFA’s Morning Show until Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt laid him off and cancelled the program in late 2010. A union grievance forced her to re-hire him, with back-pay. He’s currently working as a reporter in the KPFA News Department.

If you were in Pacifica ED Arlene Engelhardt’s shoes, Carol Spooner asks, “What would you have done?”

I would have agreed to let KPFA spread catch-up payments over three years, instead of one—which would have saved $100,000 (more than the purported savings from laying off  the two hosts of the Morning Show).

I would have agreed to start paying rent for the KPFA-owned building that my offices are in—which would have saved KPFA around $30,000/year.

If I absolutely could not give up any money for Pacifica National, then I would have gone back to the bargaining table with KPFA’s union.

I would have taken KPFA’s union members up on their offer to switch Medicare-eligible workers to a cheaper Medicare Advantage health plan that would provide equivalent benefits.

An explanation

I would have explained how much we had left to cut, and asked the union to work with me on across-the board wage or hour cuts that wouldn’t compromise KPFA’s ability to continue fundraising. After all, KPFA’s workers were willing to collectively sacrifice pay to keep John Hamilton on payroll. And it’s not a foreign concept: the nonprofit Carol sits on the board of, Free Speech Radio News, has done across-the-board wage rate cuts to deal with its own shortfalls.

I would have cut my own salary at least 20% as a show of good faith. If I were Arlene Engelhardt, I think I could probably still live comfortably on $72,000/year.

If all else failed, I would explain the situation to KPFA’s listeners, and give them a chance to come up with something.

When SaveKPFA raised $63,000 in pledges to support the return of The Morning Show, I would have gratefully accepted the pledges and reversed the layoffs—on a temporary basis, if nothing else—rather than spending over $60,000 paying management attorneys to defend layoffs I wanted to avoid in the first place.

A different agenda

Of course—that’s me. I’d be interested in keeping good programming on the air, maintaining KPFA’s ability to fund raise, and keeping good faith with the station’s staff and listener-supporters. I would have been pretty motivated to avoid cutting a program that raised one out of every four dollars that come in during fund drives.

I think Arlene, and Carol, had a different agenda. Both had strong differences with those of us working on the show, me in particular. Both probably saw an opportunity to eliminate some political opposition within the station. And both probably didn’t think it would cost that much money.

Carol has for a long time been critical of strip programming (programs produced by the same people every day)—she thinks KPFA has too much of it. She and Arlene both have said they believe  that the only reason The Morning Show raised so much money was because it was in a good time slot—not because it was a particularly good program, or the people working on it did a particularly good job. Anything, to her thinking, could perform equally well.

So they put anything on. A patchwork of different hosts every day, largely chosen on the basis of their political allegiances. A structure that didn’t really allow the new program to respond to news developments in a timely fashion—at exactly the time of the day when listeners want breaking news and analysis. According to Carol’s logic, the new program should have performed just as well—or better—than The Morning Show. In fact, the tune-out for that hour was instant, and dramatic.

Then they went through a fund drive. Predictably, fundraising during the 8:AM hour dropped by more than 50%.

Of course, that contradicts Carol’s ideology. So she’s doubled down: blame the people who didn’t want The Morning Show cut in the first place—accuse them of telling people not to give.

That’s cynical.

Go to the web pages of savekpfa.org and kpfaworker.org. Both have been telling people to support KPFA since all the tumult went down six months ago. KPFAworker.org has raised over $13,000 in challenge funds, off-air, to support KPFA’s ailing fund drive.

Look at the pattern of pledges: the drop in fundraising at KPFA hasn’t been across the boards. Donations are up, year-over-year, for The Evening News, for Letters and Politics, for the annual Grateful Dead Marathon. The major drops are during precisely those hours Arlene re-programmed.

Compare it to 7:AM: Democracy Now! is raising only slightly less than The Morning Show did at that hour. The drop off is nowhere near as dramatic as the time slot Arlene replaced with her patchwork. Which suggests, to me, that there is some value to having the consistency of a strip program covering current events in drive time.

But what do I know?

Please feel free to respond to Brian’s commentary, but please also know that posts that contain insults, ad hominem attacks, or more than one hyperlink will either be held for moderation or deleted.

 



Be Sociable, Share!

,

19 Responses to What I would do to Save KPFA, by Brian Edwards-Tiekert

  1. Kathleen ward jordan May 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I first discovered the morning show back in the andrea n phillip days – boy what would andrea have to say? – and i loved that show. When able i changed my commute schedule to listen to it. I learned more over the years about politics, food, consumer affairs, music, you name it, than i could have anywhere else and i tuned in specifically to that show and democracy now. The idea that strip programs at news and commute times doesnt foster listenership is laughable except that its done so much damage. How did this woman ever come to manage radio programming in the first place? Anyway more power to ya kpfa i love ya!

  2. Barrie Mason May 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I agree with Brian E.T. on this issue 100%. I like “strip programming,” tuning into something different with different hosts isn’t as satisfying. If strip programming is such a bad idea, how come it is so common, on TV, NPR, commercial radio. I really miss the Morning Show, I feel less well informed. I have listened to Arlene’s idea of community radio, the station in Portland, KBOO I think, and it is fine. However it is clearly amateurish and not what we would find acceptable in the Bay Area. If I want to hear amateurs talking politics I can go to the local coffe place.

  3. Kristen Burlington May 25, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    I propose some direct action. Can we gather outside pacifica’s office with these demands?

  4. Tracy Rosenberg May 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Reading this article, one would never know KPFA’s 2011 spring fund drive raised $743,000, an improvement of $83,000 over the spring fund drive 12 months ago.

    Imagine that.

    The best indicator of what a person *would do* in a given situation is usually their track record i.e. what they really *did* do. In the case of Brian Edwards-Tiekert and KPFA, there’s no need to speculate. As the board treasurer in 2008 and 2009, he played a central role in developing the annual budget, presenting them for approval by Save KPFA-affiliated boards, and delivering those budgets to Concerned Listeners-affiliated station managers to implement.

    Here’s what happened:

    In 2008-2009:

    — Layoffs recommended to balance the budget – $300,000.

    – Actual layoffs implemented by station management under the supervision of the board – $37,000

    – Fiscal year results for year ending 9-30-2009 ($575,000)

    – Reduction in KPFA cash reserves from $980,000 to $405,000

    In 2009-2010

    – Layoffs recommended to balance the budget – $425,000.

    – Actual layoffs implemented by station management under the supervision of the board – $97,000

    – Fiscal year results for year ending 9-30-2010 ($585,000)

    – Reduction in KPFA cash reserves from $405,000 to ($180,000). The negative amount was funds owed and unpaid.

    In the six months after Ms. Englehardt intervened in the budget creation and implementation process:

    – Layoffs recommended to balance the budget – $400,000.

    – Actual layoffs implemented by station management under the supervision of the executive director – $400,000

    – Fiscal year results for the six months ending 3-31-2011 $78,000

    – Reduction in KPFA indebtedness from $(180,000) to ($102,000).

    It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

  5. Duh May 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    The 2011 Spring Fund drive ran a week longer than the 2010 Spring Fund drive — of course it raised more money. The first four-week fund drive at KPFA in more than a decade is nothing to be proud of.

    Tracy, like Pacifica management, seems to have a hard time separating her political grievances with Brian as a board member from her assessment of Brian as a staff member. The fund drive only started to turn around when local management asked Brian to start pitching in the mornings. Tracy’s “Morning Mix” crew were averaging $2,000/hour raised at 8:AM. Brian averaged $7,500/hour.

  6. Tracy Rosenberg May 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Last I heard, 4 weeks was 28 days. This fund drive didn’t begin until May and it’s already over, so I don’t think you can get 4 weeks out of that unless you count a little differently than the rest of us. I think it was 22 days, which is commonly referred to as three weeks.

    It always seems a bit strange to me to obsess about one hour of the day. If you raise more money at 8am, but post a loss of almost $600,000 for the year, what have you achieved but a pile of red ink?

    Things had to change. You can’t go on year after year, losing all the money you did have and then continuing on to start losing money you don’t have. That was the story between 2007 and 2010.

    The current narrative is a lot, lot, lot better.

  7. Facts May 27, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    The drive went 24 days, actually. The 2010 Spring drive ran 18 days, plus a morning. So it was not quite four weeks this year; but it was almost a week longer than last year’s fund drive.

  8. won't back down May 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    What I find unpersuasive about the argument that what someone ‘would’ do is best predicted by what that person has done– is that there seems to have been a great deal of picking over history to ‘prove’ the preconceived conclusion: in this instance, the most recent thing that Brian *did* was work his tail off to close the gap in the fund drive. I’m not sure I’d have been so heroic in his position.

  9. Mike McGough July 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Pacifica is an organization with the very best intentions that has continuously stumbled over its inability to reach concensus on the critical task of balancing a checkbook. Take a few zeros away from Tracy’s numbers above and you’ll see that this is no more complicated than basic household accounting. The key is to either bring in more than you spend. Or, if that can’t be achieved, spend less than you bring in. I know of what I speak, having been managing radio stations for 30 years. This does not require an MBA, since the math rarely gets beyond additon and subtraction. I absolutely agree with Pacifica’s 60-year policy against accepting corporate underwriting. It is the only way to keep their journalistic efforts free of corporate influence. However, I strongly disagree with the (continued) interpretation of this policy to also reject underwriting from legitimate non-profit charitable organizations whose values coincide with those of Pacifica. In Pacifica markets such as NYC, SF-Oakland, LA, Houston and NYC (did I miss anybody), such a simple adjustment would provide millions in additional income, allowing the organization to thrive and grow and serve the people of these communities without the needless stress the always find themselves in. Life doesn’t have to be this hard, folks.

  10. Mike McGough July 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Edit: In my litany of Pacifica markets I managed to skip DC and mention New York twice. Sorry.

  11. Kathy Hardin October 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Brian Edwards-Tiekert has complained widely about the cuts at KPFA, calling them a ‘purge’. In this report, he speaks about the problem. The problem was not addressed at the time and led directly into the financial problems that peaked in 2009 and continue today.

    Excerpts from Brian Edwards-Tiekert’s report to the Pacifica National Board made in September 2008 when he was the treasurer of the KPFA Local Board and member of the Pacifica National Finance Committee:

    05:00 – “We have spent, and budgeted, as if a one-time spike in listenership and listener support was long term growth, which it was not.”

    06:40 – “We have a lot more people on payroll; and it hurts to cut jobs … it hurts us as social-justice people. …

    “And you get pushed back, you get politicking, you get coalitions to block any kind of job cut, so the path of least resistance is to first spend down your savings, as long as you got money to pay the bills, and then go, ‘Oh my god, we’re headed over a cliff now,’ which is where we are now.”

    11:25 – “So we’ve gotten ourself to a place where there’s not just a spending crisis, where we’re out of balance, but where there’s a cash crisis. There is not the money in our accounts that affords us the flexibility to take some of the steps we need to get the [Pacifica] Foundation back in balance.”

    12:00 – “The income you have coming in, the revenues in that budget has to be proven. You have to be able to demonstrate that you’ve raised that kind of money by that kind of means in the past, or you can’t count on it.”

    13:50 – “Stations without any cash in the bank, who are starting the year with zero, or as in the case with a couple of our stations, in the hole, negative money, have to budget a surplus …

    “What I’m aiming at is not having the foundation go belly up in three months, because that’s what we’re heading for right now.”

    20:55 – “What I dread even more is the day that everybody at the five stations [that comprise the Pacifica network] and Pacifica shows up to work to collect their paycheck for their last two weeks of work, and hears, ‘Sorry, we don’t have the money for you, our bank account’s empty.’ …

    “And if we don’t make the cuts now, and honestly some of these cuts should have been made one or two years ago, that’s the real prospect we face, because we’re running out of cash.”

  12. Matthew Lasar October 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Hey Kathy: It would be nice if KPFA got past the everyone-talking-past-each-other phase of the discussion. I think that as the US economy was going into free fall in late 2008, most folks on the Pacifica natl. board understood that some cuts would have to be made. The question was whether that had to include trashing the entire KPFA Morning Show, which was then replaced by volunteers who then or since then have almost all supported all or some of an electoral faction opposed to Edwards-Tiekert and his SaveKPFA group. To me it looks like people fighting for air time and using the budget as a proxy issue. Is this really the way to run a media organization?

  13. Kathy Hardin October 30, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Matthew,

    Since 3 of the 5 lowest people on the seniority ranks at KPFA in the fall of 2010 were old Morning show hosts and producers and a 4th produces letter and politics, how are you suggesting that layoffs *could* have affected other shows? In a seniority must prevail contract (and all but 3 employees at KPFA, the chief engineer, bookkeeper and the general manager are in the bargaining unit), there were no other options. What troubles me is the implicit dishonesty employed by Edwards-Tiekert and *his* Save KPFA faction (as you put it) in pretending that severe operating deficits and a union contract are just stories to cover up some kind of programming decision. Programming decisions are made based on programming criteria. Budgetary decisions are made based on financial criteria about how many employees the institution can afford to pay based on how much money is coming through the door. When you’re spending half a million dollars more than you have for two straight years, something has gotta give.

  14. Matthew Lasar November 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    For the uninitiated, it’s KPFA/Pacifica subscriber board election time again. If you have actually gotten this far and your eyes haven’t completely glazed over reading "Kathy Hardin"’s responses (above) to Brian Edwards-Tiekert and me, ask yourself these questions. Since when did KPFA folk become so passionate about adhering to balanced budgets and following seniority lists? Since when did Pacifica radio leftists, ardent opponents of the politics of fiscal austerity in Wisconsin, Sacramento, and Capitol Hill, become such devotees of it at America’s pacifist radio network?

    The answer: never, of course. This fight isn’t about balanced budgets. If it was, Pacifica would have long ago discarded its huge, wasteful, ledger bruising subscriber elected boards, which have cost the network around $3 million so far. That’s almost a third of what Pacifica collects from listener-subscribers in a year, which is why Pacifica’s ex-Executive Director was desperate to get rid of them. And if nuking the Morning Show was just about seniority, why is the show’s principal programmer, Edwards-Tiekert, back on the air in the mornings?

    Bottom line: Hardin’s perspective speaks for a constituency of people who have long felt excluded from and covet KPFA AM air time. In late 2010, their assemblage of activists and elected station board members, then named Independents for Community Radio, won favor with a critical mass of Pacifica management and National Board members, then seized upon budgetary issues as an excuse for taking the Morning Show down and replacing it with themselves. But even in their triumphant moment they failed. Their new program, dubbed the "Morning Mix" and devoid of any professional standards, did so poorly that KPFA’s Interim General Manager, generally sympathetic to their viewpoint, brought Brian back to the AM hours to repair some of the damage. And the debacle helped send at least one of the ICR gang’s most credible voices flying into the arms of Edwards-Tiekert’s SaveKPFA election slate.

    "I tuned in one day last week for 15 minutes," Sasha Futran told the Daily Californian, commenting on the Morning Mix. "I didn’t know what the subject matter under discussion was, and I had no idea who the host was talking with. We can’t afford to have two people chatting. At that time of day, people want news and information.”

    If that doesn’t say it all, what does? Principals and endorsers of ICR’s new pro-Morning Mix candidate slate—United for Community Radio—can lie to you and themselves and deny all this, of course. But they can’t lie to me. As a historian of this crumbling organization, I have been listening to them rail against KPFA’s "entrenched" staff for years (in some instances decades). These folks may not know how to create credible community radio, but they’re not stupid. They know that any case that entirely revolves around their cranky personnel list has no legs. Hence the officious-sounding speeches about fiscal responsibility and proper adherence to union seniority, as if that was all this is really about.

    Alas, sympathetic as I am to Brian and his SaveKPFA circle, I long ago quit endorsing these electoral debacles. The SaveKPFA election slate is essentially a defensive formation created by much of the station’s paid staff to protect themselves and their jobs from UCR and its predecessors. SaveKPFA has the endorsement of most of the really talented people at the station. They did a decent job of getting KPFA through the last decade without too much audience decline—no easy task given the economy, how competitive radio has become, and how few constructive changes they could really make in the station’s overall air sound.

    But now the SaveKPFA faction promotes the fiction that the Morning Show purge and similar bad behaviors were caused by a lack of democracy at Pacifica. It’s nonsense, of course, and I can count on my left hand various individuals around the group who know better. It was "democracy" itself that facilitated the move. Enemies of the Morning Show and KPFA’s News and Public Affairs departments gradually leveraged Pacifica’s elections to fill the five station Pacifica boards with a critical mass of delegates itching to turn the network back to the single occupancy motel model that prevailed at Pacifica in the 1970s. Yes, back to the take-what-you-can-grab-fest of fragmented volunteer programs (see Morning Mix) that can’t possibly compete with the rest of Bay Area community/public radio, not mention other market regions.

    Because SaveKPFA won’t publicly acknowledge the root cause of their dilemma, Pacifica by-laws democracy itself, they have seized upon the Morning Mix’s nosiest adherent for recall: Pacifica board member Tracy Rosenberg. This was a huge blunder. To be fair, since the days of Lynn Chadwick and Mary Frances Berry, I cannot remember a Pacifica figure who I experience as more divisive than Rosenberg. She was the loudest cheerleader of the Morning Show takedown, perhaps even its ringmaster. But trying to purge her was a mistake, for at least two reasons.

    First, you can’t just get rid of people at Pacifica if they don’t want to leave. Rosenberg’s lawsuit against the recall campaign was predictable. So was its success. There probably hasn’t been a single electoral event at Pacifica that couldn’t be shut down by a court order, so badly are they run. And even if she’s booted, she’d come back in some other capacity. Or someone just as strident as her would take her place.

    Second, to my mind Rosenberg is just a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The real dilemma is a media organization opening itself up to an elections based governance system in which leaders and endorsers of factions can literally propel themselves into air time and in some instances jobs. SaveKPFA probably has some strategy in which they win this latest election, then forge a coalition across the Pacifica stations to seize control of the National Office, then make changes sympathetic to KPFA. Good luck with that. But in the long run, these elections will remain the territory of people who claim to speak for "the listeners," and then fill the boards with their air-time hungry selves. After all, did anyone bother to poll "the listeners" before the Morning Show was cancelled? Of course not. That would have spoiled everything.

    In the short run, SaveKPFA has constructed an electoral fort to protect its supporters and base from Rosenberg and her troops. The problem is that Rosenberg et al are supplying the wood. Pacifica’s excruciatingly democratic by-laws were designed as tools for disgruntled outsiders to make themselves insiders. "Democracy" at Pacifica is rigged game in which the most determined and obstinate players win by simply refusing to leave.

    None of this would matter that much if it was just about KPFA. I wonder if 25,000 people listen to KPFA for much more than an hour a day at this point. But the community radio movement in the United States desperately needs to figure out some strategy for rebuilding itself and filling the huge localism gap from which broadcast radio suffers. It can’t as long as a hyper-polarized organization like Pacifica sits in the middle of the alt-radio frog pond, incompetently taking up radio license space. Lots of big questions are on very cold hold as long as KPFA and its four sister stations adhere to a governance process that boils down to vote-your-team-a-radio-show.

  15. Sasha Futran November 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    To my shock, I found myself referred to above as flying into the arms of SaveKPFA as a result of the end of the Morning Show. It was that . . . and much more. The much more has to do with who holds power at Pacifica and what they were inclined to undemocratically do with that position.

    However, for those who follow another link in Mathew Lazar’s comments to the Daily Cal story in which I am also quoted, I need to correct that paper’s description of my background:

    “Sasha Futran, a former KPFA program host and 30-year vice chair of the local station board, said she believes that replacing The Morning Show with the Morning Mix resulted in a decrease of funds and listenership.”

    I have worked in radio but never as a KPFA program host and I have been on the board for six years, one as the vice chair. Never seen an article with more factual mistakes, but I thought I’d correct those regarding yours truly.

    One of the biggest problems with KPFA is that you cannot run a real life radio station by committee. The problem is magnified when most of the committee members don’t know anything about media, let alone radio.

    One other point. The layoff list and who gets to stay on the air and who does not is advised by the union rules and not whether the Pacifica Foundation is democratic or not. The reason Brian Edwards-Teikert is still on the air is that he never should have been laid off as that was a violation of the seniority rules of the contract. The fact that he was put on the layoff list has everything to do with who holds power at Pacifica and who does not. It has nothing to do with democracy, more like not so benign dictatorship. Before I get myself in trouble, let’s just leave it at that.

  16. Brian Edwards-Tiekert November 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Matthew well knows that I share his basic critique of what “democracy” hath wrought at Pacifica. (I put it between quotes between our unwieldy governance system is not particularly democratic–among other things, it’s unrepresentative by design.)

    I gather that the goal of Pacifica’s present system (I was not around when it was set up) was accountability: elections would serve as a corrective to what happened in the late 1990s, when a self-appointing board ran amok, and backed an authoritarian management regime in an attempt to purge KPFA’s staff and fire its audience.

    What became obvious in 2010 is that elected boards can produce the exact same result, and that the checks built into Pacifica’s new bylaws — local participation in hiring managers, local control over budgeting, and a recall mechanism for removing board members — don’t amount to much if Pacifica chooses to blow them off.

    To its credit, SaveKPFA — which I have happily endorsed again this year — has demonstrated a commitment to reforming Pacifica’s cumbersome governance structure. SaveKPFA-elected National Board members have already advanced to a general ballot bylaws changes that should make Pacifica’s boards smaller, less expensive, more productive, and (hopefully) less acrimonious. The changes, if approved, would be only *very* incremental — they’re the best SaveKPFAers could do from a minority position on the Pacifica National Board — but they’re a start that SaveKPFA can build on if they win another majority on KPFA’s board and other stations in the network deliver similar victories.

  17. Kathy Hardin November 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    At Pacifica, non-democratization has a bit of a worse track record. After the 1999-2001 struggles, the inheritors to the old appointed board discovered 6-7 million dollars in debt. More than 400% of the current debt level. They also discovered that outgoing executive director Bessie Wash had taken 1.4 million dollars directly out of KPFA’s bank account, a debt that remains on the foundation books to this day. That is where lack of democracy gets you.

    I can only tell Matthew that he’s got a slightly different definition of credibility than most. Ms. Futran “switched sides” after proposing herself as a weekday host for the new Morning Mix and being told that listener reps on the LSB were not eligible for those positions. I will leave you with some of Ms. Futran’s ardent condemnations of Save KPFA for your reading pleasure:

    ****

    KPFA in Crisis ….And You Can Save It!

    by Sasha Futran

    No, this isn’t a plea for donations, although the crisis is monetary. It is for your involvement and vote for KPFA’s board which needs to turn around KPFA’s financial difficulties . . . or not.

    Last week KPFA borrowed money from Pacifica, the foundation that owns it, and one of Pacifica’s other four stations, to meet payroll. KPFA’s board helped get us into this mess and now the board needs to get us out.

    For three of the not-quite-four years I’ve been on the KPFA board, the majority came from one political party. Literally. A faction within the Democratic Party has always formed the Concerned Listeners, KPFA Forward and now Save KPFA slates. During their years in the majority, this group supported budgets with hundred thousand dollar annual deficits and hired management staff that ran through all the donations every year plus a one million dollar cash reserve.

    This year Independents for Community Radio has the majority on the board by only one vote. (Full disclosure: I ran with them for successful re-election last year.) ICR has managed to get a number of important changes in place, but if we don’t continue to have a majority on the KPFA board, all could be lost. Literally.

    To put this in context, KPFA is one of the few community stations with an elected board. For example, KQED, where I also served two terms, got rid of elections in 2006. Our mission is to generate and support local, hard-hitting, radical journalism and prioritize coverage of and collaboration with underrepresented Bay Area communities that have little access to other media. Volunteers produce about 75 percent of the programs heard on KPFA.

    In my first three board years, a general manager with no other radio experience was hired and a donation from an estate for $375,000 was “forgotten” and not deposited. It was reported to the board by management as being in a specific bank account. An auditor uncovered that it was not there.

    The unpaid staff organization was derecognized and collaborative decision-making on programming between staff and listeners via the Program Council was dropped. The council had successfully created new programming for a number of years.

    Then police were called because a volunteer was at the station whose daughter used office equipment without permission. Equipment wasn’t damaged, but the volunteer was beaten by the police and has permanent physical damage as a result of the incident. Paid on air programmers and management staffing was rearranged to the benefit of those supporting the Concerned Listeners/Save KPFA slate on the board and new paid programs added as well. Costs increased significantly and this at the same time Pacifica told KPFA it needed to cut expenses.

    I could go on and on.

    With our board majority this year, Independents for Community Radio (ICR) worked with Pacifica to get the donation check replaced. It took eight months and while the funds were recovered, they are now in a trustee’s hands to ‘monitor’ for us with use restrictions. ICR has reinstated the unpaid staff organization so the majority of the programmers have representation within the station. Charges against the unpaid staffer who was beaten have been dropped. ICR also recently reformed the Program Council.

    Unfortunately, other staffing remains the same and we are about to enter a new fiscal year without staff providing a budget for the board to review. With one exception, all the KPFA management positions are vacant, filled by interim people, and in the hands of those who created the problems. So ICR and Pacifica need more time to get the problems at KPFA under control. It’s that simple.

    The two main slates in the election represent different interests. Those who got us into trouble were called Concerned Listeners and now go by the name Save KPFA, originally the name of another group with totally different beliefs. Concerned Listeners/Save KPFA are mostly Caucasian, male, and over sixty. Between their present members on the board and those running they include two brothers, a brother and sister, a husband and wife, and two employees of present board members. Diversity?

    I was on the steering committee of the original Save KPFA in the nineties during the period when staff was locked out of the station by management and thousands of demonstrators were on the streets. The folks using that name today were not involved in that struggle, but some of us were.

    Independents for Community Radio has 70 percent women and 70 percent people of color running, all ages are represented with the majority under 50.

    ICR candidates come from groups like the Chinese Progressive Association, the Arab-American Union Members Council. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Media Alliance, AFSAC, and many others. They are journalists, academics, labor leaders, professionals and Pacifica staffers both long-term and fairly new. They don’t just say they’ll allow diverse communities a voice. They are from those communities:

    For more information: http://www.votecommunityradio.org/

    *****

    KPFA: Let’s Get Real

    By Sasha Futran

    Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a reporter at KPFA, the board treasurer and power on the Concerned Listeners faction, says there is a failure of transparency at KPFA. I don’t agree. What he is doing is adequately transparent.

    Edwards-Tiekert is still going strong with his line that money seemed about to be taken from the KPFA bank account Pacifica, that the business manager—brand spanking new in that position, by the way—got just such an impression from our bank, and those in charge at Pacifica didn’t respond to his two e-mails asking for information immediately. What’s a treasurer to do? Tell the board? Nah, tell the world that KPFA is being robbed.

    What Edwards-Tiekert doesn’t bother to say is that there might be valid reasons why he didn’t get a prompt response to his e-mails. That the two people involved were out of town and he has spent years playing nasty political games with them might be grounds for their not hopping right to it. His not getting a speedy reply, he says, validates his irresponsibly running to the media with a story that would stop any rational person from giving money to KPFA.

    While the presses were rolling printing Edward-Tiekert’s larders being raided story, several board members were meeting with Edwards-Tiekert and the new business manager to review the budget. Not so much as a whisper to us that Pacifica was emptying our coffers. Of course not; we all knew that is not the case. The public didn’t. So there it was the next morning as front page news.

    Since then there have been many commentaries back and forth in these pages. The end result is that confusion reigns, as I’ve since learned when talking to some longtime progressives and KPFA donors. Since these same people are about to elect a new KPFA board, such confusion is dangerous to the station.

    Here is what is really happening. Pacifica is not taking any money from KPFA. The station does, however, have budget woes. The economy has turned sour and donations are down. We’ve been running a $300,000 budget deficit known since the beginning of our fiscal year that ends this month. The powers that hold sway over the station and board, Concerned Listeners (now calling themselves Save KPFA), have been running things for the last three years. Pacifica had ordered them to make budget cuts and they didn’t.

    Pacifica is doing better financially. WBAI, our sister station in New York that has been negatively affecting the network’s finances, has had fund drives this year that did far better than the year before. The national office, board and WBAI are in new hands as of 2009 and those who were in power for the prior three years, Concerned Listeners and their allies, are history on the national level. Reports are that staff morale at WBAI is on the upswing.

    You’re probably wondering what might have triggered the urge to send misinformation loose in the progressive world. Edwards-Tiekert also doesn’t bother mentioning that enough staff members no longer want him as one of their representatives on the board that there is a recall election in the works to remove him from that position. The KPFA board has several seats that are elected by the staff from their ranks. The staff’s desire to get rid of him predates the story he keeps putting out in the media that is damaging to KPFA, so a white knight galloping to the rescue image might be useful.

    Here’s another educated guess. Not only is Edwards-Tierkert subject to a recall election, it is board election season and member ballots will arrive any day. (I am a member of KPFA’s board, and in the interest of full disclosure, running for reelection.) His group, Concerned Listeners, have been the majority faction on the board for three years. They have little to entice in terms of candidates this year. Their slate offers up 70 percent white males over the age of 60. They have already provided the board with two aging brothers as well as a husband, wife, and one of their former employees. Look closely and you realize that their slate is loaded with retired bureaucrats. It’s an outdated notion and one that reeks of the typical corporate board of directors.

    They are up against a dynamic young team, Independents for Community Radio. We’ve got 20- and 30-year-olds, and 70 percent are female and people of color. There are a couple of older media and KPFA hands thrown in for experience and continuity.

    This is all likely election fun and games on the part of Edwards-Tiekert and Concerned Listerners, but it comes at a critical juncture for KPFA. Not only are we running a budget deficit and losing both donors and listeners, we need to move into the modern online world and do a better job of providing radio that appeals a younger audience as well as the diverse community in which we all live. We need to draw on the voices and expertise so readily available in our marvelous Bay Area in a more inclusive sweep and not limit ourselves to a small and aging world of political and radio cronyism.

    There is also a fair degree of general unrest and dissatisfaction with KPFA management since the Unpaid Staff Organization was ‘derecognized’ two year’s ago and one of their members hurt while arrested at the station a year ago for no good reason. Roughly 70 percent of all the programs KPFA airs are produced and hosted UPSO members. They need to be fearless in pursuing new program ideas, not nervously looking over their shoulders. They need to be treated with respect. Speaking plainly, we need a new board majority that will allow what has been forbidden for three years: Serious and respectful discussion of the problems we face and space for exploring creative new solutions. Whether a board or staff member is a power force shouldn’t matter if they have ideas to offer. The audience is shrinking and we’re running out of time.

    KPFA has a mission to provide news, views, voices and expertise not available elsewhere in the media and reflective of our whole community. We could do so much better at it and we may not get another chance.

  18. Elizabeth Adams November 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    There is no better argument for the democratization of media than the one made by Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West and Amy Goodman in Chicago last night to an overflowing house. “Poverty, Power and the Public Airwaves”. Listen to the event at http://www.smileyandwest.com. And vote United for Community Radio in the KPFA board election.

  19. Matthew Lasar November 10, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Here comes "Kathy Hardin" again. So wrecked is Pacifica and its current system of governance that the best its apologists can do is to call it an improvement over the Mary Frances Berry / Lynn Chadwick / Bessie Wash regimes of 1999 through 2002, whose principals maniacally shut down and/or plotted to sell Pacifica stations and drowned the network in legal costs. This is like your local bank putting up an advertisement that says, "Trust Us: We’re not Bear Stearns." Sure, the current system is an improvement over all out thuggery, but what does that defense say about the expectations its present backers have for the organization? Not much.

    In an exchange with Pacifica board member Tracy Rosenberg on the Facebook KPFA Listeners thread, Sasha Futran denies that she proposed herself as a host for the Morning Mix.

    As for "Elizabeth Adams," where in that panel do Tavis Smiley and Cornell West or Amy Goodman extol the virtues of Pacifica’s imbecilic governance system?

    Thank you, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, for posting to this discussion with your actual name, but you are misinformed. The goal of the present system was never accountability. The goal was always revenge. The last decade of Pacifica radio history has been about the politics of payback for real and imagined slights that go back decades. The results speak for themselves.

    I weary of these pseudonym comments. I’m closing the thread. If you have something else to say, and will say it with your actual name, e-mail me the comment here and, assuming it isn’t defamatory, obscene, or filled with hyperlinks, I’ll add it to the conversation.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes