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The Fate of KPFA
January 8th KPFA’s money and property may be seized by the Empire State Realty Trust because of a 1.8 million dollar debt of our sister station WBAI in New York. At that point, our building and our bank account will no longer be under our control.
First and foremost we want all our supporters and listeners to know your donations over the last few years have been used to improve KPFA’s operations to update our website and the technical tools of the trade. KPFA is reaching its goals, paying our bills and expanding our operation. It is your support that has floated this independent media ship and allowed us to continue our 69-year mission of speaking truth to power. Things at KPFA have been going well. The current financial problem at Pacifica is not of our making.
The imminent danger is a judgment against KPFA’s parent company the Pacifica Foundation that could drain KPFA of its operating funds and take the Bay Area’s only truly progressive radio station off the air. The Pacifica National Board has yet to take decisive action to protect the assets of the foundation leaving the future of the network uncertain.
In the absence of any clear direction from the Pacifica National Board (PNB), we can only present to you what we know and what we don’t know with an emphasis on how it pertains to KPFA.
What we Know
January 8th KPFA’s money and property may be seized by the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) because of a 1.8 million dollar debt of our sister station WBAI in New York. At that point, our building and our bank account will no longer be under our control.
How aggressive will ESRT be? If this happens will we be forced out and unable to continue broadcasting? Will they charge us rent? Will they empty our checking account? If so we would be unable to operate the station.
How Did This Happen?
WBAI owes the Empire State Realty Trust 1.8 million dollars in delinquent transmitter rent. [Plus more delinquent rent since April, not covered in the suit.] ESRT filed in court against Pacifica on November 23rd, 2016. Their monthly rent is currently at $53K per month escalating each month.
On October 4 a judge found in favor of ESRT making it possible for them to file in all states where Pacifica has properties, allowing them to seize money and property.
The idea of a signal swap for WBAI was ignited and brokers were hired.
The PNB voted to give IED [Interim Executive Director] the authority to begin preparation for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but he and many others on the PNB thought to sell properties (like our two adjacent buildings) and others could cover the debt. The other idea was a high-interest loan that so far has never been secured. All of these instead of the signal swap in New York.
Then the PNB rescinded the bankruptcy resolution. Also, KPFA and KPFK signals were added for signal swaps.
ESRT judgment filed in California on December 6th to seize property and money from KPFA and KPFK. It is a 30-day waiting period that ends January 12h.
Then the PNB voted to allow some prep for Bankruptcy.
At PNB meeting 2 weeks ago California’s Deputy Attorney General, Julianne Mossier spoke at the meeting and made it clear that the board needed to vote to take action immediately and that anyone who obstructs for any personal reasons were liable for not carrying out their fiduciary duties.
The board ignored her plea but set up an emergency meeting about moving ahead with bankruptcy the following Monday but no action was taken.
The clock is ticking…
What is Being Done?
We want to thank all the LSB [Local Station Board] members who have worked so diligently this year negotiating with the PNB in good faith to move the network in a positive direction while also protecting KPFA’s interests. There still isn’t a playbook for what our plan will be for the next week, month or two months down the road.
What is the PNB doing? The governance structure of Pacifica, our historic culture of the usual political infighting has led to disagreement and paralysis. Unless action is taken pretty immediately we may cease to exist.
Needless to say, this is a terrible position to be in, especially for management when there is still no plan of action articulated by the National leadership to the staff. Yet all of us at KPFA thank you for your letters, emails and calls of support.
The KPFA Management
The Pacifica National Board can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A graphic for this article states, "The current financial problem at Pacifica is not of KPFA's making."