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Let’s Talk about Pacifica Radio’s Survival - Cont.
by Akio Tanaka
Friday May 7th, 2021 4:25 PM
Response to Ann Garrison’s “Pacifica Radio: Let’s Talk About the Debt” in CounterPunch
Democracy

Ann Garrison wrote: “In early June, listener subscribers and staff of the Pacifica Radio Network, which includes five nonprofit metropolitan stations, KPFA-Berkeley, KPFK-Los Angeles, KPFT-Houston, WBAI-New York City, WPFW-Washington D.C., and over 200 smaller affiliate stations across the U.S., will receive ballots to vote on yet another new set of bylaws that would largely do away with its democratic governance structure. “

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The New Day Pacifica bylaws do not do away with democratic governance. The new bylaws have 15 Directors on the Board: 4 officers are directly elected by the full membership, and are accountable to the members; 8 stakeholders (5 stations’ listeners, the paid staff, the unpaid staff and the affiliates) have their representative Directors directly elected by the respective constituencies; and 3 at-large Directors are elected by the 12 elected Directors to bring experience and expertise that the elected Board members might not have but the Board needs. The New Day Pacifica bylaws actually have more direct democracy than the current bylaws.

Some complain that there is no proportional representation between paid and unpaid staff. The current bylaws do not have proportional representation; for example, the number of representatives from stations do not reflect the number of members at different stations. It is difficult to have proportional representation without increasing the Board to an unmanageable size. With the new bylaws, each stakeholder has a seat on the Board, and everyone votes for the officers.


Programming

Ann Garrison wrote: “My other reasons for opposing these bylaws is that they are fundamentally undemocratic and that they will lop off Pacifica programmers’ anti-imperialist wing. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Pacifica was a radical, antiwar, anti-imperialist network, perhaps most admired when WBAI sent the first American reporter to broadcast from North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, however, much of Pacifica has—like the rest of what now passes for the left—given way to identity politics, Democratic Party politics, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and even national security state narratives.”

“The network still has an anti-imperialist wing and I’m on it, but the list of Pacifica staff endorsers makes me think that our days will be numbered if the New Day Pacifica bylaws proposal passes. There are certainly a few outspoken anti-imperialists among the staff endorsers, but the most prominent and far greater number represent the direction the network has taken since its heyday in the 1960s and early ’70s, before the national security state created NPR to counter its radical narratives. Many Pacifica programmers wouldn’t sound out of place on NPR, and some have moved on to NPR employment.”


The programming at Pacifica is set forth in Lew Hill’s ‘The Theory of Listener-Sponsored Radio’: “On the one hand, these happen to be subjects of primary interest to people working at KPFA. On the other hand, they happen also to represent the articulate interests of well-defined minorities in the audience of the San Francisco Bay Area. The correspondence is not accidental. A constant exchange between the staff and the audience enriches the schedule with fresh judgment and new ideas, materials, and issues. Thus members of the staff work out their own ideas and, if you like, categorical imperatives, with some of the undistracted certitude one feels in deciding what he will have for dinner, subject to the menu. Listener sponsorship makes possible this extremely productive balance of interests and initiatives.”

Pacifica was an anti-war anti-imperialist network during of the Vietnam War. The young people were engaged because the men faced the draft. Now the issues have expanded to include global warming, income inequality, etc. The challenge for the network is to get the young people engaged in the same way they were in the 60’s and early 70’s.


Governance

Ann Garrison wrote: “Although New Day Pacifica implies that it will somehow save the network from looming debt, it has never put forward a plan to do so. Since this group also supported the brief, failed takeover of WBAI in October 2019, it’s difficult not to imagine that their secret plan is to sell WBAI’s license, or perhaps to turn WBAI and maybe other stations, into repeater stations playing a bland potpourri they call “Pacifica Across America,” as they did after briefly taking over WBAI in 2019. I wrote about that failed takeover in “Solidarity Never? The Battle for WBAI.”

“Or do they hope to take the kind of corporate underwriting that is rewarded with thank yous, aka advertising, at the top of the hour on NPR? If neither of those is their plan, or part of it, then what is? It’s magical thinking to imagine that creating a top down, anti-democratic structure with their new bylaws would increase subscriber income and reverse the declining number of paying subscribers.”


First, New Day Pacifica never implied that it will save the network from looming debt, and second, New Day Pacifica has nothing to do with takeover of WBAI in October of 2019. The takeover of WBAI in 2019 and the failure of the Board to come up with a debt repayment plan over the last three years, until the lender finally offered to extend the loan, are the consequence of current Boards’ failure to address the issues that confront the network.

Auditors, Regalia and Associated observed: “As auditors, we strongly recommend an end to the infighting and unproductive arguments which we have witnessed by listening to and reading Board minutes.”

The New Day Pacifica bylaws keep democratic governance, but with less room for paralyzing dysfunction and more room for governance.

Dysfunctional governance imperils us all, functional governance will benefit us all.

Voting for the New Day Pacifica Bylaws is an important step to ensure the future of listener sponsored Pacifica.

To be fully informed, people can read the provisions of the proposed Bylaws and supporting documentations at:
https://newdaypacifica.org/

Let’s Talk about Pacifica Radio’s Survival 4-26-21
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2021/04/26/18841935.php

“Pacifica Radio: Let’s Talk About the Debt”. 4-15-21
https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/04/15/pacifica-radio-lets-talk-about-the-debt/
by Aki is boring
Saturday May 8th, 2021 1:04 PM
Here is the Counterounch article. The original Counterpunch article is correct. Anyone who reads the Bay Area Independent Media Center should be a resounding NO vote on the New Day bylaws.


Pacifica Radio: Let’s Talk About the Debt
BY ANN GARRISON

In early June, listener subscribers and staff of the Pacifica Radio Network, which includes five nonprofit metropolitan stations, KPFA-Berkeley, KPFK-Los Angeles, KPFT-Houston, WBAI-New York City, WPFW-Washington D.C., and over 200 smaller affiliate stations across the U.S., will receive ballots to vote on yet another new set of bylaws that would largely do away with its democratic governance structure. The first attempt to do this was resoundingly defeated at the end of March one year ago. This time ballots will go out during the first week of June, and most subscribers and staff will choose to vote online.

As a longtime Pacifica programmer and listener, I am as adamantly opposed to this new bylaws proposal, as I was to the last, first and foremost because it would disenfranchise the two East Coast stations, WPFW-Washington DC and WBAI-New York City, which have the largest Black audiences, and give disproportionate power to my own station, KPFA-Berkeley. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Margaret Kimberley, airs on both WBAI and WPFW, but not on KPFT-Houston, KPFK-Los Angeles, or KPFA-Berkeley, which is not to say I haven’t suggested airing it on KPFA.

My other reasons for opposing these bylaws is that they are fundamentally undemocratic and that they will lop off Pacifica programmers’ anti-imperialist wing. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Pacifica was a radical, antiwar, anti-imperialist network, perhaps most admired when WBAI sent the first American reporter to broadcast from North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, however, much of Pacifica has—like the rest of what now passes for the left—given way to identity politics, Democratic Party politics, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and even national security state narratives. I wrote about the latter in “We Love the CIA–Or How the Left Lost Its Mind.”

The network still has an anti-imperialist wing and I’m on it, but the list of Pacifica staff endorsers makes me think that our days will be numbered if the New Day Pacifica bylaws proposal passes. There are certainly a few outspoken anti-imperialists among the staff endorsers, but the most prominent and far greater number represent the direction the network has taken since its heyday in the 1960s and early ’70s, before the national security state created NPR to counter its radical narratives. Many Pacifica programmers wouldn’t sound out of place on NPR, and some have moved on to NPR employment.

New Day Pacifica says that the democratic governance structure is too large, cumbersome, and factional, but what have they ever done to encourage it? It’s been a long time since there were any on-air debates between candidates for the Local Station Board on KPFA, and just over a year ago, when bylaws similar to New Day Pacifica’s were defeated in a staff and listener subscriber election, KPFA didn’t even report that defeat on the air.

Many believe that we should amend the current bylaws to make the boards smaller without giving up on the oversight exercised by the Local Station Boards, as the New Day Pacifica bylaws would.

Let’s Talk about the Debt

I’ll have more to say about all that another day, but first Pacifica staff and subscribers need to have an honest conversation about the $3.2 million debt incurred because a past Pacifica National Board entered into a predatory contract with the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) after 9/11, when Empire State was the only building with antenna space that would give WBAI or any other station reach throughout New York City and into New Jersey. That debt has overshadowed all discussions of Pacifica’s future, and these proposed bylaws changes, for the past three years and more. Pacifica finally settled with ESRT by selling some of its Berkeley real estate, and then refinancing the balance with a loan from a nonprofit friendly lender, FJC.

Several weeks ago FJC extended the loan, which was due on April 2, for another eighteen months on the condition that a percentage of bequests left to the network be used to pay down the principal somewhat. Nevertheless, the New Day Pacifica website still says, “Pacifica has no money to pay a $3.2 million loan payment due April 2021; we could lose Pacifica’s last three buildings as a result.” This is a scare tactic that should have been edited off their website as soon as the loan was extended in mid-March. It actually should have been edited earlier when the lender indicated that it was willing to extend the loan.

Pacifica typically receives from $200,000 to $1,000,000 in estate bequests each year, so it could be expected to significantly pay down some of the principal going forward. In 2018 and 2019 it received $2.4 million total, but in 2020 not so much.

Why did the lender extend the loan? Because the current Pacifica National Board, which the New Day bylaws proponents decry and defame, made sure that the network was current on its interest payments since the loan contract was signed in 2018.

Another New Day Pacifica complaint is that Pacifica, with its current bylaws and governance structure, has failed to complete audits and therefore forfeited $7 million in Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds since 2014.

Many of those proposing or endorsing the New Day bylaws sat on the Pacifica National Board while the audits were not completed. In 2014, then Executive Director Summer Reese claimed that the audit would be done if KPFA would surrender its books, which its business manager, Maria Negret, and others with clout at KPFA refused to do. I was present at the Pacifica National Office when the outgoing Executive Director Summer Reese explained this to her replacement, the late Margy Wilkinson, a KPFA listener subscriber.

Whether Summer Reese’s statement was true or not, Pacifica National Boards from 2014 to 2016 failed to get the audits done. For several of those years, Margy Wilkinson was Pacifica’s Interim Executive Director and KPFA prime-time host Brian Edwards-Tiekert was its Treasurer. I listened to quite a few national board meetings during that time, and I repeatedly heard Edwards-Tiekert praise Wilkinson to the skies and say that everything was going just swimmingly, even as the audits were not getting done.

Unlikely as it sounds, I couldn’t help wondering whether they and others at KPFA and at some of the other stations, weren’t intentionally pushing the network towards bankruptcy, which most likely would have enabled KPFA to come out on top after assets, perhaps including the Los Angeles and Houston buildings, and/or WBAI’s valuable broadcasting license, were sold off in bankruptcy court. Eventually this group was urgently calling for voluntary bankruptcy and saying that KPFA would soon have to close its doors. That was ridiculous because 80% of KPFA staff are volunteers and some of them and/or others from the community would have stepped up to fill public affairs hours vacated by paid staff if paid staff had to be laid off. Whether or not that would have been good programming is another discussion, but there was never any real danger that the station would have to close its doors. That was another scare tactic.

A nonprofit, public interest station can hold onto its FCC broadcast license by playing music and/or public affairs archives for months, and I’m sure that KPFA and the other stations could have done more than that, even if they had to lay off some paid staff, and the layoffs at KPFA have not happened despite the dire warnings.

Selling WBAI’s broadcasting license?

I once sat in a KPFA Local Station Board meeting where a member of the board said, “It’s time for WBAI to admit that they’ve failed.” (Because they could not pay the ESRT antenna rent that none of the five stations could have paid.) WBAI’s license is worth tens of millions of dollars.

Carol Spooner, a proponent of the New Day bylaws, proposed years ago that the network break up, that WBAI’s valuable signal be swapped for one lower on the dial, and that the proceeds go into the Pacifica Foundation. A more drastic proposal to sell off WBAI’s broadcasting license has been floated over the years, and I was not the only one thinking that a plan to force bankruptcy and sell it off was the only plausible explanation of the earlier national board’s inaction and the shrill campaign for voluntary bankruptcy that followed. Was it true or not? I can’t be sure because I was never included in their strategy sessions, but no one can behave inexplicably without causing people to wonder why.

However, whether that was the case or not, it’s disingenuous for the same people who held a majority on that board—which they’ve since lost—to now decry the board’s factional paralysis and inability to get anything done, or to claim that this national board is responsible for the debt. The ESRT contract was signed by an Interim Executive Director from WPFW, now deceased, with the approval of the 2005 national board. The current national board has in fact made all its loan payments on time and successfully negotiated an 18-month extension of the loan.

After the loan was extended, one might think that the breathing room, and the several possibilities for paying off the debt, would bring the network together. However, that has not been the case. Instead, New Day Pacifica organizers and endorsers continue to cry on their website and in their mailings that the ship is sinking, the loan is due in April 2021—which is no longer true—and that only they and their new bylaws can save the day. Several prominent on-air personalities at KPFK do the same.

Although New Day Pacifica implies that it will somehow save the network from looming debt, it has never put forward a plan to do so. Since this group also supported the brief, failed takeover of WBAI in October 2019, it’s difficult not to imagine that their secret plan is to sell WBAI’s license, or perhaps to turn WBAI and maybe other stations, into repeater stations playing a bland potpourri they call “Pacifica Across America,” as they did after briefly taking over WBAI in 2019. I wrote about that failed takeover in “Solidarity Never? The Battle for WBAI.”

Or do they hope to take the kind of corporate underwriting that is rewarded with thank yous, aka advertising, at the top of the hour on NPR? If neither of those is their plan, or part of it, then what is? It’s magical thinking to imagine that creating a top down, anti-democratic structure with their new bylaws would increase subscriber income and reverse the declining number of paying subscribers.

I have long thought that Pacifica’s best hope is further integration with the Internet, including targeted public affairs content and search engine optimization (SEO) that would create headlines that appear in Web subject searches, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, suffice it to say that most people support Pacifica because it’s community radio, and it no longer will be if the New Day bylaws do away with its democratic governance structure.

I urge both Pacifica staff and listener subscribers to vote no on the New Day bylaws proposal in June.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who also contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Black Agenda Report and Black Star News, and reports for Pacifica Radio. In 2014, she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize by the Womens International Network for Democracy and Peace. She can be reached at ann [at] anngarrison.com.

by Akio Tanaka
Saturday May 8th, 2021 4:04 PM
Important thing is to hear out both sides.
I held onto one view from 2006 to 2018, then I let it go.
I can see good arguments on both sides.
From: Renee A Penaloza
Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2021 9:32 AM
To: Beth Kean
Cc: Jan Goodman ; Sandy Childs ; Michael Novick ; bella [at] bellads.info; Kim Kaufman ; LSB ; Pacifica National Board ; pacificaradiowaves [at] lists.riseup.net


IF NEW DAY WANTS TO CONTROL ALL "YES SIDE" NEW DAY NEEDS A TEAM. A ROSTER OF A FEW INDIVIDUALS AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPATE. IT IS NOT FAIR TO THE PROCESS OF CREATING DISCUSSION. THIS IS A PACIFICA WIDE REFERENDUM. THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT YES AND NO SIDES NOT AFFILIATED TO NEW DAY OR PACIFICA FIGHT BACK.

I HAVE REQUESTED SINCE MARCH 8TH A LIST OF NAMES FROM NEW DAY. BARRY (NDP LAWYER), BETH, JAN, AKI HAVE ALL HEARD DIRECTLY FROM ME EITHER VIA EMAIL OR IN DEPTH PHONE CONVERSATIONS RE: DEVELOPING A GROUP TO REPRESENT THE YES POSITION. TO DATE I HAVE RECEIVED NOTHING.

BETH WAS INVITED IN MARCH AND GIVEN A SPECIFIC DATE RANGE - MAY 5-7. THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO HAVE FAILED TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH OTHER YES SIDE PEOPLE.


THIS IS A GOOD THING. AGAIN THIS IS A PACIFICA WIDE REFERENDUM. NETWORKWIDE PARTICIPATION AND DISCUSSION IS GOOD.

AGAIN I REPEAT, YOU WERE GIVEN THE DATES IN MARCH. THE FORMAT WAS VERY CLEAR AND FAIR AND A WEEK PREPARATION IS COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE.

AGAIN THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE, NEW DAY WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO HOLD UP DISCUSSION OF A MEMBERWIDE PROCESS. WHILE DISCUSSIONS RE: FORMAT MAY HAPPEN THIS IS NOT GUARANTEED. EQUAL TIME IS THE ULTIMATE RULE.


I WAS NOT MADE AWARE OF THIS HEARING TILL THE DAY BEFORE THE HEARING. I WILL REQUEST ALL FUTURE HEARINGS BE CLEARED WITH ME AHEAD OF TIME. THE ARBITRATOR WAS VERY OPEN TO MOVING THE MEETING TO EARLIER IN THE DAY WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENED. NO MATTER WHAT, NEW DAY NEEDS MORE PEOPLE TO REP THE YES SIDE IF YOU WANT TO BE THE SOLE PEOPLE TO DISCUSS THE YES POSITION ON AIR.

Renée A Peñaloza
2021 National Election Supervisor
Pacifica Foundation
nes [at] pacifica.org
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