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Pacifica Executive Director Report
Presented at the iPNB meeting in NYC Sept. 19-21, 2003
Executive Director Report to the
I'd like to give everybody a snapshot of what has been happening at the national level and to share with you some of the priorities that I believe are critical for us to work on collectively over the next period of time.
Before I do that, I just want to take a moment to reflect on the big picture, the historic conjuncture within which we are operating as a media organization, and as an organization with a clear peace and social justice mission. As we all have been witnessing this past 18 months, Pacifica is operating in a radically new political and media environment, one that offers - I believe - an historic opportunity for Pacifica and independent media as a whole. Simply put, there is a media revolution underway, both politically and technologically. What are the characteristics of this transformation?
1) The unprecedented nationwide grassroots mobilization against media
This means, of course, that for Pacifica, the timing and the urgency of our mission, of our programming, has never been greater. We are in the midst of a historic opening for independent, progressive media and a real opportunity to establish Pacifica as the No. 1 source of independent news and information in the country. This includes distributing programming through audio streaming, satellite radio, community radio nationwide, print media, the web, and television.
But as we envision this future, and as we turn the corner from old bylaws to new, from debt to solvency, from a radio broadcaster to a multi-media organization, we must remain mindful of the concrete, day-to-day work of the Pacifica Foundation.
Our two top priorities this next year remain No. 1 network finances and No. 2 elections. I won't get into the elections today since it will be coming up all weekend. But I do want to take the opportunity to introduce the new national elections supervisor, Terry Bouricius. To get more information on the elections process, please check out the Pacific web site.
On the financial front, the entire Pacifica Radio network has made tremendous gains this last 18 months. According to the latest audit, Pacifica posted a five million dollar turnaround last year and most of that came between January and September 2001 - a nine month span. That's a remarkable achievement. We set that goal collectively, as a network, to stem the financial crisis and we have accomplished that Herculean task emphatically. Bravo and many thanks to all the LABs, to the national board, to the listener groups, and community activists for all their hard work in helping us to reach those goals.
But, friends, let me acknowledge for a moment the special contribution of one unsung sector of the Pacifica community - the experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated staff at all our stations who spearheaded the fundraising efforts. They've done a tremendous job and this network would be lost without them.
Let me also acknowledge the archives and the local station leadership, the GMs, the PDs, the Development Directors, and the Business Manager's around the system. They have responded to the challenge posed by the debt mountain. Many thanks for accepting that challenge and help turning that mountain into a molehill.
But a warning: the network remains very fragile. We have outstanding debt that still needs to be dealt with and existing vulnerabilities, like our physical plant, our cash reserves, and potentially more aggressive political challenges ahead as Pacifica renews its peace and social justice commitment. Further, we are not anticipating the kind of growth that we've had over the last few years in the years ahead. In fact, we're projecting fewer revenues next year.
As you will hear from CFO Lonnie Hicks, revenues are projected to fall 700k compared to this fiscal. Pacifica's total wage bill continues to be an issue with salaries and benefits increasing 10-12 percent per year. Expenses as a whole are, in fact, increasing quicker than revenues. BIG, BIG PROBLEM FOLKS. LET ME REPEAT, expenses are increasing faster than revenues. In addition, we have stark capital needs, highlighted by the recent power outages in New York and DC that left Pacifica station WBAI 99.5 FM and WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington DC off the air for two days. The reason we don't have back-up power is simple: cost. While it appears that we can take care of the WPFW problem for a reasonable amount, and you'll hear more about that from WPFW GM Ron Pinchback, WBAI is a different story. To get a back up transmitter at 4 Times Square or in New Jersey will cost minimum of 7,500 to 10,000 a month in rent alone.
Apart from the network capital needs, Pacifica's financial picture is made all the more cloudy by the remaining debt problems, our difficulties in settling outstanding litigation related to the Pacifica crisis of two years ago, the very real potential of new legal bills, and unbudgeted expenses continually cropping up.
In short, we must remain fiscally disciplined. This is our No. 1 priority next year. We cannot allow ourselves to reverse any of our hard won gains.
BTW, for anyone who wants to see up-to-date financial information on Pacifica go to the Pacifica web site and all our accounts and audits are up there. Right up to the end of July. These are the very same reports that I get, and that the national board gets. And as part of the March iPNB resolution, monthly financials will be posted to the web site. This is part of our collective effort to ensure transparency and community accountability. We are serious about accounting for every dime of listener support, whether - as I heard from the floor yesterday -- it's a pier party or a consultancy contract. And we are serious about performing our financial oversight functions and ensuring the fiscal integrity of the stations and the network. We have come too far from the days of massive squandering of listener funds to fall back into that nightmare. We won't let it happen.
Indeed, getting back to the FY04 budget, after discussion with the CFO, Pacifica's auditor, and the iPNB Treasurer, I am recommending that the iPNB provisionally approve the budget for fiscal FY04 provided that each unit generates a cash surplus equal to one month's operating expenses. This is a recommendation, as you will hear later, from the CFO as well as Pacifica's auditor, one that goes back to his February 2002 management letter. The CFO and I are recommending that each station has 45 days to revise existing budgets to conform to the cash requirements and then we will re-submit those budgets to the board for approval by conference call in 45 days. The CFO will discuss this point further.
The CFO and I are also recommending to the National Board this weekend the reaffirmation of the policy that no proposal or idea can be approved without a fiscal impact statement attached along with a detailed budget with revenue sources clearly identified.
And, further, we are also asking that the iPNB reaffirm that the Executive Director and the CFO have the authority to refuse payments on unauthorized expenditures. The CFO will be discussing this in his report.
While recognizing the need to remain fiscally disciplined, I do want to point out, however, that we are working hard developing new revenue sources around the network, including cultivating major donors, strengthening network-wide Internet revenues, and creating endowment funds. National Development Director Pilar Gonzales will be briefing you on those joint national office-local station efforts, which are designed to raise funds for unbudgeted but critical items, like National Programming, the First Voice Training Program, and the on-going Digitization project.
As this financial picture reminds all of us, Pacifica is in the midst of a rebuilding mode - establishing financial stability, adopting prudent fiscal policies, struggling to get new bylaws, rebuilding public confidence in the station and the network, re-establishing dynamic programming, and rebuilding and stabilizing the national office.
Let me just comment on few of these areas that the network has been focused on the last six months. 1) The Berkeley move; 2) Outstanding litigation; 3) Infrastructure; 4) National Programming; 5) Training & Apprenticeship.
I'm very pleased to report that the move from Washington, DC, to Berkeley has been successfully completed and a new finance office is up and running. This was a tough job. Many thanks to CFO Lonnie Hicks for leading the transition and for assembling an outstanding new finance team. Many thanks as well to Valerie Van Isler, Brian Gibbons, Joyce Snowden, and Yhasmine Bryan for all their professionalism and hard work. They made the transition seamless.
The National Office has also been very focused on litigation from the Pacifica crisis period, including cases with Epstein, Becker & Green and Decision Strategies. I'm pleased to report that those cases are settled and that the professional service firm issue is basically behind us. We still have three personnel matters from the old days. They remain to be settled.
Infrastructure issues have taken a major focus as well in recent months. At WPFW, priority No. 1 is the transmitter and physical plant upgrade. This past June, the WPFW leadership with the National Office launched a comprehensive technical upgrade project - the most extensive transmitter and physical plant upgrade program in the network. Ed Bukont, WPFW's consulting engineer, is leading the effort. This involves a full overhaul of the transmitter, including building a digital transmission capacity, installing back up generators, remote links, and High Volume AC upgrade.
WBAI and KPFA have also applied for funding from the CPB for digitization of their transmitters, part of our overall push to be part of the new media revolution sweeping the country. WBAI, as mentioned earlier, has some serious issues regarding a back up transmitter.
At the national programming level, and as you heard yesterday from the Affiliates Committee, Pacifica's war-related coverage was very successful. We collaborated with more than 10 affiliates in developing special programming, including providing continuous war coverage in the first few days of the invasion and recolonization of Iraq. Democracy Now! bumped up to two hours a day, Free Speech Radio News launched a special headlines service, and the Washington Bureau produced the daily one-hour show Peacewatch. Local stations also provided enhanced coverage. Congratulations and many thanks to all of Pacifica's editorial staff for an outstanding job.
While Peacewatch is no longer being carried by most of the Pacifica stations, there is - of course - no must carry and programming decisions are handled locally, the program has worked very well at WPFW. We are exploring options with the Peacewatch team and WPFW on how the program might continue as a WPFW production. Some Pacifica stations have expressed interest in a daily, 30 minute production covering national, Washington affairs. The GMs and the national staff will be working later this week to explore this matter further.
Another top priority this past year is our efforts to build Pacifica's capacity to produce quality, community-based programming. Indeed, if we are to establish a viable media outlet for underserved communities, we need to train a whole new generation of radio broadcasters. To that end, we have developed a community-driven Training and Apprenticeship program, which we hope to introduce throughout the Pacifica Radio network in the next year.
FIRST VOICE Video
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