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DAILY REPORTS and Documents | iPNB Berkeley meeting info
KPFK LAB Chair Report for IPNB Meeting June 21-23, 2002

Presented at the iPNB meeting in Berkeley June 21 - 23, 2002

by David Adelson, chair of the KPFK Station Board

There have been a number of positive developments at KPFK over the last months. In addition, there remain a number of immediate and long-term challenges as well.

On the positive front, listener-sponsor support for a new direction for the station has been remarkable, with the spring fund-drive eclipsing the prior pledge amount record by nearly 50%, for a total of $618,000. More importantly, from my perspective, has been what I understand to be a marked increase in the total number of listener-sponsors, especially those listener-sponsors at the lower donation levels, including the $25 dollar level. I'd like to particularly thank the KPFK interim management team of Roy Hurst, Esther Manilla, Terry Guy, and Terrence Chang for their prioritizing lower-income subscribership by offering and promoting an attractive premium for the $25 dollar donation level, the illustrated book Addicted to War by Joel Andreas.

In addition, in recent months there has been a noticeable increase in the breadth of political outlook of on-air hosts and programmers, as well as an increase in programmers of color. It is just a beginning, but it is a beginning in the right direction.

I believe that our recently concluded General Manager Search process was a strong step in the right direction toward greater input of the entire community in meaningful decision-making at the station. The process, which included members of the staff, both paid and unpaid, the local advisory board, the organized listener groups, at-large members from underrepresented communities, and one prior banned programmer, was successful at bringing together a variety of constituencies to work together on a common process. This process strengthened the support for the eventual excellent selection, Eva Georgia, as well as the working relationship between groups. I believe that the way in which this process was developed sets a good example and will continue to pay dividends in the future. The process was not perfect but I think that it was a clear step in the right direction. The lessons learned should improve subsequent processes, such as the Program Director search committee and any other hiring committees that may be developed.

And the work on our transmitter project is nearing completion, so that in the very near future we should again become the second-most powerful Signal west of the Mississippi, with the capacity to reach more people than any other signal in the West.

Before detailing what I believe to be the most pressing current problems and challenges I'd like to say that all these comments are made with the consciousness and appreciation for all the work and good intentions that I believe everyone has put forth in trying to move the station and the network forward. Still, there have been some very great failings up to this point that must be aggressively addressed if we are to make good on the promises that have been made to the listeners and to each other in this struggle.

First and foremost, decision-making at the station continues to occur on a continual ad-hoc basis. While some of this has been due to the interim nature of the hiring arrangements and the vast workload confronting all concerned, I feel that the greater part has been due to a failure to prioritize communication, accountability, and process. We need to improve upon this immediately. Our new manager, Eva Georgia, has repeatedly emphasized her intention to improve the lines of communication, the outreach to listeners, and the transparency of decision-making. Her résumé and interviews indicate a great deal of skill and experience in this area. However, this should be a matter of policy, not a matter of our luck in selecting the right person, or that person's good intentions. Current as well as prior LAB policies documents, along with FCC law and CPB regulations indicate that the LABs are to review significant policy decisions of the station. Further, both the CPB interpretation of FCC law and prior LAB policies and by-laws have stated that the role of the LABs is to provide an EFFECTIVE channel for community input into decision-making at the station. In order for this to occur, it should be a matter of policy that any significant policy decisions of the station, for example the institution of a program council, policies regarding the relative roles of producers and programmers, policies regarding hiring processes or training initiatives, and policies regarding any major changes (or lack thereof) in programming format, should be announced to the LAB and to the community via the air enough in advance of their implementation that there is sufficient opportunity for community input to the LAB and for the LAB to summarize this input along with its own recommendations.

On a conference call of the council of chairs that included the Executive director that took place over a month ago some discussion of these points was raised and the executive director indicated that an initial set of guidelines on LAB-station relationships would be distributed to all general managers in the immediate future. As of this writing, I am not aware that this has occurred.

On a related point, ongoing communication between the staff (paid and unpaid), LAB, and community remains on an ad hoc basis as well. In particular, on-air discussions with the listener about the station have not been adequately frequent nor informative. It is my understanding from Eva Georgia that improvements in this area are an immediate priority of hers, and by the time of the iPNB meeting I am confident that I will be able to report on significant progress in this area.

One area where increased communication between staff, LAB and community Is needed is on the question of how feedback will occur and how Programming will be evaluated. In my opinion, all programmers should be asked to recommend what kind of evaluation process for their programming they would feel would be valuable and fair, and what kind of feedback mechanisms from the listeners should be developed. Further, they should be asked to recommend a process by which programming changes should be made. This would provide a useful basis for discussion on a crucial process that must have widespread support and buy-in.

Finally, in the area of programming, I would like to emphasize that the mission statement of Pacifica doesn't just specify that Pacifica stations will report on conflict, it indicates that Pacifica stations will promote dialogue regarding and inquiry into the causes of conflict. I hope to see this component of the mission continue to be actively promoted.

Respectfully submitted,
Dave Adelson
Outgoing KPFK LAB Chair,
June 10, 2002

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