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DAILY REPORTS and Documents | iPNB Berkeley meeting info
WBAI general manager report

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


" Together we hope to initiate a new sense of excitement in New York, a hopeful spirit dedicated to a rebirth of the responsible citizen in a large urban center. We believe that the other mass media err in underestimating the hunger and capacity of man for significant and creative ideas in art and politics."
Harold Winkler, President of Pacifica at the opening of WBAI in1960

As we move into the last quarter of FY 2002, WBAI has continued the daunting process of re-building the station and we have had the extraordinary support and generosity of our listeners and the outstanding work of our staff every step of the way. When the new year began, we faced a nearly bankrupt, debt-ridden and demoralized institution and a myriad of problems based on the mismanagement and negligence of the previous administrations. But despite this, we have accomplished some very positive work and this is a tribute to the thousands who have helped us along the way during the first six months of our return home. Although the difficulties are far from over, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and a basis for hope in our future.

We just completed the May Membership drive and raised nearly $900,000 during this campaign -the actual figure was $897,452 in pledged support and is a high point for a Spring effort. Given the Winter Drive that raised over a $ 1 million in February, WBAI is on the way to a benchmark year. Overall, since the beginning of this fiscal year, we have raised an astonishing $2.2 million in listener support and this represents a 21% increase over the same period last year. Our goal and the basis of our fiscal plan is to reach $2.5 million by the end of the year in September. The fulfillment rate has also gone up to 76% for the Winter drive and is already at 55% for the one just finished. Our current work puts us well within striking distance of achieving that objective-we need to raise another $300,000 to get there. This last part of our budget plan includes a "Summer Fund"[a mini drive] and some off-air projects to complete the year. I have great faith in our listeners as does the staff and we believe we will make our goal.

We have continued to increase our membership base from the low of under 13,000 back in January to over 16,500 by May. This represents a 27% increase in station membership over just the past six months. Our renewal rate has also gone up to 43% and we have raised over $97,000 in the renewal mailing projects during this time. Majors donors returned to support the station and we have received very generous contributions of over $ 30,000 from them.

But despite this great success, the fiscal crisis for WBAI and the Foundation still permeates our reality and we continue to pay down bills, expenses and debts from the past year as well as the operating costs for right now. But there is a difference - as we have been able to meet challenge after challenge, there is growing sense that we are on the right path to recovery.

Staff /Personnel Matters:
There have been some major staffing changes at the station during this first six month period. As stated in the March national report, some changes were made in February based on a voluntary separation package offered to all staff. We have completed all the work and the payouts for the 8 people who decided to take this package. There were others who did not choose this voluntary buyout, and whose services were no longer required. They are no longer with the station. They have filed charges on this and we have responded to the NLRB where it may go to arbitration. Lateral transfers to fill two department head positions to serve on an interim basis were also made so that we could carry out our broadcast responsibilities. The overall climate at the station has changed considerably to a more positive one during the past several months. The extraordinary, collaborative work done by the staff during the past fund drives is a testament to that.

We have opened contract talks with AFTRA which represents the paid staff and those discussions have been very productive to date. We are working toward a three year contract and hope to complete these talks over the next few weeks. There are about 33 regularly paid staff members at this time. We have worked with the union to get all the information necessary in order to pay the staff the seniority increments which the previous administration had refused to pay last year and at the end of 2000. The cost was nearly $10,000 and we set a pay schedule for April and May to pay back year 2000, 2001 and 2002. By the last pay period in May, we had made all seniority payments and are completely on track for the year.

The unpaid staff of producers and programmers has also been meeting at the station and are in the process of choosing a union to represent them and their interests. There are about 125 unpaid staff programmers at the station at this time.

The following positions are open, have been posted at the station and on our website for a regular hire. They include: General Manager- Search committee established Public Affairs DirectorOperations Director Development Assistant Development Director- management position Morning Show Host.

During the past 6 months, WBAI has been covering the major stories, the big issues and also the local concerns. Our international reporting on the Middle East situation has been very special with sources in the region that gave the stories to us during the siege of the West Bank; we reported on the brink of war situation with India and Pakistan with sources in the region; on the takeover and takeback in Venezuela; the war on terrorism with some of country's most informed scholars like Noam Chomsky; on human rights after Sep.11- The Patriot Act and its implications for civil liberties and the Water series on the ecological impact of pollution on our food, our selves and the planet. We also had exceptional live coverage from East Timor on their independence by Democracy Now. Our programming focused on many of these themes during the May membership drive and were shaped by the Pacifica mission which includes alternative views, voices and perspectives; getting informed, activist and scholarly sources on the air, going to where the silence is and providing real community and public service to all the listeners in national and local coverage.

For the last few months, the program director and the Program Council have been meeting to work on programming changes which would strengthen our schedule, bring new voices to the air, redress problems from the previous year and provide greater service to our listeners. These changes went into effect in early June after the May drive. They include opening up the morning stream after Democracy Now to public affairs programs about city politics, the environment, Native Americans from a national perspective, student/youth voices on the issues of our time, international discussions, gay rights and issues, natural medicine and others. The schedule was re-invested with arts and culture programming in the afternoon and a stronger public affairs line-up was created in drive time before the evening news where our audience base is large and growing. After the news hour, the public affairs focus continues with labor, housing, international reporting on the Middle East, the Asia/Pacific rim and African continent analysis, together with technology, education, and a new talk format with Gary Byrd on the global black experience. Some relocations were made in the weekend schedule including returning La Nueva Alternativa to the air, a few changes in the overnights for new music programming and breathing room for specials was created.

During this last quarter, the program director and department programming heads will determine how things are settling in, monitor and review the changes and the programs and provide feedback to staff and station before we end the year in September. The key objective is to provide communication and feedback as well as mentoring to all the producers so that everyone is working toward improving our standards and improving our service to the community. The new schedule has been posted on our web site.

On June19th - WBAI will lead off the coverage of the Pacifica National Programming Day called "The State of the World - A Pacifica Perspective on War, Peace and Human Rights." This will be the 3rd day of our national, collaborative projects with all the stations and units to help raise money to rebuild the Foundation and the stations. In Sept, the last national day will take place on air.

As I stated at the last national board meeting, the need for equipment at the station was a primary concern to me as general manager and to our staff. The neglect and damage which the equipment suffered last year- from broken to beyond repair -meant that we had to move on this issue as quickly as possible. I informed the executive director that we needed to open up the budget so that we could replace the equipment and that I would create a capital improvements category by savings in other areas. We did that and the staff worked on a priority equipment list for the broadcast and production studios. We set aside about $25,000 for this and made a commitment to purchase and install the tape decks, the cd players, the dat recorders, the new computer for digital editing and production, new editing technology and other equipment before we began the Spring Membership drive. And that is exactly what we did - ordered it, installed it and used it for the May drive. We also got a new fiscal computer system and a DSL line so that we are connected to the national finance office network. We have also enhanced our editing and production suites with another digital editor and new equipment there as well. This has been a very productive and collaborative project for the station and it benefits everyone by providing the working tools -the equipment- for improving our air sound and serving our our audience and members better.

Projects and Special Proposals:
Over the past months, I have had meetings with the disaster aid organizations around the Sept. 11th recovery effort. We submitted applications and forms but have not heard from them. We sought other opportunities and have submitted proposals to foundations engaged in recovery work, especially for non-profits. We will continue this work and seek every option for additional funding for WBAI.

Local Advisory Board and Community Organizations:
The WBAI Lab has continued to develop the Membership Outreach Campaign and has taken on responsibilities for the revision of the by-laws and the general manager search committee. Lab members are serving on both of these bodies as we near the run-up for the elections in the Fall. They also hosted an event for the re-establishment of the WBAI program guide as part of their commitment to raise money to re-institute this project. Their continuing work and dedication is deeply appreciated. And, as part of the outreach effort, we are working with a group of friends to create a calendar of Art Exhibits by community artists right here at the station. We hope to open this summer with "A Community of Quilts." Other special projects like this are in planning.

Pacifica National Board:
Like all the stations, we at WBAI value and need the local independence and autonomy which this new board and the executive leadership have made a strong commitment to. At a time of continuing crisis such as this year and for years to come, the mandate to work together for the greater good is a given and we gladly accept that responsibility. We have responded to the call when the national office requested help and the executive office has heeded our call on many matters. We hope that the national board will find ways to raise more funding and provide more resources for our work and we are ready to assist in any way we can. Very importantly, the national board must continue to provide leadership, an informed understanding of the issues and provide a dynamic presence that unites us even as we move through the un-chartered waters of this transitional time

And finally, although I am still here as the WBAI general manager, the transition process is now underway and I hope to be assisting the national office staff when the manager search process is completed and the new gm takes over. Until that time and even beyond that time, my commitment stands to do all that we can to rebuild WBAI day by day, to solve the problems together and to collaborate with our sister stations and the units as we all work to reclaim the original vision of independent media-the Pacifica mission.

This report is respectfully submitted by
Valerie van Isler, WBAI General Manager
June, 2002.

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