DAILY REPORTS and Documents | iPNB Houston meeting info
Presented at the iPNB meeting in Houston September 20 - 22, 2002
Pacifica Executive Director Report
to the Interim Pacifica National Board
I would like to thank Houston Pacifica National Board members Theresa Allen and George Barnstone, the General Manager and staff of Pacifica station KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston, and KPFT Local Advisory Board chair Deb Shafto for all their hard work in putting this board meeting together.
As you all know, our No. 1 focus at the National Office has been dealing with Pacifica¹s financial crisis and restoring some level of financial stability to the network. It¹s been a very difficult, stressful, and exhausting period for staff and the wider community. But I am very pleased to report to you today that the network is slowly but surely emerging from the crisis period.
First and foremost, the last eight months has seen the most successful and sustained fundraising period in Pacifica¹s 53-year history. In a stunning testament to the loyalty and support of Pacifica listeners, and to the hard work and dedication of Pacifica staffers, the network raised nearly eight million dollars in on-air pledges this calendar year alone. It is all the more remarkable that this record-breaking fundraising has occurred in the midst of a recession and a sharp economic crisis.
Pacifica station WBAI in New York led the way with $2.8 million in on-air pledges this year. KPFA in Berkeley posted $1.75 million, KPFK in Los Angeles $1.64 million, WPFW in Washington, DC, $770,000, and KPFT in Houston posted -- in just two short fund drives instead of three -- some $580,000 in pledges. In addition, three special days of national on-air fundraising generated about $300,000 in pledges.
But raising revenue, and cutting costs, have just been part of the financial picture. Just as critical and difficult -- has been re-establishing basic financial procedures and practices, from budgeting to financial reporting.
I am pleased to report to the entire Pacifica community that for the first time in some two years, the Pacifica Board last month passed a budget -- in this case the Fiscal Year 2002 4th quarter budget. This was a small step but a very significant one. More importantly, it¹s been followed by a series of other crucial developments.
The audit for the Fiscal Year 2001, a document vital to our day-to-day financial operations, was completed last month and published on Pacifica¹s web site at www.pacifica.org. We also submitted a preliminary Fiscal Year 2003 balanced budget and we will be ready to begin our Fiscal Year 2002 audit on schedule in November. Once available and approved, those documents will be posted to the web site. I am especially pleased to inform the board that financial reports detailing the network's revenue and expenses over the last 10 months will be made available on October 1. This is the last -- and perhaps most important milestone -- in restoring the basic components of normal financial operations to the network. And following October 1, the board will be receiving a complete set of monthly internal financial reports from the National Finance Office.
I appreciate the concerns raised by the KPFA Local Advisory Board in wanting to know where and how shortfall funds from KPFA were used during the last eight months. Let me say, the National Office is committed to ensuring that this public, listener-supported radio network is completely transparent and above reproach in its financial dealings. The National Office will recommend to the interim Board that financial reports be made available to each Local Advisory Board.
These will include all data entry and account reconciliations; information on all bank and payroll accounts, accounts payable, and budget vs. actual comparisons, central service assessments, and interdivision balances.
Pulling the network back from the brink of bankruptcy, and into some level of normal financial operations, has been a Herculean task. Many thanks and congratulations to the paid and unpaid staff, the local boards, the national board, and Pacifica¹s legions of loyal listeners for rallying in defense of the network at this critical time in world history. If you recall, at the beginning of this year, the network faced a working capital deficit of $4.8 million and a $1.5 million budget gap. That¹s been reduced to a $1.5 million debt.
I would especially like to acknowledge the hard work of the station managers and business managers as well as the national staff Verna Avery-Brown, Joyce Snowden and Brian Gibbons. In particular, Comptroller Yhasmine Bryan has done an extraordinary job in pulling the network¹s finances together. Treasurer Jabari Zakiya has been very supportive and provided much needed hands-on oversight and constructive criticism. WBAI¹s Valerie Van Isler, Bernard White, and Indra Hardat faced a daunting task at the beginning of the year -- a $350,000 deficit the largest in the network and they’ve done a remarkable job in saving the station. I would also especially like to acknowledge KPFA's Jim Bennett, Aileen Carr, and Phil Osegueda as well as the entire KPFA staff and community for their unconditional financial support during these difficult times. On many occasions, the KPFA community without hesitation rallied to provide life-saving funding to the network, whether helping to meet payroll at other stations or ensuring the smooth functioning of the Ku satellite. Without that support, the network would not have made it through the past seven months. KPFA also supported Free Speech Radio News, making that remarkable newscast available to all five Pacifica stations and some 55 community radio stations nationwide.
One important factor in our financial success has been that right from the beginning of the year we clearly set our objective, adopted a strategy, and stayed focused on the task at hand. We understand the other pressing needs in the network and thank the wider Pacifica community for the patience and support. And we look forward to starting to address many of those other needs.
However, let me warn everyone now. Pacifica still face serious financial challenges and we must work hard to consolidate our financial gains. We still have approximately this $1.5 million in debt that has to be managed. And fiscal discipline will and must remain our primary institutional goal over the next year. As the Haitian proverb says, Deye moun, li moun. Behind mountains, lie more mountains. Accordingly, I have submitted a frugal Fiscal Year 2003 budget, one that proposes a two percent increase in expenses.
Also in the proposed FY 2003 budget are two scenarios for how much local stations contribute to the National Office to cover the shared costs of the entire network -- costs like insurance coverage, satellite and programming expenses, as well as payroll, accounting, legal and administrative services. One scenario suggests 20 percent of local station on-air fundraising be earmarked for national expenses. Another scenario proposes 15 percent. Recognizing the on-going financial constraints, the five station managers and the national office staff unanimously recommend to the interim Pacifica National Board that the central services levy remain at 20 percent for the next six months of the 2003 Fiscal Year. We also recommend that upon a mid-year review of our financial status, and following the publication of the FY02 audit slated for January next year, the Board considers lowering the central services levy to 18 percent or perhaps less.
As the fiscal situation improves, and new bylaws are approved, the network can and must look forward to the future and begin the Pacifica-wide discussion on our longer term goals.
This task is no more urgent than at any time in Pacifica¹s history. The country -- and the world -- are at a critical juncture. And if Pacifica is to survive and remain relevant in the years ahead, we must rededicate ourselves to the mission for which it was founded. From reparations and globalization to the war arcing from the Middle East through South Asia, Pacifica must actively engage the world in our day-to-day programming and, most importantly, help shape -- with peace and social justice perspectives -- the national and international discourse. The times demand it.
So how do we get there? How de we rebuild the network and improve the quality of our shows, increase audience, and raise funds?
I believe we need to focus on six areas:
1) Local and national news programming;
As a first step towards rebuilding the network, we are strengthening our local news and public affairs departments -- or, as the case may be creating local news departments such as here in Houston. The Fiscal Year 2003 budget before the board proposes developing news departments at KPFT and WPFW as well as strengthening existing news staff at KPFA, KPFK, and WBAI.
The most significant financial initiative in the budget involves strengthening Pacifica¹s news programming by expanding station-based funding of Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), the daily half-hour newscast co-produced by KPFA and WBAI in conjunction with KBOO in Portland, Oregon, and WMNF in Tampa, Florida. With some 200 contributors on six continents, and airing on more than 55 community stations around the country and the world, Free Speech Radio News has established itself as the largest and most important non-commercial, corporate-free news source in this country. The funding of Free Speech Radio News by the five Pacifica stations again establishes a serious daily news presence at the network and lays the groundwork for the development of future national programming. FSRN is a rich and dynamic news program, with a wealth of journalistic talent and technical ability. Their accomplishments and enthusiasm for news and public affairs reporting are infectious and I know that they will continue to enrich our listeners with the kind of stories and information that are only available on Pacifica.
Alongside Pacifica¹s local news departments, and with Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News, we will be maintaining a vigorous and robust national programming presence out of Washington, DC. This need has become even more apparent in light of the growing national and international crisis. Thanks to the leadership of Verna Avery-Brown, we have been able to provide signature Pacifica programming specials this past year, including the stunning Juneteenth production as well as on-going coverage of key national events, from the April 20th peace march to the August 20th reparations rally to the day-long 9-11 programming. And as the international crisis deepens, Pacifica Radio will respond, with special daily programming covering the war and with live-event broadcasts and public forums nationwide.
In the year ahead, there are a number of important programming events to look forward to. We will be covering the 30th anniversary of WBAI's famous Seven Dirty Words legal case which marked a critical moment in the history of First Amendment. We will also be launching a special day of programming on the 100th anniversary of the publication of W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk, one of the seminal texts of the 20th century. Indeed, the books’ publication marked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.
As Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar reminds us, up until the mid-1970s, Pacifica stations often offered entire days dedicated to special programming, including day-long readings of James Joyces' Ulysses. Today's special programming events -- like Juneteenth and the upcoming Souls of Black Folk -- encourage a revival of Pacifica's intellectual roots under new circumstances. It will also put Pacifica back on the map as a pioneer in cultural and intellectual radio and help the organization reach out to new audiences.
But ultimately, the strength of Pacifica¹s special national programming will rely on the strength of our local stations. And Pacifica¹s ability to report, engage and influence the wider world will depend upon our journalistic capacity at the local level. That¹s why it¹s so important to rebuild the network with a strong base. We need to strengthen the local to strengthen the national. National programming will not just fall out of the sky.
Each Pacifica station needs a robust news and public affairs department with active training and apprenticeship programs that provide access to the airwaves for the diverse -- and increasingly heterogeneous -- communities that our stations serve. Training and apprenticeship models can be the engines for our local stations, nurturing new and talented staff in everything from news and public affairs to arts, drama and culture. And training and apprenticeship programs -- especially those that link up with schools, youth groups, and community organizations like the Independent Media Centers -- are the key to Pacifica¹s future. And certainly in combination with other initiatives, like reintroducing folios, both in print and electronic form, and strengthening our web sites, we can deepen those organic relations with our communities in order to sustain and grow the network.
Another key component of rebuilding the network is to build production and distribution capacities through the Internet and new media technologies. Free Speech Radio News (FSRN) built their half hour daily news cast literally from scratch off the Internet through file sharing.. We can do this with our five stations, and indeed the wider community radio network, producing and sharing programming across the country. Pacifica, providing original content 24/7 at five stations and with the nation¹s oldest public radio archives, can and should have the country¹s most important source of news and progressive information on the web. As a start, we are revamping Pacifica¹s national web sites at www.pacifica.org and www.pacificaarchives.org. As part of that, we will be launching a pilot audio stream on the pacifica.org site featuring the Best of Pacifica and Community Radio, a new Internet radio station that will stream Pacifica¹s Ku satellite.
Critical to this project is the Pacifica Radio Archives, an incredible national treasure that we must catalogue, preserve, develop, and make digitally accessible to community radio producers nationwide. The Fiscal Year 2003 budget proposes the sharp expansion and development of the Pacifica Radio Archives. Recognizing the concerns of the entire Pacifica community, we have slated for the archives to grow more than 25 percent, largely through devoting a day of national on-air fundraising in November to the archives. We believe that one key realizable objective for this fiscal year is to create and launch a strategic fundraising campaign aimed at developing the archives as well as building an independent funding base for this unique international treasure.
Another urgent component to rebuilding the network is to ensure that we focus on our physical plant and capital requirements. The technical issues of the network -- and the revolution in new media technologies -- have not been given enough attention. We cannot wait any longer. Pacifica must make a major institutional commitment to technical development as soon as possible. As such, the National Office will be launching a ground up review of our fixed assets as part of the process of developing a capital budget -- and, if necessary, a capital campaign -- to upgrade and improve our stations¹ technical and technological infrastructures.
As part of this process, there has to be a more coordinated approach to technical/engineering issues on a national level. As such, I have proposed in the Fiscal Year 03 budget a national technical and engineering position to address and manage these issues. But as an immediate first step, the National Office will be launching a complete physical inventory of the network as soon as possible. This is an overdue requirement.
Other critical developments have highlighted this need. First, of course, was the crisis with the KPFK transmitter. I am pleased to report that thanks to the generous support and hard work of the engineering staff, the transmitter is broadcasting at 112,000 watts from the top of Mount Wilson. But elsewhere, the news is not good. We have been stymied in expanding KPFT¹s signal to a Galveston translator. And in Washington, DC, the WPFW transmitter has suffered a number of disasters -- most of them natural and all of them out of the station¹s immediate control.
And in Southern California, Pacifica is still in dispute with a station out of Northern Mexico -- XLNC -- whose signal has been interfering with KPFK¹s Southern California signal. In recent weeks, XLNC has entered into a programming agreement with the Southern California classical music station KUSC that allows KUSC to be broadcast over XLNC transmitter. In short, KUSC via Northern Mexico will now be interfering with KPFK¹s signal.
Pacifica will aggressively defend any attack upon the integrity of our broadcast operations. We will use all measures at our disposal and mobilize the entire resources of the network -- legal and political -- to ensure that the big media giants don¹t trample diversity and free speech.
This example and others underscore the urgent need for the network to proactively deal with technical and engineering issues. And not just those aimed at our transmitters but also the equipment needs in Pacifica¹s five stations. As KPFT engineer Steve Brightwell points out, a replacement motor for a cart machine costs more than a new computer. While some of our stations have made or begun making the transition to digital audio, most have not.
The Pacifica Archives stand as the biggest potential project facing this conversion. And, as Steve Brightwell notes, this process is not as simple as buying a CD burner and plugging in a tape recorder. The cost of purchasing and maintaining these computers, as well as the resulting quality of the material intended to outlive all of us, depends on the proper coordination of this effort.
As we imagine and articulate the future direction of Pacifica, there a host of priorities and needs that may seem difficult to tackle. However, I am convinced -- as many of you are on the board -- that we can only succeed in the mission of Pacifica by developing and strengthening our capacity to provide the best programming to the widest possible audience. That process starts by rebuilding our local news and public affairs programming, by launching training and apprenticeship programs, by using new media technologies, by examining our capital needs, by strengthening Pacifica relations with the community radio movement, and by maintaining a robust national programming presence.
The National Office will prepare in the next several months a detailed Vision Statement, including cost estimates and analyses, addressing how the network might practically implement our programming, technical, and training goals. I look forward to working the iPNB on this process of strategic development. In the meantime, we must remain disciplined and vigilant to protect and consolidate the hard won gains of the last eight months while remaining true to the principle of accountability, transparency and due process that have propelled the Pacifica reform movement over the last years.
[ Dan Coughlin ]
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