GM Report to the Local Station Board - March 2024

The move

Our imminent move to new quarters, and out of 3729 Cahuenga Blvd. West, has been the highest priority item of the recent and the immediate coming period. Thanks to support from Pacifica national staff, including especially Moe Thomas, Pacifica’s chief engineer, as well as the Executive Director Stephanie Wells and national compliance and technical officers Jon Almeleh and Otis Maclay, and to the tremendous volunteer efforts of Charlie Wilken, Richard Dawson, and Burt Wiener, and the collaboration of local staff and management including KPFK chief engineer Stuart Landau, we anticipate switching operations on Thursday, going live from the newly built studios in Glendale, so that we can shut down the broadcasting operations at our current location and begin the process of dismantling and removing the last of the equipment here.

The need for redundancy means that we had to acquire a fair amount of equipment in addition to what we had on hand, and to cover expenses for Moe’s travels to Los Angeles, but this investment is well worth the cost in terms of our ability to switch over seamlessly so that listeners will not experience any loss of reception. We have made some equipment available for establishing a satellite production facility with the Spanish language programmers, and we are looking to additional possible satellite facilities on college campuses. Our new set-up will have a broadcast studio that can double as a production studio when  we are airing pre-recorded material on the broadcast, as well as an additional smaller editing and production studio that will have the capacity to take and record calls from guests, as well as to go live through the board to broadcast. We will have Internet redundancy with Spectrum and AT&T and can back up further with wi-fi if needed. We will be connecting to the transmitter via the Internet temporarily through the auspices of Burt Wiener until the necessary microwave send and receive dishes can be installed on the roof of the new facility and at the  transmitter. The phone system has been set up so that the numbers and extensions can be transferred from 3729 Cahuenga to the new location, and in fact  the system allows for remote installation of extensions at people’s homes, facilitating remote operations.

 

Great thanks are due to everyone involved in this undertaking, and the process of the move will continue probably through at least the rest of the month. We need to await the proceeds from the sale to pay for movers and are looking into purchasers for some of the bulk excess stock of books and DVDs, office furniture and tech we no longer need. We will have somewhat tight quarters at the new space, but it will be adequate to maintain our operations and business activities. The donation of program scheduling and automation software by a Pacifica supporter from the East Coast in response to an appeal I had made, proved especially useful.

 

The fund drive and finances

 

We continue to face severe fiscal challenges because of the reduced size of our membership compared to the high point in 2007-2008,  or even prior to the substantial drop in 2021. The goal is still to double our membership over the course of the year, and we have increased our social media promotion with that in mind. The just-past on-air membership and funding drive once again raised just over $100,000, although we had to extend the drive to reach that mark. About 12% of the proceeds represent new memberships, 15% renewals, 25% lapsed members returning as members, and 48% additional gifts by current members or sustainers.

 

 In addition, we ran another rummage sale yesterday; I don’t have the totals yet as I write this, but I anticipate it will be less than either of the first two such efforts, maybe $2-3K. We continue to have a number of items of tech and furniture on offer via Craigs List and other platforms. The main impact may be to reduce further the stock of materials we will have to deal with in the move. I have arranged with the manager of our sister station in NY, WBAI, to ship them a number of premium items that we are unlikely to have use for and did not sell in the various rummage sales, which they will pay us something for. We have prospective buyers for the remaining books and CDs.

 

Proceeds from the sale of the building will pay off serious overdue aged payables to the platform for our donor management and donation processing provider, allowing us fuller use of their donor management mechanisms, or migration to another CRM, that should improve our membership recruitment and retention and major donor development.

 

We have also begun the underwriting program under the PNB authorizing motion and in accord with FCC guidelines; all proposed announcements are being vetted with Pacifica’s national compliance officer and FCC attorneys to avoid any issues. The first two, an independent film targeted at fans of jazz and bossa nova, and a local rancher who make products from wild elderberries have been booked, producing  $3200 in revenue, and a third is in the works. We anticipate this will be a significant new income stream for the station, supplementing the cultural  venues like UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, that Maggie Le Pique, our music director has been bringing in for some time. We also rented space to a film crew shooting a commercial; this necessitated pre-recording and automating a chunk of programming that normally runs live, as they were shooting in Master Control.

 

The Spanish language programmers also held a fund raising concert for the station in the parking lot. Community events have been a significant contributor to station finances over the course of the past year.

 

We anticipate a continuing reduction in payroll  expenses, as severances we have been committed to under the contract or settlements are coming to a close; another reduction will come from completing the back-due money to So Cal Edison for previously unpaid bills for power to the tower. Rent for the new space will mostly be covered by proceeds from the sale, and when we move back to a smaller footprint in 3729 Cahuenga Blvd West, we will be rent-free for 10 years.

 

Technical matters

 

As noted above, the biggest technical challenge we have faced is the move, but we anticipate going live from the new location on Thursday morning.

 

With assistance from Otis Maclay, I have switched the stream for the player on kpfk.org to Pacifica’s servers, as the other sister stations do. The previous stream by a third party provider has been irritatingly glitchy. This will also save us the cost of that streaming service.

 

Charlie Wilken identified a provider who can repair and refurbish some of the failing power supplies at the  transmitter, and we are sending one to see if that is effective; if so, it would represent a major savings compared to any prior proposal, and come with a much longer warranty; this would help extend the life of our current transmitter and give us additional time for a capital campaign directed at needed replacements.

We have faced some serious challenges with our email system due in part to changes in email processing by google and yahoo. This also impacted the distribution of our email newsletter, the KPFK Dispatch. The verification process appears to have solved the problem with mailchimp on the Dispatch distribution, but the individual @kpfk.org email addresses still seem to be having problems. A volunteer, Dan Hendrickson, has IDed some of the errors, and we anticipate solving the remaining nagging issues shortly.

 

The tech task force I created morphed into a team meeting weekly on the build-move-cleanup process that includes local and national staff and technical volunteers. I have designated Charlie Wilken as interim (unpaid) operations manager for the station, a position that has been vacant, to our detriment, for well over a decade.

 

Programming

 

Marlena Bond and I anticipate undertaking a major evaluation process of the programming as the dust begins to settle from the move, taking into account the existing programmers’ handbook, the various criteria used in prior evaluations and examples of such evaluations. I still anticipate that this process will involve guided self-evaluation and peer evaluation by programmers, listener evaluation and management evaluation. We anticipate naming members to a program council to assist in that process, and are also ready and willing to work with the LSB’s Programming Oversight Committee to ensure that decisions are made in a fair, equitable and transparent manner. The ability of programmers to promote their programs and the station to new listeners will be a significant factor in such evaluations.

 

Elections/Governance

 

The ED has opened the process of hiring a National Elections Supervisor for Pacifica for this year and I posted the position to the website. Upon the receipt of feedback that greater prominence for the job opening was needed, I improved its visibility and posted the information in several different spots. The hire would be by the ED, and I am not sure if local election supervisors are planned for this year or not.

 

I again urge all LSB members to get involved in donor stewardship. We need to adopt the methods that most other non-profits use to develop personal relationships with individual donors, and to seek relationships with potential major donors. Also, any leads on potential underwriters for the station are very welcome, as well as engagement with community events. We are seeking to encourage all programmers to develop community engagement events aimed at promoting their programs and the station, attracting new listeners, and providing an additional revenue stream for KPFK. Board members willing to work to facilitate such effort are very welcome.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Michael Novick, interim General Manager

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