Management report – The Upcoming Move in Context
Necessity being the mother of invention, and every crisis presenting an opportunity, we need to look at the upcoming move to temporary quarters not as a threat or inconvenience but as a chance to think collectively and strategically about the direction, survival and advancement of KPFK and our capacity to fulfill the Pacifica mission.
We got into this situation because neither KPFK itself, nor most of our sister stations, has been covering the full cost of our operations from the revenue we are able to generate, for many years. That is the source of the debt that has necessitated the sale of a precious asset that was the product of the sweat equity of paid and unpaid staff and listeners in earlier years. Pacifica did not borrow money to invest in new equipment, software, or training to keep up with the times; it borrowed money to cover unpaid current operating expenses, including here at KPFK.
So, in going into the move, we need to think about how it can be part of a plan to correct that fundamental deficiency, rebuild our audience, impact and financial resource base, increase our revenues, and put the station and the foundation on firmer footing and an upward trajectory.
This involves assessing the costs and benefits and purpose of everything we do and how it contributes towards that goal on increasing the quality of our offerings, the number of people listening and contributing to them, and the revenue streams that are necessary to maintain them.
How is what we are doing contributing to doubling our membership over the course of this year? How is it contributing to increasing our revenue not only to keep up with rising costs, but to overcome the deficit we have been operating with, and paying off the associated debt in “aged payables” – unpaid bills and obligations – that we are carrying? How is it increasing our capacity to fulfill the Pacifica mission and to promote peace, equality, sustainability, and justice in these painful and dangerous times?
The highest priority in relation to the move is clearly maintaining our ability to stay on the air with content that corresponds to that mission and to community needs, that will help attract the listeners we need to accomplish those goals.
It is technically possible to operate a radio station from a closet, and the pandemic has certainly taught us that remote operations are possible. But clearly, we want and need more than that.
We want the capacity for music programmers to operate the board and air live programs, sometimes with guests.
We want the capacity to conduct live public affairs and arts programming, and a newscast, with multiple participants.
We want the ability to re-integrate volunteers in responding to listeners calling to support the station and our programming, and to fulfill other functions, such as outreach, promotion, and community engagement.
We need the capacity to help programmers produce their content and to schedule it on the air. We want to be able to meet with potential media partners and develop fruitful relationships with them. We have to carry out other business functions.
All these things require space and a certain number of personnel, and that has a price tag in this society. Those costs need to be justified by the capacity to generate the revenue to cover them, and more.
KPFT is the only Pacifica station currently covering its full cost of operations, including what are called “central service payments,” but essentially that means the funding for insurance, accounting, audits, legal services, and national technical support such as the station archives. They were able to operate remotely for a long period while their building was essentially unusable because of mold and other issues, and are now in a new building, and have HD broadcast capability with two on-air streams. But they too face the reality of a small audience and membership in a large and diverse metropolitan area. They have stayed “in the black” because they have only 1.5 paid staff positions.
We are hoping, in the process of the move, to also help set up some satellite production facilities in various communities and geographic areas. I ask again of existing producers and programmers, if you have recording and production capacity that you can share with others who do not currently have such capacity, please let me know about it, and what the terms and times of such sharing would be.
We need to discuss and explore the possibility of live remote broadcasting and real-time remote business operations and collaboration for those to whom the new location poses challenges in terms of travel time and difficulty. There is certainly technology available to accomplish that.
We have provided the owners of the space in Glendale with the spec of some needed work to enable us to create a functioning master control, broadcasting & production studio, edit bay and broadcast chain including a studio-to-transmitter link, with redundant internet access and the necessary phone systems. We are still discussing the amount and layout of additional space needed to carry out the rest of the functions described above.
When we are clear about how soon the work will be done, Moe Thomas will come back out to build the studio, and we will be in a position to have people come and familiarize themselves with it before we have to make the lock, tock, and barrel physical transition, go live there and shut down at 3729.
We also need to plan further for removing and placing what remains here so the new owners can go about the renovation that will eventually allow us to move back in, and to discuss with them how that space will be configured for us. And at the other end, we will have to manage the transfer from the Glendale space back to 3729 in reverse, with the same need to install a functioning broadcast system at 3729 before moving out of Glendale.
This will only be possible with all of our best efforts, and again, must take place in the context of growing our audience, increasing our revenue, and rebuilding our capacity to have a positive impact on the society and communities we serve. The upcoming on-air membership drive is an opportunity to do that.
What role can board members play? How can programmers collaborate with each other and reinforce each other’s efforts? What partnerships can we build with other media entities? How can we publicize and promote the programming we offer? How can we attract and hold new listeners? How can we lay the groundwork for effective off-air fundraising in the following month (March – women’s history month).
In the period between the last drive and the upcoming one, we have basically done four fundraising events – the two rummage sales, the peace activists benefit in Culver City and on Saturday the author talk with Dr. Gerald Horne. We will have to do the same in March, and also work on our capacity to attract and persuade major donors that KPFK and Pacifica are worthy causes to support with substantial donations. All programmers and board members need to think about off-air fundraising activities and events that they can carry out to increase our reach and the level of community awareness of KPFK and what we have to offer.
In addition to the move out and the move back, over the next couple of years we need to address the need for a capital campaign for our transmitter, which will need replacement. We need to upgrade and modernize our technical capacities to include video production, and to find partners who can expand our reach and our capacity.
I urge all of us to think globally about these challenges, in the larger context of a society facing daunting threats and challenges of its own, politically, socially, environmentally and technologically. Our lives and our freedoms quite literally depend on our ability to do so.
The strength and destructive capacity of forces inimical to the Pacifica mission, and hostile to free speech, a free press and human rights, seem to be increasing. We must increase our strength, our creative and collaborative capacities to more than match them. We must take on the upcoming move and reorganization as an opportunity to do so, to the best of our collective abilities.
Michael Novick, interim General Manager, KPFK