The Local Station Board is scheduled to hold its regular monthly meeting on Sunday, November 20 at 10 AM Pacific time. See zoom details below, or check on kpftx.org in the monthly calendar of Pacifica governance meetings.
KPFK (interim) General Manager Report to the Local Station Board
Michael Novick, interim GM
Apologies for the delay in getting this out. I had it nearly completed when the PNB announced several motions that required substantial revision.
I am into my second month in the interim General Manager position. I want to thank all of you, and the entire station staff, for the support and constructive proposals I have received. It is vital that we all do our utmost to put the station on an upward- and forward-moving trajectory, and the vector sum of our various efforts and initiatives complement each other in achieving that. Towards that goal, I have hosted and chaired two all-station hybrid zoom/in person meetings with all staff and governance invited. They have been fairly well-attended and well-received. I made the recordings, chat and transcripts available to everyone. These will continue on at least a monthly basis. In addition, we have begun weekly meetings with the paid staff. I have scheduled an urgent all-station meeting for Monday, Nov. 21, to discuss the latest PNB motions on programming and underwriting, and on priorities for payment in the event full payment cannot be made, that I hope the LSB will discuss today as well.
We are all aware of the ongoing financial stress and distress under which the station and Foundation are operating. The ED indicated in advance that payroll would be met for all units again for the mid-month date (after a scare in October, when payroll was met thanks to a loan from KPFK, because several other units were falling short). However, the station continues to have difficulty meeting the entirety of its operating expenses. I asked the Pacifica national Business Manager, Markisha Venzant, for a chart of what the station’s regular monthly bills are, including for payroll, benefits, utilities, and the donation processing platform, and when each is due so that we can develop a budget for the rest of the fiscal year already in its second month. Similarly, I obtained from Terry Guy in the membership department a projection of the money coming in on a regular basis from sustainers and installment payments on pledges. I will use this picture of our cash flow to draft a fully-fleshed-out business plan for the station, with goals for various streams of revenue we need to develop in addition to the on-air fund drives.
The Fall fund drive ran on-air for 31 days, from early October into November, avoiding high-cost premiums and consultants, and relying primarily on regular programmers offering mainly their own content with short appeals a couple of times during the broadcast, with a longer pitch in the closing minutes of the program. The drive averaged $4355 a day, raising $135,000 in 31 days. There are additional funds that came in, in the form of grants and major donations, that do not appear in that tally. Begun during the fund drive, and continuing after, was a premium of a fee-based webinar with Dr. Gerald Horne, hosted and moderated by Margaret Prescod, held November 13. I added webinar capacity to my zoom account for a month, out of my pocket, to enable the webinar to be held. Over $1000 was raised in additional donations at the webinar itself, on top of the $25 ticket donations to attend the event. I recorded the proceedings, and the content can be repurposed by Margaret later. Many thanks are due to Margaret, her team, and Dr. Horne. We will be doing a similar fee-based webinar on Sunday, Dec. 4, with Greg Palast and his film Vigilante, about voter suppression in
Based on a discussion and decision at the paid staff meeting, we will be holding a mini membership drive from Tuesday, Dec. 6 through Tuesday Dec. 20, a total of 15 days, following the same model and clock of limited pitching during each program. In addition, we are adding off-air fundraising initiatives, including an on-line auction via BiddingOwl.com that Jeanine Rohn, chair of the LSB fundraising committee is coordinating with the assistance of a number of listener and staff volunteers. Additonal volunteers are needed, and included an appeal for volunteers in the latest Dispatch and in separate independent email I sent out to many local list serves. Donations of goods and services are being solicited and bidding will occur roughly simultaneously with the on-air fund drive. The platform also has a provision for other fundraising; there are no upfront costs to the station, and the platform takes only a percentage of the proceeds from the successful bids after we collect. Thanks to Jeanine’s initiative, other stations are looking into the same platform.
I and others have been calling major donors and have gotten a number of large donations, ranging from $1000 to $10,000. We are reaching out to organized labor and other community and civic organizations to build relationships. A letter is going out that I worked on with Jim Lafferty, directed at labor, faith-rooted and other like-minded organizations seeking their participation in campaign to enroll numbers of their own membership base as members of KPFK. We will also be making our case via social media, on the website and by email for donations to the station for Giving Tuesday. The Spanish-language programmers are hosting an in-person fundraising event for the station on Dec. 10 (International Human Rights Day), a party/fiesta with music and food, for which PNB director Lawrence Reyes obtained free use of the facilities of SEIU 721. Tickets are $25, similar to Margaret’s recent webinar, and will have a dedicated page and URL on the station’s donation platform.
By the time you read this, I will have conducted my third on-air report to the listeners, including one I conducted in Spanish during the Spanish-language programming block. We also scheduled and held a Report to the Listeners by the LSB, with chair Ziri Rideaux, with whom I sat in. These have all generated mostly positive listener response. On the first two Reports, one in English and one in Spanish, I took listener comments and questions via texts to my personal cell phone, as we were still trying to repair and restore proper phone connections to master control that allows us to take listener call-ins. That problem has now finally been overcome, thanks to equipment and service we purchased from a company recommended by former iGM Moe Thomas, and hard work by D’Angelo Jones, Terry Guy and chief engineer Stuart Landau, with assistance from Jon Almeleh, responsible for Pacific tech on a national level. Jon is also providing instructions for resolving problems with the computer networking in the building; like the phone problems, this is the residue of an earlier failed and incomplete effort to save money on our inordinately large phone bills. Once the network connections are corrected, we will have functioning phones for both pledge lines and master control and a properly functioning network so all computers and devices on the network can communicate properly, and reduced phone bills.
There have been other technical issues and human errors resulting in several instances of “dead air”, as well as one in which two streams of content were airing simultaneously during the opening minutes of the Ralph Nader Hour. I am working with Mark Maxwell to craft a clear set of guidelines and responsibilities for all board operators. Mark has also begun several rounds of training for board ops. I was part of the first cohort, along with several other volunteers. His second round will have been completed by the time this report is delivered, and we will continue as needed, with volunteers, until we can fully staff all the necessary shifts in Master Control to complement our limited corps of paid board ops. The training program includes two instructional sessions with Mark, two or more shifts shadowing an experienced board op, and a couple of shifts supervised by Mark or another experienced board op, before taking on a shift independently.
Given the overall financial picture, and almost 15 years of declining membership and revenue since a
The other major volunteer project is the news gathering team and locally-produced full-length evening newscast that Ziri Rideaux, your new LSB chair, is coordinating as news producer. We have revived the firstname.lastname@example.org email to communicate story ideas and press releases, and Ziri is setting up a platform for the volunteer news gathering crew to submit recordings and stories. We are aiming to launch this by the end of the month, and therefore prior to the next fund drive.
On the programming front, we have brought back Chris Hedges on Sundays, with his new program The Chris Hedges Report, available through The Real News Network. TRNN provides it to us free of charge, and has also indicated willingness on the part of Chris Hedges to appear in person for a book talk and fundraiser for the station. We are also returning Liberated Sisters to the air on Saturdays. BikeTalk will be going on-air shortly early Saturday mornings, and the BikeTalk crew will be tabling, including with info about the station, at CicLAvia South LA in December. The station will be thereafter reviving its media sponsorship relationship with CicLAvia on an ongoing basis, both to help promote this important community event, and to promote the station to the thousands of CicLAvia participants.
Additional changes and additions are in the works, to bring back some important programs, and introduce some new ones. HealthCare 4 US (formerly Health Care 4 All LA) will begin a program for us with information not only about the movement for universal health care and single payer, but critical insights about racial and other disparities in the health care system and issues about working conditions and patient loads for health care providers. We are in discussions with Max Blumenthal about the production of an hour-long program based on excerpts from The Gray Zone podcasts by Blumenthal, Aaron Mate and others, which attract many tens of thousands of viewers on-line and can be a major attractor for our broadcast efforts. Extinction Rebellion is developing a radio program for us, tapping XR’s international network especially from the Global South, along with material from local environmental struggles and solutions. We will be picking up a show from It’sGoingDown, an anti-fascist research and analysis project, that is being aired on sister station KPFA. I talked with the folks at IGD, widely followed website and blog, and they have pledged to increase the
Additionally, we are developing a new morning-mix radio magazine program. This will incorporate a new version of Vic Gerami’s The Blunt Post along with co-host Ricky Herrera; a revival of Voices From the Frontlines with Eric Mann, Barbara Lott Holland and Channing Martinez from the Labor Community Strategy Center; Matt Sedillo, Vanessa Bustamante and Jenaro Ernesto Ayala, whose “TeleJaguar” live-streamed interviews have also attracted thousands of viewers; Hamid Khan, with involvement from others at the LA Community Action Network and the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, one of the main networks opposing mass surveillance and the police state; and Sylvester Rivers, a long-time station content provider and producer.
Much of this programming will bring younger, community-engaged voices to our airwaves. I have also urged programmers across our broadcasting grid to bring in younger interns and volunteers onto their production teams, to incorporate a new generation more comfortable with the use of social media for information gathering, networking and promotion. Further changes and refreshing of the broadcast schedule will come. But I do not support the wholesale, arbitrary, and dollar based process of zero-based programming advocated in the PNB motion without regard to or mention of the
I plan to issue RFPs for programming focused on labor, on veterans, on parenting, and for kids. I am seeking to develop a couple of panel programs, one with progressive people from various faith traditions looking at contemporary issues and events from an ethical and moral perspective; another with a panel of journalists from local print and on-line publications interviewing both official and grassroots newsmakers. By issuing RFPs I hope to get credible proposals that can be evaluated by governance and staff as part of a decision making process, I believe that accommodating all this new material will eventually require developing HD capacity, as well as more extensive entry into the world of podcasting, which all surveys show is growing rapidly as a means of audio communication, particularly with younger listeners. I also plan to vet the programming plan that develops out of this process with the Community Advisory Board (CAB), which is functioning and which I have met with on several occasions.
I am putting together a strategic planning process, examining our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and charting a course towards using our strengths to overcome the weaknesses and threats, and take best advantage of the opportunities in an urgent but careful, step-by-step manner. I am inviting the LSB officers and the KPFK PNB directors to participate along with me and additional members of the paid and unpaid staff.
Critical to all this is our finances. On the question of a budget for KPFK, I am have been trying to get the financial data necessary to make one. What I have up to this point is an assesment of our irreducible operating expenses apart from payroll, which include LADWP, So Cal Edison, So Cal Gas, Allegiance, the telcom, the internet, the service that allows us to live stream our audio and to access smart speakers, the copier, and various charges related to the repeaters and boosters. We have many other outstanding unpaid bills, for example for the postage meter, but they are not monthly necessities. The postage meter contract will end and the machine will be removed, at which point we can begin to pay down what we owe without renewing the contract. These irreducible expenses amount to about $20K a month, including a paydown of unpaid bills with SCE that is required to maintain their electrical service to the transmitter. At this point the payroll expenses are 67K a month (pay and benefits). That means our current minimum operating expenses (apart from development costs, which vary month by month) are about $90K a month. Central service payments and debt service, as well as covering our aged and aging payables are all on top of that. The fall fund drive, as I said, lasted 31 days, and raised $135K in pledges. Given that there is a cost for processing and that we do not realize the full amount of the pledgess, that means it took us about a month to raise only a bit more than the fundamental operating costs for a month's operations and payroll. That's unsustainable, and has been shown to be detrimental to out ability to retain, let alone build, our listenership.
I got an approximation from Terry Guy of the money coming in every month from sustainers. It varies a bit month to month from the records he is able to pull from Allegiance, but amounts to roughly $11.5K, although it took a big jump in Sept. 2022, the last month for which full results are available, to about $14K. It's not clear yet if that's a blip, or if there has actually been an ongoing increase in sustainer income. We will know more after Terry can pull the October tally. There is probably some additional sustainer income that we get via PayPal and DonorBox that eventually goes through Allegiance but doesn't show up the same way, so doesn't appear in the tally. Let's say total $12K a month, $144K a year. In the fall fund drive, we averaged about $4300 a day, $135K in 31 days. We also average about 2 car donations a week. The current budget estimates that at about $9.6K a month.
We made payroll throughout Pacifica, thanks in part to a loan from KPFK of approximately $20K to cover shortfalls at several other units (returning the repeated favor of loans to cover our payroll earlier in the year), and made payroll on 11/15. The PRA had its national fund drive last Tuesday, and also received belatedly a grant they had been awaiting that required their payroll to be covered from other-than-PRA income, so presumably those will help make payroll at month's end. Margaret Prescod's webinar with Gerald Horne on Sunday raised over another $1000 above the ticket sales. I upgraded my zoom to hold webinars to accommodate the event out of my own pocket.
After a discussion with paid staff, it was decided to run a mini membership drive from Dec. 6-20, 15 days. I would not at this time anticipate a significant increase in the per diem of $4.3K, so $65K for the month. We just received a donation of $50K from a revocable trust. We received a $10K check and a promise of a $3K donation, derived from calling donors, that we are waiting to receive. We will be launching the on-line auction (no upfront expense) but it I don't see how we can estimate the proceeds yet. Once we complete an auction, we will have a better idea of what that revenue stream might be.
As mentioned, the Spanish language programmers are hosting a party/fiesta fundraiser that Lawrence arranged a free venue for, so no upfront costs to the station -- it will take place Dec. 10 and will have the same type of ticket sale for $25 via a special donation page via allegiance (and additional in person ticket sales by members of APE). I think $5K (200 tickets sold) would be a reasonable estimate of the income.
We are seeking donations from various individuals and institutions, but the amounts that may come in are unpredictable at this point. We will be carrying out a social media and email campaign for Giving Tuesday donations, but again, hard to estimate. We will be doing a campaign to seek support from friendly labor, community, civic and faith-rooted groups to encourage their membership base to become members of KPFK as well, but again, no estimate can be made of its efficacy or return. Practice will tell. I reject the notion that individual memberships cost more to process than they produce. Individual memberships increase the pool of donors and give us the possibility of "up-selling" people to become monthly sustainers, just like other non-profits and political campaigns do.
I am sorry this is a narrative rather than a spreadsheet, but I have not seen any financials since July. In any event, between the revocable trust donation, the mini membership drive, which would raise about $65K at the current level of proceeds but might raise more if the newly initiated programming and locally produced newscast stimulate larger audiences and more enthusiasm, the additional revenue streams, and the remaining proceeds from the drive that extended into November, I believe that the totality of the expenses will be met in December. But going forward, we need to seriously increase our fundraising capacity beyond the on-air fund drives which have clearly reached far past the point of diminishing returns, as we can barely raise in a full day what we used to be able to raise in a decent hour.
The three basic solutions are 1) find additional off-air revenue streams; 2) rebuild our audience through improved programming and social promotion so that we can have more effective on-air fundraisers that happen less often and persist for fewer days; 3) reduce expenses further (which would probably have to come from payroll reductions of one form or another).
On the revenue streams, we are looking into short-term rental to outside parties of office and/or studio space in the building, and the possibility of a KPFK or
The PNB authorizes seeking underwriting under its policy as an additional revenue source, and asks the GMs at each station to enact such a trial of underwriting for a year. I invite the LSB to discuss this fully and weigh in, and I will also raise this for discussion with the paid and unpaid staff tomorrow. I have already distributed the relevant PNB motions on programming and underwriting to various public lists and will be soliciting comment as well through the KPFK Dispatch, along with the promotion of the upcoming new programming and programmers. The PNB motion also gives the GMs and staff at all stations under six months, through April 2023, to raise revenue and audiences by a significant percentage. My analysis, as expressed above, is that we can and will accomplish this without the draconian and arbitrary measures proposed in the PNB motion.
On the question of payroll, that is under further discussion with paid staff and SAG-AFTRA.
I am working to create with the support of the ED and the
The KPFK Local Station Board has elected new officers for the remainder of the current term: Ziri Rideaux, replacing Michael Novick (who became interim General Manager of the station) as LSB chair, and Grace Aaron, replacing Kim Kaufman, as Treasurer. The LSB also elected Eric C. Jacobson to serve on the PNB Elections Committee for the rest of the year, replacing Michael Novick on that committee. (The committee itself will need to elect a chair to replace Novick.)
The Pacifica National Board reported out from its closed session meeting on Thursday, October 27, that it had passed the following motion: "The Board Chair, Executive Director and General Counsel are authorized to take all steps necessary to the most advantageous sale of the building currently housing the KPFK station and Pacifica National Office at 3729 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, California and relocation of all activities currently housed at 3729 Cahuenga and bring these transactions to the Board for approval."
The Local Station Board met Sunday, November 6 at 11:00 AM PST, and passed the following motion:
Motion strongly opposing sale of The KPFK Property (Building and Parking Lot) to pay down Pacifica Debt
Whereas initial steps to sell the KPFK station building, 3729 Cahuenga Blvd. West, North Hollywood, CA, have been approved by the PNB to pay down the overall debt of Pacifica as a whole; and
Whereas sound business principles strongly advise against cashing out any major capital asset to pay down excess ongoing operational expenses with no business plan in place to reverse longstanding losses; and
Whereas Pacifica has proposed no such business plan, or any business plan; and
Whereas KPFK itself bears only limited responsibility for generating Pacifica's overall debt; and
Whereas KPFK has in recent years been chronically deprived of Management adequate to the task of reversing its own fortunes; and
Whereas KPFK houses and operates the single strongest FM signal west of the Mississippi; and
Whereas adequate broadcast facilities are necessary and valuable to the ongoing operation of KPFK and its ability to fulfill Pacifica's Mission; and
Whereas the building was originally acquired to provide for precisely that need, and acquisition of comparable facilities would be difficult and is in no way guaranteed; and
Whereas the KPFK building houses not only KPFK but also the Pacifica Radio Archive and the Pacifica National Office, three of Pacifica's eight business units, all of which require adequate facilities to continue operations, all of which would lose their current facilities and have to be relocated were the building to be sold; and this would have the consequence of a major increase in the operating expenses of all three units which do not currently pay rent; and
Whereas sale of the KPFK station building, Pacifica's single most valuable material asset, would be an irreversible loss to KPFK and Pacifica as a whole; and
Therefore be it resolved that the KPFK Local Station Board opposes sale of the KPFK station building to pay down Pacifica debt, particularly with no plan in place to assure responsible disposition of any proceeds to put Pacifica and KPFK back on a path toward solvency, and no guarantee of being made whole again itself.
Be it further resolved that the KPFK Local Station Board urges Pacifica Management and the PNB to come to grips with Pacifica's chronic failure to generate adequate revenue, its habitual deficit spending, and the resulting debt; and to do so by more appropriate means than selling off major capital assets, including but not limited to serious consideration of all options to refinance, consolidate, and pay down existing debt.
Passed without objection in executive session.
The KPFK LSB adopted the following motion at its meeting of Oct 16, 2022
Whereas, given the recent publication of racist and hateful comments by some unscrupulous Los Angeles Council Members as Kevin De Leon, Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Head of LA County Federation of Labor Ron Herrera, although he has resigned as well Nury Martinez, we must expose all involved in such divisive language.
This Pacifica - KPFK 90.7 FM LSB - Local Station Board directly condemns and rebukes the xenophobic language expression, incorporated in a recent conversation among these three Council members toward anti-Black, Oaxacan Indigenous, and other communities.
Pacifica Foundation Mission Statement and Bylaws stand in stark opposition. Rather, celebrates pluralism in all its forms at a global level.
Therefore, this KPFK LSB Board celebrates all diversity and inclusion, and in an act of multi-cultural solidarity, rejects such hatred.
Be it resolved; we call for the resignation of the aforementioned… City Officials, as this type of sentiment has no standing at City Hall or in society.
Submitted by Paul Roberson KPFK LSB Member and Bella De Soto KPFK LSB Member
The KPFK Local Station usually meets the 3rd Sunday each month at 10:00 AM PDT. The zoom info for the regular business meeting, (same every month) is:
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There is a half-hour of public comment, usually interspersed through various points on the agenda, prior to votes by the LSB where feasible.
On a recent LSB Report to the Listener, we were asked to post the names of the members of the LSB prominently, so I am doing so here in alphabetical order by last name:
Grace Aaron, Christina Avalos, Jose Benavides, Fred Blair, Sandy Childs, Marisol Cruz, Bella De Soto, George Funmaker (just seated to replace M. Novick), Eric C. Jacobson, Evelia Jones, Ali Lexa Al-Hilali, Rob Macon, Barbara Marbach, Oye Oyeyipo, Myla Reson, Lawrence Reyes, Ziri Rideaux, Paul Roberson, Ruth Strauss, Oscar Ulloa, Polina Vasiliev, Elizabeth von Gunten, Harvey Wasserman, Carlos Zavala. M. Cruz is the Vice-Chair, E. Jones, A. Lexa, L. Reyes and E. von Gunten are the PNB directors on the Pacifica National Board. In addition, John P. Garry, a non-member, serves as Secretary. The Board thanked Michael Novick for his diligent service, and his willingness to take on the interim General Manager role and responsibilities. As the interim General Manager, he serves as a non-voting ex officio member of the Local Station Board, and will be presenting a management report at the upcoming meeting.
You can contact the members of the LSB by emailing LSB@kpfk.org. You can reach our directors and the other members of the Pacifica National Board by emailing PNB@pacifica.org. Your input is welcome!