Good News!
Some Good News from Pacifica!
August 2020
If you thought that all the news about Pacifica was doom and gloom, get ready to be surprised! The truth is that, while Pacifica still facesserious challenges in several areas, the Pacifica National Board (PNB) has been working steadily over the last several years to overcome them, and much has happened during the past ten months that gives us cause for optimism

Financial Initiatives
Income activity

  • In July, Pacifica received a Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) forgivable loan to the tune of $1.2 million, and plans to apply for a second round if and when Congress makes it available. 

  • Pacifica applied for and is optimistic about receiving an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). This is a long-term loan with a very low interest rate that will free up other income sources needed to address many of our other large debts.

  • Pacifica just completed its fiscal year 2018 audit and is now beginning work on 2019. Once that's completed, Pacifica will be current with its audits for the first time in five years (the FY2020 audit is due in California on June 30, 2021). This will be a big step towards getting Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funding restored and will make us a better candidate for foundation grants and other sources of income.

  • Novel fundraising initiatives are being developed to meet the challenge of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. The Pacifica National Board (PNB) created a development task force with the mandate to work with the Interim Executive Director (iED), Lydia Brazon, to increase income and membership. As of this writing, they have several initiatives in progress. Additionally, a national fund drive is planned for this fall, and there was a mailing to members sent out recently from David Moore, the son of Pacifica's founders. We have also started using ActBlue, a digital donation platform favored by progressives, to make donating to Pacifica on our web site easier, and have already received thousands through it.

  • At the local level, many of the stations are also pursuing new initiatives. Among them is an intriguing experiment by WBAI: its traditional seasonal fund drives, consisting of five weeks or so of daily fund raising, four times per year, is being replaced by a 52-week-a-year "soft" fund drive. In this format, pitching is limited to two to three hours a day instead of the grueling eight to twelve hours of the traditional fund drive. So far, the funds raised per day are modest, but the total is projected to be at least equal to the traditional model but with much less disruption to the programming grid. 

  • Our iED came across $26,956 in a PayPal account that hadn't been reviewed for some time. And, WBAI's General Manager, Berthold Reimers, recently discovered that $50,000 was owed to WBAI by its credit card clearing house. 
Dealt with several large debts

  • Pacifica has gotten its two pensions plans in order — moving funds into them as needed and bringing participant records up to date, alleviating problems that we had been trying to resolve for several years.

  • Pacifica recently repaid a debt of $137,506 to the CPB that had been owed since 2013, removing another obstacle to getting new CPB funding in the future.

  • Speedy action by the iED and the PNB averted our KPFA building being sold off at auction! Because of an administrative error on Pacifica's part, our property tax exemption lapsed, and we unknowingly failed to pay the assessed amounts for a few years. As a nonprofit organization, the property was (and is) actually exempt from the bulk of these property taxes. We have hired a top-of-the-line law firm to negotiate with the local tax authorities to retroactively reinstate our tax-exempt status.

Improved fiscal responsibility and oversight

  • We clearly recognize that Pacifica continues to face serious fiscal challenges; our recently-completed audit still points to continuing deficits. However, we have systematically been taking steps to increase revenues, cut costs, and get our financial management in order. 

  • The timeliness and accuracy of Pacifica's financial reports has greatly improved, as a result of ongoing, close communication between the PNB and our professional accounting firm, NETA. This is already helping Pacifica to monitor cash flow problems and deficits for each of the Pacifica business units much more closely and to take corrective action when a significant problem is identified, including hiring freezes, budget cuts, and service and labor contract renegotiations.

  • The PNB's National Finance Committee is currently in the process of reviewing the budgets of each of the business units for fiscal year 2021 to ensure that they are realistic and based on historical information and well-reasoned estimates.
Pacifica Mission and Programming Initiatives
Initiatives have been taken over the last six months in accordance with the Pacifica mission "to promote the full distribution of public information; to obtain access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium; and to employ such varied sources in the public presentation of accurate, objective, comprehensive news on all matters vitally affecting the community."

  • The PNB created a coronavirus taskforce with the mission to create unique national programming dealing with the pandemic and its implications. The taskforce, working together with managers and program directors at the five Pacifica stations, KPFA in Berkley, KPFK in LA, KPFT in Houston, WPFW in Washington DC, and WBAI in New York, launched a daily national program on the Covid-19 crisis: COVID, Race, and Democracy. This is currently a weekly program while we work on funding for this important programming initiative.

  • The PNB held its first-ever National Town Hall meeting in May of this year. This event was an experiment in the PNB reaching out directly to Pacifica listeners and members across the network. The first hour featured a live broadcast of a discussion between noted journalists and activists Chris Hedges and Margaret Kimberly, and was followed by questions and comments from listeners and members to the PNB through an online Zoom meeting. Future town hall meetings are being planned.

  • We launched the YouTube channel Pacifica Foundation TV in January to present special programming such as Pacifica's coverage of the primary elections at the Iowa caucuses and Super Tuesday, May Day programming across the network (including our affiliate stations), the virtual Town Hall, and the new programs on Covid-19 mentioned above. Pacifica's May Day programming was a notable achievement that included participation on Pacifica stations, affiliates and YouTube. 

  • Pacifica's unique coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions is coming up. Expect such issues as why Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez will only be given 60 seconds to address the Convention, or why the DNC has banned the Young Turks from the Convention, to be topics of discussion. 

  • Other recent pieces of national Pacifica programming: a special broadcast with our Houston station's Akua Holt on the occasion of the funeral of George Floyd (whose murder by police in Minneapolis sparked the worldwide upsurge in protests against racist police brutality); and a national livestream on Juneteenth (June 19th), including a labor action for racial justice and shutdown of the Oakland port by the longshore workers union and supported by other labor unions. 
Stabilization of Management, Staff, and Governance
  • With the support of numerous listener activists throughout the country, dedicated members of the PNB, and the sterling work of attorney Arthur Schwartz (now Pacifica's legal counsel), WBAI successfully returned its local broadcasting to the air after it had been illegally replaced in October 2019 with generic programming by a previous interim Executive Director without the approval of the PNB.

  • A referendum on Pacifica's bylaws that proposed fundamental changes to our democratic governance structure was defeated in March of this year by a nearly two-thirds vote of the membership. The referendum cost Pacifica more than $150,000 and occupied a lot of time and energy on the part of all involved; it' s fair to say that it had very high opportunity costs in that we could have been dedicating that time and energy to moving forward on other Pacifica issues.

  • But, since that time, PNB members have been working together more closely to achieve common goals. All of Pacifica's board members are passionate about their beliefs as to how to "fix" Pacifica, and sometimes it feels like an unstoppable force has met an immovable object. We participated in mediation sessions in which Board members engaged in frank and open dialogue about policies and goals and are trying to apply the lessons learned in those sessions to our regular business.

  • Three important bylaws amendments were recently approved. Two of these are aimed at removing legal and technical obstacles to obtaining our property tax exemption and streamlining the bylaws amendment process. The third amendment raises the bar for a petition-initiated bylaws referendum; Pacifica will now only commit funds for a referendum if the petitioners can demonstrate significant support for the bylaw amendment they are proposing, thereby saving Pacifica the expense of costly membership-required votes on frivolous bylaw amendment petitions.

  • We rehired an interim Executive Director, Lydia Brazon, who is the first Latinx to hold this position. Lydia has graciously taken this very difficult job voluntarily without compensation. Once before, when she was on the PNB as a director from KPFK, and while serving as the chair of the PNB, she had to step into the role of interim Executive Director. It's been very good having an executive director who already knows the ins and outs of Pacifica.

  • Work on updating the Employee Handbook by the Personnel Committeeover the past couple of years has been completed and approved. This was an important legal and personnel accomplishment.

  • We contracted a human resources consultant through our accounting firm NETA. The HR consultant plays an important role in advising management and staff of possible legal issues involving personnel and thus helps keep our legal costs down.

  • We moved Pacifica's National Office to Los Angeles, bringing it into conformity with Pacifica's Articles of Incorporation.
Activities of other Pacifica National Board Committees

  • The Personnel Committee has started the process of searching for a permanent Executive Director, and to this end, is working with a professional search firm.

  • The Strategic Planning Committee is drafting an overall strategic plan for the network.

  • The Governance Committee has the mandate to review Pacifica's bylaws on an ongoing basis, and has taken some initial steps in that process for the current year.

  • The Audit Committee just finished up its work on FY2018 and is gearing up for getting FY2019 in motion.

  • This year we have also staffed the Coordinating, Affiliates, Programming, and Technology Committees an d they are addressing such issues as programming, fundraising, diversity, technology, the affiliates, etc. Some of these groups include volunteers from outside the PNB as well as PNB directors. It is hard to imagine how work like this could be done if we did not have a democratic governance system relying on volunteers.
Local Station Boards

  • LSBs are working with their local station management to develop the 2021 station budgets; and carrying out other LSB responsibilities outlined in the bylaws, including management evaluations, searching for candidates for General Managers and Program Directors at stations where there have been recent resignations, holding or organizing their own Town Halls, and conducting their regular listener pledge-drives and many Outreach and Development initiatives that are now unique to the pandemic.

We continue to work on challenges facing Pacifica. We are addressing the instability caused by frequent turnovers of Board and management and will be reviewing bylaws that could be changed to bring more efficiency and effectiveness. The Board continues to push for getting the needed financial controls in place; not only those mentioned by our auditors but others that will contribute to consistency in our financial management throughout the Pacifica network. 

Over the last several years we have been working hard to correct problems that have come to the attention of the Board and we have gotten a lot of business done despite all the obstacles

Without minimizing the challenges we still face, it should be clear that there is much good news coming out of Pacifica these days. We thank you for your steadfast support through the years and hope you find much here to give you reason to continue your interest and participation in Pacifica and its important work.

Lydia Brazon, interim ED
Anita Sims, interim CFO
Pacifica National Board Members

Grace Aaron, KPFK, Secretary
Vanessa Dixon-Briggs, WPFW
Heather Gray, WRFG, Affiliates
DeWayne Lark, KPFT, Vice Chair
Ron Pinchback, WPFW
Ralph Poynter, WBAI
Lawrence Reyes, KPFK
Shawn Rhodes, WBAI
Eileen Rosin, WPFW
James Sagurton, WBAI
Nancy Sorden, WPFW
Alex Steinberg, WBAI, Chair
Polina Vasiliev, KPFK
Tom Voorhees, KPFA
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