While Indy Caucus loudly and falsely claims that Justice & Unity favors the sale or swap of WBAI’s signal, it conveniently avoids mentioning that one of its most vocal members, Steve Brown – who sits on the WBAI Local Board and the Pacifica National Board – publicly called in 2012 for the sale of ALL 5 PACIFICA STATIONS “while they still have value.”

Indy Caucus has also been silent about the public call by their endorser and former KPFA PNB member Carol Spooner for a WBAI signal swap to raise funds primarily for a non-broadcast operation to be called Pacifica.

Both letters are below. Note especially the last 8 paragraphs of Brown’s email (marked in red), where he writes glowingly of the alleged benefits of selling WBAI and the other 4 Pacifica stations. For example, writing about his idea to eliminate the land-based radio broadcasts and convert Pacifica into an Internet-only network, he writes, "Pacifica cannot lose, but only gain from such a transformation."

Excerpt from Brown's email:

For although Pacifica’s financials show that the patient is still breathing, its pulse is fading and its will to live declining. Pacifica’s five station licenses used to be valued at anywhere from $300-$600 million, but that was before the internet, when radio was, if not still king, at least part of the royal media household. Yet although Pacifica’s licenses may have declined in value, they may be still worth as much as $150-$250 million. So if Pacifica is unable to rouse itself from the gridlock of its own creation, perhaps the best contribution that it can make towards fulfilling its founding “mission” would be[now I am going to commit heresy] to sell all five of its licenses while they still have value.

 

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From: "Stephen M Brown" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

To: "'Max Blanchet'" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2012 20:29:54 -0400

Subject: Still breathing, but for how long? -- RE: AN ANALYSIS OF PACIFICA'S FINANCIALS BY AN INDEPENDENT OBSERVER

Max –

Thanks for sending your “Analysis of Pacifica’s Financials by an Independent Observer”(attached).

Unfortunately, the recommendations of your Observer, although sound, are not very helpful, because they are so general, not to mention so obvious – such as, “decrease expenses” and “increase revenue.” Well, duh! Is that any more helpful than saying that the best cure for ill health is to get well, and the best cure for poverty is to get rich? The question is not whether the Observer’s recommendations should be implemented – of course they should – but how to do so effectively.

But it is my sad experience (as I suspect it is also yours) that Pacifica can’t take effective steps to promote its welfare and survival. The reason is that no one at Pacifica has the slightest idea of how to take those steps -- aside from the obvious (but debilitating and ultimately self-defeating) recourse of cutting more and more staff positions. Which may certainly be necessary in the short term, but is no recipe for long-term survival, let alone prosperity.

Pacifica’s leaders often promise to consult experts about the best way to run the network. But they seldom do. And when they do, they usually ignore the advice, because they cannot agree. And they cannot agree because it is part of Pacifica’s ingrained cultural predisposition – deeply embedded in its DNA -- to value equally the opinions of the expert and the idiot, in the mistaken assumption that this is somehow “democratic.”

There are other problems at Pacifica, of course, such as egomania (always a much bigger problem on the Left than on the Right), ideological Manichaeanism (if you don’t agree with me, you are not merely wrong but Evil), and identity politics (my voice or my group or my ethnic minority is more deserving of air-time, paid staff positions, and use of station resources than your voice or your group or your ethnic minority). These problems, in turn, give rise to a destructive factionalism at both the local and national levels, resulting in the formation of angry political alliances that quickly identify and then vilify their “enemies.”

The result is that those who share the same values -- and in a sane world would be uniting to achieve common goals – are often foolishly drawn (or cynically manipulated) into antagonistic personal conflicts that distort priorities, and make the adoption or rejection of policies and programming proposals dependent, not on their merits, but on which person or faction has made the proposals. We are now and have long been in destructive gridlock, where self-serving factional agendas are cloaked in the garb of high moral principle, and good ideas cannot be considered, much less implemented, if they come from a Bad Source – i.e., the “other” group, side, faction, or ideological cohort.

Most station managers – as well as most executive directors of Pacifica – have always been fearful of losing their jobs. They, no less than anyone else, must pay rent, put their children through school, and make sure there is food on the table. So they are constantly looking over their shoulders or putting up a finger to see which way the factional wind is blowing. Too often I have heard executive directors say that they would not do something they knew was in Pacifica’s best interests, because “the board would not support me” – meaning he (or she) feared that a powerful faction on the board would try to fire him if he flouted its wishes or thwarted its agenda.

Pacifica broadcasts to the five largest metropolitan media centers in the country; its stations can reach nearly 200 million radio listeners with, in many cases, the most powerful transmitters in their respective areas. Thus the fact that, after 50 years of continuous operation, Pacifica has only a paltry 73,000 members nationwide, is not only a disgrace but a testimony to how inept Pacifica has been at everything -- except at rejecting the ideas of those who might turn the network into the progressive powerhouse that America needs, and for which Pacifica has every necessary qualification, except political will and unity of purpose.

There is still time (though it is fast running out) to turn Pacifica around. By which I do not mean merely surviving, whereby the network would limp pathetically into the future, year after year, with quivering legs and a quavering voice, affecting almost no one and achieving almost nothing.

No, I mean a Pacifica that can prosper and grow and become a force in the world -- instead of a farce. It can do this by testing some of the many  proven proposals it has received in the last 10 years (they are all on file or in the computers of those who proposed them). Some of these proposals would have been able to increase Pacifica membership and revenue by as much as threefold in 16 months. The irony of these proposals (though this is not widely known) is that most of them were actually approved and accepted for implementation by individual stations as well as by the national board. Some of the ideas were even tested, and succeeded, but were suddenly abandoned, either because of factional pressures, lack of managerial will, poor administrative practices, misunderstanding of priorities, or a combination thereof.

And with that abandonment was also abandoned the hope for a stronger Pacifica.

Pacifica is basically a small and uncomplicated organization with a budget of less than $15 million a year. It is so small and so uncomplicated that it could successfully be managed by a few skilled professionals, virtually in their sleep, without compromising the Pacifica mission one bit, as long as they were allowed to put the needs of the foundation and its listeners above the private agendas of the various factions whose destructive competition has been sucking the air from Pacifica’s lungs, and the life from its body.

But I do not think this will happen. I think that Pacifica will continue to hire the wrong people -- who will continue to do the wrong things -- for what they claim are the right reasons. That is too bad, for as we all know, America needs what Pacifica stands for – or claims it stands for.

For although Pacifica’s financials show that the patient is still breathing, its pulse is fading and its will to live declining. Pacifica’s five station licenses used to be valued at anywhere from $300-$600 million, but that was before the internet, when radio was, if not still king, at least part of the royal media household. Yet although Pacifica’s licenses may have declined in value, they may be still worth as much as $150-$250 million. So if Pacifica is unable to rouse itself from the gridlock of its own creation, perhaps the best contribution that it can make towards fulfilling its founding “mission” would be[now I am going to commit heresy] to sell all five of its licenses while they still have value. After which, Pacifica can then do one (or both) of the following with the $150-$250 million sale proceeds:

1. Pacifica could recreate itself as an internet radio network, using the $150-$250 million sale proceeds from its five radio licenses. It would not only create the most powerful and compelling progressive website in the world, but would alsopublicize itself and its programs in a way that Pacifica should have – but never did -- publicize itself and its programs for the last 50 years.

After all, the internet is where the progressive world has gone -- not to mention the rest of the world as well. And on the internet, broadcasting entities don’t need FCC licenses – so it makes sense for Pacifica to convert its now-unnecessary, but still valuable, FCC licenses into a $150-$250 million bank account, and use it to spread its wings and really fly.

Just look at the Progressive Radio Network (PRN), created by Gary Null only a few years ago. It has a full program grid filled with many of the most distinctive and influential voices in their fields (all of whom should have been on Pacifica stations, and would have, if Pacifica had been doing its job.) PRN went from zero to over a million listeners in just a year and a half. And each month it adds 70-80,000 new and unique names to its listening audience. (That’s right, it grows by as many new listeners in just one month – every month -- as the entire size of the complete Pacifica membership.) And its rate of growth is actually increasing, whereas Pacifica’s audience hasn’t increased at all, and is actually in decline. Moreover, PRN’s internet audience is so enthusiastic, and so loyal, that only a few hours of fundraising a month are all it takes to be self-supporting, whereas some Pacifica stations (WBAI, for example) need to spend over 100 days a year in fundraising mode, yet are still not self-supporting.

But you might object. You might say: “Pacifica is a radio network.” But you would be wrong. Pacifica was never a “radio” network; it was simply a way to distribute important information to the largest possible audience -- and for nearly 50 years, radio was the best way of doing that. But radio is no longer the best way. The internet is the best way, and it is the way of the future. Pacifica Radio can use its $150-$250 million sale proceeds to transform itself into … Pacifica Radio Online, potentially a bigger, more powerful, and more influential voice for peace and justice than it ever was in all of its 50-year existence. And it can have as many internet channels or stations as it needs, so all of our producers can bring all of their unique programs and listening audiences with them to the new internet entity, with the prospect of gaining many thousands of new listeners as the reach and reputation of WBAI Radio Online spread.

Pacifica cannot lose, but only gain from such a transformation. It would still have offices, studios, and performance spaces – just as it has now. Except that, with its huge new bank account, it can afford to buy its next home or homes, and equip them with the best broadcasting equipment that money can buy. Ultimately, what Pacifica could gain from an internet re-creation, and what its listeners could gain, would far surpass even the wildest dreams and most visionary hopes of Lou Hill.

But, on the other hand, if Pacifica management lacked the will or desire to continue as a broadcast entity …

2. Pacifica could donate its $150-$250 million sales proceeds to organizations that are better equipped to carry the progressive banner forward into the future, both proudly and more successfully than Pacific has currently shown itself able to do. Which means that, if Pacifica finally does pass away, as seems ever more possible, then let it do so with a whoop instead of a whimper. If Pacifica’s voluntary dismantlement and license sale could result in a $150-$250 million shot-in-the-arm donation to the progressive movement, then History would truly be able to say of Pacifica, as Malcolm said of the Thane of Cawdor, that “Nothing became his life like the leaving it.”

Steve Brown

Member of the WBAI Local Station Board

(speaking only for himself)

Stephen M Brown

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

From Carol Spooner of KPFA in Berkeley

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Time-for-an-Amicable-Divorce-at-Pacifica-.html?soid=1105302426303&aid=X12MM2fkcXk

Time for an Amicable Divorce at Pacifica?

 August 5, 2012

An Open Letter to the Pacifica National Board

 

If the past two decades have demonstrated anything about Pacifica it is that -- No, we cannot all get along. 

  

[Warning:  The following proposal would take a year or two to complete. Even if approved in principle right away, it would still be necessary to cut expenses across the network now so that payrolls can be met and creditors can be paid for the next 12-24 months.  Without that, the whole thing could end up in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee and this opportunity to solve our own problems responsibly would be lost]. 

 

These have been my private thoughts for a few years.  I've held back publishing them, hoping against hope that there was some path to saving the Pacifica network as a network bringing progressive programming not just to the 5 Pacifica stations, but to over 100 affiliated community stations across the country.  I have given my wholehearted support to those who have tried.  But I no longer believe it is possible. 

 

The strife and conflict at Pacifica have been going on longer than twenty years -- probably since the beginning -- but the stark reality came sharply into focus with the Pat Scott years, the Mary Frances Berry years, and the past 11 years since the democratization experiment began.


Each of the five Pacifica radio stations has a different history, a different audience, and a different philosophy and interpretation of the Pacifica mission.  Attempting to hold it all together without basic agreements on core principles is doomed to failure, and has brought Pacifica and the five stations to the brink of bankruptcy. 

 

These five radio stations do not want to be a network. 

There is a solution:  Break it up.   

 

My proposal is that each of the five Pacifica radio stations -- with the approval of the members from each station -- should form a local non-profit corporation and that the Pacifica Foundation should transfer the broadcast licenses to those five separate local non-profits.  Each station would be free to structure its governance and bylaws as it saw fit -- so long as the local members approved, and so long as they were in conformity with applicable state laws and FCC requirements for holders of non-commercial broadcast licenses.  Each of the five stations would be completely independent from the other four stations and from the Pacifica Foundation.


Each of the five Pacifica stations has its own internal divisions and problems to resolve.  Breaking the network up would not solve those problems but would limit the impact of those problems to the local station, its listeners, members, staff and management.  It would allow each station to work its problems out locally (or not) without injecting them into a toxic brew that impacts the ability of the other stations and the network to function and survive. 

The Pacifica Foundation would go forward as a granting institution -- providing grants to aid in the production of programming that fulfills its core mission:

  • In radio broadcasting, to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and through any and all means compatible with the purposes of this Foundation to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms.
  • In radio broadcasting, 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.
    Pacifica would continue as a distribution hub for such programming on the web, through podcasting, and to radio stations across the country -- as well as maintaining and preserving the priceless Pacifica Radio Archives.  

Pacifica would revise its bylaws so that it is completely independent from the five stations.  Its board of directors would no longer be made up of representatives from the five stations.  The divorce should be amicable, but complete.  There should be no employees of the five stations or any members of their boards of directors serving on the Pacifica Foundation board of directors going forward.  Pacifica should have a small board of 5-9 directors made up of progressive media leaders, philanthropists and fundraising experts, and other professionals to insure that it is properly run for long term financial stability and fulfillment of its mission.


How?  Find a signal swap for WBAI. 

 

Sometime around 2006-2007 there was an offer for a signal swap for WBAI that included $150 million in cash, and a radio frequency with similar reach but down the dial in the non-commercial band.  (See Danny Schechter "Offer Was Received for New York's WBAI".) 

The Pacifica board voted it down back then -- in part because they feared a "feeding frenzy" over the money.  The value of radio frequencies has probably dropped somewhat since then.  But WBAI is in the middle of the commercial band in the middle of Manhattan with a valuable antenna lease on the Empire State Building. 

 

WBAI was given to the Pacifica Foundation by philanthropist Louis Schweitzer in 1960 to further the mission of Pacifica.  Thus, sufficient proceeds from a signal swap should be used to permit the Pacifica Foundation to continue to carry out its core mission, but to do so without holding the broadcast licenses to any radio stations.   

 

In addition, the distribution of proceeds from a signal swap should recognize the 52 years that WBAI's listeners and staff have donated and worked and volunteered to support that station and its mission in the New York area.  WBAI has recently fallen on hard times for many reasons not pertinent to this proposal.  But its listener base cannot support the expensive tower lease at the Empire State Building any longer -- and the lease has an escalator clause in it so the price will continue to go up.  The solution is a signal swap to some more affordable broadcast tower. 

I don't know what a WBAI signal swap would bring these days, but for the sake of round numbers I'm using $100 million to illustrate an equitable distribution of the proceeds.    

 

My proposal is to distribute half the proceeds to the Pacifica Foundation and 10% to WBAI off the top, with the remaining 40% distributed to the five stations based on the size of their relative average gross annual income as reported by the auditors over the past 4 years, with adjustments for the interdivision accounts receivable and payable per the 2011 auditor's report.  (This process would probably take a year to complete, so the numbers would change slightly as the 2012-2013 figures come in.  But see the attached spreadsheet for the calculations.) 

This would result in the following distributions:


$52,583,080 - Pacifica Foundation

$12,332,557 - KPFA

$10,690,694 - KPFK

$  3,302,266 - KPFT

$16,886,090 - WBAI

$  4,205,314 - WPFW 


This would give KPFA, KPFK, KPFT & WPFW each roughly 2-1/2 to 3 years' gross income which they could use as endowment funds, while WBAI would have an extra boost to help them deal with the disruption, difficulties and logistics of moving their signal.  If the stations fail to handle the money wisely, the damage they can do would be limited, as it would not impact the other stations or Pacifica Foundation.


Pacifica Foundation would have a sufficient endowment fund so that, with careful stewardship, it could preserve the historic Pacifica Archives as well as help to provide much needed grants to independent producers for the production of alternative progressive media in this country.


Many of us have devoted many years to Pacifica and its radio stations, and we care deeply about them even though we may disagree about how they should be programmed, operated, managed and governed.  It is time to for all of us to stop this destructive conflict and to find a way to move on in the best interests of fulfilling the mission of Pacifica and our respective stations. 

Respectfully submitted, 

Carol Spooner
Former Pacifica Foundation Board Member

(January 2002- January 2005) 


http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Time-for-an-Amicable-Divorce-at-Pacifica-.html?soid=1105302426303&aid=X12MM2fkcXk