‘A New Structure for Pacifica. Executive Summary’ – the complete set of new by-laws

Pacifica Restructuring Project, document 3 of 7

[On Tu24Sep (apologies for the delay) will be posted an analysis of this latest attempt to break-up Pacifica, & it will examine, in context, these seven docs. The post will synthesise & develop the comments already made.]

Their summary of the breaker faction’s proposed complete set of new by-laws.

Source: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11EGYeojCxDieismHFAoJAxH78uU7omdaW1UhmN9VGFM/edit (2 pages)




The proposed new by-laws are divided into two parts:

  1. The New Governance Structure of Pacifica (after a short Transition Period);
  2. The Transition Board and Elections.

1.    New Permanent Governance Structure of Pacifica:

The Pacifica Board of Directors will be composed of 11 Directors – 6 At-Large Directors, and 5 Station-Representative Directors. This reduces the size of the Board from 22 Directors to 11. Directors’ terms will be three years with a two-term limit. Terms will be staggered so that no more than 1/3rd of the board terms will expire in the same year. Listener-Sponsor Members, but not Staff Members, will be eligible to serve on the Board.  The Executive Director may attend all Board meetings unless the Board decides to exclude them from a confidential executive session meeting.

Six At-Large Directors will be selected and appointed by the Board, two each year for three-year terms. The Board will fill these seats considering needed skills on the Board and/or accomplishments in fields related to Pacifica’s core Peace and Justice mission.

Five Station Representative Directors will be elected – one from each of the five Pacifica radio stations (KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WBAI, and WPFW) — by each station’s membership with Staff Members and Listener-Sponsor Members voting together. The vote will be by instant runoff voting and each Member will have one vote. After the initial election at all five stations, elections will be rotated among the stations so that each station will hold an election for its Station Representative Director once every three years. This will reduce the number of elections at each station by half – from 2 elections every three years to 1 election every three years.

The 24-Member Local Station Boards at each of the 5 stations under the current Bylaws will be dissolved and their current members folded into Community Advisory Boards, which will operate under the requirements of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. https://www.cpb.org/stations/certification/cert3

The annual Listener-Sponsor membership contribution is changed from $25 to $50 or 15 hours’ volunteer service.

2.    The Transition Board and Elections:

Appointment of Transition At-Large Directors: The following six individuals have agreed to serve as Transition At-Large Directors and are appointed by the approval of these new Bylaws:

Heidi Boghosian, Judy Graboyes, Bob King, Barbara Ransby, Walter Riley,

and Norman Stockwell

Their biographies are posted here.

They will be seated, and the previous board will be retired, at the first meeting of the Transition Board which will be held on a date to be determined which shall be during the last two weeks of January 2020. If any of them withdraws or cannot serve for any reason prior to the first meeting, then the following individuals have agreed to serve as alternates, and they will fill any such vacancies in the order chosen by the remaining Transition At-Large Directors:

Terri Burke, Mustafaa Carroll, and Louis Vandenburg

Their biographies are posted here.

The Transition At-Large Directors will draw straws or use some other chance procedure to determine which two of them will have terms ending March 31, 2021, which two will have terms ending March 31, 2022, and which two will have terms ending March 31, 2023, to establish a staggering of terms going forward so that 1/3rd of their terms expire each year.

Election of Transition Station Representative Directors: Five Transition Station Representative Directors will be elected in early 2020 by the members of each of the five Pacifica stations.

Nominations for Transition Station-Representative Directors will open at each station on January 15, 2020 and will close on February 15th. The election will commence on or about March 9th, or as soon thereafter as is practicable, and will close 30 days later. The results will be tallied within ten days after the election closes.

The newly elected Transition Station-Representative Directors’ terms will begin when they are seated at a Board meeting to be held on a date to be determined which shall be during the first ten days in May 2020. The Station Representative Directors will draw straws or use some other chance procedure to determine which two of them will have terms ending March 31, 2021, which two will have terms ending March 31, 2022, and which one will have a term ending March 31, 2023, provided, however, that no one who is currently serving on the 2019 board of directors may draw a term that would extend their total service as a Director beyond six consecutive years, including the time served as a Director under the previous bylaws.


‘Introduction’: sweetness and light, the public face of the breaker faction

Pacifica Restructuring Project, document 2 of 7

[On Tu24Sep (apologies for the delay) will be posted an analysis of this latest attempt to break-up Pacifica, & it will examine, in context, these seven docs. The post will synthesise & develop the comments already made.]

This Pacifica Restructuring Project document is titled Introduction – note that it’s an intro to their professed aim, not to the complete set of new by-laws they want adopted.

The public reason, & the real reason.

Some people can’t be trusted.

Source: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GSEOr8-pZsk7DBSllxBw0orL89kCwUkkfsk2JLgr968/edit (1 page)



Pacifica Radio, once one of the most important resources for progressives, in these troubled times is in trouble. It has the potential to change the direction of our nation, but it is nowhere near living up to its potential. We, a group of concerned members and activists, are asking for your support for a critical step to correct this right now. 

One of the major difficulties Pacifica faces is an unwieldy and contentious governance system that has crippled its management in addressing serious issues such as the changing media landscape, the changing fundraising paradigm of younger generations, and the necessity for first rate programming to inform, educate and inspire listeners and supporters in this critical time.

Quite frankly, Pacifica stations have not produced local or national boards of directors capable of addressing these issues without such destructive polarization that management cannot make and carry out plans of action without the board countermanding those plans or stifling them or micromanaging them to the point of complete breakdown and inefficacy.

To fix this problem we are proposing changing the Bylaws to change the governance structure.  Under the new structure the Pacifica National Board of Directors would be reduced in number from twenty-two (22) to eleven (11) members.  Five (5) of the Directors would be elected directly by the members at each of the five Pacifica radio stations, and six (6) “At-Large” Directors would be elected by the board itself.  The “At-Large” directors would be chosen for their skills and leadership in areas including alternative media and movement work, financial planning and fundraising work, and their commitment to Pacifica’s peace and justice mission and purpose since its establishment in 1949.

Local Station Boards would be eliminated, but Community Advisory Boards at each station would be emphasized and supported to bring listener concerns and views into station programming decisions.

Today, facing mounting debt (on account of hard decisions not taken years ago, and because of declining listenership), Pacifica will sink below the waves if it does not make a major course correction in its structure and leadership.  We ask for your help in making this happen.

We ask your support for a vision of a Pacifica structure that can rise to the challenge of the times.

This can only be achieved by the membership of the foundation, and that is you! Your support will be transformative (link to website for people to sign up)!

Petition is for dissolving Pacifica, not for new by-laws – Franck faction mobilise hypocritically

Pacifica Restructuring Project, document 1 of 7

[On Tu24Sep (apologies for the delay) will be posted an analysis of this latest attempt to break-up Pacifica, & it will examine, in context, these seven docs. The post will synthesise & develop the comments already made.]

All Local Station Boards dissolved the moment the by-laws vote is certified, so late Dec2019 . . .

All current directors ousted during the last two weeks of Jan2020 . . .

Replaced by six non-Pacificans functioning as a junta, constituting the Pacifica National Board, for between 92 & 114 days, doing as they will . . .

Whilst each station’s membership elects a director, with the new Board first meeting 1-10May2020 . . .

So, the members will always elect a minority of the PNB.

Never again will the members elect the majority of the PNB.

These minor details, for some reason, don’t appear in the FAQs they have issued.

They give themselves one of those anodyne names, as if from a random term generator: Pacifica Restructuring Project. I agree, not as warm as it could be, but disposition is what it is.

The Acid Bath Strategy, to dissolve Pacifica, a network, is being materialised before our very eyes. The Spooner-Franck vision is being spearheaded by three directors: Bill Crosier (KPFT listener-delegate), Donald Goldmacher (KPFA listener-delegate), & Mansoor Sabbagh (KPFK staff-delegate).

The petition is for a membership vote on a complete set of new by-laws. For this it needs 1% of the membership, so c. 465, & they claim they’re almost there (459 as of 5.15pm EDT, today; key question: how long will it take Pacifica to verify that the signatories are members in good standing?). They’ve taken the petition route because even if the proposal isn’t approved by the PNB & by three of the five LSB’s, it still has to go to the membership. Then, depending on the turnout, they need at least 2 277 listeners & 119 staff to approve their by-laws, in winning both contests.

One contest is for listener-members, as what’s proposed adversely affects them more than staff-members, facing the loss of the right to elect three directors per station rather than the staff’s one. The other separate contest is for staff, as they’re adversely affected by the loss of the right itself to become a director (proposed by-laws, Article V, Section 1; page 5). Using 28Aug National Elections Supervisor data (the 5Sep report simply adds another 25 members), with listener quorum 10%, that’s 4 552 out of 45 520; & with staff quorum 25%, that’s 236 out of 943; & winning is half-plus-one for each kind of voter.

This first document of seven is their petition, titled Pacifica Restructuring Project: Petition Calling for New Bylaws to Reform Pacifica Governance.

They speak of improving governance, but the real intent is given away in the petition itself:

“[t]he Pacifica Restructuring Project is the work of three current Pacifica Board members, Bill Crosier, Donald Goldmacher, and Mansoor Sabbagh; four former Pacifica Board members, Sherry Gendelman, Carol Spooner, Akio Tanaka, and Carole Travis; former Chair and current Vice-Chair of the KPFA Local Station Board Susan da Silva; and former President of the Pacifica Foundation Peter Franck.

http://form.jotform.com/42244096312953?utm_source=KPFA&utm_campaign=4dcbc58e71-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_09_16_08_59&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_df43e017f7-4dcbc58e71-277121249 (bold added to two names)

Spooner. Franck. Wannabe breakers of Pacifica.

The seven posts: this one, of the petition form (1 page); Introduction (1 p.); Executive Summary (2 pp.); FAQs (1 p.); Comparison of Current and New Bylaws (4 pp.); the proposed by-laws (19 pp.); bios of the proposed six at-large directors (3 pp.) and three alternates (1 p.). The links in these documents are live.

Source: http://form.jotform.com/42244096312953?utm_source=KPFA&utm_campaign=4dcbc58e71-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_09_16_08_59&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_df43e017f7-4dcbc58e71-277121249 (1 page)


The petition:

Pacifica Restructuring Project

Petition Calling for New Bylaws to Reform Pacifica Governance

The Pacifica Restructuring Project proposes new Bylaws for the Pacifica Foundation. These are urgently needed to reform how our governance works – both for the survival of Pacifica, and to better fulfill the Pacifica mission.

The current Bylaws date from 2002-2003, with minor amendments since then, but have resulted in governance that struggles to function (five 24-person Local Station Boards and a 22-person Pacifica National Board). Meanwhile, listenership, membership, and donations have declined and debt is strangling the Foundation and our stations.

For more on why new Bylaws are needed and why this is so urgent and important, please read this Introduction

An Executive Summary of the completely new Bylaws being proposed is here: Executive Summary

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions are in the FAQs

For still more information, see this summary Comparison of the Current and New Bylaws.

By providing your name, station, and contact information below, you are signing the following:

We, the undersigned Pacifica members, petition the Pacifica National Board of Directors to hold a membership vote to approve new Bylaws for the Pacifica Foundation. The full text of the proposed Amended and Restated Bylaws is here. Within the proposed Bylaws is a transitional provision appointing as At-Large Directors the six individuals named here.

If more than one person in a household is a Pacifica member, each of you should submit this form separately.

Please donate to your station online today, or in its next fund drive, too. Name * Prefix First Name Last Name Suffix Address *

Street Address
Street Address Line 2
City State / Province
Postal / Zip Code

Phone Number  – Area Code Phone Number I’m a member of * KPFA, Berkeley KPFK, Los Angeles KPFT, Houston WBAI, New York City WPFW, Washington DC Email * example@example.com I am a * Listener member Unpaid staff member Paid staff member You may use my name publicly as an endorser of this effort. Yes No Comments (optional)

Thanks for supporting your local Pacifica station and for supporting this call for restructuring our governance through improved Bylaws, to help us better fulfill the Pacifica mission.

Be sure to click the Submit button below for your information to be saved.

We need at least 1% of Pacifica members to sign this petition. A vote of the members will take place later to determine if the new Bylaws are to be implemented. So please tell your Pacifica friends today about this petition!

The Pacifica Restructuring Project is the work of three current Pacifica Board members, Bill Crosier, Donald Goldmacher, and Mansoor Sabbagh; four former Pacifica Board members, Sherry Gendelman, Carol Spooner, Akio Tanaka, and Carole Travis; former Chair and current Vice-Chair of the KPFA Local Station Board Susan da Silva; and former President of the Pacifica Foundation Peter Franck.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Pacifica Foundation website nor an official website of any of the five Pacifica Radio Stations (KPFA Radio, KPFK Radio, KPFT Radio, WBAI Radio, WPFW Radio). Opinions and facts alleged on this site belong to the author(s) of the website only and do NOT reflect the editorial stance or policy of the Pacifica Foundation, or any of the five Pacifica Radio Stations (KPFA Radio, KPFK Radio, KPFT Radio, WBAI Radio, WPFW Radio), or the opinions of its management, Pacifica National Board, station staff or other listener members. This communication has not been paid for by the Pacifica Foundation[.]


First Maxie, now Grace: Grace Aaron deposed as Chair of the Pacifica Board, Th5Sep

Grace Aaron is no more – according to the Foundation’s website: “Chair election”, listed as one of the purposes of the Pacifica National Board meeting this Thursday, at 7.30pm EDT (note, it’s an hour earlier than usual).


It seems she met her demise not on the way to the Forum but at the PNB’s Th5Sep private meeting. In the tradition of the secrecy culture secreting from every pore of the beast known as Pacifica, this non-confidentiality matter wasn’t done in public, allowing members, staff, listeners, to hear the reasons & arguments made, & how directors voted. Oh, no. That would be transparency in action – anathema to the Pacifica way. Instead, her former allies turned against her, knives drawn, stabbing her. In the front, the sides, &, of course, the back. Cowards. All of them.

Greek tragedy this was not. Pacifican tragedy neither. It was simply what passes for daily life amongst The Chosen of Pacifica. Just a lil bit more raw.

A number of hitherto reliable sources tell me the proximate reason for Ms Aaron’s end was her defence of WBAI’s station manager, He-of-the-Augsburger, Berthold Reimers. In this she was supported by Director Alex Steinberg, a WBAI listener-delegate. But a raging gale of retribution is blasting through Pacifica HQ 2.0, the virtual version, powered by CSC, Californian station chauvinism, & all those frightened forces who think that if WBAI is hacked off then their own station’s begging bowl has fewer competitors. So let’s all gang-up on WBAI, 4-on-1.

Hence the Alex Steinberg/James Sagurton report to the W11Sep WBAI LSB, warning that “the goal of these behind the scene machinations is not the revival of WBAI but its dismantling“. It’s just that in Stalinist style, Alex left out the lil detail of Gorgon Grace having her snakes slashed off a few days before. Old habits never die. Stalinists, nuns, indeed, Stalinist nuns, same-same-same. https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/09/13/the-goal-of-these-behind-the-scene-machinations-is-not-the-revival-of-wbai-but-its-dismantling-pacifica-directors-sound-the-alarm/

This Thursday there are three PNB meetings, with these stated purposes, etc.:

  • 7.30pm public session: “Set Bylaws Notice Date, ED report, Chair election, NES report[;] Special meeting called by Directors Crosier [KPFT listener-delegate], Sabbagh [KPFK staff-delegate], Goldmacher [KPFA listener]” (my italics & bold), posted by Bill Crosier, 10.54pm EDT (updated 11.41pm), Th12Sep;
  • 8.30pm private session: “Personnel Issues, Legal Issues, Governance Issues[;] Meeting called by Tom Voorhees [KPFA staff], Alex Steinberg [WBAI listener], Grace Aaron [KPFK listener]”, posted by Grace Aaron, 3.13pm, M9Sep; &
  • 10.30pm public session: “Governance, Committee Business[;] Meeting called by Tom Voorhees, Alex Steinberg, Grace Aaron”, posted by Grace Aaron, 3.17pm, M9Sep


So not just electing a new PNB Chair, but setting in motion the revision of the by-laws. The new majority are intent on fundamental change. Hence the Steinberg/Sagurton focus on the Pacifica break-up plans of Peter Franck & others (please see the posts of recent days).

So it needs to be emphasised that Grace’s passing is only part of a much more expansive move from within the PNB: (1) to instigate direct central control over WBAI, removing local management (principally GM Berthold Reimers & perhaps PD Linda Perry), & (2) to revise the by-laws, making it easier to dissolve the Pacifica network. Call it ABS, the Acid Bath Strategy.

Simultaneously, the monthly LSB meetings are being cancelled without explanation: KPFT’s W11Sep (announced at Meeting Archive, 11.38pm EDT, M9Sep), & also not just KPFA’s Sa21Sep (ditto, 1.32pm EDT, Sa14Sep) but the 19Oct too (ditto, 9.18pm EDT, W21Aug). KPFK’s was due to meet yesterday, Su15Sep (audio likely to be posted tomorrow, perhaps Wednesday, at https://kpftx.org/archive.php). Shutting down discussion isn’t part of the progressive playbook – but Pacifica is run by reactionaries, passionate about controlling access to information. Is a coordinated attempt being made to stymie opportunities to ask basic questions, to discuss, to express dissent?

Consistent with it all is the lack of mandatory posting of audiofiles for two recent public sessions of PNB cttees.: the Tu3Sep Strategic Planning Cttee, & the W4Sep Programming Cttee. As expected, no explanation for these violations is given at https://kpftx.org/archive.php. Manners maketh man, but obviously not P-man.

This makes the current Local Station Board elections more important than ever, as the cliché has it. Voting started Th15Aug, ends Tu15Oct, with results certified F1Nov. Will the commencement of ructions drive the 46k electors towards the polls or make them rip up their membership cards in despair? Latest from National Elections Supervisor Renee Penaloza, Th5Sep, with listener quorum 10%: KPFA 3.4%, KPFK 2.5%, KPFT 3.6%, WPFW 3.0%, WBAI 3.3%. Every chance we’ll see stuffing by blank ballots again. (The NES’ link for a later report, apparently dated Su15Sep, is as dead as a Pacifican parrot.) https://elections.pacifica.org/wordpress/ (strapline, “Grassroots Democracy at Pacifica Radio”) & http://elections.pacifica.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Pacifica-Election-Report-09-05-19.pdf

Not to be outdone by the PNB, the same evening, the execution process proceeds apace at WBAI. Here the Management Evaluation Cttee sits (or is it smothers?): “[t]his meeting will complete preparations for the Management Evaluation Process”. The joy, the schadenfreude, of the rule of the offices. This, the station-level correlate of the PNB Personnel Cttee, the one chaired by Grace’s fellow Gorgon, Jan Goodman, that delivered Maxie to the slab. https://kpftx.org/pacalendar/cal_show1.php?eventdate=20190919

The bodies are beginning to pile up in PacificaWorld.

On a happier note, contradicting the meetings archive, of course, a more prominent Foundation webpage still lists Ms Aaron as the occupant: https://pacifica.org/pnb_members.php. Touching. As the lady puts it at the end of her own personal correspondence, peace . . .

. . . Pacifica peace . . . doing it all for The Mission . . . Pacifica, where peace is war . . .

Peter Franck, ‘Plan B: a “friendly divorce” to save the stations’, 23Sep2018

Peter Franck, lawyer to the stars, has identified two options for Pacifica: “a consensus structural change (Plan A) or enact the ‘Friendly Divorce’, (Plan B)”. He published the proposals on the 10th anniversary of Pacifica Executive Director Nicole Sawaya’s parting shot, an open letter to the deceased Lew Hill. This is Plan B.

Copied, without alteration, from Mr Franck’s work website: https://culturelaw.com/special-information/plan-b/.

Introduction. Six years ago [5Aug2012], Carol Spooner circulated a letter she called ‘Time for an Amicable Divorce at Pacifica?’ Without speaking for her, I believe she saw then, as a very close observer of the Pacifica scene, that attempting to govern and run the five Pacifica Foundation Radio stations under a single corporate umbrella, Pacifica Foundation, was not working, and indeed could be a threat to the survival of at least some of the stations. Observing recent crises, some of us have now come to the same conclusion. This paper will attempt to outline how such a ‘friendly divorce’ could happen. Its goal is the preservation of all of the Pacifica stations in a manner which will enable them to continue carrying out the Pacifica mission.

There are a number of ways in which the ‘friendly divorce’ plan could be initiated. They include; (a) decision by the Pacifica National Board; (b) legal action under California Corporations’ Code Section 6510; (c) the exercise of certain rights which FJC has under the terms of the $3.7 million Loan Agreement of April 2, 2018; (d) a vote of the Pacifica membership. It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss how such a plan may come to be initiated, but to acknowledge it as a possibility and discuss what it would look like.

Outline of a plan.

1. Legal Separation.

a. Establishment of independent 501(c)3 non-profit corporations based in each of the cities in which current Pacifica stations are located, thus establishing local station entities. In most states, any person or legal entity can establish a new non-profit organization by filing Articles of Incorporation with the respective Secretary of State. For all five stations Pacifica Foundation itself would be the Incorporator. As the Incorporator, Pacifica would establish bylaws 1 for the new non-profits and appoint their initial Board of Directors.

b. Appointment of the current members of the stations’ Local Station Board and transfer of the licenses would be conditioned on the agreement of all current board members to suspend intramural fighting during the transition period. They would start with a simplified initial set of by-laws, with a provision that they could be amended by a simple majority of the board during the first 60 days. A simple set of by-laws, providing for a smaller board, with most of its members elected, and some seats with particular competencies to be filled by appointment.

c. In the event that a Local Station Board does not unanimously commit to suspending a factional fighting during the transition period Pacifica would put out a notice to all relevant non profit organizations in the signal area, inviting them to apply for that communities’ license. Who would be the decider would depend on how the process was initiated (see paragraph 2 of the introduction above).

2. Transfer of licenses. License transfer must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Pacifica would file with the FCC an application to transfer the current licenses to the new local entities. Filing a Petition for Consent to Transfer does not open the license to third parties. The only action open to the FCC, if there was any properly filed opposition, would be to either grant the transfer or deny the transfer. If granted, the licensee would become the new local non-profit. If denied Pacifica would remain the licenser. The Application to Transfer the licenses would only happen if the local Board has agreed to suspend intramural disputes (as provided in Section 1 b, above). Under FCC regulations, transfer of licenses is subject to the timely filing, by any concerned party of a Petition to Deny. There would have been prior agreement that no such Petition would be filed on or behalf of any present Board Members.

3. Funding. Pacifica will have to engage in a signal swap which could net as much as $15,000,000 (probably reducing the number of people potentially, but not currently listening to one or two of the stations by about 40%). The impact on actual listenership Pacifica will be minimal. Pacifica will use the funds to pay off all current debts and divide the balance (which could be as much as $9,000,000) among the five new non-profit corporations.

4. Reorganization and Revitalizing the New Stations. From the funds left after paying the debt Pacifica would make each newly independent station a a restricted ‘Reorganization and Development grant’ (R&D grant) so they can reorganize and modernize; the terms of the R&D grant will be to conduct a reorganization of programming and operations along the lines outlined in attachment A [it’s missing].

5. The Pacifica Archives will be placed with the University of Santa Barbara or such other entity as has a proven capability of completing the technical preservation work and a commitment to making the contents freely available;

6. The Pacifica Program Service. as the one cash positive entity of Pacifica will continue to operate much as it does at present, under the guidance of a reduced and streamlined Pacifica Board.

Peter Franck, ‘Plan A’, a consensus structural change, 23Sep2018

Peter Franck, lawyer to the stars, has identified two options for Pacifica: “a consensus structural change (Plan A) or enact the ‘Friendly Divorce’, (Plan B)”. He published the proposals on the 10th anniversary of Pacifica Executive Director Nicole Sawaya’s parting shot, an open letter to the deceased Lew Hill. This is Plan A.

Copied, without alteration, from Mr Franck’s work website: https://culturelaw.com/special-information/plan-a/.



Pacifica will have to drastically revise its structure and by-laws in order to survive as a single organization: It will be necessary to develop a strong consensus around the Pacifica system around a plan. If there is substantial consensus on a new structure there are several routes to a By-Law replacement which are briefly discussed below. A simplified, more centralized plan with community input on programming could look like this:

1. We would roll the local Boards into the Community Advisory Boards (CABs, which are required by the Public Broadcasting Act);

2. Pacifica national board should be no more than eleven (11) people, nine (9) of whom would be elected by vote of the entire membership. They would serve no more than two three year terms before rotating off. In addition, there would be three (3) at large seats to be filled by the elected board to round out its skill set;

3. The board would appoint an Executive Director under an employment agreement whereby the board sets forth clear priorities and objectives, the employment of the Executive Director to be reviewed by the board annually measuring performance against stated objectives and goals.

4. Under the Executive Director’s contract, the board would not directly intervene in decisions, appointments, etc., made by the Executive Director or his staff except through a careful and stepped grievance/appeal process.

5. The CABs would appoint for each station, a Program Council. The Executive Director would be responsible for implementing recommendations of the Program council, so long as they are made by a 2/3 vote.

6. Under her/his contract, the Executive Director, would appoint station managers, but would also have direct personnel responsibility with respect to hiring, firing and disciplining of station staff, paid or unpaid.

** There could be several routes to enacting the new plan once there is system wide consensus, include:
A. Vote of the membership;
B. Action by the California Attorney General in Superior Court supported by Listener and Staff as amicus or as co-counsel by concerned listeners;
C. A planned voluntary Court appointed Trusteeship or bankruptcy with a pre-arranged trustee empowered to and agreeing to implement the consensus plan.

Peter Franck, ‘Pacifica at a crossroads’, 23Sep2018

Peter Franck, lawyer to the stars, has identified two options for Pacifica: “a consensus structural change (Plan A) or enact the ‘Friendly Divorce’, (Plan B)”. He published the proposals on the 10th anniversary of Pacifica Executive Director Nicole Sawaya’s parting shot, an open letter to the deceased Lew Hill. This is his preamble, ‘Pacifica at a crossroads’. The plans are posted here separately.

Copied, with the addition of a paragraph-break at the end, from Mr Franck’s work website, https://culturelaw.com/special-information/pacifica-at-a-crossroads/.


“Without conflict, quite simply, there would be no learning, growth, or change…. The more desperately a given change is required, the greater the risk that it will threaten the balance of power within a system, making both its continued existence and precise resolution uncertain. This uncertainty can provoke fears that change will become chaotic or necessitate higher levels of skill than may currently be available to successfully resolve the underlying problem, thereby promoting increased resistance, defensiveness, and calculated impasse.

“Thus, breakdowns inevitably precede breakthroughs, and chronic conflict is the first sign that fundamental shifts are taking place within a person, relationship, organization, or system.”

Ken Cloke, The Crossroads of Conflict, 2006

Pacifica is clearly at a major crossroads. In two and a half years, it will have to come up with almost $ 4 Million dollars ($3,986,000 to be precise) [no: the loan agreement states $3.7m, & it’s now reduced to $3.265m], to pay off its loan from FJC. All of Pacifica’s physical assets – its buildings and all the property inside of them are mortgaged as security for this payment (the licenses themselves, under FCC rules cannot be security for loans, but the proceeds of a forced sale of the licenses can be). The paralysis of the present system to deal with Pacifica’s problems in a world very different from that of its 1947 founders was eloquently expressed by the late Nicole Sawaya, in her letter of resignation exactly ten years ago [no: it’s her letter to the deceased Lew Hill], it could have been written yesterday. A copy is posted here [no longer there – but it’s available on this blog], but in part she says:

“Sadly, it [Pacifica – original interjection] is no longer focused on service to the listeners but absorbed with itself and the inhabitants therein. I call it Planet Pacifica, a term I coined during my hiring process. There is an underlying culture of grievance coupled with entitlement, and its governance structure is dysfunctional. The by-laws of the organization have opened it up to tremendous abuse, creating the opportunity for cronyism, factionalism, and faux democracy, with the result of challenging all yet helping nothing. Pacifica has been made so flat, that it is concave – no leadership is possible without an enormous struggle through the inertia that committees and collectives and STV’s … single transferable votes can engender.”

Nothing has changed in ten years except that Pacifica has blown more than $13,000,000 dollars. Imagine what we could do today to advance the founders’ dream, if we had that money, and were not going into deeper debt every day!

There seems to be some magical thinking going around that this loan really doesn’t have to be paid, that the lender (according to Pacifica’s former lawyer) “has never foreclosed,” etc. While there is always some possibility of some extension of time that comes at considerable extra cost in terms of interest payments at the rate of 7.5% (and as the loan and unpaid interest grows, so does the size of the actual quarterly interest payment).

Fundamentally, Pacifica has been living on borrowed time and kicking the can down the road time and again with short term solutions. According to Pacifica’s independent auditor’s reports, Pacifica’s expenses exceeded its income by an average of $1,632,588 per year for the eight (8) years from 9/30/08 through 9/30/16, for total losses over that period of $13,060,703. That can’t continue, and is a sign of a dying organization.

While people talk about factions and look to blame one personality or another, the fundamental truth is that Pacifica, at present, has no way of making the hard decisions forced on it by a drastically changed media environment. We should be looking at these changes even more so as required by the times. Regardless of how the recent election may have turned out, there has been a poisoning of the atmosphere internationally which is going to be difficult to reverse. The five Pacifica stations, the Pacifica program service and the 200 affiliates could be an important instrument in that reversal. Most of the stations are really hardly scratching the surface of that task today.

Pacifica has a choice of having its gradual dissolution forced upon it by lenders and creditors, or making some tough decisions itself. [paragraph-break added]

In this writer’s view, in order to save either the network or, if that is not possible save all of the five stations, Pacifica will have to take drastic action. This writer feels that we have to either adopt a consensus structural change (Plan A) or enact the “Friendly Divorce,” (Plan B). Both are discussed in separate papers attached.

Carol Spooner, ‘Time for an amicable divorce at Pacifica?’, open letter to PNB, 5Aug2012

This plan to break-up the Pacifica network was cited in the directors’ report given by Shawn Rhodes, James Sagurton, & Alex Steinberg to the W11Sep2019 WBAI Local Station Board. Both links appearing in the text are dead; couldn’t find them with a cursory search. The open letter is copied, without alteration, from Ms Spooner’s website, https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Time-for-an-Amicable-Divorce-at-Pacifica-.html?soid=1105302426303&aid=X12MM2fkcXk.


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]. [all original bold]

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)

“the goal of these behind the scene machinations is not the revival of WBAI but its dismantling” – Pacifica directors sound the alarm

Wednesday’s Pacifica directors’ report to the WBAI Local Station Board was extraordinary. I’m sober, not one for hyperbole. And this is the only way to describe it.

The highlights of the lowlights:

  • “the goal of these behind the scene machinations is not the revival of WBAI but its dismantling
  • “We believe WBAI is in grave danger”
  • “a series of events has transpired in the past two weeks that should raise the alarm bells about the continued existence of WBAI as an independent radio station”
  • “a group of Directors on the PNB is intent on usurping the role of the WBAI LSB in evaluating management. They are intent on removing WBAI’s management team by executive fiat”
  • “we are once more hearing about why a team from California should be sent immediately to take over and manage WBAI”
  • “This report is meant to alert the WBAI LSB and WBAI staff, listeners and supporters to the dangers we are facing”

Once again, the real business of Pacifica is being done in secret, beyond the reach of scrutiny. And according to this account by Pacifica directors Alex Steinberg & James Sagurton, existential matters are being discussed, & decided, without the involvement of the Local Station Boards, the members, staff, & listeners. Central in this is the new Interim Executive Director John Vernile, a corporate music careerist, who was ghosted in by PNB Chair Grace Aaron, a KPFK listener-delegate, replacing ED Maxie Jackson, who had been served up on the slab by Pacifica hack & PNB Personnel Cttee Chair, Jan Goodman, a KPFK listener-delegate. IED Vernile has said absolutely nothing of substance in the few public appearances he has graced us with, gigs no doubt reluctantly made. He has already earnt, with laurels, his initials, John BS Vernile.

RealWorld is warming, & so is PacificaWorld. This blog, tipped off by federal health officials, has noted an increase in the incidence of CSC, Californian Station Chauvinism. And it wasn’t hard to predict this would increase political tensions. The latest public example is Wednesday’s counter-attack from Pacifica directors who are also WBAI listener-delegates.

Warnings of all this are already on the public record, for example at Tuesday’s PNB Finance Cttee meeting, 10Sep. PNB Secretary Bill Crosier, KPFT listener-delegate, the ring-leader according to Steinberg/Sagurton, was talking up the prospect of job losses in the context of an unargued need to not just pay the FJC interest but also to soon reduce the $3.265m principal (59:12). These jobs would mostly be in California (please see the blog link), a fact that can be used to fuel both Cali separatism & a push to raise cash from trading the FCC licence of a non-Cali station or three. Not to be outdone, KPFA Treasurer Sharon Adams (31:39), alleged to be a Crosier accomplice, floated the idea of financial penalties for stations unable to make their contribution to the c. $270k annual interest payment to the Foundation for the Jewish Community, FJC ($3.265m x 8.25%). Eat yer 💗 out, Yip Harburg. https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/finance/190910/finance190910a.mp3 & https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/09/11/station-listener-membership-to-split-the-67k-fjc-quarterly-interest-charge-question-mark/

The political dividing line is clear: it isn’t station versus station, it’s solidarity versus separatism: it’s defence of the Pacifica network or against the Pacifica network. SOLIDARITY versus SEPARATISM.

A word about the posting of this report at the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay), part of the worldwide Indymedia project, https://www.indybay.org/. It’s not disclosed who put it up, all it says is “by Stop the Power Grab”; so rather than one of the Pacifica directors from WBAI they’re more likely to be a Californian supporter of the Pacifica network, an opponent of CSC, the corrosive Californian station chauvinism. The Indybay article is titled ‘Shock Doctrine: Power Grab At Pacifica To Destroy WBAI By KPFA Cabal’; only the words ‘shock doctrine’ appear in the directors’ report itself. The prefatory paragraph isn’t Mr Steinberg’s style he’s never been keen on a certain usage of the word cabal. After a repeat of the article’s title we have ‘September 11, 2019 – Director’s Report to the WBAI LSB – Presentation by Directors Rhodes, Sagurton and Steinberg – The future of Pacifica and “Plan B”‘. Please note, staff-delegate Shawn Rhodes didn’t sign the report, said by this headline to be also issued in his name; & the fourth director from WBAI, Ralph Poynter, a listener-delegate, isn’t mentioned. https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/09/12/18826188.php

The directors’ report refers to a creation of an Oakland media lawyer, Peter Franck’s ‘Plan B’ proposal, of 23Sep2018, to break-up the Pacifica network: it appears as a separate post here, https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/09/13/peter-franck-plan-b-a-friendly-divorce-to-save-the-stations-23sep2018/. ‘Breaker’ Franck uses as his starting-point the 5Aug2012 break-up proposal of former Pacifica director & KPFA stalwart, Carol Spooner; yes, that’s posted here too, https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/09/13/carol-spooner-time-for-an-amicable-divorce-at-pacifica-question-mark-open-letter-to-pnb-5aug2012/.


September 11, 2019

Director’s [sic] Report to the WBAI LSB
Presentation by Directors Rhodes, Sagurton and Steinberg
The future of Pacifica and ‘Plan B’

We, the undersigned Directors from WBAI, wish to bring to the attention of the WBAI LSB and the public that a series of events has transpired in the past two weeks that should raise the alarm bells about the continued existence of WBAI as an independent radio station beaming a powerful signal in the largest media market in the country. We believe WBAI is in grave danger. Some of these events we cannot discuss explicitly because they took place in a closed session of the Pacifica National Board while other events involve confidential personnel issues. What we can tell you, based on discussions with a number of individuals that are not covered by confidentiality rules, the proceedings of open sessions of the PNB and its committees, as well as a paper trail of documents and emails and past actions by certain individuals with a history within Pacifica, is that a group of Directors on the PNB is intent on usurping the role of the WBAI LSB in evaluating management. They are intent on removing WBAI’s management team by executive fiat. Furthermore the goal of these behind the scene machinations is not the revival of WBAI but its dismantling. The group of Directors behind these actions are led by Bill Crosier from KPFT, who is currently the Secretary of the PNB. Crosier has the strong backing of Director Adrienne LaViollette [LaViolette] from KPFT, Mansour [Mansoor] Sabbagh from KPFK, Donald Goldmacher from KPFA, Chris Cory from KPFA and Sabrina Jacobs, the Vice-Chair of the PNB, also from KPFA a network of individuals from the Bay Area long associated with KPFA. The general outlines of their plan for WBAI and Pacifica are no mystery. A recent document by long-time KPFA insider Peter Franck, called ‘Plan B’ makes clear exactly what they want to do.

Franck’s ‘Plan B’ (see the appendix to this document) calls for the dismantling of Pacifica as a network and the devolution of each of the radio stations into its own legal entity. This will be accomplished by essentially scrapping the current bylaws either through a lawsuit or through the intervention of the California Attorney General. Democratically elected Local Station Boards will be gone. They will be replaced by purely advisory bodies appointed by management. The Pacifica National Board will be left to preside over a ghost of what the Pacifica Foundation has been, being left with a modest programming service. The new PNB will be smaller and weaker, ceding much more authority to the Executive Director. It will also have at least some members who are appointed rather than elected. Franck’s document makes the case that starting the new legal entities and energizing the stations will take a lot of start-up cash. How is this cash going to be raised? He says the solution is simple, we can easily raise between $10 to $15 million by “swapping or selling one of our signals.” Guess which signal he has in mind to finance his reorganization plan? Hint, it’s not KPFA.

A little bit of recent history

It is public knowledge that Director Crosier, when he was interim Executive Director in 2017, was a strong advocate of the sale or swap, first of the WPFW license, and then of the WBAI license. Crosier was also a strong advocate, along with then CFO Sam Agarwal, of Pacifica going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Crosier and Agarwal opposed all efforts to find an alternative to bankruptcy in dealing with the ESRT lawsuit.

Crosier and Agarwal strongly opposed the loan that made possible the settlement of the ESRT lawsuit and the move to 4 Times Square. The people most involved in negotiating that loan, Directors Nancy Sorden, Jan Goodman and Grace Aaron, did their work in spite of the hostile reception from Pacifica’s iED at the time, Bill Crosier, and CFO Sam Agarwal. Let us remind this audience that the settlement with ESRT saved us $1.9 million that would have been due if we had not gotten out of the remainder of our lease. It also reduced our monthly tower rent costs from something between $60-$70K per month to approximately $18K per month. Not only did we see a 400% saving on our Tower Rent in moving to 4 Times Square but we kept 100% of our listener coverage area and actually have a better signal than we had at Empire State thanks to a brand-new transmitter that was part of the deal with 4 Times Square.

So Crosier, who was proved dead wrong in 2017 when he said there was no good alternative to bankruptcy, is back at it again in 2019. He has once more bought into the idea, originating from some quarters in KPFA, indeed it appears he never really abandoned it, that all the problems of Pacifica could be solved by sacrificing WBAI.

The game plan

How do the group of Directors on board with Peter Franck’s ‘Plan B’, intend to force the liquidation, one way or another, of WBAI? We already know their game plan by once more looking at some recent history. Back in the summer of 2017, Pacifica was without question in a genuine crisis. We were facing a lawsuit from Empire State for Tower rent that had not been paid in over a year and considerable penalties. WBAI, along with some other stations, also had a very poor fund drive. iED Crosier decided that the way to deal with this crisis was to send a “rescue team” [ambiguous whether these are scare-quotes or quotation marks] to WBAI. The ostensible purpose of this “rescue team” was to help management fix WBAI. But the real purpose, it soon became clear, was to replace the WBAI General Manager and interim Program Director with a hand-picked team from KPFA. Director Sabrina Jacobs, who had absolutely no management experience, was supposed to lead this “rescue team”. When we found out about this plan it struck some of the Directors at the time, notably Directors Steinberg and Aaron, as a completely irrational and panic-driven approach to a real problem. How in the world would a team from California, who knew nothing about WBAI and its culture and who had no management experience, be able to fix a problem that had been festering for years. And while it is certainly legitimate to critique the management of WBAI, it should be kept in mind that the bulk of the problems at WBAI were due to outside events about which WBAI management had no control, namely the impossible Empire State lease approved by a past PNB 15 years previously and the stripping down of three quarters of WBAI’s staff by a previous PNB shortly after hurricane Sandy, leaving WBAI with less than a skeleton crew. It seemed to some of us that this plan, if it were carried out, could only destabilize WBAI and deepen its crisis further. It made absolutely no sense and we managed to shut down this idea literally at the last minute before it was launched.

Is WBAI a ‘failed station’?

Now move forward two years to the late summer of 2019. The Pacifica Foundation in 2019 and WBAI are in much better shape now than they were in 2017 prior to the settlement with ESRT, when things looked so bleak. We completed our 2017 audit and are close to completing our 2018 audit. Once that is done, we will be current with our audits and work can begin on the 2019 audit as soon as we close out the 2019 fiscal year at the end of September. We have pretty much paid all obligations that we owed on our pension plans, debts that had triggered off a Department of Labor investigation in 2017. Democracy Now, to whom we owed several million, forgave us that debt, thereby immediately improving Pacifica’s financial profile. We have an accounting and financial infrastructure in place now that was sadly lacking in 2017 as a result of hiring NETA to do our books and provide us with other services that were once handled by the National Office. When the 2018 audit is completed and we are current with our audits, will be in a position to try to regain our CPB funding, the lack of which for the past 5 years has cost us $4-$5 million. We will also be in a position to approach foundations and major donor who all require up to date audits before considering grants. That’s the situation at the national level.

At the local level we have seen some significant improvements at WBAI. The number of members rose by 1,400 over last year. That’s a gain of roughly 20%. Not only is our membership up, but listenership is also up as confirmed by Nielsen ratings. This is largely due to a series of programming changes aimed at improving their quality, especially of drive time programs. And for the first time in a long time, an influx of producers has joined the WBAI staff who are under 60. In fact many of them are in their 20’s and 30’s. Overall this is good news for WBAI.

As for the purely financial picture at WBAI, it is considerably better than it was in 2017. Yet, WBAI is still not where we would like it to be. The improvements in members and listeners have not yet translated into significantly increased contributions from our listeners. WBAI is today still running a deficit, though one that is dramatically reduced compared to the nightmare scenario of 2017. Our general manager estimates that the total deficit for 2019 will be approximately $160K [this contradicts the WBAI Treasurer’s report, at the same meeting: “the projected approximately $318,000 deficit on the draft FY19 budget that the General Manager had sent”, page 5, https://glib.com/treasurers_report_2019-09-11.pdf]. A significant figure to be sure, but not an intractable one. To put that number into perspective, if we had our CPB funding restored to the levels we used to receive, that deficit would turn into a surplus of approximately $160K. Our monthly deficit is less than our Tower Rental expenses which are approximately $18K monthly. That is an expense that none of the California stations have. Their Tower rent is close to zero. In addition we have an expense of approximately $6,500 in studio rent. That is also an expense that the California and Houston stations do not have since they own their buildings. In addition, WBAI has recently been the recipient of significant bequests. The bulk of those bequests were given to Pacifica to use as they wish while the remainder went to paying off some past debts at WBAI. Yet despite these signs of improvement at WBAI when you consider its health in the context of other Pacifica stations, we still hear a narrative emanating from Berkeley that WBAI is “underperforming” [again, ambiguous, but probably scare-quotes], that it is a “failed station” and that only a drastic solution can turn WBAI around. They simply ignore the incremental changes that have taken place.

WBAI is actually improving

To be sure WBAI is underperforming in the sense that it is performing well below its potential. But if you consider WBAI in relation to the other Pacifica stations, then you can hardly say it is “underperforming”. All measurable criteria that we have indicates that WBAI is actually improving. It is performing better than KPFT, a station whose membership and listeners have shrunk dramatically. It is performing better than KPFK, a station that was once the power-house of Pacifica when it came to fund drives but is now facing huge shortfalls. In any case, the purpose of an assessment of the health of WBAI is not to compare it to other Pacifica stations, but to see how it can be improved further to realize its great potential.

Back to the Future

In spite of all these signs of significant improvement in the overall health of Pacifica and of WBAI, we are faced with a very real cash flow crisis that reached a critical point in September of 2019. In addition, an incident involving one WBAI producer who, according to the opinion of Pacifica’s counsel, stepped over the line in terms of certain regulations, has been used to drum up an atmosphere of panic. We are hearing things like “WBAI is out of control”. While these problems – the cash flow crisis, and possible violations of regulations are real enough – they are being used as a wedge in order to convince a number of Directors that the aborted Crosier plan from 2017 should be replayed in 2019. Thus we are once more hearing about why a team from California should be sent immediately to take over and manage WBAI. The goal, we believe, based on our observations not only of the words, but also of the actions of the principal players in this drama, is to turn WBAI into either a repeater station, without any local programming or staff, or to sell or swap the signal, thereby fulfilling an important part of Peter Franck’s ‘Plan B’. They are using the atmosphere of crisis in order to convince a number of other Directors to go along with their scheme, Directors who otherwise would be more prudent.

The shock doctrine

The mechanism of achieving consensus based on exploiting a crisis has been well documented in Naomi Klein’s best-selling book from 2007, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Klein’s brilliant insight was to examine how crises and disasters can be used by businesses and governments to their advantage. Under conditions of crisis, whether real or manufactured, many people are prone to let their natural defenses down and convince themselves that they must listen to ‘experts’ who can help lead them out of the crisis by agreeing to accept harsh measures that under normal conditions they would never agree to. That is how unions are convinced to scrap decades old pension plans and benefits in order to ‘save jobs’. That is how international financial institutions convince governments to sign onto decades of austerity. The same methods can be used on a much smaller scale, to convince a Board of Directors to take actions that are destructive of the organization in order to overcome a crisis. Indeed Klein showed that often it is advantageous to those exploiting the atmosphere of crisis to deliberately stoke the crisis and make it worse. Can this be happening at WBAI?

What about that loan?

A final footnote to this report. There has been a lot of discussion about the loan and what plans the PNB and Pacifica management have for repaying the loan. At the National level much of these discussions have been occurring on the Strategic Planning Committee, of which Director Steinberg is the Chair. Most of these discussions have been in open session and the recordings are available to anyone who wishes to listen. A plan introduced by Steinberg had been discussed for several weeks. The plan consisted essentially in holding a series of national fund drives, similar to the national fund drive in 2017 that raised significant funds to allow us to hire auditors. It was also recognized that these fund drives and other initiatives were not likely to come up with the entire balance of the loan by the time it is due. The remainder of the balance were to be handled by refinancing that portion of the loan. It is always possible to refinance a loan and is considered a standard business practice. The terms and conditions for refinancing the loan vary widely, depending on the financial condition and credit-worthiness of the borrower. We felt that since Pacifica is on the precipice of being up to date with our audits and showing other signs that our financial situation has improved, that we may be able to get some relatively good terms for a refinanced loan. We were surprised however at the reaction of our new iED, John Vernile, to this plan. He stated at the last Strategic Planning Committee meeting [Tu3Sep; audiofile still hasn’t been posted to the Pacifica meetings archive] that the goal of fund drives should be for the entire balance of the loan, not just the $1 million projected by us. It’s certainly a nice goal, but how realistic is it? Not only that but somehow this goal would be achieved on a greatly reduced schedule of national fund drives, perhaps only two Christmas special fund drives. When the question was asked how this goal can be achieved Mr. Vernile answered that the fund drives can be supplemented by approaching major donors and having a more systematic approach to soliciting bequests. It seemed to some of us that was this not a realistic plan. We also wondered why Mr. Vernile appeared to take the option of refinancing a portion of the loan off the table. It leads us to wonder where iED Vernile stands on the core issues facing Pacifica and WBAI [we all wonder].

What next?

This report is meant to alert the WBAI LSB and WBAI staff, listeners and supporters to the dangers we are facing. The ideological divide is between those who think the future of Pacifica is to circle the wagons in order to protect their own turf, even at the expense of a key player in the most important media market in the country, and those who think the future of Pacifica lies in revitalizing all the stations we now have and work much more closely toward becoming a genuine nation-wide network while at the same time maintaining close ties to their local communities. We believe that Pacifica and WBAI can have a real influence on the politics and culture of this country which is now plagued by a rise of neo-fascism, a newly invigorated racism and anti-Semitism, attacks on the working class, the poor and immigrants, denial of climate change and science and the rise of authoritarian, anti-democratic values. The mainstream media is not part of the solution. Indeed they are part of the problem. As is NPR. This is where Pacifica can make a difference – if it has the courage and the vision and rejects all the tribalistic pressures to only tend to one’s ‘own’ garden.

Alex Steinberg
James Sagurton