A newsletter about the Contract negotiations at WBAI.
Presented by the WBAI Shop Committee
February 11, 1999 #12
WBAI Deficit Soars to $204,000!
On January 26th, General Manager Valerie Van Isler revealed to the WBAI Local Advisory Board that the "deficit" which the Pacifica Foundation claims WBAI is running has risen to $204,000.
Those in the room who had been following the saga of this alleged deficit were amazed to hear this new, larger figure. In October, when news of the deficit first hit WBAI, Van Isler said that it was the result of cost overruns on premiums for the fund raising marathons, and she seemed to blame Staff for this.
People wondered how all of those successful marathons could result in a deficit. At a "special meeting" hastily called on December 2, Lynn Chadwick, newly installed Pacifica Executive Director, said that the deficit had reached $180,000. Chadwick said that Pacifica (which she referred to throughout the meeting as "the company") didn't blame the Staff for the deficit but said, "Your success at fund raising costs money."
During the course of the December 2, meeting Chadwick waffled on the role played by premium costs in creating the deficit. She had no hard information, but said that the final figures would be available by January.
Some WBAI Staff question whether the deficit
is real or if it's just the result of some fancy bookkeeping by the Pacifica
National Office. Others question how such a huge deficit could have
built up in the first place without being noticed by Management.
When asked if expenses from the move to 120 Wall St. played a part in the
deficit Van Isler was adamant that the move was not to blame. Most
people think that this is a lie intended
to keep Van Isler, and her secretive, reality-denying management style, from looking bad. It has also been noted by many that the "Capital Campaign" to pay for the move has taken money away from WBAI's operating budget both by diverting donations from the operating budget to the Capital Campaign and by bookkeeping sleight of hand such as selling premiums bought with operating budget money and giving the proceeds of their sale to the Capital Campaign.
At a meeting with the Shop Committee on
November 30, Van Isler and Chadwick couldn't come up with any hard figures
but wanted the Union to agree to let the deficit be lessened by Staff cuts.
The Shop Committee refused and demanded an accounting of the causes of
this deficit. At this meeting Van Isler blamed "other [Management]
people in the development Department" for not seeing the deficit coming.
At this meeting it was
also revealed that Pacifica wants WBAI to pay off the deficit all at once.
At this time neither the Union nor the Staff have seen an accounting of this deficit, and no explanation of how it rose by an additional $24,000 in 7 weeks has been offered by Management. A "microthon" was held in December to retire this deficit, but Van Isler says that WBAI will spend the rest of Fiscal Year 1999, holding extra fund raising events in an effort to retire the deficit.
Will Ownership of Pacifica be Hijacked?
When the Pacifica National Board meets in Berkeley February 26-28, their main agenda item will be a bylaws change that will give the National Board itself the sole power to determine who sits on it.
This act would be the culmination of a trend begun in 1995, of slowly removing control of the Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI, from local entities such as the stations and the Local Advisory Boards and concentrating it in the hands of the National Board members themselves.
This will, in effect, make the National Board members the owners of the Pacifica Foundation which is estimated to hold between $200 and $300 million in assets. In 1996, Pacifica was offered $90 million for WBAI.
The National Board has been publishing a transcript of its meetings on the World Wide Web since Mary Frances Berry became Chair in 1997. Oddly, the minutes of the October 1998, Board meeting did not show up until the last week of January. The reasons are now clear: The National Board didn't want people to know that this crucial item would be coming up at the February meeting. It turns out that Alexander Cockburn was about to publish an article in Counterpunch titled "The Neutering of Pacifica" about this very maneuver. It is thought that Pacifica Management published the minutes of their meeting so as to be able to deny Cockburn's assertion that they'd kept those minutes secret, as they'd kept entire meetings secret from 1995, to 1997.
Cockburn's brief is that this is a part of the gradual corporatization of Pacifica and that the network will become a purely top down organization employing only paid "professional" broadcasters in the future, as opposed to allowing access to the air by Unpaid Staff, and that national programming will gradually squeeze most local programming out of existence. Cockburn's article will conclude in the next issue of Counterpunch.
the Pacifica National Board's second best choice for Executive Director
(their first choice backed out after being refused a relocation allowance)
has been a long time advocate of turning public radio stations away from
the open models typified by Pacifica for 50 years and towards the corporate
model of the media moguls like Rupert Murdoch. In December Chadwick
told WBAI Staff that she wanted to "create a new
culture" at WBAI and Pacifica. Part of her new culture included an oily Pacifica consultant who tried to control the December 2, meeting - but WBAI Staff told her where to go.
$1,000,000 Pacifica Scandal
Follow the money, but hold your nose
Matt Binder of KPFA researched, wrote and got a million dollar grant to produce radio programs about the Human Genome Diversity Project. Pacifica/KPFA administered the grant. The grant was supposed to fund 9 one hour programs and one two hour Town hall meeting.
After working on the programs for three years Binder found that the person administering the grant was keeping two sets of books. Binder asked then Pacifica Executive Director Pat Scott to look into this - and she fired him!
Binder believed that the Pacifica/KPFA administrator was paying herself for work she wasn't doing and siphoning money from the grant to build her own professional, state of the art recording studio. After he was fired his name was removed from the radio project, thus denying him credit for years of work.
Binder sued Pacifica for having fired him from a job that he himself created and he sued essentially for being paid for the work he did and for being given the proper credit on the completed project. In the end Pacifica settled out of court for a reported $25,000 and a letter of recommendation so he could account for the last 5 years of his life.
But the Pacifica administrator took the radio project out of Pacifica and produced it herself, denying any credit to Binder. He is now suing her, as well.
Pat Scott's Parting Shot
In her last act as Pacifica Executive Director, Pat Scott called the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and told them that the Pacifica Local Boards were not in compliance with CPB guidelines because they had Staff serving on them. The WBAI Local Board has one regular member who's an Unpaid Staff producer and two Staff Representatives. Scott's action could cause Pacifica to lose significant funding and endanger Staff Representatives on the Local Boards.
Fight the Gag Rule!
The Pacifica "Gag Rule" says you get thrown off the air and banned from the station if you talk about internal Pacifica/WBAI issues on the air. As Larry Bensky proved a few weeks ago, this rule doesn't apply to all producers. His program was removed and he complained about it on the air, saying things uncomplimentary to Pacifica Management. He got another program, and was not banned.
Sign the "Petition
Against the Gag Rule." See a member of the Shop Committee, or
on the World Wide Web go to: http://www.radio4all.org/freepacifica/gagrulepetition.html