Thursday, September 19, 2019

PACIFICA CHANGES LEADERSHIP & MAY ADOPT A NEW GOVERNANCE SYSTEM


Pacifica radio, America’s most dysfunctional and embarrassing noncommercial media organization, has dismissed Grace Aaron as Chair of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) and is considering a proposal to replace the organization’s entire system of governance.

In what appears to be a takeover attempt, a faction of the PNB, led by former interim Executive Director Bill Crosier, reportedly held a “no confidence vote” regarding Allen at a private meeting held on September 5, 2019.

Then Crosier and his associates posted a petition online [link] that demands that the PNB to hold a membership vote to approve their proposed plans. 

Bill Crosier

Crosier and his associates say big changes are needed:

 “The current Bylaws…have resulted in governance that struggles to function."

"Meanwhile, listenership, membership, and donations have declined."

 The debt is strangling the Foundation and our stations.”

The proposed By-Laws would change the way Pacifica makes decisions and handles its day-to-day operations. The changes Crosier and his associates are pushing include:

• Dismiss the current members of the PNB.

• Dissolve the local station boards at the five Pacifica stations. Then, create community Advisory Boards at each station.

• Following the transition period, the PNB 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.

According to a post on the blog Pacifica Radio Watch [link], the PNB will have a series of meetings this evening (Thursday 9/19) to select a new Board Chair and decide on a “notice date” for Pacifica members to vote on the proposed By-Laws.

A “CIVIL WAR” FED BT DEBT, INCOMPETENCE & TURF PROTECTION

The situation within Pacifica is dire.  The organization still does not have a plan to repay a $3.2 million loan that was used, in part, to settle a court judgment involving years of past due rent owed to the Empire State Building where WBAI’s transmitter was until recently.

Paul Martin
According to a report dated September 11, 2019, by Paul Martin, treasurer of WBAI and a member of Pacifica’s National Finance Committee, interest payments of $70,000 per quarter begin in December.

There is growing resentment as a result of WBAI’s growing debt. The other four stations have grown tired of subsidizing WBAI at the expense of their own shops. Martin’s report says WBAI currently has $5,000 in the bank and owes $587,722.

Martin’s report provides a sign of how bad things are regarding payment of the loan:

“…the loan details may frighten some people because of the default language. Pacifica is not close to being in compliance.

There likely is unilateral agreement with this statement from Crosier’s petition:

“Today, [Pacifica is] 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.”




Wednesday, September 18, 2019

PREVIEW: SUPER REGIONAL MEETING



The Super Regional Meeting [link], a gathering of public radio station decision makers, is set for October 15 – 17 in New Orleans. The conference is being presented by four regional organizations: Eastern Region Public Media, Public Radio in Mid America, Western States Public Radio and California Public Radio.

Registration is now open for participants [link]. The Super Regional will be at the Jung Hotel on Canal Street in the heart of NOLA. (You can check your Collective Unconscious while you are at the Jung (lol).

Things get started on Tuesday (10/15) with two optional preconference workshops: GM 101 – Becoming a strong and effective public media leader, and Executive Session – Securing financial success in a disputed media landscape.

The workshops require separate registration and fee of a $350. Space is limited.

The Super Regional has two featured speakers:

Dean Baquet



• Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of The New York Times, will be the keynote speaker at the opening session on Wednesday (10/16) at 8:15am. For details see our post from August [link].







 





Larry Rosin


• Larry Rosin, President, Edison Research, will speak on Thursday (10/17) at 9am. 

Rosin’s topic is Five Years: Changes in the Audio Space. His remarks are about changes seen in audio experiences from Edison’s Share of Ear research.






Other sessions we recommend include:

• Thursday 2:15pm – The WYSO Odyssey: From University to Community Ownership.

Neenah Ellis


Earlier this year, WYSO transitioned from being owned by Antioch College and became an independent Community-owned licensee. 

Antioch had owned the FCC license for more than 50 years.

The panel includes Neenah Ellis and Luke Dennis from WYSO, Ernie Sanchez, DC-based communications attorney and Neil Best, CEO of KUNC and The Colorado Sound

Expect Best to expand on his famous quote about KUNC’s change to a Community licensee: “As a university licensee, you are one new Vice President from oblivion.”


• Wednesday 11am – Innovating and Sustaining Local News: Collaboration, Partnerships and Mergers

On the panel: Tim Eby, GM of KWMU, St. Louis; JJ Yore, CEO of WAMU; Rusty Coats, consultant and former station manager, Chuck Holmes, GM of WBHM, Birmingham and Danya Henninger, writer and consultant.

• Wednesday 2:15pm – Collaboration 3.0

The panel includes Alison Scholly, Public Media Company; Sylvia Ponce-Carson, KUT; Martin Miller and Anthony Hayes from New England Public Media.

• Thursday 10:30am – Upending Station Regulatory Compliance

The panel includes Chuck Singleton, GM of WFUV, New York and FCC attorneys Melodie Virtue, Meg Miller and Frank Montero.

• Thursday 2:15pm – Music Strategy Workshop

On the panel are Abby Goldstein, CEO of PRPD and former GM of WYEP, Pittsburgh; Michael Bracy, founding board member of the Music Policy Forum; and, Don Pitts, founder of Sound Music Cities.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

SAGA COMMUNICATIONS TELLS FCC NOT TO RENEW THE LICENSES OF 5 LPFM STATIONS IN CHARLOTTESVILLE




Commercial broadcaster Saga Communications has filed a petition telling the FCC not to renew the licenses of five LPFM stations in Charlottesville.


The FCC battle pits Saga, a publicly traded corporation with over 100 station in 27 markets and an annual revenue that tops $133 million, against five separately licensed LPFM stations with a combined revenue of less than $200,000.

A spokesperson for Saga said the reason for this action is that the five LPFMs “are operating illegally” and “acting too much like commercial stations." 

Saga owns and operates six commercial stations (4 FM, 2 AM) in the Charlottesville market.

Mike Frind the GM of one of the stations, WVAI-LP, told Radio Ink [link] “…that’s hogwash and Saga is just trying to bully us.”

Frind said he’s confident that WVIA and the other LPFMs involved in the license purge are operating within FCC rules.  Frind said no idea why Saga CEO Ed Christian is targeting them.

Saga’s Petition to Deny [download it here] claims that the five stations are in violation of FCC rules by entering into a joint operating agreement, airing commercials, duplicating programming and filing documents with the FCC that lacked proper certification. 

Further, Saga alleges that the five stations have acted in a "pattern of abuse" that disqualifies them for renewal of their licenses. The petition also claims that the five LPFM stations are not operating in the public’s interest. Saga seeks a FCC evidentiary hearing where they will put the proof of wrong doing on the table for all to see.

MEET THE “VIRGINIA RADIO COOP"

The Virginia Radio  Coop (VRC) is a non-profit organization created by the stations to provide common support functions including leasing studios and offices, transmitter site rentals and group purchases of equipment and office supplies.

VRC HQ 



Four of the five stations – WXRK-LP, WPCV-LP, WREN-LP and WVIA-LP operate from the same building in a strip mall located at 394 Hillsdale Drive in Charlottesville,  behind a Burger King. 

The fifth station on Saga's list – WKMZ-LP – is a full-time repeater of WREN.




Much of Saga's grievance stems from the relationship that VRC and the stations have with Experience Media Sales [link]. It is a for-profit representation firm owned by Mike McBlair, the morning show host on WREN-LP. Experience Media sells underwriting announcements for each of the five stations.

Saga’s FCC petition says that there must be either an oral or written agreement between the five LPFMs and Experience Media. Saga says that kind od relationship violates FCC rules that prohibit such agreements among LPFM stations. 
Saga quotes a rule in the petition that says: “No LPFM licensee may enter into an operating agreement of any type, including a time brokerage or management agreement, with either a full power broadcast station or another LPFM station.”

But, there is no brokerage or joint management and each of the five stations is operated by a unique board of directors and make all programming and management decisions.




Saga included a rate card (on the right) from Experience Media’s website that lists the prices for underwriting on each station. 

The rate card is no longer on Experience Media’s website.
 
Experience Media says it only accepts underwriting for the LPFMs that comply with the FCC rules.
Plus, Experience Media  says it only accepts underwriting for the LPFMs that are in compliance with FCC rules such as no calls to action.



KEN SAYS: This case is important because there are similar “radio coops” of LPFM stations in other places in the U.S. All types of LPFM stations, including religious stations, operate in this manner. If the FCC rules in favor of Saga, it will have national implications.

Many observers say coops are a prudent for non-profit organizations to save money and increase service.
It is hard to imagine that the LPFM stations have put a serious dent in Saga’s advertising revenue in Charlottesville. Maybe this is a case of a large corporation creating expensive legal disputes to bleed smaller competitors out of business.