Monday, July 22, 2019

PACIFICA ALERT: MAXIE JACKSON IS OUT & GRACE AARON HAS TAKEN OVER


Grace Aaron controls the fate of Pacifica




During a meeting of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) on Thursday evening, July 18th, board member Grace Aaron announced that Maxie Jackson had resigned as Executive Director of the organization. 

Aaron also announced that she was now in charge of Pacifica as the interim Executive Director. 

No one on the Board made any comment or asked why this was happening. Perhaps they already knew.






Roughly thirteen minutes into the board meeting, Aaron read this 45-second scripted statement:

“Maxie Jackson III resigned from the position of Pacifica Executive Director effective July 5, 2019. The Foundation wishes him the very best in his future endeavors.”

“The Pacifica Foundation is in the process of hiring a highly qualified radio television and multimedia professional to hold the interim position of Executive Director. More information will be forthcoming.”

“A formal search for permanent executive director is already in progress.”

“By California law the board chair automatically assumes the position of temporary Executive Director if no other Executive Director has been engaged.”

“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”[our emphasis added]

The change felt more like a takeover than a transition. Jackson was hired as Pacifica’s Executive Director only nine months ago. During the past nine months, Aaron had been a devoted critic of Jackson.

The change is yet another indication of turmoil within Pacifica, once one of the most influential public radio groups in the U.S. There have been five interim or “permanent” Executive Directors in the past four years.

Maxie Jackson
By all accounts, Jackson’s tenure as Executive Director had been troubled and contentious from the start. Jackson took the job after a lengthy national search by Livingston & Associates.

In February 2019, we reported [link] that Jackson was in the process of dealing with Pacifica’s core problems. At a meeting of the PNB on January 31, 2019 he told the board about conversations he had with officials of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) the reasons CPB will not provide funds to the Pacifica Foundation:

Jackson: “Pacifica is over governed. That there is too much governing structure involved. I think everyone on this call knows the exorbitant amount of money for these elections.”

The elections Jackson was referring to are at the heart of Pacifica’s problems. Members elect other members to serve on various committees and boards. The groups make decisions, large and small, for the entire organization.

The results of this arcane system include operational paralysis, dithering, the lack of accountability and endless backstabbing. Plus, most of the people on the boards and committees have no experience in broadcasting, management or public media.

Jackson also told the PNB at the January 2019 meeting that there is a disconnection between the board and the people who operate the stations:

Jackson: The tragedy is that, when I go around to the stations and talk with the staff, I have yet to meet a person who says the board serves them in any way that is productive.

Jackson told the PNB that Pacifica’s governance system causes a lack of fiduciary responsibility:

Jackson: “One thing that is abundantly clear is that we have a lack of skilled and qualified personnel in many of our shops handling business management. We have a track record of poor financial management at the station level. If you go and look at the CPB documents as far back as 2012 [it] is really clear in the report is that all five stations mismanaged their reporting of their finances.

Jackson said Pacifica must change its system of governance. He said Pacifica must end the "governing" boards and committees and turn them into advisory groups. Plus, he said the place should be run like a nonprofit business

This was a tough pill for Aaron and her associates to swallow. Jackson’s candor may have cost him his job.  Now Aaron is in charge of Pacifica.

Aaron has been a part of Pacifica for many years. She has a long association with KPFK in Los Angeles. She was a member of the PNB from 2008 until 2016. Aaron returned to the PNB last year.

KEN SAYS: The key phrase in the “dismissal” of Maxie Jackson is when Grace Aaron says:

“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”

She has the power she always has wanted. Perhaps she should be careful about what she wishes for.

Pacifica's trend line points  directly at DOA. 

The organization owes millions of dollars. Listening and member support are at all time low points. Aaron has alienated almost anyone who could help turn it around.

Will Grace Aaron be forever known as person who killed Pacifica?

Friday, July 19, 2019

MAXIE JACKSON OUT AS PACIFICA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


Maxie Jackson
Statement by Grace Aaron, Chair of the Pacifica National Board to an open meeting on Thursday evening (7/18):
  
“Maxie Jackson III resigned from the position of Pacifica Executive Director effective July 5, 2019. The Foundation wishes him the very best in his future endeavors.”

“The Pacifica Foundation is in the process of hiring a highly qualified radio television and multimedia professional to hold the interim position of Executive Director. More information will be forthcoming. A formal search for permanent executive director is already in progress.”

“By California law the board chair automatically assumes the position of temporary Executive Director if no other Executive Director has been engaged.”

“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me [Grace Aaron] as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”

Spark News will have full coverage on Monday (7/22).

“IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME…”


We recently compared HD Radio to “New Coke” in a story about the development HD, one of the biggest boondoggles in media history.

A reader contacted us with a question: What is New Coke?

In the early 1980s the Coca-Cola Company thought they had a product problem. Their leading drink, Coca-Cola, was loosing market share to Pepsi-Cola and diet colas. Customer research indicated that people were growing tired of the taste of Coke.


Coca-Cola decided to reformulate the recipe to make Coke taste a bit sweeter, more like Pepsi-Cola.  The company did “blind” comparison tests between the product that was then on the shelves and a “New Coke," developed in Coca-Cola’s labs in Atlanta.

The test subjects overwhelmingly preferred the taste of the new formula. Coca-Cola secretly continued its research and development for two years. The name chosen for the new, improved beverage  was “New Coke.”

Roberto C. Goizueta, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, left,
celebrates the launch of New Coke in April 1985
Then on April 23, 1985, New Coke was launched with a multi-million dollar ad campaign. 

The ads said that New Coke would replace the Coca-Cola on store shelves.

People had been drinking Coke for almost 100-years. 

The message consumers heard was "the  Coke you love is going away."

The reaction by customers was overwhelmingly negative. People began hoarding the old stuff. Soon, cases of Old Coke were being sold for $30. Bottles of Old Coke were stored like they were fine wine.

The execs at Coca-Cola quickly realized they had made a huge mistake. 

On July 11, 1985 the company yanked New Coke from store shelves. By the end of that month, New Coke had vanished and was replaced by "Coca-Cola Classicmade using the original formula.

Despite millions of dollars in research and development, it turned out that Coca-Cola had failed to ask consumers a key question: Do you want a new Coke?

This mistake has been made many times in many industries including media platforms and devices. Here are a few examples of media products that looked good in the Board Room, but were dead on arrival in the real world:

THE IN-CAR RECORD PLAYER
 "
Bet your "connected car" doesn’t have this device! 

In 1955 Chrysler debuted the Highway Hi-Fi, an in-car turntable offered to Imperial buyers for $75 per unit. 

The advertising for it crowed:

It’s another Chrysler Corporation first! The Highway Hi-Fi record player slides in and out easily and can be operated without taking your eyes off the road!

Chrysler was so certain this would work that they induced Columbia Records to spend thousands of dollars to developi vinyl records for the Highway Hi-Fi

The records were thick 7-inch discs that played at 16 rpm. In theory, they would provide up to an hour of entertainment. Chrysler actually sold sold over 18,000 Highway Hi-Fi record players.

Only one thing was missing was common sense. The turntable skipped whenever the vehicle of a hit a pothole.

LESSON: Things that are developed in the lab need real-time testing for obvious flaws. Today’s Connected Car manufacturers are relearning the meaning of the term “distracted driver.”

AM STEREO RADIO

By the late 1970s FM began its domination of the radio dial. 

AM station owners pushed the FCC to save them. 

People hypothesized that if AM radio could deliver stereo sound, the rush to FM would be over.

The FCC dithered. In 1980 the Commission selected a Magnavox AM stereo system to be the official standard. This led to lawsuits from competitors. By 1982 there were four competing AM Stereo systems. None of them were compatible with each other.


This totally confused consumers and AM Stereo soon faded away.

LESSON: The FCC doesn’t always know best. FCC approval does not ensure success.

QUADRAPHONIC FM

Question: What is better than two channels of FM?  Answer: Four channels of FM.

That was the common wisdom in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Soon came Quadraphonic vinyl albums and FM stations. 

Manufacturers foresaw a day when audiophiles would want to upgrade to four channel sound.

Record companies thought people would want to update to quad so they could better hear their Credence Clearwater Revival vinyl albums.

The BBC had developed quadraphonic recording and it soon became the de facto standard. WIBQ in Detroit was the first U.S. station to “go Quad.”

Quadraphonic FM hit its high point in 1974 when Classical station WNCN, New York changed its call letters to WQIV and adopted an all-quad AOR format.

But, things didn’t go well. The 4-channel systems required a sizable room and record companies released very few titles in the quad format. WQIV went out of business in less than a year.

LESSON: FM quad was cooked up in the Board Room to sell records and hardware. But the corporate folks failed to ask the question: Do people really want 4 speakers?

HD RADIO

The photo on the left is of a Radiosophy HD Radio. 

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Radiosophy tuners were purchased by public radio stations and used as pledge drive premiums to promote station's new HD channels.

As it turned out, Radiosophy became part of the “road kill” caused by HD Radio. Today you might find a Radiosophy tuner for sale at a flea market.




We recently published a chart showing the audience for Classical music on HD channels that are not re-transmitted on FM translators.

LESSON: Beware of hype. 

The development of HD Radio is in many ways similar to New Coke. 

It was created in corporate boardrooms and designed in the lab. But, it was never tested with consumers before it went on sale. Today HD Radio is good for one thing: Feeding FM translators.