Public media’s most dysfunctional and disingenuous organization – Pacifica Radio – is stinking up the noncom media landscape again. KPFK has announced layoffs and cutbacks amid charges of thousands of dollars of fraudulent charges on KPFK credit cards and misappropriation of station funds.
It is hard to believe Pacifica was once an important part of the national conversation, the winner of George Foster Peabody Awards and the home of Firesign Theater. Today Pacifica is known, deservedly, as a place where disgruntled employees barricade themselves in their offices, crackpot herbalists sell their potions and narcissistic factions are constantly fighting.
Pacifica Radio isn’t involved in public service. It is all about self-service, incompetence and endless egos. In other words, Pacifica is public media at its worst.
KFPK’S CURRENT CRISIS
When I report about Pacifica I avoid covering the sandbox disputes between various factions and exiles. These folks seem to have a lot of time on their hands. They produce spin 24/7. So I am careful to stick to the facts:
• According to financial reports found on the KFPK website, KPFK’s FY 2014 total revenue was $3,311,253. Expenses were $3,569,363, leaving a loss of $258,110. KPFK lost around $270,000 in FY 2013 and $100,000 in FY 2012. This means their operation is not sustainable.
• Last week KPFK General Manager Leslie Radford announced an immediate reduction in all employee hours and the layoff of three station employees. She cited ongoing budget concerns.
• KPFK fired its second business manager in less than a year, alleging financial malfeasance.
• It has been alleged (but I could not independently verify) an employee of KFPK obtained a second station credit card on which fraudulent purchases were made earlier this year. The charges totaled more than $4,000 and were made at Walmart and Ralph Lauren, among others.
• KPFT hosts are talking on the air about the layoffs, cutbacks and turf wars, pointing fingers and hurting fundraising.
TOXIC ON-AIR BABBLE
To get a first-hand listener perspective, I reached out to a friend in LA who is a frequent public radio listener and a supporter of KPFK in the past. Here is how he describes KPFK now:
They have been having Emergency Fund Drives on and off since April. It is difficult to listen to as they criticize each other and management constantly. It is nasty. I have never heard anything like it.
Sonali Kolhatkar, who hosts a morning show has been talking about management's desires to have her do the show as a volunteer. She will not. Ian Masters has also stepped out on this issue. The host Christine I-forget-her-last-name is nasty about the whole situation.
The regular schedule is not always followed. They run a number of what can best be described as infomercials for health related products. There are also more volunteer music shows. Tom Hartmann essentially gives them an hour of his show a day. The shit hit the fan this summer. The sniping on air about management has got to stop before I will ever consider donating to KPFK again.