Thursday, November 19, 2015


The Daily Californian is reporting [link] that the Board of Directors of the Pacifica Foundation met in a closed-door session on Thursday 11/12 to discuss plans to deal with a likely default. The Board asked its attorneys to present scenarios for debt reorganization including voluntary bankruptcy. 

The Board also asked the lawyers for sources of quick cash such as selling of the Berkeley office — which serves as the national office — and the sale of broadcasting rights for programming in Pacifica’s archives.

Pacifica’s debts exceed $3,000,000.  Pacifica distributed this summary chart, which I cannot verify is accurate, earlier this year: 

Keep in mind that these debts are only for Pacifica’s national organization.  It does not include the debts of individual stations.

Other recent developments include:

• According to Board meeting notes, every Pacifica station, with the exception of KPFA, Berkeley, is loosing money and requires financial support from the national organization. KPFA has also lent other stations hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2015.
• A nasty and litigious fight has broken out between the Pacifica’s national office and local stations over the fate of a $400,000 bequest made in February 2015.

• KPFK, Los Angeles, laid off employees and cut pay for remaining staff by 50% earlier this fall.

• WBAI, New York, owes the owners of the Empire State Building over a million dollars for its transmitter site. The past due rent payments may jeopardize WBAI’s plan to move its transmitter to the new World Trade Center.

• Pacifica is being audited by the California Attorney General. The AG’s office cites numerous discrepancies and the failure to provide required financial reports.
One money making scheme being discussed is to lease WBAI’s signal.  Because 99.5 FM is a commercial frequency leasing to a for-profit company might be an option.

Pacifica distributed a Request for Proposals to lease WBAI in 2013.  The response was tepid because the proposed lease stipulated that Pacifica would continue to approve programming on the station. The only serious proposals came from WFMU’s Ken Freedman and former Pacifica Executive Director Dan Coughlin.


The defenders of Pacifica say everything is a conspiracy against them. But these are self-inflicted wounds. Community broadcasters should know that stations who use the Pacifica model of governance are doomed to the same shameful fate as Pacifica today.

A comment on a KPFK listener blog sums it up nicely:

The very simple truth is that this is an institution that long ago ceased to matter to anyone or anything other than itself, which outlived itself and continues to exist, barely, as a refuge for its staffers from the real world, a zombie refuge of sorts – and no one cares, or listens, with good reason.

[Pacifica] came to define itself simply as a voice of political advocacy. Listenership dropped. Its advocacy became more strident. Listenership dropped further. Quack health cures came to be used as fund-raising ‘premiums’ in what was clearly infomercial snake-oil fashion.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have a link to that proposed WBAI lease agreement(s) that Ken & Dan made? I'd be curious to see what they proposed.