Thursday, April 5, 2018



The Pacifica Foundation announced in a press release on Thursday (3/5) that a settlement has been reached that will release WBAI, New York, from a court judgment brought by the Empire State Building Trust (ESBT). 

The deal also allows WBAI to exit the lease for transmission space atop the Empire State Building as May 31, 2018.

Pacifica is in the final stages of completing an agreement to relocate its transmission facility to 4 Times Square, a site that will shrink WBAI’s coverage area a bit but will cost much less than the Empire State Building.

Marc Hand

Funding for the settlement was provided by a loan engineered by Marc Hand of the Public Media Company from the non-profit lender FJC [link]. 

FJC is a public charity based in New York that has distributed over $400 million in grants to charities since 1995.

According to the Pacifica press release, the loan from FJC includes a reserve amount that frees Pacifica from making repayments for the first eighteen months of the loan and interest payments only for the following 18 months before the loan matures after three years. The amount of the loan is not provided in the press release.

The board also announced on Thursday that the search for a new permanent Executive Director will start soon. The ESBT agreement, the line of credit and hope that there will be a permanent Executive Director gives Pacifica some breathing and planning room. But, Pacifica still is dealing with a massive debt, dysfunctional management, listless programming and a very negative public image.

Tom Livingston
Livingston is leading the Pacifica National Board (PNB) through a series of planning exercises designed to get everyone on the same page. For instance, he is asking members of the PNB to define the core mission of the organization.  Does Pacifica exist to be the “voice of the voiceless,” or to be the “voice of progressive politics” or does it super-serve a specific community?

The members of the PNB are an eclectic group of individuals with varying degrees of knowledge about business, broadcasting and common sense.  This is a tough crowd to lead because the PNB is known for micromanaging, second-guessing and having multiple agendas. So observers consider Thursday’s announcements to be a sign of internal progress.


Alan Mason
Our story this past Wednesday about the poor performance of Educational Media Foundation's K-Love (EMF) in the February Nielsen Audio PPM ratings was likely not well-received at EMF HQ near Sacramento. Since we published that story, EMF President Alan Mason has refused to answer or return phone and email messages.

We were surprised by the number and tone of comments received from Spark News readers. The people we heard from are not fans of EMF and their satellite-delivered formats K-Love and Air1. Readers were critical of EMF’s revenue ($177 million in FY 2016), number of FM frequencies they control (around 900), failure to work with local churches and the fear that Christian Rock will destroy traditional worship services. (Scroll down to read a sample reader comment.)

As we said in the story on Wednesday, we have no animus towards EMF. We just want to report the news about noncommercial radio.  The facts are that EMF’s formats are losing estimated weekly listeners and we are curious why this is happening.

Our readers reported a couple of factual errors in the story. First, we implied that former K-Love PD Randy Chase was no longer at EMF. Actually Chase moved into senior management at EMF – he is now VP of Radio.

Second, our chart of K-Love stations included two stations that don’t air K-Love.  Instead they both carry EMF’s second 24/7 automated satellite fed format, Air1

We did research and found more K-Love stations and we added a chart for Air1 stations (charts on the right). The trend is the same, downward.

According to Nielsen, both formats lost a lot of listeners between February 2017 and February 2018. Five Air1 stations lost 20% of their estimated weekly listeners and 14 K-Love stations lost 19%.

We asked a well-known media consultant and researcher, a person who has known Alan Mason for many years, for his/her perspective. The expert (who asked us not use his/her name) told us:

EMF is used getting questions about their money, stations and agenda but I have never seen anyone put their programming under scrutiny like you did. 

K-Love and Air1 are Alan Mason’s babies and he probably took your review of K-Love’s sound personally.

Also, we received this comment from Aaron Read, Chief Engineer and Director of Information Technology at Rhode Island Public Radio:

Aaron Reed
I don't want to say "K-Love doesn't care about ratings" but it's very, very important to remember that K-Love cares a LOT more about donors in a region than they do about ratings. Ratings are for selling advertising (or "underwriting" for non-comms) and K-Love relies far, far less on that than they do on listener donations.

K-Love's audience, reported by Nielsen, could drop by 80% and they would've care in the slightest as long as the number of donors (and the average donation) remained consistent. That's an extreme example, but it's quite possible for donors to remain constant, or even grow, even though Nielsen ratings are dropping.

With many of these acquisitions, they already had existing signals in the market. So they have an excellent idea of how many donors are in the market, and how many more they can expect to get with a larger signal. That's how they determine what these signals are worth; if the seller wants more money for the signal than the donor calculations permit, then K-Love doesn't buy it. So by extrapolation, you can be pretty sure that K-Love's finances are doing just fine with these new signals.

Finally, a "Moment of Zen" from K-Love’s website:


The FCC has granted a main studio waiver so that the public file for each of the K-LOVE stations can be found at: 5793 Skylane Blvd., Suite B, Windsor, CA 95492


  1. Not all observers consider the $3.7 million loan a sign of internal progress. It was more like internal bullying. The loan was given with no apparent way to pay it back. Although all Directors had not even seen the final papers when the press release went out, it seems there is a hint that a sale or swap of a license is how they anticipate paying off the loan. This is not something the board can promise since the bylaws say that kind of decision has to go to a vote to the membership. Plus it needs approval from the FCC. Some observers wonder how this loan was even given since Pacifica does not comply with any of the financial provisions required by the lender.

    The CFO resigned when it was signed, his final day will be May 4 so he can make sure the outside auditor completes the FY2016 audit (due a year ago). The outside auditor said he would not do the FY 2017 audit, due to the State of CA by June.

    This looks like a giant kicking the can down the road to me.

  2. THANKS for this site, found via that reprinted the above info. This is concise, perceptive simple writing vs. the verbose, rantings otherwise found, if any, about Pacifica's doing and failings, too.

    we agree with your clear statements, and have said similar in longer form, of course, at - as we have been donors/ stakeholders since 1960 at KPFK in LA and very dismayed in last decade.