After a slow motion buildup for several months, The Pacifica Foundation, the Berkeley-based nonprofit organization that holds the licenses for five educational radio stations across the country and provides content for 150 affiliated stations, has finally moved to stanch financial bleeding at the network's Berkeley unit KPFA by laying off 7-8 employees after posting a million dollar loss over the past two years.
Once the envy of community radio stations everywhere with a fat million dollar reserve in the bank, KPFA fell into hard times the past few years, emptying its bank account down to zero, getting $250,000 into debt to it's parent foundation, missing goals in 9 of the past 11 on-air fund raising marathons and unable to meet its September 15th, 2010 payroll without borrowing money from Houston Pacifica station KPFT.
The lead up to the layoffs that were announced yesterday featured a campaign of on-air complaints by workers who stood in lower positions on the station's CWA seniority list, and have been advocating for an alternative budget they hoped would save $250,000 and their jobs.
But the “kpfa-worker” budget addressed only a portion of the station's growing tide of red ink, and was rejected by the 501c-3's management and board as unrealistic.(*Media Alliance's ED Tracy Rosenberg is one of the 22 members of the 501(c)-3 foundation's board of directors. Ms Rosenberg comments: “No one likes layoffs. If there was another way, the board would have grabbed it. But we were looking at a close to half a million dollars in shortfalls. Again. After 2 years of trying everything else." Former board treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who found out yesterday he was to be one of the individuals laid off, stated in an e-mail on 11-8 “I repeatedly reported out to KPFA's LSB (local station board) that KPFA was bleeding money because it hadn't made it's cuts&rd The 2009-2010 KPFA operating budget that Edwards-Tiekert helped to prepare and submitted to the board projected revenues of 4.1 million for the period October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. The station actually made 3.5 million, a shortfall of $600,000.
The Berkeley radio station increased its CWA-affiliated workforce by more than 40% in the last seven years, a rate of growth that did not prove to be sustainable for listener-sponsored KPFA after the economic collapse that began in October of 2008.
Due to recent hires, the most heavily impacted units at KPFA include the AM show and the evening news program.