Public Comment

Support KPFA's Winter Fund Drive Feb 14 - Mar 4

By Akio Tanaka, KPFA Local Station Board member
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 10:36:00 PM

Last year KPFA was on course to a fiscal train wreck. (See the graph above). The Pacifica National Board (PNB) stepped in to bring the KPFA finances under control which necessitated some cuts in staff. Seven people took voluntary severance, and in the end two people were laid off. 

The PNB is the Pacifica Foundation’s democratically elected Board of Directors. The Executive Director is hired by and reports to the PNB. The PNB is responsible for the overall financial health of the entire network; however, there are some who have cast its actions as a seizure of power and dismantling of the system of local governance and have convinced some of the KPFA paid staff, half of the KPFA board members, and many listeners to accept this explanation of events. 

Matt Hallinan recently claimed in the Berkeley Daily Planet (1/27/11) that the cuts were not necessary, that the layoffs violated the union contract, and that Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt seized all powers at KPFA. 

• [MH said] “KPFA's local management, working with the unionized staff, had produced a [sustainable] budget proposal that showed the books could be balanced without making programmatic cuts. [It] involved a number of proposals for reducing the one-way flow of funds to Pacifica – which now absorbs 24% of listener contributions to KPFA.” 

• [A response] The graph plot which is taken from the annual audited budget belies Matt’s claims. A sustainable budget is one in which expenses match revenue. As the Listener Support declined sharply between 2005 and 2009, there was no corresponding reduction in ‘Salaries and Benefits’. 

Payments to Pacifica, however, were reduced to reflect the decline in Listener Support. KPFA pays 17% of its Listener Support to Pacifica and 2.8% for the network archives. Pacifica provides central services like FCC license renewal and maintenance, insurance, annual audit, and programs such as Democracy Now! and Al Jazeera. 

• [MH said] “Why would Pacifica choose to cut the program that raises the most money during the station's fund drives?” 

“The firing of Brian Edwards-Tiekert was purely political.” 

• [A response] The layoffs were done in accordance with the KPFA/CWA contract which specifies seniority within skill sets. The contract does not give preference based on a member's popularity or favorable time slot. 

Brian was laid off based on the contract that also allows him to return as a paid staff member by exercising the union’s seniority bumping rights, although not necessarily to his former program slot. 

• [MH said] “[The] Executive Director of Pacifica, Arlene Englehardt seized all power at KPFA.” 

“Arlene Engelhardt [replaced the Morning Show] with one of her own choosing.” 

• [A response] What Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt did was to step in to save KPFA from the brink of bankruptcy. She hired a new General Manager and an interim Program Director both of whom are committed to reinstating the Program Council, a mechanism for listeners, station management, and paid and unpaid staff to determine KPFA programming decisions collaboratively. 

The current crisis revealed the strength of KPFA. What makes KPFA special is the skill and dedication of both its listener members and unpaid staff which constitutes 2/3 to 3/4 of the KPFA workforce who, seeing the financial crisis at the station along with a CWA union stipulation that paid staff not cooperate, stepped up to put on the ‘The Morning Mix’ show to help the station meet its financial challenges. 

They are truly helping ‘save’ KPFA! 

You can help KPFA get through these hard times by making a generous contribution during the 2011 Winter Fund Drive, February 14- March 4