bankruptcy scenarios

The gatkeeper group at KPFA (represented on the board by a slate calling itself "SaveKPFA") became quite open about their desire to break with Pacifica, and, in the face of KPFA's financial crisis, they pushed the network towards bankruptcy. This seemed to be their opportunity to acquire the station, rid themselves of listener oversight, of UPSO, and of any Program Council. They could put a final end to any vestige of transparency and accountability, and openly run the station as they see fit. The below article looked at how stations could be taken away and sold.

Scenarios of bankruptcy & sale of Pacifica stations

by Steve Brown, LSB member at WBAI
January 25, 2011

The Pacifica bylaws state that "all members" shall have the right to vote on the transfer or sale of a station (or any other major asset of the foundation). Thus any sale would have to be approved by a ballot sent to the entire Pacifica membership. That does not, of course, make such a sale impossible, only very difficult. (Although it would not be the first time in history that large numbers of people were persuaded or deceived into voting against their best interests.)

However, a more likely scenario is this.

(a) Pacifica could be forced into a Chapter 13 (involuntary) bankruptcy by its creditors [as few as 3 creditors can do it, or even 1 creditor, depending on how many creditors we have], in which case the bylaws will no longer be operative, and the court will appoint a trustee empowered with making all of Pacifica's governing decisions. He would probably sell one or more station licenses to pay off the creditors, unless the FCC beat him to it by simply declaring Pacifica an "unfit parent" and revoking its 5 licenses by fiat. Or

(b) Pacifica could file a Chapter 11 (voluntary) bankruptcy, staying any creditor actions and allowing the foundation to continue in business, on a cash basis, provided that it came up with a reorganization plan and repayment timetable approved by the court and the creditors. In this case, too, the bylaws would be inoperative, or at least superseded by the court-approved reorganization plan. And that plan is likely (almost certain) to include a provision for selling one or more licenses, especially given the known agendas of several factions at KPFA and WBAI that have been deliberately attempting to "starve the beast" (i.e., their own stations) by hiding or diverting monies, and by crippling local and national board effectiveness -- all as part of a plan to break their stations off from Pacifica and set them up as separate entities, which, they believe, they would then be able to control, for whatever purposes they had in mind.

None of this looks good. How could it, with Pacifica management having its hands tied for so long by outright insubordination on the part of some station personnel (and their powerful allies on the local and national boards), who are more interested in preserving their power and prerogatives than in protecting the foundation. This is not to say that Pacifica management Knows What to Do and is magically capable of turning the foundation around if only it were allowed to operate more effectively. That remains to be seen.

But at least management is working for Pacifica, not against it. I know most of our national management personally, and it is ludicrous (actually malicious) to suggest that any one of them is seeking to "dilute the Pacifica mission" or "cleanse it of minority programmers" or "de-radicalize our message," not to mention the usual slurs describing them as "fascists," "agents," or "corporate shills."

There are a many people who feel that they know exactly how to fix Pacifica's problems, but whose recommendations have not been adopted by management (I am certainly one of them, and am therefore not pleased with much of what management is doing, or not doing). But I nevertheless support management's current and increasingly desperate efforts to ward off possible bankruptcy as being, at least, coherent and, most important, in good faith. Whereas those who have been putting banana peels under management's feet are incoherent, and certainly not acting in good faith. I have yet to see a real plan -- even an idea -- from those whose only goal is to break up Pacifica in service of their own preferment and private personal agendas.

I call your attention to the fact that, at WBAI, management has made a strong commitment to revitalize programming, which--despite the national economic downturn, and the competition we face from the proliferation of left-leaning venues on television and the internet--is the real underlying “cause” of Pacifica’s financial woes. Although WBAI and Pacifica have many good programs, obviously we do not have enough of them, or more listeners would tune in--that is so obvious it is almost a tautology. But an attempt to improve our programming is what has caused virtually all of the conflict at Pacifica--past, present and, I am afraid, future.

At WBAI, each program change--replacement, experiment, termination, whatever -- has sparked ugly warfare. Aggrieved programmers assemble their allies from among other programmers, board members, and listeners--then launch them in waves of invective, character assassination and, sometimes, violence and sabotage in order to make life as miserable as possible for the General Manager and Program Director, and hopefully blackmail them into backing down.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But this kind of guerilla warfare makes successful change difficult and slow. For example, Gary Null was recently brought back to WBAI (as, in my opinion, he deserved to be). He has been literally doubling and tripling his audience every month, and breaking every fundraising record at the station. This new revenue will enable WBAI to make its payroll and continue to function. Yet there is a coordinated campaign to kick Null off the air--not because his program is unworthy of Pacifica (it has won more broadcasting awards than all of Pacifica’s programs put together)--but because a tiny but powerful group does not like his opinions about AIDS. So a slander and defamation campaign against Null and WBAI management has been mounted across the network. A few weeks ago there was a staged pseudo demonstration at KPFK to bring pressure on the ED and national board to overturn the judgment of WBAI’s GM and ED about Null. But this was clearly not for the benefit of Pacifica, but for the advancement of their own ideological agenda.

Pacifica is still its own worst enemy, especially when it comes to tolerating those who will not debate the merits of their positions based on reason and evidence, but choose to engage in vitriolic slander and sabotage that harm Pacifica in order to serve their own interests.

That is what may ultimately doom Pacifica.

January 25, 2011

STEPHEN M BROWN is a member of the Local Station Board at WBAI, the New York sister station of the Pacifica network.

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Related articles:

Why are CWA and the "left" trying to take down KPFA? by Carol Spooner

The Grover Norquist Solution at KPFA by Daniel Borgström

financial graphs & articles

10 Years of KPFA Finances in TABLE FORMAT

and, presented as a GRAPH, the same data:
10 Years of KPFA Finances GRAPH

Minority Report Re KPFA Budget Approved By LSB Sat. Sept.17, 2005

A Few Comments on the Financial Crisis at Pacifica by Max Blanchet, January 10, 2011

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Updates, reports & essays about KPFA & Pacifica Foundation Radio at

KPFA 94.1 FM is one of five stations of the Pacifica radio network which are located in major cities across the country. The other stations are WBAI 99.5 in New York, WPFW 89.3 in Washington DC, KPFT 90.1 in Houston, and KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles. There are also about 160 affiliate stations.


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