Corporate funding for KPFA? Report from LSB of May 4

Corporate funding for KPFA?

When KPFA's General Manager eliminated Guns & Butter, and then several more programs including Counter Spin, Discrete Music, and Twit Wit Radio, there was some speculation that it might be a move to make KPFA's airwaves acceptable to corporate sponsors. Of course KPFA does not accept corporate funding for the reason that it would have strings, ropes, and chains attached. However, what we heard on May 4th was not reassuring. Here's my report from that meeting, with updates from later events.

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KPFA's Local Station Board meeting of May 4, 2019
by Daniel Borgström

Saturday, May 4th -- KPFA's LSB met at the South Berkeley Senior Center near the Ashby BART. The General Manager Quincy McCoy was there to greet the newly elected board members, and he brought with him about five of the station management staff (the engineer, the development director, etc.) who sat in a row behind him as he read his report. A few excerpts from it read:

"First, I'd like to welcome the newly elected members . . . I hope you're here to listen."

Before becoming an LSB member I'd been attending LSB meetings for about 14 years, and I've never heard a General Manager talk to the LSB like this before, as though he were the company first sergeant and we a bunch of peon-level grunts. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but that's really the way it felt.

He passed out a print copy of his talk, and I read it over several times before I could really believe he'd actually said what I thought I heard him say. His statement is below, at the end of this report, and I suggest that everyone read it and see if you get the same impression I did -- that he's the boss and we (the LSB) are nothing more than a committee to do his bidding. He told us, "Our board's primary responsibility is to focus on the big issues that management brings forth."

My understanding is that KPFA/Pacifica belongs to the listeners, that we the board members are there to represent the listeners, and to work with the station's GM, not be subject to him. According to the Bylaws, the LSB plays a key role in hiring, evaluating, and if necessary in firing the GM. That is spelled out in the Pacifica Bylaws,
Article Seven, Local Station Boards, Section 3: Specific Powers and Duties.

In short, the General Manager is our employee.

Anyway, the GM then introduced the administrative staff, and that was actually helpful since this was the first time I've seen most of these people who would otherwise be names without faces. Each did a brief five-minute presentation. A couple of them mentioned hopes of getting grants, one of these from the CPB. The CPB grant is a federal grant that Pacifica/KPFA used to receive, but hasn't gotten for several years because our audits haven't been properly done in a timely way. As far as I know, this grant comes with no strings attached and I think we all agree that we should try our best to get it.

At the same time, they seemed to imply that there might be other grants available. So when the time came for Q&A, I asked about that.

Brooke Caputo, the Fundraising and Development Director, responded to my question saying that they hoped to get grants from foundations, and also, she added, from corporations. "I will not refuse money, wherever it comes from," she said. (She did not specify which foundations or which corporations.)

Accepting corporate funding would be a huge departure from KPFA's 70 year tradition, an unthinkable solution.

I then asked another question, this one to the GM, about the fact that Twit Wit Radio and several other programs have been taken off the air during this last year. I said many listeners have been asking me what happened to them. Then LSB Chair Christina Huggins cut me off saying that we don't discuss programming in open sessions, that is about personnel information of programmers and we discuss it only in executive sessions.

Of course it should be very possible to discuss programming without getting into personnel issues, and the Pacifica Bylaws clearly state that the LSB is to "work with station management to ensure that station programming fulfills the purposes of the Foundation. . ." But that's where my share of Q&A time ran out and I didn't say that.

Two other LSB members (I think they were Frank Sterling and Steve Zeltzer) also mentioned Twit Wit being taken off the air.

So, this was my introduction to being a board member. I was elected this year and seated the previous month. As I said above, I've been attending LSB meetings for about 14 years, since 2005. So I thought I'd heard it all, but what I heard at this session was quite an experience.

Ten days later the LSB secretary reported that the GM told her that KPFA will not accept corporate funding. However, the GM did not make a formal public announcement to that effect. Shortly after that, Development Director Brooke Caputo apologized for having spoken about corporate funding. So it appears that Brooke took the blame for it. The fact is that we have nothing official from the GM regarding funding sources.

At the following LSB meeting of June 15th, I brought up a motion to ask the GM to provide a statement explaining what sources of donations the station would accept and or not accept. The LSB agreed that I should ask this question to Pacifica Executive Director Maxie Jackson at a meeting the following Monday, June 17th. So I did, and the ED told us that he had proposed compiling a list of 100 foundations, businesses and individuals that Pacifica would consider acceptable and submitting the list to LSBs for their consideration.

This ED, Maxie Jackson, impressed me as energetic, analytical, and dedicated. We might have our differences, but he seemed to be a person we could work with. And I was looking forward to seeing how his proposal would come out. However, only a few weeks later came the news that as of July 5th, he had resigned.

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The above is an updated version of my report from the May 4th, 2019.

Member of KPFA's Local Station Board
Updated July 19, 2019

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General Manager's First Quarterly Report (May 4, 2019)
by Quincy McCoy

My opening may sound familiar to a few of the vets on the board. It's a message I've delivered for almost five years now to newly election board members. So far, this message hasn't resonated on the level that I believe is necessary to truly assist KPFA in moving forward as a financially sustainable independent media outlet.

First, I'd like to welcome aboard the newly elected members. Coming from a lifetime on the radio I trust you'll understand when I say that I hope you're here to listen. [on the printout, "listen" was in bold type.] I hope you'll put aside any preconceived assumptions, ideas about what is the right or wrong direction for KPFA, and first strive to understand that all successful boards are a product of teamwork. It's not about any individual--it's about us, and what we do collectively.

Ideally, these meetings are an opportunity for everyone to become connected to what the station is doing and to help everyone and support those efforts.

In a successful active board, relationships need to be open-ended, joyful, spontaneous, and in true partnership with each other--a dynamic source of ideas, resources and energy. We need to target our objectives and not be distracted.

Our board's primary responsibility is to focus on the big issues that management brings forth -- the important problems facing the station that need tackling. There is a networking component to your job -- a readiness to share contacts that may have valuable resources to offer and steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical policies to ensure that KPFA has adequate resources to advance its mission. Therefore, everyone serving on the board must be enthusiastic and actively involved in raising monies.

Our biggest need is fund-raising. Yet we have not one committee established to help brainstorm, create and assist with successful fund-raising projects. If several of you could direct your energies in this direction, that would be a major step forward. Off-air fund-raising is crucial to our survival. Fund drives are our lifeblood, and additional fundraising offers us the flexibility to improve our station's equipment and other operational needs.

Today we're doing something different. I've invited my staff {those who could attend) to introduce themselves with a short bio, their job description that outlines their responsibilities and goals to you. Plus, we'll be passing out a Department Head organizational chart. Let's begin with my bio.

I'm Quincy McCoy the author of No Static: A Guide to Creative Radio Programming. Winner of the international Peter Brock Award for feature writing and former Co-Chair of Youth Radio Board of Directors and recipient of a 2001 Peabody Award for significant and meritorious achievement in broadcasting.

I'm the former VP of Radio for Rhapsody America, now NAPSTER, and was VP of MTV's Digital Music Programming for 8 years. I'm a radio and music industry veteran, having worked as a major market on-air personality, program director, operations manager, radio executive and columnist. Before beginning my stewardship at KPFA I was Executive Director of MOCHA, the Museum of Children's Arts in Oakland.

General Management -- the office of General Management is responsible for the smooth functioning of Operations, Engineering, Production, Business, Development, and Communications Departments. As I General Manager supervise the preparation of the station's annual budget along with our Business Manager, create and develop programming and fundraising strategies on and off the air. Oversees the development and strategic plan for the KPFA website and social media services and campaigns. Interacts with staff and provide a fun, safe, and productive work environment for all. Strengthen the rapport and collaboration with KPFA radio programmers, shares mission-critical information with staff to advance the integrity of our objectives and build trust. Coach and challenge people to develop their management and on-air skills by providing constructive feedback and advice to improve performance. Like all Pacifica GMs, I report directly to Pacifica's Executive Director.

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ABOVE is what GM Quincy McCoy said to us on May 4th, and BELOW is what the
Pacifica Bylaws say, regarding the position of GM.

This is found in Article Seven, Local Station Boards, Section 3: Specific Powers and Duties:

B. To screen and select a pool of candidates for the position of General Manager of its respective radio station, from which pool of approved candidates the Executive Director shall hire the station's General Manager.. The LSB may appoint a special sub-committee for this purpose.

C. To prepare an annual written evaluation of the station's General Manager.

D. Both the Executive Director and/or an LSB may initiate the process to fire a station General Manager. However, to effectuate it, both the Executive Director and the LSB must agree to fire said General Manager. If the Executive Director and the LSB cannot agree, the decision to terminate or retain said General Manager shall be made by the Board of Directors.

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