There will be a WBAI COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD this Sunday, November 24th, 2013 starting at 100 PM at the station which is located at 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The station is at the Brooklyn Commons on the Third Floor. It between Hoyt and Bond Street a few blocks west of Barclay Center.
We will be updating folks on the Leased Management Agreement Issue. We understand there are 10 proposals that are being considered by the Pacifica National Board. They will be having a phone teleconference this coming Monday.
We will also discuss the status of Berthold Reimers as General Manager. I am attaching reading material which I would like to discuss the following CAB meeting with people.
We welcome your comments and insights about the programming at WBAI RADIO. We also intend to continue to pack and prepare premiums for shipment so please be aware that this will also be going on. In addition, keep your eyes out for sudden announcements of a open LSB meeting with Summer Reese to have you express your concerns. There has been a big controversy over whether to have these meetings with her this week in Executive session exclusively or intermingled with public comment.
The WBAI CAB since this latest crisis has begun have unanimously been in favor of open meetings. We feel that if people are being asked to help pay for the enormous costs that WBAI has incurred they at least are deserved a full account with their comments and critique. Attached is letters and resolutions Unanimous Resolution of the Listeners Attending the WBAI Community
Advisory Board Meeting on November 10th, 2013
Ms. Summer Reese
CC: PNB and WBAI LSB
Whereas, we the listener-sponsors of WBAI/Pacifica, are outraged at what is happening at our station; and
Whereas the local station board (LSB) has not represented our interests for a long period of time; and
Whereas the current crisis is the result of past dysfunction; and
Whereas in our most resent fund drive, we listener-sponsors exceeded the targeted goals;
Resolved: That we go on record as opposing any LMA; and
Further Resolved: That we demand retention of the General Manager during this crises period; and
Further Resolved: That we demand an opened meeting with the LSB to address the future of our station; and
Further Resolved: That we demand a meeting with Ms. Summer Reese, Executive Director, on Tuesday, November
12, 2013 at 7:00 P.M., at 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11217.
The following Listener-Sponsors were among those attending:
Marilyn Voyt-Downey * Carl Makower * Tarun Kranadas * James Sagurton
Nicolas Chango * David Suker * Jonathan Weil * Elton Owusu
Kenneth Porter * Ronald Fecher * Patrick Robinson * Nenette Knpke
Roberth Hennlly * Susan Hues * M. VanderHeyden * Adam Korany
Saint – Clair Jackson * Anita Luftig * Louise Lessard * Kyle Scott
Mitxchel Cohxen * Bob Levis * John Foust * Marianita Damari
Len Kleinman * Matt Mazza * Lucio Cacharani * Nia Knowell
Deb Russell Brown * Boukan Collins * Dr. Beg
November 18, 2013
We are responding to the news that you want to fire Berthold Reimers as General Manager of WBAI. According to Pacifica procedures there are two other parties involved in the decision to replace a General Manager: the Local Station Board and the National Board. As these two boards undertake their evaluation of Berthold’s work, we would like to contribute to the process by offering our observations. But first we want to address our comments to you. We feel that your decision to replace Berthold must have been based on a distorted view of his performance resulting from a lopsided reliance on input from his detractors.
As you are well aware, the GM’s responsibilities include at least three different money-related jobs: Chief Financial Officer, controller, and bookkeeper (not to mention data entry clerk). It is Berthold’s responsibility to make financial projections; to pay bills on time, to document everything and provide reports to the ED, PNB and LSB. Berthold does all of this, sometimes even without the information he needs from above (Pacifica) and below (reconciled bank statements). In the absence of sufficient staff, he has even devised makeshift controls and checks to protect the integrity of WBAI’s finances.
Operationally, Berthold’s heaviest responsibility is the planning and organization of fund-drives and premiums. He collects and analyzes an enormous amount of data, studying past performance to determine which premiums to place at what time-slots for maximum revenue. He monitors this daily during fund-drives and makes adjustments as needed. Berthold has to plan, maintain and monitor inventory of premiums, coordinating their acquisition and distribution despite uncertain cash flow and limited personnel. Of course there are still problems and many justifiable complaints, but it should be acknowledged that the premium situation has improved significantly during Berthold’s tenure.
Berthold has also made it his priority to develop new revenue sources. Under his watch, the WBAI Buddy program has grown dramatically, now bringing in nearly $14,000/month. This program also requires continual monitoring and analysis.
The General Manager job clearly requires mastery of the use and interface of numerous specialized software programs—financial, subscriber and inventory—not to mention Excel. Berthold is very good at this. Indeed there seems to be little disagreement about Berthold’s strengths as a spreadsheet guy. In fact, one of his main critics identifies this as a shortcoming, arguing that Berthold is “just a spreadsheet guy.” What is not generally understood is how absolutely vital this is. Without the acquisition, management, manipulation and analysis of data, it would be impossible to make the daily, weekly, monthly and longer-term decisions and projections necessary to run the station.
Whoever manages WBAI must be a spreadsheet guy, and we have been lucky during this difficult period to have a very good one at the helm. But Berthold is not “just” a spreadsheet guy.
The GM must also be a “people person.” Berthold has to maintain good relations with many “outsiders”: City College, key vendors, the landlord, allies and media. But most of all, managing WBAI means dealing with countless “insiders”—producers, LSB and PNB members, staff, volunteers and listeners—in a tense environment fraught with nasty factional fighting. Somehow Berthold has been able to work with everyone, often bridging the divide between factions. This is no small matter.
We think it is important to point out that Berthold has not only maintained good relations with many of the laid-off staff; he has also been able to recruit, manage and inspire volunteers to accomplish work once done by paid staff.
Berthold’s detractors complain in a general way about his communication skills, but this criticism, we feel, would be more constructive if rendered more specific. Berthold would welcome an opportunity to meet with his critics to listen to their specific concerns so that he can focus on areas where he needs to improve.
In the meantime, Berthold cannot regularly speak with every producer on a one-to-one basis; nor can he meet with every listener who shows up at the office demanding his time and attention. Members of the LSB are sometimes understandably frustrated due to lack of information, especially financial information, they feel should be forthcoming from the General Manager. Often, however, the information or reports they seek require key components from Pacifica that are not even available to Berthold himself.
It is rarely mentioned that Berthold speaks four languages: English, Spanish, Creole and French. This gives him an inestimable advantage in communicating with New York’s diverse population of listeners and supporters.
Despite the relentless pressure on Berthold to focus on the short-term unavoidable issues and problems facing the station, he has nonetheless carved out time (by working very long hours) to consider the long-term as well:
** He is always open to new initiatives that will broaden our audience—demographically, nationally and internationally.
** Berthold has been especially attentive to seeking out and mentoring younger people to apprentice at the station.
** In keeping with Pacifica’s mission, Berthold has reestablished long-dormant relationships with nearly a dozen off-Broadway groups.
** When Berthold realized that there were still thirty years of WBAI on analog tapes, he facilitated their digitalization and transfer to Pacifica Archives.
** He has encouraged and facilitated a wide range of fundraisers that bring in much-needed cash and also promote the station in different communities.
On top of all this, over the past twelve months the station has moved TWICE. Berthold planned and coordinated both of these moves and dealt with all of the logistical and communication problems inherent in the process. It was not flawless, but it was pretty damn good.
None of this is to say that the situation is satisfactory. We recognize that the station desperately needs serious attention to programming and marketing, and people with those backgrounds and skills to complement Berthold’s talents and strengths. Ideally we would have three different people: a GM, Program Director and a Marketing/PR Director, but for now we don’t have the money. In the meantime, Berthold has been concentrating on what ABSOLUTELY has to be done to keep the station afloat. WBAI has survived (barely) for many months without a Program Director, but the station could not survive a month without “a spreadsheet guy.”
You have given WBAI tremendous support this past year at huge personal sacrifice, Summer, and for this we are very grateful. Thanks to you and to Berthold and to the continued support of our listeners, the station has been steadily recovering. But it is far from stable, and the transition to a sustainable footing is still in a delicate phase. All the more reason, we think, to not jeopardize WBAI’s survival by jettisoning a tried-and-true manager. With all of the layoffs, Berthold is responsible for at least six different jobs at this point. He has demonstrated the versatility, flexibility and diplomacy required to run the station during protracted crises. He can manage despite the infighting. This combination of skills and talents is not easy to come by. Why would we give it up?
James Sagurton (New Jersey)
Najee Sabir (New Jersey)
Bob Levis (Manhattan)
Dani Lamar (Brooklyn)
Melissa Ennen (Brooklyn)
Jim Dingeman (Manhattan)
Mitchel Cohen (Brooklyn)
This is a post from Tracy Rosenberg
Here are my answers. I understand they may not be adequate. I do not have direct access to the books at WBAI.
What is the exact grand total of debt owed by Pacifica ?
I have not seen an accounts payable document since the spring of 2012. At that time, the total debts were about 1.6 million, about 1.2 million at the national office, about 200K at WBAI and the remainder divided between KPFA and WPFW. KPFK and KPFT were largely debt-free at that time. The majority of the national office debt was to Democracy Now and at that time totaled about $800,000. $100,000 was owed to FSRN, and the balance was largely owed to attorneys, primarily KPFA labor lawyers and the White and Hicks cases. I have recently received a legal bills breakdown and can confirm that the Hicks case has been largely paid, there is still a large unpaid balance in the White case of approximately $90,000 and KPFA has legal bills of $120,000 or so remaining unpaid. My understanding is that Democracy Now is probably owed around 1.4 million by now, and FSRN, as we know is owed $200,000. I don't believe there are any other large outstanding debts.
What is the contribution of WBAI in specifics in regards to this ?
WBAI has not paid more than 1/2 of its shared services portion for most of the past decade. Usually it has not even paid a quarter. Had WBAI been able to do so, the amount missing would have more than covered all of the outstanding debt as the book receivable to the national office from WBAI is more than $3.5 million dollars (over 12 years). Essentially, although all of the stations are financially tight at this time, the Pacifica debt problem is the cost of subsidizing WBAI's operations and "waiving" their share of the network expenses pretty much since the beginning of democratization. The financial structure for the network depends on expense-sharing. When one station consistently does not pay their share, the structure does not hold. Even 1/2 of the unpaid amount would have prevented the significant assumption of debt, but for political reasons, no PNB and no executive director felt able to cut WBAI's costs significantly over the year.
People want to know what are the specifics of the money owed to DN? What is the role of WBAI in all this?
See above. I do want to say the 2nd Democracy Now contract, which was signed on the identical terms to the first contract, was a negligent act by Ambrose Lane, corporate counsel Dan Siegel and the 2007 PNB that paid no attention to the significant decline in DN pledges nor to Pacifica's needs to invest in equipment and technology to stay relevant and competitive in the media landscape. Had WBAI been able to pay its portion of shared services, there is still a statement that $600,000 annually to DN may not have been the best use of money. However, WBAI largely did not pay shared services and Pacifica used the other stations share to cover the DN payments for as long as it could and when that became impossible because overall revenues started to slip, finally began to default on the payments to DN, largely in 2010 when KPFA stopped paying shared services as well due to operating deficits and the foundation posted its largest ever operating loss.
What is the amount of money owed to the NO from WBAI as regards to payment into Central Services?
The books say $3.5 million. I do not know how far back that balance sheet is going, but my guess would be it is to 2002.
How long has the non payment of the money to Central Services going on? How much has been owed by WBAI over a period of time? Is it ten years? 15 years what is the actual number?
From my understanding, in 2002, when the iPNB took over, the books largely had to be recreated, so I don't know that I am in a position to say anything about pre-2002 operations. If it helps any, at that time Pacifica had a much larger debt of close to $6 million dollars and was able to negotiate it down and pay off virtually all of it, so it is not impossible to climb out of a hole. What one needs to do is stop making it bigger. I am going to say $3.5 million over 12 years. I am not swearing as to the accuracy of that figure, but I am providing it as my best estimate. I will also say that half of it and fiscal stabilization going forwards would entirely mitigate the debt problem and the rest needs to be considered water under the bridge as it is simply the operating reserves we should have and don't and the investments in equipment and upgrades that we should have made but didn't.
Is the amount of money outstanding that is owed mainly due to WBAI?
Yes. KPFA played a role in 2009 and 2010 by running large deficits, but that was somewhat mitigated by their cash reserve and it was not until they spent up all that money and started defaulting on shared services to pay their bills that it impacted the rest of the network. The deficit spending was corrected on the fall of 2010 and back shared services paid in installments from Jan of 2011 to June of 2012. KPFK and KPFT have largely paid for themselves, although both stations do run small deficits from time to time. WPFW has sometimes added to the debts, but since the scale of the station is small, it has only made a small contribution compared to WBAI which is twice as large and runs much larger deficits. So I would have to say that yes it is mainly due to WBAI.
How has that money owed tracked over the years and what discussion or policy discussed to deal with it?
That's a harder question. One of the reasons Lonnie Hicks was removed as the CFO in January of 2009 was a perception that he was covering up the extent of the subsidies to WBAI. While I had no access to any PNB materials prior to 2010, I suspect that is true as many people that I knew on the board at that time profess to be surprised by what now seems to be common knowledge. The convention of releasing financial statements with the supposition that shared services payments are made (accrual accounting) contributes to the lack of clarity and Pacifica may want to consider a move to a cash accounting system if and when there is a competent CFO. In 2008, a balloon loan was proposed by Save KPFA'er Sherry Gendelman, then an interim ED, that would have provided an infusion of cash in return for a mortgage on KPFK's building and a large multi-million dollar payment due in 2013. It was defeated by one vote. Had it been approved, KPFK's building would have been repossessed earlier this year. Many people think that proposal was an admission that subsidizing WBAI on incoming receipts was about to fail. As it did. Grace Aaron hoped that management changes at WBAI implemented in the spring of 2009 would turn things around, but while they did improve slightly, it was not enough to compensate for the crazy fixed expenses and the station continued to lose money every year.
How is the outstanding debt impacting on policy?
The finance committee tried to acknowledge reality in 2011 and "officially" sanctioned WBAI to pay only 9.5% in shared services instead of 19.5% and trimmed the national office budget accordingly. That is part of the reason the overall deficit in 2011 was the smallest of the last five years at $600,000. We were optimistic about WBAI in 2012 (as revenue had been trending upward), but unfortunately the hurricane pitched WBAI into a catastrophe with no reserves, and I don't think anyone had any ability to deal with $500,000 just not being there. (The stations are on average presenting $10,000 in surplus - if we're lucky). WBAI did raise money in the spring of 2013 to replace the Fall 2012, but then couldn't continue to raise enough to also pay the spring 2013 expenses, which was the equivalent of two major fund drives back-to-back). The upshot is that whatever you would consider sound financial policy has had to come second to shifting money around constantly to meet emergencies and there are all kinds of reasons why that's a bad way to operate. Costs money, prevents planning, takes up time and leads to mistakes.
If there are documents, great.
I wish. If I did a great document search, I probably could find some helpful things squirreled away over the years, but my time right now doesn't allow for the great search. I hope this email is
reasonably helpful and I will stand by everything I say here.