April 2010 WBAI Report

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FAX MEMORANDUM

Office of the General Manager

[unsigned, but apparently due to Muriel Tillinghast]

WBAI Radio, 99.5 F.M.

120 Wall Street, 10th Floor

New York, New York 10005

Telephone: 212-209-2828 Fax:

Report to the PNB - Pacifica Foundation

April 19, 2010

Background

I have been a listener and supporter of WBAI since I came to New York City in the early 1970’s. When an opportunity to guide the station opened in 2007, when the station launched a search for a new General Manager, I applied. Mr. Tony Riddle won out. When I was asked during the end of the Christmas season of 2009, if I were interested in an interim job as the General Manager, I agreed. I came on nitially as a consultant for several weeks and on February 1st 2010, I formally took on the role of iGM, Interim General Manager.

I have formulated several approaches for the revitalization of the administration of the station and have actively sought to comprehend the length and breadth of WBAI’s financial inertia. Focusing on that issue alone has been my primary focus managerially. A full fledge discussion of my findings will not find its way into this report; however, it has become abundantly clear, that in the previous staff cuts and relative to the newly initiated staffing pattern, the financial center was left too lean to carry its total responsibilities well. This is outside of the routine shortfall and attitudes which are self-defeating and inhibiting if for nothing more than spurts of energy towards particular goals. As in all operations, there is a direct and then subtle relationship between vision, self-perception within the job role and the execution of that job. Therefore, working on the weaknesses of WBAI’s financial operations brings me at once and immediately to all of the following areas: financial management with its subset of premium operations, staffing, and drive programming.

Current Management Perspective

Great harm and the lack of careful practice have largely wrecked WBAI internally. I say this with candor and concern. My reading and discussion of generally practices within Pacifica and at WBAI indicates the continuation of several practices which paralyze the organization: (1) personality-centered decision-making; that is, the absence of objective criteria and vigorous critiquing of major changes prior to implementation; (2)

the absence of standard written local practices known and oriented to staff which can then be the basis of evaluation and increased work output and (3) a home for factional politics which has altered or morphed over time, but which continues to polarize and dissipate limited human resources at the board and staff level, stultify personnel and operate as a principal determiner of continued employment, foster public ridicule, marginalize much needed professional help at the board and volunteer level, so forth and so on.; WBAI reflects all of this. A mechanism to halt the obvious seems to evade those of a rational, political mind-set.

I am not one to encourage disconnects and piece-meal approaches managerially. I find that they are more expensive in the long term and more than not counter-productive in the end. As we approach the May fund drive, we will have engaged in our fifth consolidated discussion which will cover objectives and goals as well as the mechanisms to achieve the same. This time, we hope to approach this process will more than the notion to provide the station with a limited cash flow. The cost of our inability to complete and fulfill our obligations to the public actually increases the debt both financially and otherwise relative to our organizational integrity. We seek to limit and then halt this ebbing.

Work to Date

We initiated all of the items below and are currently work on improved inter-staff (department) relationship to affect a team approach and inter-related support.

  1. Routine weekly and bi-weekly meetings of the program and financial staff relative to their immediate work scope and assignments.

  1. The establishment of a job description form distributed to staff; we have sent out several reminders for its completion.

  1. The incorporation of the receptionist as my “secretary” and as a swing person in the finance office on Fridays. This has been one of the best decisions to date.

  1. Careful review of outstanding and defunct practices in finances with an effort to re-initiated patterned processes following each fund drive. This has had limited success. Some practices which should have been initiated and supervised prior to my coming and which affected the 2009 income picture were not. We have had to be strategic relative to re-activation, specifically, the installment purchases.

  1. We put on an ad-hoc evening crew to facilitate financial work during the drive. It was of limited success. The consultant, Berthold Reimers, is available in the evening. It was problematic finding appropriate personnel to work with him. This situation is being reviewed.

    Simultaneous to the February-March fund raising drive (“FRD”), we engaged in the Pacifica audit. It was arduous and required a split in staff already strained. Further, the unit lost a party who could provide essential MemSys work as we were going into the FRD with its frenetic pace. The dailies required by the auditor with its initiation-of-pledge-to-banking review was good and under more prepared circumstances would have been fine. There were, in our case, great exceptions, e.g., the absolute lack of preparation beginning with access to the materials, tracing through MemSys and so forth. Failure to provide a 30-name clearance on all parts called for a replacement of 30 names. Due to the auditor’s process and our situation, this 30-name grind was continuous daily through the drive and even post-dating it. So side-by-side, the audit and the FRD went forth, both hobbled. We got through both projects, but I, for one, do not want to have that experience again.

    It is my recommendation to the PNB that it consider local auditors, that is, licensed CPA’s to work with the station in its locality once Pacifica’s financial management has determined the scope and specificity of the project.

  1. Two sessions on the proposal(s) of Steve Brown on alternative strategies on March 24th and April 5th. These discussions have opened up for both board invitees and staff a shared basis and the beginning of a re-envisioning of how to raise funds for the station.

  1. A “thank you” party on March 31st for volunteers at which at least 50 people came. It was well received. And, on April 7th, we held a “meet the iGM” party for staff at which 40 people came. People commented that they appreciated some social format for just getting together.

    We announced a monthly “by invitation” and “word-of-mouth” session to hosted by a rotating chair at which “a book, an idea, one’s adventurous life” could be – at the choice of the presenter – the subject for our gathering. In talking with one of our volunteers, I learned that he was a Russian raised in Slovakia; he was three when the German army marched through his village. The event(s) of that period were indelible. I invited him to tell his story. He will be our first session. More than getting to know each other better, I am trying to affect the station as a hub, a non-reactive gathering of progressive minds who see much the same thing in the same way. That is the machinery of Movement and Movement moves ideas forward even when funds are thin and circumstances are less than desirable. This gathering will be initiated at the end of this month.

  1. Tentative plans for the first “major donor” gathering and appeal are being laid. The target date which was early May has to be set back because with the current staffing pattern we cannot manage simultaneously two or more major functions. Nonetheless, those plans are on going.

  1. Through the assistance of our LSB Chair, we have been directed to several resources that should result in reduced costs for some services. Currently, we are creating drafts of our brochure, palm cards and invitation-type cards was are critical to our fund raising (“FR”) efforts.

  1. Early in February we began the beginning for property search. The financial demands of this location along with design issues render our current office as one

    situation we do not care to repeat upon contract completion in 2012. I discovered that WBAI did not have a local attorney on retainer. The attorneys in association are related to specific cases. Nonetheless, through one resource I located someone as of last week. We are collect possible locations and prompting the LSB through its chair to render us a small committee to review. One of the producers of long standing at the station will also check potential property.

  1. The Local Station Board and I have met twice. Those meetings occurred without any untoward behaviors. I thought the sessions were reasonable and actually enjoyable.

    12. The WBAI Book Fair is on the drawing board for early June just following the FRD. It was slated for April, but was pushed back, again because of staff limitations. If we can move to fuller cooperation with our board resources, we may be able to better project these kinds of efforts. More than just FR, the book fair is to remove and hopefully, eliminate all but the personal books of individuals from the office. Currently, books are in every nook at the station and really inhibit my desire to revamp space utilization.

  1. Making an early adjustment to the many voices for private communication, I have tried to get the LSB and the PNB financial parties together for consolidated meetings. We had one meeting which went well. I am awaiting notification of a follow up meeting which can requested the behest of the LSB Chair or R. Paul Martin.

  1. Six month, annual and multi-annual planning can only be put into effect once the activities of the board on hiring of the General Manager has completed its work. The frequency of altered policies and staff has a delayed and often staggeringly

    negative effect on planning. That notwithstanding, WBAI does have a February – August calendar.

    14. Preliminary concepts and contact for fourth-quarter fund-raising strategies: end of the year special mailed solicitation; program (decidedly to reach a new area of the listening market).

Personnel

I have met with union representatives to discuss what is outstanding from their perspective. Without current personnel files, I am dependant on the payroll which varies somewhat each time. AFTRA recognizes that WBAI has a morass of personnel concerns, i.e., job description, work status among other items. Due to the pressure of personnel, actually the more recently hired with consideration of the secondary costs involved are resulting in my having to provide a “stasis” notice in writing to all of those parties until we can determine how to move forward longer(er) term.

Finances

The first FRD had a declared goal of $850,000, however over $864,000 in pledges was attained. Then the baggage of pledge fulfillment swung into action with out ability to meet only at 2/3rds of the pledges. The overall fulfillment rate is 64.8% to date since January 2009.

The ability to increase this rate is dependant on several factors not the least of which is fluidity of capital to buy the premiums and have them in-house prior to the FRD. An overall reduction of the number of premiums and those which are not created by the producers themselves will go a long way to increasing WBAI’s ability to “fulfill” its obligations to the listeners.

WBAI is proposing a re-determination of charge-backs from it to Pacifica. More than this, we are unable to discuss at this point. It is clear, however, that the taciturn changes in administrations both at Pacifica and at WBAI have sorely tested the institutional memory of what was owed to whom and when. This was drawn to me when I pressed information from parties about our location and how we came to be in such an expensive and unuseful location. Further elaboration on this area should first be presented to our financial representatives of the PNB. Illumination on this, I fully expect will significantly effect the current level charge backs for our historic dereliction of payment for central services.

WBAI continues to suffer from a severe cash flow. This situation will not significantly abate until new quarters are found with a resulting reduction of rental space costs. We are grateful to Pacifica for providing up front cash to us, which is periodically repaid to Pacifica as we have a respite in the availability of cash.

Thank you.