With shortfalls ongoing, Pacifica asks stations to boost income or cut costs

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Amid a continuing financial crisis, the Pacifica Foundation is cutting costs at its five radio stations, a measure that could lead to significant layoffs throughout the network.

Since the beginning of the year, Pacifica has imposed cuts at KPFA in Berkeley and at the Pacifica Radio Archives unit that will likely be effected primarily through layoffs unless new revenue can be raised. Pacifica’s board also plans to cut costs at the network’s other stations.

Meanwhile, the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris is auditing the Foundation. Pacifica’s board was notified about the audit Dec. 16 and was asked to provide requested documents by Jan. 16. The attorney general’s office has given the Foundation another month to gather the documents, according to Margy Wilkinson, chair of Pacifica’s board and interim executive director of the network. The documents include Pacifica’s bylaws, articles of incorporation, financial statements, tax forms and a list of loans made to or by the organization.

Wilkinson said she was glad that the audit is happening and that it might help make the organization more transparent. “I’m pleased that the attorney general is looking into this,” Wilkinson said. “I have concerns about what’s going on.”

Pacifica is also working on providing documentation to CPB that will allow the network to resume receiving Community Service Grants from the funder. The network has not received a CSG since a 2012 CPB audit found several errors. The delayed CSG payments have cost the network hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pacifica will have the necessary documentation in place by mid-February, Wilkinson said.

The lack of CSG funding combined with shortfalls at Pacifica’s stations and archives have put the network in dire financial straits. “Like just about everybody in the nonprofit world, we’re facing very serious financial problems,” Wilkinson said. “As a result, the choices the stations have to make now is to cut expenses or raise new revenue.”

Pacifica’s board has approved measures requiring KPFA to either cut $250,000 in expenses, which would likely occur via layoffs, or to raise that amount in new revenue. Expenses over $1,000 outside of rent need board approval.

Meanwhile, the board required Pacifica’s archives to either raise new revenue or cut $108,000 in annual expenses. That order is disheartening, especially since the archive has fewer options for fundraising than stations, said Brian DeShazor, director of the archives.

“It is demoralizing to the staff,” DeShazor said. “We’re definitely in a pickle, and I’m not sure how we can get out of it.”

At a board meeting later this month, Pacifica’s board will vote on similar measures for WBAI in New York and KPFK in Los Angeles. For WBAI, which has already endured layoffs and expense cuts, the board may require Pacifica’s c.f.o. to approve expenses over $500. The station is also negotiating to find a new home, as its agreement for temporary accommodations at City College in Harlem expires in February.

WBAI has so far been able to meet payroll but has had to depend on the entire Pacifica network for help paying transmitter rent and other costs, according to Wilkinson. The station laid off all but 10 employees in 2013, including its entire news division.

“It’s very, very difficult for [WBAI], and they are struggling,” Wilkinson said. “We are facing a situation where it’s a question whether the other stations can continue to support them.”

The board has also proposed that KPFK cut $250,000 in expenses or raise new revenue. Like KPFA, KPFK would also require approval for expenses over $1,000.

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  • Colin Kingston

    Pacifica needs to be brutally honest with their listeners. Give us a specific dollar amount that each station has to raise. Give us updates on how far along they are in raising that money. Their fundraisers are endless and make it appear that they can’t follow a budget.
    Suggestion: Adopt a DonorsChoose.org approach. Let listeners sponsor all or part part of a particular item. This can be anything from a new piece of equipment to a specific person’s salary, the light bill, the rent, etc.
    I would begin donating again if I knew where my money was going. As it is right now, pledges seem to be going into a black hole.