Houston Pacifica station KPFT-FM is preparing to ask the FCC for a third extension on its license renewal, a delay resulting from transmitter damage caused by a lightning strike two years ago. The station, part of the financially troubled Pacifica network, has been struggling to raise funds to replace the transmitter. It has operated at half power since March 2012 and is pursuing its third Special Temporary Authority from the FCC. By failing to operate at full power for so long, the station puts itself at risk of FCC fines. KPFT General Manager Duane Bradley said the internal divisions plaguing Pacifica aren’t helping.
As Pacifica Radio marked its 65th anniversary of broadcasting, foundation and station leaders are talking publicly about governance reforms that involve “decentralizing” control of its five stations. Pacifica National Board Chair Margy Wilkinson, who is battling for control of the Foundation with former executive director Summer Reese, discussed the proposal April 9 on KPFK-FM, the Pacifica station in Los Angeles. “There are real governance issues,” Wilkinson said during an appearance on the KPFK show Truthdig. “I think the way the foundation is put together does not make for a very highly functioning organization.”
Though she didn’t wade into specifics, Wilkinson called for “some decentralization and some greater autonomy at the local stations.”
“I see a role for Pacifica, but I think right now, the way national is functioning is not particularly helpful to the stations,” Wilkinson said. The proposal to reduce Pacifica’s control over local stations has support in Houston, where leaders of Pacifica’s KPFT have called for greater independence.
The elections supervisor for the boards of Pacifica’s five radio stations has recommended that the network revamp its process for selecting board members because the current system is “too costly, time consuming, factionalized and factionalizing.”
In a report on the latest round of elections, which concluded in January several months behind schedule, Pacifica National Elections Supervisor Terry Bouricius described numerous flaws in a process that’s been in effect for nearly a decade. Pacifica’s elections favor “ego-driven individuals,” he wrote, and bring in votes from roughly 10 percent of the total membership of the five stations. The small percentage of those who do vote are likely not representative of the whole. In addition, station staffers complain that on-air programming required for the elections is unpopular with listeners; stations must broadcast statements by local candidates and call-in shows featuring the candidates. The stations’ donor records are not adequately maintained to support the election process, Bouricius wrote.