• Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz (The Graduates/Los Graduados, Reportero) has received the Time Warner Fellowship from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program to work on his latest doc, Recolectores (The Gatherers). As a fellow, Ruiz will get services from the institute including mentoring, grant assistance and attendance at its famous film festival. Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing) also got a production/post-production grant in this round of Sundance awards, which went to 35 filmmakers out of 750 applications from 93 countries. • Sesame Workshop is participating in this week’s annual Reinvent The Toilet Fair: India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event that showcases the latest in modern hygiene for developing nations. Making her debut at the fair is new Muppet Raya, who always wears her sandals to the latrine and washes her hands with soap.
• A new round of unrest is brewing at Pacifica. Current reported last week on the radio network’s board voting to oust executive director Summer Reese and this week on Reese’s defiance of the vote. An LA Weekly feature offers more details, including Reese removing a padlock from the doors of the network’s offices with bolt cutters and reading Bible passages to staff. The article recaps the history of the network and includes comments from former employees of Pacifica’s KPFK in Los Angeles. It’s reminiscent of the Village Voice’s September feature on New York’s WBAI (the Voice Media Group owns both publications). • PBS, CPB and APTS have joined the National Association of Broadcasters and commercial networks to warn the FCC about potential interference between TVs and wireless devices after spectrum repacking.
Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese reported to work today at the radio network’s headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., ignoring her dismissal Thursday by Pacifica’s board of directors. Board members went into executive session during a meeting last week and voted to dismiss Reese effective Friday. Reese was appointed permanent executive director of the network last November after holding the job on an interim basis. Margy Wilkinson, who was elected chair of Pacifica’s board in February, declined to discuss why the board voted to dismiss Reese. “The board took an action that it thought was both necessary and appropriate,” she said by phone Monday.
The board of directors of the Pacifica Foundation terminated Executive Director Summer Reese Thursday, according to an email sent early Friday by outgoing board treasurer Tracy Rosenberg. (UPDATE: Board Secretary Cerene Roberts has confirmed Reese’s dismissal. “We thank Summer Reese for her service to date and will not continue her employment effective March 14, 2014,” the board said in a terse statement, offering no explanation.)
Reese’s termination comes five months after the Pacifica board gave her the job, which she had held on an interim basis since August 2012. Reese became interim executive director after the board dismissed previous ED Arlene Engelhardt. Dismissing Reese burdens Pacifica “with a new $315,000 obligation to buy out a 3-year employment contract signed just a little while ago,” according to Rosenberg, who added:
Given the financial pressures on the organization (exacerbated by 3 of the 5 stations recently missing fund drive goals, all but KPFK and WBAI), it seems likely the board’s action will result in the forced sale of one or more real estate assets,
This latest return to the days of constant lawsuits draining the foundation due to reckless behavior by boards will not be welcome news to many.
• Nothing spells love quite like This American Life. For a Valentine’s Day Doodle, Google has enlisted the Public Radio International program to present five love-themed stories from the series, complete with animations. Host Ira Glass provides an introduction. Time has a behind-the-scenes video of how the Doodle came together. • Veteran pubcasting exec Chet Tomczyk, currently managing Illinois stations WTVP-TV in Peoria and dual licensee WILL in Urbana in a unique agreement, announced yesterday that he is retiring, although he hasn’t set a date. Tomczyk has worked in the system for nearly 50 years, beginning in 1965 as associate producer of The Week in Michigan, a weekly travel and outdoor show produced at WKAR-FM in East Lansing, Mich.
After going off the air last fall, Free Speech Radio News is resuming production, but on a relaunched version of its website. Beginning Feb. 11, FSRN producers will post audio, photos and articles online as the progressive news operation charts a path back to ongoing radio production. The FSRN board drew on support from major donors and other contributors for the web-based relaunch, wrote Sang Hea Kil, FSRN’s president, in a Feb. 2 post on FSRN’s website.
The board of the Pacifica Foundation on Monday appointed Summer Reese executive director of the five-station radio network, a position she has held on an interim basis since August 2012. Reese was serving as chair of Pacifica’s board when she stepped into the job on an interim basis following the dismissal of previous Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt. In recent months, Reese oversaw deep staff cuts at WBAI, Pacifica’s New York station, in an effort to resolve longstanding financial shortfalls. She also removed John Hughes as g.m. of the network’s WPFW in Washington, D.C., in September. Reese has worked as a paralegal and accounting professional for more than a decade, according to a candidate statement for a station board election for KPFK, Pacifica’s Los Angeles outlet.
Andrew Phillips resigned last month as interim p.d. of Pacifica’s WBAI in New York, a post he accepted less than three months ago in an effort to rebuild the audience of the financially troubled station. Phillips cited a disagreement over fundraising programs airing on the station, including shows featuring products pitched by alternative-medicine promoter Gary Null, as the reason for his decision. “It’s a model destined to failure, and I don’t want to be a part of it,” Phillips said. Pacifica assigned Phillips to WBAI in August after imposing a workforce reduction intended to sharply reduce the station’s operating costs. To attract more listeners, Phillips introduced news and public affairs shows from Pacifica’s KPFA in Berkeley, where he had previously overseen programming, and Los Angeles station KPFK.
The Pacifica Foundation is seeking another nonprofit organization to help operate WBAI, its financially struggling station in New York. In a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued this week, the foundation specifies that it intends to retain ultimate control over WBAI programming under a Public Service Operating Agreement. It plans to employ two members of the station’s staff, one of whom would have managerial responsibilities and report solely to Pacifica. The RFP outlines costs that prospective co-operators would be expected to cover, including the two employees’ salaries, studio expenses and rent payments for its lease on the Empire State Building, where WBAI’s transmitter is located. Prospective co-operators must be willing to reimburse Pacifica for these expenses.