Tags

, , , , , , , ,

"ProjectCensored" by Project Censored - This image has been downloaded from the website of Project Censored at www.projectcensored.org.. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ProjectCensored.png#/media/File:ProjectCensored.pngLUMPENPROLETARIATGONZO:  The following is an article from my KPFA friend Daniel Borgström.  I don’t think I’ve met anyone kinder, sweeter, or more sincere or humble than Daniel in all my years attending KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) meetings. [1]  I always felt that we had each other’s backs whenever we saw each other at the KPFA LSB meetings. [2]

Daniel is probably the most sincere fellow KPFA LSB observer I’ve ever met.  And I completely agree with his assessment of Brian Edwards-Tiekert, the most ubiquitous Concerned Listeners/SaveKPFA partisan on KPFA’s airwaves, since the waning of Philip Maldari and Larry Bensky before him. [3]

Messina

***

DANIEL’S FREE SPEECH ZONE—[31 AUG 2016]  Daniel’s Preface to Brian Edward-Tiekert’s Farewell Address

Brian Edwards-Tiekert’s farewell address has appeared. He begins with an admonition to avoid “assigning blame.” This from one of the architects of Pacifica’s demise, the programmer who shortly after arriving at KPFA launched his destructive career with the famous September 2005 email: “How do we make our enemies own the problems that are to come?”

As a longtime board-watcher at KPFA’s Local Station Board, I’ve seen him in action, at meeting after meeting for over ten years now, and I’d say this: Brian E-T is a very likable, charming person. (Okay, I can already hear people screaming at me, “Boy do I ever disagree with you on that!” And as someone was saying to me just this morning, “I always thought of him as a slick sneaky rat bastard.” Well I responded, let me just tell you this: Brian is among the few persons who’s taken the trouble to learn to spell my name right, putting an umlaut over the ö.) He’s talented and one of the most persuasive talkers I’ve ever heard. He could sell water to a drowning man.

Whereas it took me about five minutes to see through former LSB member Sarv Randhawa, it took me more like five years to see through Brian Edwards-Tiekert. I even made excuses for him; on one occasion when he filibustered a whole LSB meeting with endless “points of order”, I got up and suggested that he seemed to be a “Roberts Rules” addict and recommended that he join “Parliamentarians Anonymous.” As I recall, there were one or two others in our group who also suggested relatively benign possibilities; basically we liked Brian and didn’t wish to think too badly of him.

But he has done badly. Why does he do what he does? I really don’t know why. I just know what I’ve seen him do, for ten years now, driving the network towards the proverbial cliff, and fixing blame on others. He is of course not alone, there are several destructive persons at the station, but I do believe that without Brian’s guiding hand, they would not have gotten this far.

Most remarkable has been his ability to pass blame on to others, or as he himself put it, to make his “enemies own the problems”. And now after over a decade of successful blame-fixing, he opens his farewell message with this admonition to forget accountability:

1. Assigning blame for our crisis is usually a distraction from fixing it. I’ve spent almost 10 years in Pacifica governance, and I’ve never heard a blame-fest produce any solutions. The only conversation the board should be having is “given our circumstances, what do we do now?”

Are those the wise words of an elder statesman? Or what? Remember that even Eisenhower left office warning against the Industrial-Military Complex; even Truman expressed alarm at the operations of the CIA; even Greenspan admitted that he’d “found a flaw” in his economic philosophy that left him “in a state of shocked disbelief.” And now Brian E-T? Brian Edwards-Tiekert urges us to work trustingly with the ones who’ve been destroying the network.

There is such a thing as accountability. When someone consistently pursues a course of action that results in serious harm, they need to be held accountable. That may not pleasant but it’s necessary. Trust needs to be earned. Brian & Company have earned our DISTRUST. And if we forget KPFA history, we’ll just go on repeating it — though not for long because there isn’t much time left, if any.

DANIEL BORGSTRÖM
August 31, 2016
danielfortyone (at) gmail.com

*** *** ***
*** *** ***

BRIAN EDWARD-TIEKERT’S FAREWELL LETTER
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> I’m writing to submit my resignation as a KPFA Delegate, effective at 11:00 am Pacific on September 10, 2016 (the date and time of the next KPFA LSB meeting). At that time, my resignation as a KPFA delegate will automatically remove me from the PNB, and the National Finance Committee.
>>>
>>> I’m leaving KPFA to begin a year-long journalism fellowship at Stanford, and don’t feel I can be an effective representative of KPFA’s staff while I’m not spending any time at the worksite–so I’m stepping down.
>>>
>>> Since I’m going off the air, off the payroll, and off the board, I wanted to leave you with some suggestions about addressing our crisis that are franker than I might have before.
>>>
>>> To start, five limiting principles:
>>>
>>> 1. Assigning blame for our crisis is usually a distraction from fixing it. I’ve spent almost 10 years in Pacifica governance, and I’ve never heard a blame-fest produce any solutions. The only conversation the board should be having is “given our circumstances, what do we do now?”
>>>
>>> 2. Fundraising tactic wish-lists are not going to solve our problems. Good ideas need personnel to implement them. The personnel we have left are already stretched thin, working like mad with the skills they have to raise whatever money they can — it’s not sufficient.
>>>
>>> 3. Incremental cost cuts are not going to solve our problems. While it’s possible to make trims here and there–and they will help–we can’t make cuts deep enough to close our deficits without compromising our ability to keep fundraising at current levels.
>>>
>>> 4. Extending fund drives further is a swift path to an early grave. Many of our stations have already hit a wall of diminishing returns on extended fund drives — the incessant pitching drives their audience away, so there are fewer and fewer people left to request money from with every passing fund drive.
>>>
>>> 5. Whatever you think the limitations of our current staff and management are, finding someone brilliant to replace them is unlikely. We pay well below market rate for just about every position in the network; we carry the stigma of being a conflict-ridden, financially-distressed organization; and we subject our managers to acrimonious, often borderline-abusive interactions with members of our local and national boards. Great job applicants are not beating a path to our door–which means leadership purges are unlikely to produce a messiah to deliver us from our problems.
>>>
>>> What we need are structure-level changes. That’s what our auditors and our insurers are talking about when they ask for a recovery plan. A lot of the things I’ll outline below are controversial, not all of them are things I endorse, but I think you need to pick among them, discuss under what conditions some might work, what compromises you’re willing to make, and chart some kind of course change–because our present trajectory has us pointed at a cliff, and moving toward it at high speed.
>>>
>>> 1. Stop the bleeding: Put WBAI into an LMA. This would entail handing control of WBAI (and responsibility for paying its bills) to another nonprofit, while Pacifica maintains ultimate control of the broadcast license. In the past, we’ve had offers from multiple nonprofits that are compatible with Pacifica’s mission.
>>>
>>> Something has to give: WBAI has almost nothing left in the way of money, audience, personnel, nor facilities to re-build itself from. The cost of renting WBAI’s tower ($660,000/yr and rising 10% every year) and mataining a legally-compliant station in New York is simply more than Pacifica can afford. The LMA option could eliminate roughly $500,000/year in deficit, and hopefully leave WBAI with a much larger audience than it has today.
>>>
>>> If we can’t negotiate an LMA arrangement that would cover the bills, then the final option would be to approximate the same result internally: strip WBAI down to the FCC-mandated minimum number of staff on-site, simulcast one of the West Coast stations during most of the day, carry their pitches during fund drive, and have all the phone room, data entry, billing and premium fulfillment operations associated with fundraising happen out of that West Coast station. That arrangement would cost less. There’s a decent chance it would raise more. If it doesn’t raise enough to fix the problem, at least you’ll have exhausted every option short of a license sale.
>>>
>>> 2. Save our History: re-locate the Pacifica Radio Archive to a University. Our collection of reel-to-reel tapes currently takes up an entire floor of KPFK’s building, plus two rented storage units, plus the work of five paid employees to maintain and slowly digitize. We’ve had two universities offer to house those tapes at their expense, while Pacifica retains ownership. This could provide a lot of upsides: Pacifica’s stations would be relieved of the dues they pay to the Archive; the National Office wouldn’t have to keep floating PRA’s payroll when those dues come up short, KPFK would get an entire floor of its building back, which it could rent out to shore up revenues. And, in all honesty, a well-resourced University might take better care of the collection than we’ve been able to, be better-positioned to pursue preservation grants, and digitize that collection faster than the crawl we’ve been moving at.
>>>
>>> This option could eliminate up to $300,000/year in net costs, and potentially produce tens of thousands of dollars in rental income for KPFK.
>>>
>>> 3. Fix what we can: focus turn-around efforts on WPFW. Like WBAI, WPFW’s deficits approach $500,000/year. Unlike WBAI, WPFW doesn’t have insurmountably high overhead.
>>>
>>> If we could put out the fires in a couple other parts of the network, then focus our personnel and resources on WPFW, we could probably turn it around. That would entail getting assistance and advice from the National Office and sister stations on best practices on every front, from how the books are being kept, to how fund drives are being run, to how bills and solicitations are being manged.
>>>
>>> Again: I don’t think this type of detailed troubleshooting is possible unless and until we fix some of the other problems in the network first, and give the stations enough breathing room to put time into helping each other out.
>>>
>>> If we can’t turn around WPFW under our own power, you should consider requesting LMA/PSOA proposals like we have for WBAI.
>>>
>>> 4. New revenue channels: the Affiliates Program. The Affiliates Director made a proposal last year to set up an underwriting cooperative for affiliates, which she said would both encourage more stations to join our affiliates program, and result in small direct revenues to Pacifica. The board basically shot it down over the income-splitting formula she proposed (which was problematic, but fixable), and opposition to having anything to do with underwriting (which is a question of political principles that we never fully debated nor resolved). Last year’s board left the door open to considering a revised version of the proposal, but management never followed up — if this is something the PNB doesn’t have principled opposition to, it’s something you could direct staff to start working on again. This is an actionable proposal for bringing more money in the door — all it’s waiting for is the PNB to decide where it stands.
>>>
>>> 5. Fast money. We need an infusion of one-time cash to to keep from going under while the long-term solutions listed above go into effect–without it, we will be in court with our creditors (and possibly our unions) within a matter of months, if not weeks.
>>>
>>> There is only one real option I can think of: the real estate we own next to KPFA’s studios. It comprises one parcel and two buildings in Downtown Berkeley that are rotting away for lack of maintenance. One of them currently houses the National Office’s accounting staff (about four people).
>>>
>>> This is the only real estate we own that isn’t crucial to broadcast operations. If we can’t get a mortgage against that property, we should sell it before our inability to make payments on other obligations gets a lien slapped on the buildings.
>>>
>>> The National Office Staff could squeeze into KPFA’s studios for the time being; KPFA could re-locate the stored items it can’t throw out.
>>>
>>> It pains me to propose this, because that real estate is something that the people at my station — KPFA — worked hard, and gave hard, to purchase and pay off. But it’s a valuable, mostly-idle asset that we’re neglecting — and we desperately need a cash infusion to have a chance of getting out of our downward spiral.
>>>
>>> I would strongly oppose a sale of the parcel if that sale were the only measure on the table–the infusion of cash would only help us delay facing our structural problems. But if the proposal to sell is attached to a plan for addressing our structural problems–something like what I’ve outlined above–it makes sense.
>>>
>>> Most of the moves above will require considerable time from staff and management to develop into actionable proposals that the board can vote on — so it’s important for the board to signal, now, which directions it wants to move in, so that staff know the time they do put into developing plans won’t be wasted.
>>>
>>> The ideas above also leave unresolved the bigger questions facing us as a media organization: How do we bring younger generations to our work? How do we move beyond terrestrial FM broadcasting, and spread Pacifica’s work on digital platforms, social media, podcasts, etc.? And how do we pay for that?
>>>
>>> I don’t have easy answers — it’s part of what I’ll be exploring during my year at Stanford — but I do know we can’t make progress on those fronts until we’ve put out the fires. Until we’ve stopped the bleeding and put some money in the bank, we have nothing we can spend pursuing promising but risky new ideas. And until we’ve moved our staff and boards beyond perpetual crisis-response mode, we won’t be coming up with a lot of brilliant ideas to pursue.
>>>
>>> Above all, we have to do something: every day that we don’t make major changes, is a day that we go deeper into debt, a day that we lose more room to maneuver, and a day that our audience grows a little bit smaller. Deciding not to do anything is the worst decision we can make.
>>>
>>> Of course, deciding not to do anything is mostly what we’ve been doing. We are an organization that is ruled by inertia. Our boards fight over everything, and decide almost nothing of importance. Our managers have dozens of bosses and no direction. They’ve learned that initiating change themselves is a great way to get attacked — so they keep their heads down and try not to get noticed.
>>>
>>> Our governance structure contributes heavily to this organizational paralysis, and you have the power to change it. Pursue bylaws amendments that shrink the size of our boards, so they are less prone to factionalization, and so the meetings are less chaotic. Consider longer terms for PNB members, so there’s not constant churn, and board members have time to build mutual trust. If those still leave the boards divided and dysfunctional, then revisit whether STV is working. It almost always produces narrowly-divided boards–maybe a winner-take-all election system that gave the organization a clear direction would be preferable to our power-sharing system that produces little more than acrimony and stasis.
>>>
>>> Good luck,
>>> Brian
>>>
>>>
>>>

Learn more at DANIEL’S FREE SPEECH ZONE.

***

[1]  The KPFA Local Station Board is, essentially, a board of directors with governance powers over KPFA radio and its traditional radio station management hierarchy.

The Local Station Board, or LSB, is a deliberative body, which adheres to some form of Robert’s Rules of Order, as its rules for parliamentary procedure.  They meet regularly, sometimes monthly, around KPFA’s listening signal range.  But, mostly, they meet in Berkeley.

The LSB agenda usually begins with public comment.  Then, the LSB discusses the governance of KPFA and associated processes and makes decisions in a representative fashion on behalf of staff and listeners.

The LSB is comprised of KPFA staff members and listener members, who are elected by staff and listener voters, respectively.

For an excellent history of KPFA’s democratic governance structure, please read my acquaintance Curt Gray’s account.  It is written from his perspective, in concurrence with his friends, who fought for, and won, a democratic governance structure at KPFA and the Pacifica Radio Network:

Stealing Save KPFA” by Curt Gray (in concurrence with Jeffrey Blankfort, Maria Gilardin, Marianne Torres and Sasha Futran), San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, 20 SEP 2010.

I remember when KPFA’s Dennis Bernstein was keeping us, the free speech radio audience, posted about the mood and climate inside of KPFA, which was occupied by armed thugs, mostly ex-government intelligence agents, brought in by the repressive upper management.  And, then, one evening the grits hit the fan, as it were.  Dennis Bernstein, who refused to be censored at free speech radio, was arrested and dragged out of the station.  But not before he got the word out to those of us, who listen daily.  I took off from work early in San Carlos, CA, and drove across the SF Bay to Berkeley, CA, to join with the dozens of loyal KPFA listener supporters to block the police mariyah van from hauling away our free speech radio broadcasters.  The staff and listeners were all locked out; and the corrupt elites took over.  But those dozens of KPFA supporters soon became hundreds, then thousands.  And the people fought back and won a democratic governance structure for KPFA and its spinoff, the national Pacifica Radio Network.  But, some people have never liked democratic radio, so the struggle continues for, and against.

See:  “Berkeley Gets Radical Over KPFA Lock Out…”

[2]  The SaveKPFA faction can be vicious adversaries, who may call the cops on you, try to have you banned from attending LSB meetings or from meeting your friends and colleagues at the radio station in Berkeley, or try to bankrupt you with legal damages in court, as they did with Daniel Borgström.  On at least one occasion, Daniel was, basically, bullied by members of the SaveKPFA faction, for daring to attend a KPFA LSB meeting, which they’d rather hold in permanent executive session, i.e., behind closed doors.

Daniel, a quiet, humble, and peaceful, decades-long KPFA supporter and observer of the LSB from the beginning, stood up to the SaveKPFA faction and their thug attorney, Dan Siegel.  But, ultimately, Siegel’s legalese was stronger and justice did not prevail.  If I’m not mistaken, Daniel was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in damages.  (I’ll have to look that up and update this footnote.)

[3]  I’ll have to find a picture of friendship, which I took with Brian Edwards-Tiekert (BET) in 2010 at a KPFA LSB ballot count.  At that time, it seemed that BET, as his KPFA pal Lewis Sawyer would call him, had an implacable vendetta against any ‘outsiders’ trying to influence the governance and nature of KPFA and Pacifica Radio.  BET seemed like an enemy of free speech radio.  But he also always struck me as a fundamentally decent guy.  Like, Daniel Borgström, I recall that BET was one of the few people around KFPA to hear me out.  BET even advised me, correctly, against going to journalism school one night at KPFA in the phone room during a KPFA pledge drive.  Since, at the time, I was interested in law, as a way to augment my civic engagement, he advised me, instead, to study law and then practice journalism.  That way, I could be an expert journalist on issues of law.  This made sense.  And BET seemed sincere.  Indeed, I’ve somewhat applied this notion to my academics by earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from the heterodox economics department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which I learned about on KPFA’s Guns and Butter.

But a few personal niceties aside, like my good friend Daniel Borgström, we cannot ignore BET’s decade of treachery on KPFA’s LSB.

The story of KPFA and the Pacifica Radio Network is much bigger than just one local community radio station in Berkeley, California, and not just because it’s the flagship station of a national network, which emanates to many other affiliate stations nationwide.  The story of free speech radio KPFA is important for the nation, and the world, because it provides a model of an experiment in broadcasting truly free of capitalist profit motive.

Broadcast media is crucial, not only for informing the citizenry to render them capable of making informed decisions, but also for the public to listen to itself, to engage each other in thoughtful discussion, free from corporate and for-profit interests, which by their very nature are anti-democratic.  Only through free speech media can people engage each other in an open and critical fashion, so that the public can hear alternative perspectives in an open manner to, then, be able to make up their minds for themselves.  This will never happen on for-profit broadcast media.

So, KPFA represents a model, which must be scaled up, but which instead has been co-opted by the likes of NPR and PBS, which are subtly funded and inhibited by their corporate underwriters.

It is not hyperbolic to say that if half the radio dials across the nation were free speech community radio stations, we would have a much more democratic society.

***

[14 SEP 2016]

[Last modified  19:34 PDT  15 SEP 2016]

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements