Pacifica misses CPB deadlines, holding up funding for stations

By Mike Janssen

CPB has withheld financial support for the Pacifica Foundation’s five radio stations after the organization missed deadlines for fixing errors and shortcomings in its accounting and operations.

The errors were discovered during a CPB audit last year that cited Pacifica for insufficient accounting practices, misreported revenues and failure to comply with CPB rules on open meetings and financial transparency.

The withholding of CPB funding hits Pacifica at a precarious time as its stations struggle to raise enough money to pay rent and staff. WBAI, Pacifica’s New York station, fell short of its on-air fundraising goal in May by 45 percent, or $343,000. The station can’t cover its June payroll or rent for its antenna, according to a June 9 email by Berthold Reimers, g.m., to members of WBAI’s board.

The station will extend its fund drive, wrote Reimers, who added, “This is our only choice until we can figure out other means or else we will have to shut down the station.”

WBAI was also struggling to pay antenna rent in February, and at the time Reimers hoped to draw on $130,000 in Community Service Grant (CSG) support from CPB, which was to be delivered in March. But CPB withheld that money and grants to all other Pacifica stations because it has not received requested documentation from the Berkeley, Calif.–based foundation.

A September 2012 audit by CPB’s Office of the Inspector General found Pacifica in violation of several criteria for receiving CSG payments. The foundation had overstated its nonfederal financial support from October 2008 to September 2010 by about $2 million, which resulted in CPB erroneously awarding Pacifica an excess of $133,240 in CSGs.

The foundation had made the error by improperly valuing some premiums given away during on-air fund drives. It blamed the problem on “new staff members” and errors made by a public accountant. Pacifica recently hired a new chief financial officer.

CPB will adjust Pacifica’s CSG payments in 2014 to recover the excess money previously awarded, according to Michael Levy, executive v.p. of corporate and public affairs. Per station, that amount ranges from $6,910 to $42,732.

The corporation has also withheld a CSG payment scheduled for earlier this year because Pacifica has not provided its Annual Financial Reports or documented that it is properly tracking use of CSG funds. It could still receive those funds if it complies with CPB’s requests, Levy said.

CPB’s audit also found that Pacifica and its stations were failing to comply with Communications Act requirements regarding open meetings, open financial records, and documenting of operating procedures. The funder is awaiting documents proving that Pacifica is addressing those concerns.

Summer Reese, Pacifica’s interim executive director, could not be reached for comment.

  • Bill Tutuki

    Well Pacifica should have considered merging with either LinkTV or Free Speech TV(More Reflective of Pacifica)). I just think that they should have gotten better consultants to resolve their issues.

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      Or they might have gone out of business or been purchased by a corporation?

  • LaurenceGlavin

    A few weeks ago, New York public radio announced a deal to buy a low-power FM in the non-commercial band to extend the reach of WQXR-FM 105.9, which runs a mere six-hundred watts on the Empire State Building rather than the six-THOUSAND watts other broadcasters up there use. (If that seems low also, broadcast power is one thing, but there’s an FCC standard that applies to high-altitude FMs in crowded metropolitan areas). This so-called expansion would be a band-aid (oh wait, Band-Aid is a proprietary brand name, so I should add “tm” after the name! Sorry) approach. New York Public Radio should jump in and make a deal to move WQXR-FM to 99.5 so it would have a reach equal to the 96.3 frequency it vacated. Maybe they could sell 105.9 to Pacifica or Pacifica could get out of terrestrial radio altogether and go all-online.

    • Bill Tutuki

      Wait Another thing Pacifica Radio Could have done was merge with (Free Speech TV) a progressive TV Network seen on Dish Network and Directv. They have Progressive TV shows and Documentaries that match with Pacifica radio. The Problem here is that Pacifica could have sold KPFA 94.1 FM to Cumulus in San Francisco and keep KPFB-FM Berkeley the Problem here is that the Pacifica Board is too busy yelling conspiracies against PBS, NPR and Commercial outlets and not looking at the marketing ploys. Look some the NPR affiliates in Some parts of the Country such as San Francisco’s KQED-FM they would market their News/Talk shows on PBS affiliates such as KQED-TV or in some cases the NPR affiliate did merge with a PBS-TV affiliate as a ploy to maximize the audience.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        These proposals don’t seem like very wise choices. You’re suggesting selling perfectly fine stations (KPFA) b/c WBAI is having financial problems. FAIL
        You may call PBS and KQED ‘public broadcasting’, but the underwriters are taking up more and more time — and becoming some of the worst corporate offenders (Bank of America, Citigroup, BP Oil, Exxon/Chevron, etc) — and now apparently the Koch brothers have influence as well!!
        Seems like KPFA and all other Pacifica stations are becoming more and more valuable because they are not manipulated by corporate $$$ or billionaires.
        I would say not to sell the stations, but license the content for redistribution. There are almost NO real news shows anymore, particularly investigative journalism, and Pacifica has a ton of good stuff (and a bunch of less than good as well).
        NOTE: I am a KPFA fan and supporter.

        • mikejanssen

          What Pacifica shows do you think could be redistributed?

          Mike Janssen

          • Bill Tutuki

            How about Democracy Now and Free Speech Media News to Free Speech TV.

          • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

            FSRN, Democracy Now (I think it already is redistributed), Hard Knock Radio, Flashpoints, and there are likely shows at KPFK like Beneath the Surface & others.

          • Bill Tutuki

            Thanks I do know that FSRN is partially managed by both KPFA and KPFK. Hard Knock radio and Flashpoints are KPFA and KFCF (Pacifica O&O Fresno) owned shows. I know WBAI has Occupy Wall Street Radio.

            @ RekzkaRZ Thanks I never thought about some of the other consequences of selling Pacifica or merging Pacifica off. But There has to be a solution somewhere. Pacifica needs to find a way prove to people in other parts of the country that view MSNBC and Ex-Air America as “Progressive.” and market their brand to them.

        • Bill Tutuki

          Well I seen Free Speech TV on DirecTV and they have some resemblance to Pacifica Radio they do more Investigative Documentaries and Progressive shows Such as the Movie Priceless(Expose on Lobbyists) and the TV edition of Democracy Now . I watch Free Speech TV and download Pacifica podcasts from KMUD-FM Pacifica Affliliate in Eureka and KPFA-FM from Berkeley to get a better idea on Occupy Party’s Objectives and Green Party’s Objectives.

        • Bill Tutuki

          I also happen to agree with you that PBS, APT, NETA, ITVS, KQED inc, on the Public TV Side does too many DOnor shows every weekend and KQED-FM, APM, PRI, NPR and PRX have questionable underwriters too.

    • Bill Tutuki

      The Problem here is that Pacifica Radio was only meant to be marketed to districts in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco and not in other parts of the country. In Fact KALW-FM (NPR Station) has a semi-progressive talk show called “your call” and it tends to aim the San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley audience while KQED-FM (the other NPR affiliate) tends to aim for the Bay Area Suburbs.

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