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Last year KPFA was on course to a fiscal train wreck. (See the graph--10 Years of KPFA Finances). The Pacifica National Board (PNB) stepped in to bring the KPFA finances under control which necessitated some cuts in staff. Seven people took voluntary severance, and in the end two people were laid off.
A controversy about the cuts ensued and has divided the KPFA community. The five months of controversy have revealed some of the substantive differences between those who propose different solutions.
Matt Hallinan of SaveKPFA, claimed that the "books could be balanced without making programmatic cuts" and that the problem was "one-way flow of funds to Pacifica – which now absorbs 24% of listener contributions to KPFA".
The numbers from the annual audited budget belies both of Matt‟s claims. A sustainable budget is one in which the expenses are in line with real income. As the "Listener Support‟ declined sharply between 2005 and 2009, there was no reduction in "Salaries and Benefits‟; however,
"Payments to Pacifica‟ and Pacifica Archives which is 17% and 2.8% of "Listener Support‟, were reduced, and Pacifica laid off most of its staff two years ago.
Matt Hallinan also claimed that the "firing of Brian Edwards-Tiekert was purely political" and "violated the terms of the union contract".
The layoffs followed the union contract which says: "In cases where skill, ability, knowledge and job performance are all equal, or could be equal in the opinion of the Employer after reasonable orientation and training, seniority shall prevail". The contract also gives bumping rights to laid-off members, and last month Brian exercised his bumping rights and returned as a paid staff member of the News Department. (This option had been available to him from the beginning.)
Some have tried to cast the conflict as one between management and union, using inflammatory words like "union busting‟, but as Kriss Worthington of Berkeley City Council astutely observed, this is not a battle between management and union but a battle between progressives that have differing visions for KPFA and Pacifica.
One side calls for KPFA to be independent and free of Pacifica Network.
The other side believes that effectiveness of Pacifica network derives from the interdependence of stations that share national programming like, Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio News, and Al Jazeera.
One side believes in "professionalism" and that the running of the station should be left to unionized paid staff.
The other side believes that locally the station should have many independent diverse voices from the community to be part of the station in producing and deciding on the programs.
In fact the crisis brought out the strength of KPFA, which is the skill and dedication of both its listener members and unpaid staff, which constitutes over 3/4 of the KPFA workforce, who seeing the financial challenges facing the station stepped up to put on the The Morning Mix show.
Mary Berg of Sunday‟s "A Musical Offering‟ commented: "This show thoroughly carries on the fine tradition of KPFA, which started as an educational station, in 1949. Its concept, unique in all of radio, was to offer not money for a few but a priceless opportunity for everyone with the passion and love to put in the hard work and be on the air. Over and over, throughout all the years, we have heard the miracle repeated as myriad new voices, tentative and hesitant at first, continue to be transformed into deft, accomplished ones - each unique - and all doing really good radio. This miracle happens again now on "Morning Mix". It never fails to be deeply moving."
Progressives should look closely at what has happened over the past five months and think carefully about which approach really serves the progressive community and furthers the goals of independent media which must first and foremost be financially viable in order to remain independent.
April 10, 2011
AKIO TANAKA is a member of KPFA's Local Station Board (LSB)
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10 Years of KPFA Finances in TABLE FORMAT
and, presented as a GRAPH, the same data:
10 Years of KPFA Finances GRAPH
for more information and updates please visit Support KPFA at www.supportkpfa.org