Welcome to Re-Thinking Pacifica, where we are working to protect the mission of the Pacifica Foundation, and to ensure its survival and growth. We hope the sun will rise on a new day for Pacifica – one where Pacifica will grow stronger and more influential, where people across the US (and beyond) will look to Pacifica for high quality independent news, music, and public affairs that they can’t get elsewhere, and which has adapted to the media challenges of the 21st Century.
But many Pacificans and others are worried that we’re seeing the sunset of Pacifica, and have expressed disappointment, dismay, and worse with:
our governance (our boards), which are filled with distrust, infighting, and dysfunction,
our boards’ inability to deal with problems such as declining listenership and growing debt, which is threatening our very survival, and
the very serious risks the above create for all of our stations, and which put Pacifica’s survival in doubt.
Because the operations of our boards are controlled by the Pacifica Bylaws, please help us determine what changes are needed. Please click here to complete this survey. It only takes a few minutes.
How and Why Should We Make Pacifica Better?
Please give us your thoughts on how to make Pacifica better. We especially want ideas about how to change our Bylaws and governance. Please click here to fill out oursurvey!
We consider upholding the Pacifica mission to be central to moving forward effectively. We want to see if we can establish a new set of Bylaws that support and enhance the mission. The Pacifica mission statement is here.
Our present 15 year old Pacifica Bylaws have both strengths and weaknesses. Now we need to look realistically at what has worked and what hasn’t. We appreciate those who developed the Bylaws. Many of them have told us the Bylaws are not working well, given where we are today – that there are serious inconsistencies and flaws that have resulted in chaos and opportunistic manipulation, and that have caused (almost guaranteed) very poor governance because of serious conflicts, lawsuits, distrust, and paralysis in our boards. Despite good intentions, our current Bylaws have allowed a situation that works against carrying out Pacifica’s mission. Frankly, they have created little arenas of power struggle which have paralyzed the organization.
Most of our board members have little or no training or useful experience in finance, broadcasting management, fundraising, or human resources. Our Pacifica boards have both dedicated people who actively work to help our stations, and also people who resort to insults, name-calling, slander, character assassination and delay tactics to advance their goals. At times, we seem to bring out the worst in people, not the best in people. However, in the face of dysfunctional behavior, the Bylaws make it almost impossible to remove board members except for insider political control.
Pacifica is increasingly saddled with debt. The boards seem paralyzed about how to pay it off. With dwindling listenership and annual financial losses, there is not enough money to pay basic expenses. The network is under constant threat of our creditors suing or foreclosing on the loan which has used all of our buildings, and other assets, as collateral.
MILLIONS of dollars of debt
Pacifica’s debt includes the 2018 loan for over $3.2M (used to refinance our debt to Empire State Realty Trust and to get out of the rest of the WBAI tower lease), with the National Office building sold and all of the other Pacifica buildings mortgaged and put at risk. This loan must be paid off by March 2021 or station buildings and other assets, including the Pacifica Radio Archives and intellectual property of Pacifica, may be sold at auction to pay off the loan. Other interested parties may already have plans to purchase the assets when the loan defaults. Interest rates are rising and so is the interest expense for this variable-rate loan. We will be in default by the fall of 2018, giving the lender the right to raise the interest rate to 18% if they choose, and to seize any of our buildings if they wish, even before 2021. We are at their mercy, and can only hope they will be patient and understanding. Vague hopes of refinancing this debt seem unrealistic, both with finding another willing lender and the prospect of higher interest rates. The interest and other loan expenses are likely to be at least $1 million for this 3-year loan, and we must pay back both that and the principal. There’s a lot of talk about getting more revenue, but no indication of any serious steps being taken given our present boards.
In addition to that big loan, we still owe an additional $4 million, including to our own employees’ pension plans – again with no way defined to pay it back.
Pacifica can’t keep spending more money than we’re bringing in each year, going deeper into debt, and somehow expecting things will get better without changes. Everyone agrees we need more revenue and/or lower expenses, but our boards have been unable to work effectively to do that.
We need to be able to modernize all of the stations. They were built on a 1947 model, and they have to learn how to function in the new media environment of social media and multiple alternative outlets online. They have to have resources and leadership to move to a 2018 model of radio and communications.
The Pacifica National Board and Local Station Boards have not found a way to transition to the new media landscape. This is holding us back financially, in expanding to reach new listeners, and in fulfilling the Pacifica mission. We, who are and have been Pacifica board members, realize that our very structure has put at risk Pacifica’s survival.
To make matters worse, many members don’t believe the boards represent them. Many local board members were not elected by the membership but are lower placed alternates who were seated to replace other board members who resigned once they saw the ineffectiveness and inappropriate behavior or abdication of responsibility of other board members, and realized that our local boards have almost no real authority.
One frequent complaint from members and programmers is that conflict among board members keeps those in governance from raising funds, doing marketing, and improving programming and technology.
Being progressives means embracing change. In the history of aviation, if people had stuck with 18th and 19th century ideas of how to build aircraft, we’d still be stuck on the ground. Pacifica needs to be open to new options and possibilities to be able to fly and to find ways to make sure Pacifica not only survives and is able to pay its bills, but grows in listenership, influence, and support.
Together, we can, and must, build a better Pacifica.We have to be willing to make changes – not in our mission, but in our boards and governance in order to carry out that Mission which we still believe is so important.
We hope this is helpful. Now, please tell us what YOU think! Fill out our survey, and ask others to do so, too!
About Rethinking Pacifica
We are a group of current and former board members of the Pacifica Foundation, concerned with the serious issues facing the Foundation and other independent media. We recognize an urgent need for effective governance to deal with those issues.
Many Pacifica members from all five of our Pacifica-owned stations, as well as our affiliate stations, have expressed grave concerns about the ability of our boards to effectively oversee and protect the over $100 million of assets of our network. Members have expressed alarm about the large and growing debt, loss of members and listeners, and the fact that so many people do not know about our stations.
Because our Bylaws are the organizational structure for how our board members are selected and how they are directed to operate, we think it’s important to start with determining what changes are needed in our Bylaws so that we can have governance capable of dealing with the issues.
We agree that:
We are reaching out to find others who want to work together to help improve our governance and boards.
We seek processes and communication structures to allow us to be able to get more listeners and supporters.
We are committed to helping insure that Pacifica can pay its bills and keep our stations open.
We need to find the funds to modernize our stations.
Our society is wrought with conflict, from institutions, individuals, and businesses that take advantage of others through theft, lies, and violence. Pacifica was formed to be a beacon of light for finding a better, saner way – exploring non-violent conflict resolution, respecting and helping each other, and championing peace and justice both in our programming and our governance. Our country, and our world, need Pacifica. Our very name means “peace”, and we must create an internal environment which supports us in bringing that message to the world.
But for Pacifica’s mission to have an impact, we must grow. Like the dandelion, we must spread seeds far and wide – seeds of truth, peace and justice, to make this world a better place.
Help the sun rise on an even-better Pacifica. Don’t let it be the sunset of Pacifica!
From members of the Rethinking Pacifica collective: As people across the country are sharing and contributing to the Rethinking Pacifica bylaws survey, a small group of people have attempted to stop the communication. A motion was approved at the Aug. KPFT LSB meeting to shut down the website. Strong objections were made that the motion …
Thanks to those of you who have already filled out our survey, and keep reading to see some of the many comments and suggestions we have received so far, from Pacifica supporters. We’d like to add yours, too, so be sure to fill out the survey today! We are looking to you, Pacifica supporters, to …