State of the Station
First, I hope you and your families are staying well. In recent weeks, radio stations across the country have been disrupted by the realignment to a remote broadcasting workforce, a sunken economy and an unprecedented demand for up-to-the-minute public health information, resources and news coverage. The broadcast world has surely changed a lot.
Fortunately, KPFA has faced these challenges head-on and has continued to serve our local communities, proving once again that we are a trusted and valued media outlet in an ever-changing media landscape. We should be proud of the continued energy and passion our news and public affairs professionals put into our news responsive format. It’s our mission to protect the health, wealth and welfare of our listeners and our goal to keep putting out crucial information along with our cultural and musical uplifting programming.
Undoubtedly, these changes may have put additional strain on our systems and resources. Yet we’ve been able to smoothly maintain critical day-to-day operations by adjusting the programming schedule and put into action our automation system and enhance our off-air social media promotion in response to the immediate needs of our local community. For example, KPFA’s extensive Mutual Aid and COVID-19 resources and services on our website homepage that offers direct support across the Bay Area for food and medicine delivery programs, striking workers and tenant’s rights just to name a few.
During the crisis our listeners have rallied around KPFA in increasing numbers. This uptick is not unusual, we’ve experienced it before during our gavel to gavel coverage of Judge Kavanaugh and the Impeachment hearings. The listener feedback was immediately encouraging but their generosity really tells the tale.
We realized something about ourselves. This has always been a part of KPFA’s history beginning with the McCarthy hearings, through Watergate and Iran Contra, it’s expected and it’s a continuation of our best practices, a service we deliver and one of the critical keys to our continued successful fundraising activities. KPFA plans to stay focused on our public service mission during this time of crisis. I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s too much at stake not to.
This week KPFA interrupted regular morning drive time to broadcast important Senate and House hearings on Covid-19. On Tuesday we broadcast the Senate testimony of Dr. Anthony Fauci on reopening the country and Thursday we broadcast the testimony of whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright a vaccine scientist in a House Hearing on Protecting Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 response. Cat Brooks, Mitch Jeserich and Brian Edward-Tiekert hosted the hearings and fundraising around these special broadcasts was highly successful signaling that listeners appreciated such coverage.
I’d like to welcome aboard the newly elected members. Coming from a lifetime in radio and non-profit work, I hope you will take the time to learn more about the world of non-commercial broadcasting and strive to understand that all successful boards are a product of teamwork. It’s not about any individual’s interest—it’s about what the board does collectively to raise funds and increase listenership.
Ideally, these meetings are an opportunity for everyone to become connected to what the station is doing and to help energize and support those efforts.
In a successful active board, relationships need to be open-ended, joyful, spontaneous, and in true partnership with each other—a dynamic source of ideas, resources and energy. We need to target our objectives and not get distracted by noise and negative energy.
Our board’s primary responsibility is to focus on the big issues that management brings forth—the important problems facing the station that need tackling. There is a networking component to your position—a readiness to share contacts that may have valuable resources to offer and steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical policies to ensure that KPFA has adequate resources to advance its mission.
Ask yourself as a board member, especially you new members what value do you bring to this LSB?
What actual broadcasting or nonprofit fundraising or business skill are you willing to contribute to KPFA’s financial support?
What can you do to help fulfill KPFA’s mission as a powerful, alternative broadcast media outlet?
I offer you this challenge.
Our biggest need is off-air fund raising. Yet we don’t have a fund-raising committee established to help brainstorm, create and assist with successful fund-raising projects. If several of you could direct your energies in this direction, that would be a major step forward. Off-air fund-raising is crucial to our survival. On-air fund drives are our lifeblood, any additional funding offers us the flexibility to improve our equipment, operational needs and build a financial reserve.
The last recession clobbered local news organizations including KPFA. This new one could be even worse as each day brings a new round of layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts in our beleaguered industry.
It’s here now, an economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
Even in the midst of this pandemic, KPFA is in no position to skip our revenue-raising efforts. So, we have imagined newer paths to move forward that have proven resourceful.
In response to our coverage of COVID-19, the success of our Birthday pledge speaks volumes. Thanks to the incredible job of the on-air hosts on April 15th, as well as a direct mailer and eblasts, the birthday drive this year has brought in a whopping $74 thousand dollars. Our goal was $45 thousand. Of that amount pledged, we have a 90% fulfillment rate.
We’ve also received many comments like this one from a listener that captures the need for what we do so beautifully. He wrote: “I can’t tell you what you mean to me, and not just for your ample, valuable, reliable information, but for your courage and steadfastness. To me, KPFA is an old, dear friend.”
Our increased online stats echo a surge in our listenership at 94.1 FM. Not bad for a radio station that had to alter its programming schedule due to Coronavirus and yet has found a positive way to proceed with our fundraising. With our new normal of KPFA programmers broadcasting remotely and automated programming during nighttime hours, we’ve had to upgrade our appeal marketing to enhance KPFA’s off-air publicity. It worked well for us during the Birthday celebration and we plan on extending it along with adding some enhancements for the Spring Drive.
We started a week earlier with a pre-drive social media and on air campaign for early donations to help usher in enough funds to hopefully allow us to cut days off the drive.
During this drive: We will not be offering the usual suspects of films, books or CDs as premiums.
The idea is to pitch the importance of supporting the station and in by doing so helping our community through this crisis.
We are going to offer listeners the option to choose to have KPFA donate 10% of their donation to a small group of non profits that we are offering as ‘premiums’ that will be on the KPFA donate page. The list includes regional Food Banks, help for undocumented folks, help for incarcerated mothers, and a
relief fund for musicians. Programmers can choose a nonprofit to focus on and to build a show around or just pitch the station.
This will allow us to employ shorter pitches. Short-to-the-point pitching is easier to digest and allows programmers to get back quickly to their show content.
We will replicate a similar social media campaign that we employed for our Birthday celebration with pre, during and post drive activity. Several E-Blasts will be deployed to our database before, during and especially post-drive encouraging listeners to donate online.
A bit of basic radio knowledge is necessary before we continue. I need to explain morning and afternoon drive times and what they mean. Most radio listening occurs doing those two time periods: 5 AM-10 AM and 3 PM-7 PM. Just a few years ago in the Bay Area those hours were shorter 7-9AM and 4-6 PM, but with our population increase, traffic upturn and flexibility in work schedules radio listening drive times have lengthened and we have to make positive and informative changes to these critical differences.
Two years ago, we made changes to our morning drive line-up to strengthen and improve our chances of gaining new listeners. At 5 AM we added “Rising Up with Sonali,” which became a tremendous lead in program to “Democracy Now” at 6 AM. We expanded our local morning show “UpFront” to two hours, followed by a repeat of DN at 9AM into “Letters and Politics” at 10AM. This new line-up along with “The Talkies” at 11 AM and “Against the
Grain” at Noon gave us the strongest, diversified line-up in Bay Area up against “NPR’s Morning Edition” which just repeats from 3 AM till 9 AM on our two main competitors.
At 3 PM we’re up against the “PBS News Hour and All Things Considered” on KQED and KALW which we suspected was why our online listener stats and fund-raising ability is lowest during this hour. We know for KPFA to compete vigorously with the other public radio stations in the market that we need to be offering our listeners a “news-worthy” program. The obvious move was to move the 6:00 PM Pacifica National newscast up to 3:00 PM; which we considered, debated and built scenarios around but couldn’t find a cost-effective way to proceed because of the large amount of resources needed to make that work in the tighter news cycle timeframe.
We even made a presentation to our sister stations to share in the costs because with an earlier newscast would be available for the East Coast stations at 6 PM and 5 PM in Houston. But the idea never took hold. Then with KPFK we thought of just making it a regional broadcast and share expenses but that too was too costly. Then we discovered from K that “Rising Up With Sonali” was soaring in afternoon ratings. We decided this was our answer—to run the nationally syndicated show, (with 30 + Pacifica radio affiliates) award-wining all-women-run program that covers a broad array of fiercely progressive topics. Plus, Rising Up was named to Nation Magazine’s Progressive Honor Roll in 2019, as the top multimedia news program.
Rising Up’s five-minute newscast that jumpstarts every show with up-to-the-minute news of the day was just what we needed to
compete at 3PM and our increased online stats have already proven this. Not to mention the luxury of having a veteran programmer pitching during fund drives has improved our overall daily totals.
The 3 PM shows that were selected to remain in our programming spectrum; be it on 94.1 FM or our growing podcast network division online at AREA 941; have been moved to strategical time slots that will help foster their growth or enhance our programming mission. For example, “A Rude Awakening” hosted by Sabrina Jacobs changed format and came to our rescue as a climate emergency show that our grid and the market desperately needed.
Some folks at KPFA are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones and don’t threaten their comfort zone. Everyone has his or her own vision of what the station is or should be or how it should be managed. Many views are wonderfully utopian, without considering listener ratings, human resources concerns, diversity alignment with the KPFA mission and what can realistically be implemented. There is an unwillingness to see the station as a non-profit business where change is an inevitable part of doing business.
So, when change happens – in this case a change in the programming grid at 3 PM – the immediate response is typically “How dare management make changes without including the entire station population in the decision?” Fact is none of our decisions are made in a vacuum or off the hip. We collaborate and gather feedback, data and see what fits our strategic plan for attracting more members and increasing revenue.
It’s management’s job to make hard choices and assume responsibility for their failure or success. Under the Employment Guidelines in the newly approved Pacifica Employee Handbook (2019) all employees are classified as “employment at will.” Which means employees are free to leave at any time, for any reason and it’s management prerogative to eliminate or move programs around at any time of paid or unpaid staff.
KPFA Engineering Report
The Engineering Department is currently understaffed and having trouble meeting the expansive needs of local and remote workers. The Engineering Department has a need for skilled professionals to manage, maintain, work with remote programmers. To meet this need we hired an Interim Systems Engineer, Ajay Tallam. Ajay came to us first as a fund drive volunteer answering phones, who wanted to do more, so he joined our Development Department as an OAC. We soon found out about his engineering background and skills that the engineering department has been looking for since the departure of our last assistant two years ago.
The current technological and physical state of the News Department’s Control Room and Studio does not meet today’s broadcast standards. To remediate this, we have secured a new digital console mixing board along with accompanying furniture, to meet the needs of the News and Production Department. This makeover will provide a fully operational studio for live and pre-recorded programs and is expected to be completed by Fall 2020.
Operations Department Report: Orientation for Programmers
The goal of the Orientation is to ensure that all programmers and any staff member with the ability to provide content on 94.1FM understands and complies with the FCC, KPFA and Pacifica’s policy on the following:
- Obscenity, Indecency, Patently Offensive Language 2. Equal Time and the Fairness Doctrine
- Payola and Plugola
- Defamation of Character
- Copyright Issues and Fair Use
- Code of Conduct
As of Monday, May 11th, around 70% of Programmers and Operations Dept Staff has completed the orientation. Our goal is 100% compliance by mid to late June of this year.
Producing Content Off-Site
The pandemic and Shelter In Place mandate highlighted that many KPFA programmers rely solely on the station’s resources to produce their content. In April, the Operations Department’s AMP Training Program began additional online instruction to change this equation with classes on editing and field recording to programmers who need the training. Operations will continue to offer free consultation to all staff who are building remote broadcasting setups and will resume more training in June and/or July, with the explicit goal of getting 80-90% of programming staff the skills and ability to produce content off-site.
The Operations Department Internship program has continued to train interns online and we hope to get back to hands-on training once Shelter In-Place is lifted. At this time, we have officially posted information on the Internship program on our website.
New Database System: Allegiance
After two years of searching and experimenting the Development department and the Business department have a new needed system, Allegiance, to modernize our data collection system, monitor our finances and build collaborative client partnerships in the 21st Century.
Allegiance was created for public radio. The system has intricacies and specific requirements that a non-profit radio stations need to be able to fund raise and grow relationships with donors. This new system is a step towards allowing KPFA to fully take advantage of the donor-centric fundraising style expected by non-profits today. Allegiance allows us to track donors and their giving levels, their interests, and how they relate to the station. Allegiance will give us a chance to have the most accurate data for reports in the Business Department as well as for auditing.
Revenue and Data Review
Impeachment Coverage (January 2020)
Total Pledged – $19,457
Total Paid – $14,252
Winter Fund Drive –
Total Pledged – $482,258
Total Paid – $380,270
79% Fulfillment (This will change biz dev is still entering more payments from the last month.)
Birthday Drive – Goal $45,000
Total Pledged – $75,076
Total Paid – $67,741
KPFA’s Spring Drive 2020 is currently underway. Over the last 3 days we have surpassed $100k. Our short pitch/no premiums campaign is performing well, and our donors are appreciating our community-centered approach with giving support to the other essential non-profits during this time of uncertainty. ESTIMATED/PRELIMINARY
FY2020 thru 4/30/2020
EXPENSES * $2,097,285
NET INCOME $76,085
* Includes all pension accruals
Operating Acct Balance ** = $125,200
** This includes fund drive money as of Friday, mid-day. Payables Due*** = $1800
*** Payable due is after all central services and bills received as of 5/14.
Community Advisory Board
We are continuing plans for community engagement and outreach across our signal range and the KPFA Community Advisory Board will be supporting that effort by contacting individuals and community organizations to let them know about KPFA. Board members are welcome to participate in that effort.
Submitted by: Quincy McCoy/ General Manger