General Manager’s State of the Station Report By Quincy McCoy
A big shout out, a sincere thank you, to our real-life heroes, KPFA’s essential workers. The staff who have kept the station performing at a high level through this pandemic. They met the challenges head-on confidently, determined, that failure was not an option.
Despite the glimmer of hope that the arrival of the vaccines provides, with the skyrocketing coronavirus cases and overwhelmed hospitals in the Bay Area, KPFA has no choice but to continue our stay-at-home policy. Only essential workers will be allowed in the station, who must follow our strict protocols that includes quarantining themselves 10-14 days if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Things are likely to become worse before they get better. It’s likely California will see “a surge on top of a surge on top of a surge” following the holiday travel activity across the state.
The current trajectory of the coronaviruses makes it difficult to imagine the U.S. economic recovery getting back on track and heading closer to normal any time soon.
There are millions of unemployed people in the Bay Area. And this number is going to go higher over the next month or two. We are already seeing an increase in unemployment insurance claims at both the national and state levels, consequently, weakening our local economy.
I believe it’s clear our string of successful fund drives may soon come to an abrupt end. This may steer management to either cut hours, lay off paid staff or consolidate some positions. Indeed, some trimming may become necessary, yet I hesitate, because cutting content, KPFA’s marvelous mix of progressive culture, news, arts and music—the blood of our mission enters
Trust my 30 years of programming knowledge here — without talented, daily programming, that listeners can connect to we’ll lose donors. Fewer donors equal longer fund drives that will fall short of their goals and continue to burnout what little listenership we have left. It’s been my priority for six years to avoid reaching this point of diminishing returns and media insignificance.
Yet KPFA has the agency to pivot in tough times. We proved it in 2020 with our transition to remote broadcasting, with our social media campaigns, eliminating costly premiums, and delivering on our mission to protect the health, wealth and welfare of our listeners. In return our donor base generously rewarded us from our birthday celebration through our year end drive.
We all know the basic truth that fund drive revenue alone isn’t sufficient in providing enough financial stability for KPFA to sustain itself without the aid of outside funding or more importantly regular injections of consistent funding from new sources. Especially now without our CPB membership or funding. Jon Almeleh, Pacifica’s director of Engineering and Compliance has projected that each station will now have to pay nearly $4-thousand dollars a quarter for music copyright fees. And more urgently, KPFA and KPFB licenses are up for renewal in 2021 and at this moment Pacifica has yet to engage a law firm that specializes in FCC license renewals to steward this process that begins in March. As the song says, “There May be Trouble Ahead.”
2020 was a year of major change for organizations across all spectrums. One strong takeaway from all of this is that on-line giving is increasingly important to nonprofits, and notably increased by 23% over the past year, up from 15%.
KPFA’s new Development Director, Kevin H., is well aware of our station’s listener supported history, he’s a long-time listener, whose non-profit and on-air qualifications for the job is just what we need to move KPFA development forward. Here’s a quote from Kevin H. “My first quarter goal is to identify and expand all possible avenues for KPFA to receive donor gifts via on-line and mobile avenues, from Venmo and Apple Pay to Bitcoin and PayPal, and to make these options available to potential donors. I will also clarify instructions for donors with an emphasis on sustainers, streamline the donation process for gifts
of all types, but especially in the areas of Donor Advised Funds, Legacy Gifts, Stock Donations and Employer Matching.” A short bio about Kevin H is attached at the end of this report.
The LSB’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. Therefore, everyone serving on the board must be enthusiastic and actively involved in raising monies.
Within this poor economic outlook our biggest area of need is fund raising. Yet we don’t have a committee established to help brainstorm, create and assist with successful fund-raising projects. That’s why it’s imperative that I make my annual appeal for the formation of a Fundraising Committee, to work with me and our Development Director to help this board raise a substantial annual giving goal. Fact! That’s really what all Pacifica stations need, crave and desire from their LSB members.
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. Fund drives are our lifeblood, and additional off-air funding offers us the flexibility to improve our equipment and operational needs. I’ve made this pitch for the last 6 years so I’m not expecting a miracle. So, let’s start here.
How many board members are KPFA Sustainers? Donating a monthly amount to support the station. Very few. You understand that’s a commitment dilemma, if you’re not giving, you can’t ask other people to donate.
Business Office Report by Maria Negret, Business Manager
Fund Drive and Appeal Letter Pledges and Payments
Goal Goal to Description Count Pledged Amount Paid to Percent Balance Projected Pledged Avg Date Remaining Fulfillment
$450,000 98.4% $300,000 95.3%
3,801 $117 $442,972 $372,554 84.1% $70,418 97.30% Fund Drive
2020 2,555 $112 $285,858 $232,680 81.4% $53,178 100.00% Fund Drive
-0- -0- Holiday
2020 261 $131 $34,072 $33,687 98.9% $385 100.00%
PROPERTY TAXES: We’re still waiting to pay.
- On December 16, 2020, the county assessor’s inspector came to inspect the 1929 MLK and transmitter properties.
- In a Nov 2020 email the attorney explains the hold:
There was an issue with amending the Articles because that
requires member consent, and it is very difficult to achieve a quorum of members to vote on matters that require their consent. As such, to amend the Articles, Pacifica Foundation must file a writ of mandate with the court. This process is time consuming and there will likely be additional delays due to the pandemic. I do not have a timeline regarding how long this will take, but once the Articles are amended, it should only take a couple of weeks to have the Organizational Clearance Certificate issued as the application has already been submitted and we are just waiting on the amended Articles.
- KPFA has been holding on to reserves for years to pay the back taxes, penalties and interest.
- Property tax bills:
Without the non-profit exemption, KPFA would have paid approx. $480,408 With the non-profit exemption, KPFA would have paid approx. $48,620 IF KPFA had paid the tax bills as is, only four years would have been reimbursed, having lost approx.$234,384
Because nothing was paid, ALL bills will be recalculated. However, the exact amount is not yet known.
- KPFA had always been able to fund our pension fund.
- KPFA has already paid through Fiscal Year18.
- KPFA has had reserves to pay the remaining FY19 & FY20 pension funds. Again, we’re waiting for the NETA to give us the final totals.
Operations Department: Report OM Antonio Ortiz
2020 was a year of immense learning and growth for the Operations Department and the team has stepped up to address challenges our station were ill-prepared to accomplish when I became Operations Manager in 2018. The department continues to evolve and meet the needs of the station and I want you all to know the accomplishments of each individual.
Kirsten Thomas has done a superb job operating the board and continuing the smooth flow of content when programming staff transitioned to work from home in March and April of last year. Also, she and Rod Akil trained two interns to complete their Board Op Certification and both interns, EA and Jose Gonzalez, have been successfully filling in during the Thanksgiving and Winter Holidays. Rod is a reliable and dependable fill-in board operator, he’s been a rock for the station and fills in when we were short staffed.
Erica Bridgeman helped transition the Operations Department Internship program online and her consistent check in with the interns helped each individual overcome challenges. Also, Erica spotted the talent we needed for fill-in board operators and suggested we invest shadow time to both EA and Jose.
Mike Biggz and Miguel Guerrero were integral to the continuing flow of content to both the DAD and back up LibreTime automation systems and they consistently communicated with programmers. Mike Biggz’ continued work at the station grounded the department with the daily logs and Miguel was integral in editing back up content for Music Programmers who did not have the tools to produce their shows from home.
Lucrecia Burton consistently helped public affairs programmers with recording pre-taped shows and she worked briefly with the Engineering
Department providing needed technical support and training to weekend Music Programmers.
Mike Kohn jumped into the hot seat assisting the Engineering Department with upgrading the new News Control Room and Studio and he has also addressed many technical issues in the On-Air studio.
The News Techs Jeannine Etter and Carla West adapted quickly to the new digital board. They ensured the continuous broadcast of News during the equipment transition which was an added challenge during the pandemic.
Needless to say, our Operations Team deserve to be recognized for the hard work they do to keep KPFA on the air.
- Because of the pandemic our Internship Program could not complete the January to June “semester” as planned, but half the interns were able to continue learning online and create content from home. Also due to a need for fill-in Board Operators plus ensuring we follow health and safety protocols two interns were able to shadow and get board-op certification this year.
- Staff Training was moved online in March and we provided 20 classes in the following: Building an Online Audience, Documentary
Production,Field Production and Recording, Multi-Track Editing, Music for Podcast and PA Programming, Remote Studio Setup and Voice. The biggest hurdle for programmers was access to a multi-track editing program and we were able to get a donation of over forty 3 and 6 month licenses to distribute.
- Staff Orientation and resources – the Operations Department is tasked with ensuring everyone who has any part in broadcasting content know of station policies and protocols, and FCC rules and
regulations. Also, we have begun giving all programmers @kpfa.org email accounts in order to officially communicate within the station staff, receive station memos and gain access to online classes and materials.
Goals for 2021
- Ensure programmers complete the orientation and have access to the necessary tools and training to successfully produce their programs. Content producers will need to possess the following skills: editing and mixing audio, uploading audio files to KPFA’s Dropbox, connecting to the studios for live/remote broadcasts, and operating the digital boards for recording interviews and music shows.
- Provide programmers with more technical support in the On-Air Studio by expanding the Operations Department Staff skillset on all the new technology installed in the studios.
- Reassess and reorganize the structure of the Operations Department to better serve the needs of the station, programming staff and listeners. 4. Nurturing and growing the number of content producers at KPFA, via the
station training programs. This is a good time to revisit the idea of KPFB and Area 941 our Podcast network, being the testing ground for new talent.
Programming Department Report from PD Laura Prives
KPFA not only survived during this last year of pandemic and electoral struggle, we innovated, we performed under pressure and we gave our best to our loyal community, guided by our mission to be of service. How do you keep a community radio station broadcasting during a pandemic? You show the listeners what KPFA can do for the community in a crisis by acting as a hub of intelligence and connection. Then when we asked for support, our listeners responded heartily, because people want a way to help during a crisis and to support institutions that are helping their community through it.
Our goal to transition from a trusted community radio station to a trusted media institution with local roots and international reach is being realized. The constraints of social distancing helped us make a transition to the digital age faster than we would have ever imagined.
We had to pivot quickly to reduce the risk to essential staff by getting as many programmers as possible out of the building and broadcasting from home. We
had to set up new systems to get recorded programming sent in and on the air and to allow programmers to broadcast live from home.
We found new ways to incentivize giving, focusing on the gift of KPFA itself, offering ways to help other nonprofits, curating digital content, with our Abolish Racism Collection and the classic Alice Walker, Studs Terkel, Howard Zinn event.
We offered an instant gift of audio through our thank-you email to everyone who donates at any level and still raised sufficient funds. We talk directly to folks about our goals and aspirations through promos, email blasts and social media. We’ve instigated Socia Media Monday during fund drives for staff to ask their followers for support on their own media channels in coordination with KPFA. This also coordinated with mail-in appeals, sends a unified message to our community using both traditional and digital media.
We’re more streamlined in our ability to put on Special Broadcasts. We have been able to successfully raise funds during these broadcasts and received positive feedback from donors during about our special programming.
Here’s some of the Special broadcasts we put on in 2020:
The Senate Impeachment Trial
Black History Month and Grateful Dead Day
International Women’s Day
Special broadcast: Shelter in Place issued for 6 counties
Attorney General William Barr’s testimony
Hearing on the Oversight of the Trump Administration Response to the Covid Epidemic
Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony
Senate Confirmation Hearing of Amy Coney Barrett
California Ballot Breakdown – debates on CA propositions and issues
Special Election night broadcast 11/4
Special Election 2020 broadcasts – 11/4, 11/6, 11/7
Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates
DNC and RNC special broadcasts
Protests on Capital during Electoral College certification- 2021 KPFA’s Ratings
In the latest Nielson ratings for the San Francisco radio media market, KPFA ranked ahead of NPR station KALW which has not always been the case in recent years. Nielsen uses a measure called Average Quarter Hour, AQH to measure how many people are listening during an average 15-minute period.
KPFA’s AQH % share of the market of potential listeners is up for the Fall 2020 Quarter, higher than this Summer and higher than last Fall 2019. The share of the market is up because the number of people listening to KPFA increased at a higher rate than the metro area as a whole. The cumulative number of people listening and the “Time Spent Listening” (TSL)increased from the Fall 2019.
KPFA’s AQH market share and “Time Spent Listening” was highest this year in the Spring quarter at the beginning of the pandemic. This indicates that more people were tuning into KPFA during the height of uncertainty at the beginning of this health crisis.
We also see an increase in the number of people listening online. KPFA’s online stats have doubled from 2019. In this graph below from Thursday, January 7th,
2021, listeners peak at nearly 1000, when last year at this time the stats average a peak of around 450 online listeners.
We are proud to see an increase in listening to KPFA during this tumultuous time. This is an essential part of our mission to bring news and information and cultural connection to our audience. We have expanded our avenues of communication with our listeners digitally through website, social media, email, and digital premiums and events, while we still broadcast on the traditional radio dial and send missives in the US mail.
In 2021 we want to focus on our role as a multi platformed media institution. We’ve got work to do to continue to expand our programming’s digital reach and serve our community with practical and intelligent programming during these unprecedented and difficult times.
Upcoming Special programming:
- Black History Month Special programming – Saturday, February 6th, 2021 2. Grateful Dead Day – Saturday, February 20th, 2021
- International Women’s Day Special programming, Sunday, March 7th, 2021
Here’s some of the great comments we got from listeners during the End of the Year drive 2020:
KPFA and its California affiliates have played a crucial role in shaping the informed and progressive politics of California! I’m so glad to be able to listen online, here in Sacramento. Anonymous ~ Sacramento, CA
Years ago I used to listen to Slocum Yocom playing his Bach collection on Sunday mornings and of course the wonderful collection of lectures on Zen (can’t think of his name) et al. Such a wonderful crazy station. Anonymous ~ Albuquerque, NM
Best news on the air. Ignacio ~ Oakland, CA
I listen to KPFA daily as my only trusted radio station for meaningful information and is my “professor” to understanding national and world politics. I tune in almost all day long during the week from morning and through to the end of six o’clock news either in my home or in my car. I listen on the weekend, too to the fine music programming and Talk it Out. I stay glued to Democracy Now, CS Soong, Brian, Davey D, Dennis Bernstein and the 6 o’clock news, Kris Welch is a comfortable moderator that I appreciate. Jane ~ San Francisco, CA
KPFA Engineering Department Report from Brian David
2020 was a year of exceptional growth and development at the station. Building on infrastructure achievements made in 2019 the Engineering department of KPFA was ready to handle the logistics required when COVID-19 struck. Laying foundations and being prepared meant adaptation to a changing environment was not only possible but opened up opportunities.
Values held and applied in 2020:
- Avoid crisis response by pre-planning
- Invest in infrastructure that supports the future
- Achieve long term stability through project management and accountability
The pandemic necessitated our staff to produce live and pre-recorded content from home. We supplied the tools, resources, and policy necessary for shows to produce and air important and timely content.
Real time, high quality audio was achieved by supplying our staff with Blue – Yeti Microphones and transporting the audio to the station via ipDTL and Cleanfeed.
Real time collaboration was achieved through the use of Slack – a mobile channel-based messaging platform.
Continuing on with infrastructure overhaul in 2020 we accomplished the following:
New KPFB Transmitter – Nautel VS300. It’s compact size and ability to scale to 300 watts allows us the option to remotely broadcast in the event of an earthquake or other disaster scenario. Our old Tx has been retired from service.
Upgrade our Analog Air chain to Audio over IP. Our analog air chain was designed for a station operated by a team of engineers patching cables and meticulously managing its affairs. This is untenable in 2020 and to meet the demands of the 99 shows we serve without usurping engineers time, so we replaced large portions with hardware from Wheatstone.
Created a Network Operations Center to prepare for an increase in digitally distributed content (archives, podcasts, live streams). We forged relationships with local Internet Service Providers and positioned KPFA to lean more heavily on internet streaming to cars, phones, virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google. We are now an ISP operating AS397715.
Upgraded to 4K and HD security cameras at the transmitter site. The CCTV infrastructure at the Transmitter site was failing to meet needs. Our cameras are now accessible to Engineering staff via the internet to monitor and respond to situations.
Inventory management on all new equipment via NetBox. As we retire and replace equipment we are utilizing a tool to log its location,
connections, and configurations.
Deployed project management infrastructure. This has allowed us to organize the tracking of issues and focus on delivering
business value in the shortest time. We deployed self-hosted Git and Jira instances to track software development and utilize the Scrum development process. As we continue to develop StationAdmin, KPFA API, and refine existing infrastructure operations this is essential.
Deploy a virtualized, remote, KPFA studio via LibreTime. This allows us to deliver live and pre-recorded content in the event of a complete studio shutdown or off-air situation.
Automated station logging and alerting of critical infrastructure keeping us in regulatory compliance and control via LibreNMS. We no longer require board operators to take station logs. Our records are digitized and backed up.
Upgrade the News Control Room and Studio with new furniture from a local supplier – Omnirax, digital console from Wheatstone. We connected to our internal cameras to show On-Air and Newsroom so board operators can be fully aware and in control. Further refinement via lighting controls in 2021!
First-quarter 2021 plans:
Renovate the On-Air and Production Control Rooms and
Studios A, B, C
Complete renovation including furniture and equipment.
DJ Equipment upgrades:
o Turntables: Technics SL-1200MK7
o CD Players: Tascam CD-500B & Denon DN 500CB (BT/USB/Aux) o Cassette players: Tascam 202 MK7
Software development of StationAdmin to include real time reports for accountability and transparency of station income.
Expand FM broadcast service via K232FZ – 94.3 FM to Monterey, California. We have secured a license and rental agreement in 2020 and will begin construction of the transmitter + antenna in Q1 2021. Air by April 2021.
Long-range department ideas:
With significant infrastructure improvements, new opportunities become available. Careful consideration will be given to monetize existing assets, expand depth of experience and experiments to find new possibilities.
| Visual Radio – Offer live shows and performance with video +
audio. Streaming live & produced multimedia.
Premier Studio Rental facility – Monetize our investment with
equipment and staff available.
KPFB for Ops. Dept. Training -\ B sides?
Offer internet service to the local community KPFA.net:
Secure & local ISP for MLK &
*Kevin H. (Hunsanger) Short Bio
Kevin Hunsanger held the helm as co-owner and operator of San Francisco’s venerable Green Apple Books and Music from 1991 – 2019, when he departed to co-found the nonprofit San Francisco Cultural History Museum. A previous KFOG Morning Show on-air regular (The Book Guy 2000 – 2013), Kevin was also the Northern California Wine Country editor for the Nile Travel guides and is currently serving on the advisory council for The Litquake Foundation. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the author, Alia Volz.