Press "Enter" to skip to content

Healing The Rift: Progress At KZYX?

The Annual Membership meeting of the KZYX Board Of Directors was held at the Space Theater in Ukiah on May 5th. Attendance was close to 25 members, consisting primarily of current and prior KZYX programmers and former Board members. Those members not affiliated with the station numbered around eight.

Like the Goldilocks fable, trying to find the right fit, in this case, of venue to the expected attendance has proven to be a difficult conundrum for station staff. In the past two years, an art gallery or small restaurant left a similar amount of attendees crowded in a small space without enough seating. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Space Theater was indeed spacious with seating for a crowd of 200, dwarfing the small number who attended who were scattered throughout.

After approval of the minutes of the March meeting, the Board thanked outgoing members, Laviva Dakirs (absent) and Fran Koliner for their service on the Board. Meg Courtney, who served out the last year of a previously vacant three-year term, was reelected to the Board for another three years.

The Board presented Koliner with a gift of a digital AM/FM radio which Director Campbell lightheartedly joked was only able to get one station. Koliner thanked the Board for the exciting, educational experience and the pleasure of working with a good team.

Incoming Board members Jane Futcher (District 3-Willits) and Paul Lambert (At Large) were welcomed. Each gave a short synopsis of their past experience.

Lambert spoke of a ten year history as an environmental reporter in S.F. and L.A. in the 70s, after which he embarked in subsequent careers in advertising and financial planning. He moved to the area in 2009 and became acquainted with KZYX through a group in Willits who were trying to set up their own community radio station. His interest is in developing an outreach plan to increase the listening audience as well as promote a greater involvement of the community as volunteer programmers and members.

Jane Futcher was a former Board member from 2005-08. She is a writer whose recent book, Women Gone Wild, is a memoir of her experience of moving to rural Mendocino County. Her main contribution as a past Board member was in organizing major donor fundraising which she described as both interesting and difficult. She hoped her current term would be more fun and be a good experience for listeners, volunteers, staff and the Board, hoping to increase morale in the KZYX community through a stronger, more responsive voice as a Board member.

Both, along with member, Meg Courtney, were then inducted as members of the current Board.

The election of new Board officers was conducted swiftly. Director Campbell nominated Eliane Herring for a second term as Board President. The nomination was then seconded and approved by the Board. Herring, in turn, nominated Campbell as Vice President, also quickly seconded and approved. Campbell then nominated Meg Courtney as Secretary. Courtney, having served in that capacity in the past year, was approved unanimously. The nomination of Bob Page as Treasurer was made by Courtney and seconded by a cooperative Sakowicz, who had held that office for the past year.

Election Results:

At Large seat

Doug McKenty, 286 — 37%

King Collins, 23 — 3%

Paul Lambert, 310 — 41%

Tom Melcher, 145 — 19%

District 3

Patricia Kovner, 271 — 37%

Jane Futcher, 458 — 63%

District 4 (unopposed)

Meg Courtney, 611

Total votes — 793

For reasons unexplained, the vote tally did not make it into either the Election Coordinator's report or the GM's report. It was mentioned that they had been available on the station's website.

The next order of Board business was the appointment of an Audit Committee Chair as is required by the station's Bylaws. Board President, Herring, appointed Paul Lambert to that position. Additional members of the Audit Committee are appointed by the Board, the majority of which cannot be members of the Finance Committee (currently non existent), or hold the position of Board Treasurer or President. The station's staff are also prohibited from serving on the committee.

Among the responsibilities of the Audit Committee are the retention or, when appropriate, termination of an independent certified public accountant to serve as auditor, conferral with the auditor to satisfy members that MCPB's finances are in order as well as the review and recommendation of whether to accept the audit.

Lambert stated that he would have the names of additional committee candidates for Board approval by the July meeting.

Status Report from the Board President

Eliane Herring explained in detail the station's experiment with an annual three pledge drive format. The Spring drive (May 10th to May 18th) has a goal of $85K. She noted that the station is in good financial standing due in part to a good income year (almost $482K). The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grant is allocated on the basis of the station's earned income, rising and falling accordingly. This year the CPB grant was $187K — a station record. Due to a change in CPB criteria related to the diversity of the potential listening audience, specifically the African American and Native American populations, the General Manager estimates a reduction of grant money to be as high as $50K. This is compounded by a potential loss of the NPR rural status discount of $25K that is based on census population figures. Current figures show that the population of the County now exceeds the limit required for the discount.

Herring brought attention to the loss of the station signal for 48 hours in April. She said down time of the radio station due to equipment failure was unacceptable. The problem was caused by a failure of the studio transmission link (STL) unit that carried the radio signal from the Philo studio up to the 90.7 transmitter resulting in all three signals going down. The station now has one back up unit and is close to having all rebuilt STL units with backups for each of their two sets.

Additional problems in transmission are caused by interference of the signal from growing trees in the path of the Cold Springs tower near Navarro. The remedy is a plan to relocate the signal from a rooftop at N. State and E. Smith Sts. where plans to rent 2nd floor office space are being made. This would allow unobstructed line up to the 91.5 signal on Laughlin Peak.

Several major steps need to be taken to make the signal relocation happen. Specifics are included in the GM's report, available on the station's website, The project's estimated cost for equipment and labor will be around $28K. The timetable is based on the ability to pay. Setting up the Ukiah studio will cost an additional $13K and will be done after the signal relocation. To make the necessary changes, the station will require several days of off-air time.

It is hoped that the addition of the Ukiah studio will bring in new energy for program possibilities through greater access to a broader base of diverse community programmers.

A major component of the plan is the eventual move of the Philo studio to Boonville to insure a strong broadband connection between the two studios that comes with being closer to the phone building. That project will not occur until after the Ukiah studio is established.

Herring added that the station has plans to extend its outreach efforts to local communities through continued tabling efforts and greater promotion of KZYX hats, T-shirts and bumper stickers.

The Spring pledge drive brought in over $51K.

The Election Coordinator and, Director Campbell reported that the recent election had a voter response of 35%, up from previous years. Election results were posted on the station's website but the specific vote tally for each candidate was not provided for the enlightenment of attending members.

He mentioned the Community Advisory Board (CAB) is still collating the responses to the questions asked on the election ballot as well as working on some advisory recommendations. That information will be presented at the July 7th Board meeting. He thanked the members of the CAB for their volunteer service.

General Manager's Report

• Finances

The old NPR debt is reduced to $23K. The station's line of credit at $75K has not been touched since November.

Total income — near to $482K Expenses — $411K Net Gain $70K

Total accounts payable — $29K Total Accounts receivable $36K (pledges and underwriting)

Checking account balance $51.5K

FCC License renewal

The KZYX license is still pending FCC review of five complaints received as part of the public input process of the station's license renewal application. Over $6K has been spent in legal fees in responding to FCC inquiries and the cost may rise to $10K before the FCC makes a decision.

• Mobile Devices

Coate presented figures of an NPR survey that showed, in 2009, 2% of NPR listeners used a mobile device to access NPR. The figure rose to 40% in the current year and was projected to rise to 50% by next year. Coate stated these figures are applicable to public radio. Broadcast radio is linear programming which presents problems of accessibility for many listeners. Online listening translates to on demand, multi-platformed and personalized selection suited to individual tastes. The station is in the early stages of designing an app that will accommodate the changing needs of online listeners. Coate stated that while the situation presents a huge challenge, it also provides a big opportunity.

Board Comments

Each Board member was given the opportunity to speak to the members.

Holly Madrigal thanked Space Theater for being available on short notice. The venue that had been previously chosen had closed its doors for business unexpectedly. She encouraged the Board candidates that didn't win to stay involved to see that their issues get attention. She looked forward to the positive direction of including a variety of new voices in the programming schedule as well as training for new programmers.

Bob Page echoed that the goal of the Board would be to work as a team with all members and be open to new ideas from all sides, not just with those whose ideas agreed with those of the Board. He hoped the Board would do a better job of receiving and responding to comments from the public in the future. He emphasized the need to continue funding the infrastructure that keeps the station on the air without disruption from equipment failures. He commended the current news team and stated that the Board understood and supported the community's desire for an expansion of the local evening news.

John Sakowicz remarked that he had met with the GM, John Coate, and reconciled differences which were largely personal. Having just returned from a conference of a business that handled $2 trillion in assets, he stated that smart money was not betting on an economic recovery. He felt the station needed to be aggressive in its strategy to grow its membership base.

Sakowicz mentioned the passing of former guest and author, Michael Ruppert, whom he described as a programming mentor. Ruppert was the narcotics detective in LA who exposed the CIA's involvement in cocaine trafficking to fund its covert activities. A self described conspiracy realist, his book, Crossing the Rubicon was a controversial exploration of the inconsistencies in the official explanation behind 911. His death was attributed to suicide.

New Board member, Jane Futcher, displayed a programming guide to KMUD to which she also contributes. She noted that the flip side contained a short newsletter which she believed was a good outreach technique. She hoped Lambert, in his new role of Media Coordinator, would consider a similar approach to keep members informed of station activities. Futcher stated she is also committed to working with the Program Director to find a programmer who could do a show focused on marijuana information such as legal, health, legislative and agricultural developments. She applauded the community spirit in Covelo's new grassroots station, KYBU and commented on the accessibility of the airwaves to new programmers.

Next to speak was Meg Courtney, who had agreed to take on the role of Coordinator of house party events. These would include parties to solicit donations as well as social gatherings to appreciate volunteers and staff. The Board is contemplating having a 25th Anniversary celebration involving Sean Donovan, the station's originator who now lives in Sedona, Arizona.

Paul Lambert's vision is to increase the visibility of the station to attract new members with an emphasis on younger members. He believes the station's plan to developed an app would facilitate a more user friendly approach to radio listening. He hopes to raise the awareness of programs by listing the names of guests in local newspapers.

Lambert introduced Sheri Quinn to the audience and gave a short biography. Quinn graduated from Utah State University as an anthropologist and returned to school to study journalism. Working as a freelance reporter for the Voice of America, she covered diverse topics such as the Utah Olympics, the mental health industry and a series of articles on nuclear wastes in Utah that led to federal indictments.

Ed Keller declined to speak but President Herring praised his hard work in locating a prime location for the Ukiah studio and thanked him for his efforts.

In appreciation of volunteer programmers, present and former programmers were asked to stand and introduce themselves. About twelve programmers did so and all were warmly applauded. Four former Board members were also acknowledged.

• Public Comment

King Collins spoke first. He presented the Board with sections of the CA Corporation code which specified the rights of members and Directors of the Board to inspect all station documents. The second document was a legal opinion that the Board's list of Responsibilities for Directors, #5, which requires Directors to keep confidential records confidential was a violation of the CA code and was vulnerable to a court challenge. King then asked how a member could get an item on the agenda for discussion and what rules of order did the Board follow? He stated that dialogue between members was important and the GM could do a better job of facilitating dialogue through social media.

Dorothea Dorman gave her opinion that the station's coverage of the Willits Bypass issue was a disgrace. She said courageous people put their lives in danger to stop a CalTrans boondoggle and not any of them were interviewed by public affairs programmers. She stated that when interviews of guests are done there should be time for listeners to call in to voice their opinion. She thought program hosts were not asking hard questions and too many interviews were done from the perspective of non-profit hierarchy rather than from the experience of those who are receiving services such as the homeless population.

George asked why KZYX couldn't do a KMUD type archiving of programs? Currently, it is the responsibility of programmers to archive their own productions.

Micheal Kisslinger offered his services to Board and station members who had questions concerning non-profit governance as that is the area of his expertise.

My comment to the Board was to note the lack of information of the individual vote count of each candidate in a widely contested election. I noted that information was available in prior elections and if it was available on the website, it was not easy to find. I felt those present were entitled to hear those statistics first hand so that people could see that the election was extremely close and dispel any notion that the concept of a small vocal minority was non existent.

I thanked Campbell for his work in organizing the CAB and running a transparent election but brought attention to his campaign statement which stated that as the Programmer Representative, he would articulate programmer's input. I stated that in the nearly three years of attending meetings, I have not heard a single word spoken about what programmers think or want. I would like to see his time focused more in this area.

I then read from my letter to the Board asking for a grievance hearing over being banned from volunteering as a Non Cash Alternative Membership. I was told by Courtney that I didn't have a “right” to volunteer and that the Board had decided I couldn't volunteer without taking a vote. I stated, in the interests in transparency, the decision to grant absolute power to the GM to exclude people should not be the subject of an online discussion. As an alternative to a hearing, I proposed that the Board put its volunteer policy on the July agenda for a public discussion of the unwritten policy of banning of volunteers, membership and otherwise. Holly Madrigal checked with the Board President, Herring, to see if she agreed with my suggestion. It was confirmed for the next Board agenda.

David Vilner stated he would like an expanded weather report that deals with the weather of different locales. He wanted to know the timeline for the Ukiah station.

Bill of the Farm and Garden Show advocated for a bylaw change that allowed for rank voting in an election with multiple candidates running for the same seat. He stated that a system of ranked voting would allow voters to stay true to their principles and not be reduced to choosing the lesser of two evils. He also suggested that if the Board raised funds for specific projects, such as the news, it might generate funds from those who normally wouldn't pledge unless it would be used foot a project they supported. Page responded that when a previous Board had done that in regard to the Ukiah studio, it had come back to haunt them when they couldn't follow through.

Tom Melcher commented that many stations are of one type of programming like jazz or classical and that the varied programming of KZYX is not typical and the strength of the station. He wanted to remind others of the value of all volunteer programming and to use it to our full advantage.

Doug McKenty thanked the Board for a well run election and the best Candidate Forum he had ever witnessed. He asked about the $6K spent in legal fees — whether the Board had a vote on spending that money and is there a cap on the amount of a check the GM writes. The Board responded that the legal fees were paid in several smaller amounts. The cap for the GM is $5K.

Mindy Cairn said the strength and weakness of local stations is that in being local, they are very personal and take in people with very strong feelings. She advised people to volunteer to help create the change they want and hoped that differences could be resolved so that no volunteers would be turned away.

In regard to my question, Lambert responded that the election results were printed in local newspapers. Campbell said to email him and he would respond with the information.

In response to the question of ranked voting, Herring stated that she thought that the bylaw change would require a membership vote. She added that multiple candidates for a seat was rare and as such, had not been a problem that the Board needed to address.

Stuart Campbell spoke to the comment of opening up public affair shows to listener calls by stating that that decision was the choice of each host programmer.

• Progress report:

There has been significant improvement in the area of Public Comment. From not having any Public Comment at the 2010 Annual Membership meeting despite a request from a member to do so and not answering questions from members at last year's meeting, the Board has moved to accepting questions from the public and giving reasonable responses.

At the March meeting the Board agreed to add a second Public Comment period to allow input on action items before a vote was taken. This was a recommendation made by Sakowicz at his first meeting as a Board member and requested by this reporter at a later meeting.

• Transparency

The board announced this year it will publish its meeting agenda on the KZYX website 72 hours before a meeting, an adjustment advocated by Members For Change.

Election vote statistics were available in the Election Coordinator's report in 2011 and have not been announced at the membership meeting since that year. The Board and General Manager have put the burden to be informed on the members by directing them to get information through the website — an elitist solution since it assumes all members have Internet access and choose to get their information in that form. Considering that the broadcast medium is a communication medium, it would seem a logical place to reach the greatest amount of listeners with important information. Additionally, its free access makes it inclusive to all.

The reduction of Board meetings from six to four makes all January meetings on the coast in the harshest weather conditions and all July meetings in Willits in the heat of summer. The elimination of the January meeting due to winter conditions means no election information preceding the election. In 2013, members did not know who the Election Coordinator was or which Board members were making the decisions regarding the election. Important decisions have not been made by a vote of the Board in public but through online agreements.

In March, the Board did discuss and decide in a public meeting to add a second Public Comment period but much more emphasis has been put on confidentiality. There is still much more effort needed to make gains toward transparency in decision making.

• Consistency and Follow Through

The Board backed the idea of a Board Open Lines talk show to open up communication about Board matters to the listener. After much talk and extensive delays one show was done with one Board member, Stuart Campbell, after which the idea languished.

The listener call in show, Open Lines, was suspended in October 2013 with a promise it would be back in April with a delay device installed to protect the host and audience against violation of the FCC's ban on foul language. It is now the middle of May and not a word on when Open Lines will return to the airwaves. Where is Doug McKenty — the show's popular moderator?

Where is the station's Strategic Plan that was supposed to be created with community input?

So as the dust settles from the recent close election and the Board makes a noticeable effort to reconcile the differences of people who would like a community based radio station and challenged the current top down management style, another storm threatens due to still another programmer being denied access to the airwaves - the most recent case in a long list of those who have crossed an invisible line. The irony of Norm de Vall's Access Show no longer having access to the community escapes no one.

The good news is that the Board has taken a major step into delving into the real root of the dissension — absolute power being wielded by a few who have no checks and balances on the power they exert. It promises to be a discussion worthy of community participation.

A question to be answered is how does the practice of banning help grow the membership and make the community a more integrative, collaborative network?

The meal enjoyed by the members was a vegetarian tofu, beans and rice with a side of kale and carrot salad provided for by Taste Buds of Ukiah. Thanks go to David Steffan for coordinating the details.

The next meeting of the Board will be on July 7th at the Willits library at 6pm.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *