Fresh on the heels of the return to Pacific Standard Time, the November 3rd meeting of the KZYX Board of Directors began under a cloak of disorienting darkness. Held at the Philo Grange, in close proximity to the station's home base, all but five of the eighteen or so people attending had a connection to KZYX whether it be as staff, programmer or volunteer. This included three members of the reactivated Community Advisory Board (CAB).
All members of the Board were present excepting Director Holly Madrigal and a late entrance by Director Paul Lambert.
The minutes of the July meeting were presented and approved although they contained several inaccurate statements and the serious omission of the agreement of GM John Coate to work with Board member Madrigal in developing written guidelines for the acceptance or rejection of station volunteers. Whether the updated Board policy will encompass standards for volunteer programmers is yet undetermined. The public will have an opportunity to review and give input at a future meeting.
The heady effect of the success of the station's 25th Birthday Celebration on October 11th pervaded the entire meeting like the enticing aroma of Thanksgiving dinner.
Board members dispensed accolades to all who participated in the event, particularly the two co-chairs, Directors Jane Futcher and Meg Courtney. James Sibbet of Comptche was recognized for creating the design for the Anniversary T-Shirts; Johanna Cummings for her effort in researching the names of the original programmers for recognition. Among those who were awarded certificates for their longevity were Susan Juhl, Verge Belanger and Val Muchowski. Coate praised his wife, Hilary, for decorating the venue and filling in where needed throughout the day. Stories of the past and musical entertainment were provided by a long list of programmers both past and present. The paid attendance was 275 people. The event brought in a total of $3500 — $400 from the 50/50 raffle and a sizeable portion from bar proceeds.
The atmosphere throughout the meeting was relaxed and informal. Members of the public were permitted to speak freely outside the framework of the Public Comment period — a welcomed change from the heavy use of the gavel in previous meetings.
Director John Sakowicz, during his Comments to the Board, addressed a lengthy letter to the Board President. It included several sections of California Corporations Code which states the right of any director (and member) to inspect and copy all records of the corporation. Sakowicz had eight questions he wanted to be answered regarding, among others, the current degree of indebtedness of the station and whether the GM had drawn on the line of credit without Board knowledge and approval. He wished to have a clear idea of community support for the station, asking what proportion of donations came from members not associated with the programming or management of the station. He also asked about the status of the renewal of the station's license with the FCC and for the disclosure of staff salaries. Sakowicz asked when the money that was set aside in an escrow account for a Ukiah studio would be restored.
Included in the letter was a formal petition for a grievance hearing regarding Sakowicz's indefinite suspension as a programmer disputing GM Coate's claim that he “knowingly, willfully and feloniously uttered an obscenity on the air.” He asserts the suspension was retaliation for “whistleblowing,” referring to his letter to the FCC in which he stated reasons for objecting to the renewal of the station's license.
Since the station is nowhere close to putting out information in a newsletter explaining controversial issues such as this or on air announcements as was recommended by the CAB in July, this report will detail the circumstances regarding the ongoing struggle between station management and the continuing saga of banished programmers.
Sakowicz explained that the alleged obscenity incident occurred in late June and commenced with an order from the Program Director Mary Aigner to give up control of the engineering console after a call from the program's guest had been dropped several times. Standing a foot behind Aigner and several feet from the board, Sakowicz uttered a single word obscenity fully unaware that Aigner had failed to pot down the studio mic when she took control of the board. He points out as grounds for his appeal that the utterance was ambient sound and received no complaints from the public following the incident.
He further cites a demand by the General Manager that he sign a letter penned by the hand of the same GM, retracting his FCC complaint as outrageous behavior demonstrating a serious lack of Board oversight over the conduct of their employee.
Sakowicz is willing to work out other means of airing his show, All About Money, than by producing it from the Philo studio. It is currently being produced from the KMEC studio in Ukiah and is archived there.
He hopes for resolution of his grievance through an in house administrative process, not desiring to bring further disruption, expense or negative press to the station that litigation would likely initiate.
Sakowicz was the target of a verbal dart by Board member Ed Keller who used the word “evil” to describe Sakowicz's online declaration encouraging listeners to boycott the pledge drive and his decision to not attend the birthday event.
The agenda, set by the Board President, Eliane Herring, had eleven items on it, including roll call and approval of minutes. The ninth was merely a statement that there were no action items requiring a vote. The tenth category, Non-Voting items, had three topics for discussion, the last of which was upcoming Board elections. Its placement at the very bottom of the agenda made it appear to be almost an afterthought. In agendas set by past presidents, Board elections merited their own distinct and separate place as they are still the single, most important direct voice of membership choice.
The Election Coordinator for the 2015 elections will once again be Stuart Campbell. The three open seats are District 1, Ukiah, held currently by Ed Keller; District 5, South Coast, held by the current Board President, Eliane Herring and the At Large Seat now held by Holly Madrigal.
Campbell stated that on air announcements for applications for the three seats will start by the end of November. The deadline for applications is January 30th.
The last day to become a member to vote is December 31st.
According to the Procedure Manual for Board Elections, ballots must be mailed to members by February 28th and the On Air Candidate Discussion held no later than March 15th. Balloting proceeds throughout the month of March.
Candidates are informed of the election results on April 3rd and results should be announced on air and to the press the following day.
Curiously, President Herring chose to single out Bylaw 6.02 to read. It states, “It is the responsibility of each Director to represent the entire community that the station serves.” She seemed to interpret that section to imply that candidates cannot represent a “faction.” However, Bylaw 6.04 regarding eligibility states, “Any member in good standing shall be eligible as a Director, provided that they meet the requirements for the Board seat to which they are elected at the time of the election.”
General Manager's Report
The nine-day fall pledge drive exceeded its goal of $85k. The decision was made to start mid week to take the extra workload off of weekend programmers. Updated figures will be posted on the station's website, kzyx.org.
The station lost money in the first quarter of the fiscal year which is typical for summer months. Coate noted that he did not have to touch the line of credit till late August at which time he withdrew $26,600.
As of September 30th 2014, total income was almost $40k, similar to last year's figures while expenses rose $12k to $113k. Total accounts payable was $63k, reflecting a rise of $3k form the prior year's payable debt and $10k in current debt. The line of credit payable was noted as zero in the GM report which does not reflect the $26k+ Coate previously mentioned as having drawn from it. Accounts receivable (pledges, underwriting and grants) was at $43k, a $13k increase from last year. The checking account balance rose $1k to $3k.
Three pledge drives have been scheduled for fiscal year 2015, the next one begins mid February. KZYX &Z received $132k+ from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grant, a decrease of $54k from last year, but still higher than grants from 2012 to 2009. Those amounts ranged from $109k to $95k respectively. The amount of the grant corresponds to the station's income from the prior year. 2013 was considered a fiscally successful year by management.
Board member, Jane Futcher asked Coate to clarify the circumstances regarding the $6k raised in 2003 for the Ukiah studio project. He explained that the money was in an account for that specific use when he arrived as GM in 2008. Since the station was in financial difficulty at the time, he asked and received permission from that Board to borrow that money. He has since received two additional grants from “family foundations” which were earmarked for the Ukiah studio totaling $4k, adding up to a total of $10k for that purpose.
The news team of Quinn and Kisslinger have been joined by Lorraine Dechter, the former News Director of Northstate Public Radio in Redding. The addition means more news specials and live reports. Dechter along with Kisslinger, provided election day coverage of the vote count on local races as well as updates on state propositions and office races.
Plans are near completion to provide a service called the KZYX Jukebox which will allow any user of a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone to listen to any KZYX program on demand. Pacifica provides the service whereby they record the KZYX stream and categorize the program for easy access. Some programs like NPR must be updated daily while local produced music shows will have a two week window for access. Locally produced talk shows will be available for two months. Talk shows are also accessible as podcasts as well as by stream.
The open call in show, Discussion, is now hosted by W.Dan and Stuart Campbell, rotating alternate weeks with Angela DeWitt and her partner, Cobb. Subject matter is largely determined by the callers. A series of programs on water conservation produced by Linda MacElwee is called Water Wise. They are archived on the website.
Two new programs are Cal Winslow's interview based show called The Antinomian Hour and Lapin Frito hosted by Eduardo and Joelle in the Thursday morning 10-12 spot.
DJ Selector J now hosts The Redwood Soul Shakedown on Friday afternoons alternating once a month with Floriane Weyrich's The French Touch. He continues to play R&B and funk on The Sweet Smoke on Wednesday at 10pm.
The Mendocino studio now has a new controls console as the old one had many technical failures.
An increase in content suppliers use of the Internet over satellite systems is the pattern of the future. The station's use of wire based data transmission to connect with other studios, receive news reports or entire programs such as Forthright Radio via Skype makes it more necessary to move the station's main operations to Boonville for better access to phone line transmission. Additionally, Coate described structural problems with the Philo studio which led to water leakage prior to the pledge drive. KZYX's signal should eventually originate from either Willits or Ukiah.
There were several newcomers to the Bd. meeting who didn't give their name or whose name was unclear.
The first to speak was a man who liked the news approach of Dechter who interrupted. program with a brief 'Breaking News' report about the AV. Health Center. He asked that the station consider a Week in Review wrap up of highlights from that week's news stories.
CAB member, Steve Fish asked for a response on how the station was working on providing listeners with information on internal affairs such as new volunteers, new programs, pledge drive totals, etc. Board member Paul Lambert responded that two people had volunteered to write a newsletter but didn't have enough familiarity with the staff and programmers to be effective. When questioned by Futcher as to his role, he said he saw himself as the editor and technical person to disseminate the information rather than the writer. He continued that he was willing to assist but felt the job needed a volunteer to organize the material. Fish persisted in pursuing the CAB recommendation of on air informational spots. Lambert seemed unfamiliar with the CAB report that was released ahead of the July Board meeting. It seemed clear that the Board had not responded to the recommendations, either as individuals or as a group which Stuart Campbell, Board liaison to the CAB, had stated would occur. It seemed apparent that preparations for the 25th birthday event had precluded any consideration of the two proposals outlined in the report. A programmer of the Farm and Garden show, Valerie, offered her assistance in assembling the newsletter.
Ellen Saxe, another CAB member, offered to meet with Lambert as well to familiarize him with the CAB goal of creating greater involvement and transparency of the station to the community by informative on air announcements of station business.
Although the three minute timer was in use, the formal structure for public comment was abandoned at this meeting. Board members responded to comments and asked questions so it seemed closer to a discussion forum than the format used in previous meetings. When Futcher asked if a digital newsletter would meet the need for more information because it would reach further than the listening audience, I stated my belief that the preferred way for radio listeners to get information is over the air, not through a computer. That remark elicited a response from the Program Director, Mary Aigner who stated that many times after an announcement is made, she will get a call from someone asking a question about what was just announced. She stated, “Radio is very ephemeral.” She thought an E-newsletter was a good idea but the timing should be determined by the amount of information to be dispersed. She added that radio segments had to be produced by someone and doing so would put an added responsibility on staff. (Staff that is currently functioning without a News Director.) She felt it needed to be more carefully thought out if it was to be broadcast.
Bob Bushansky, the third CAB member present gave an example of when the station lost power for several days making it necessary for the Operations Manager to drive up to Laughlin Peak. In doing so, he became stuck in snow up to his vehicle's hubcaps. Bushansky thought this was the type of human interest story that listeners would appreciate.
My comment to the Board was to question whether CPB money could be used to create local programming rather than paying down debt or buying equipment as has been the station's practice. I also stated that I had asked and received from a previous Board, a six-month schedule of Board meeting dates and locations. I felt it negatively affected the general public's ability to attend when no there is no regular schedule followed. I pointed out that changes in the schedule have not been made with adequate public notice.
I also disagreed with the Board's decision to change from a six meeting yearly schedule to a quarterly one. With a six meeting schedule, the location of the meeting would rotate with the seasons so that the Willits meeting would not always be in July during the heat of summer and the coastal meeting would not always be during the harshest weather of winter.
I reminded the Board that they had budgeted $9k for the Ukiah studio in the 2013 budget. I asked where that money went. If it hadn't been absorbed into the general fund, the Ukiah studio would now have $19k in reserve.
I concluded with the opinion that the station needed to hire a News Director as has happened for the 23 years before the more recent use of “consultants.” Such a system puts those doing the hard work of news gathering in a separate category from staff with less benefits and salary. I thought a News Director could easily do station informational spots as a part of the job.
Scott Roscoe of Philo spoke next. He applauded the Board, staff and programmers for providing a community necessity and believed they were doing an excellent job. He commented on the lack of appropriate family programming for his eight year old. He thought the best times for that type of programming were after dinner and weekends. Aigner stated that the station once had a program called By Kids, For Kids in which the youngsters themselves determined the program content.
Volunteer and programmer, Beth Lang said that working with the station's staff and volunteers offset the negative energy that Board member Sakowicz brought to the station. She added that it saddened her to read his letters in the local paper.
No mention of the next Board meeting was made available either at the meeting or through calls to the station for that information.