OPEN LETTER TO THE WBAI LOCAL STATION BOARD (August 14, 2015)

OPEN LETTER TO THE WBAI LOCAL STATION BOARD

I am submitting this in writing so that the Local Station Board can take the necessary actions required in these desperate times for WBAI and Pacifica.

There are a number of very important projects that WBAI management has not been doing and that are essential to the financial sustainability of the station. Generally, these would fall within the province of a competent Development Director. A good General Manager would or should have recognized these deficiencies. I think that the current GM does recognize them, but — overwhelmed — he has done little to make sure the interim Development Director has been doing the job she was hired to do.

Since the buck stops with the GM, the LSB should require the GM and his paid staff to present the following to LSB meeting’s on an onging basis. Since these tasks are so important and yet are being neglected, I would urge the Chair to call an emergency LSB meeting solely to address these tasks, to spur planning and to get the ball rolling. I am not interested in why they are not being done, I am interested in the LSB discussing and providing guidance to the GM to better supervise his staff and require of them the competent work they were hired to do.

  1. The LSB should require the interim Development Director, via the General Manager, to produce a plan for tripling WBAI’s membership within the next 6 months. (Without at least doubling the membership immediately, we’re sunk.)

  1. The LSB should require the interim Development Director to present a plan to solicit and place paid ads on the website (but not on the air!), which would bring in much needed revenue.

  1. The LSB should require bi-monthly reports from the Development Director on concerted efforts to gain funding from large donors.

  1. The LSB should require from the Development Director or some other appointee plans and implementation of a sustained campaign using the e-newsletter and database to raise funds. The newsletter and updates should come out at least once per week for the duration of the year.

  1. The LSB should require plans and a timeline from the Development Director and General Manager for a mass mailing to the entire data-base. There has been none for five years, despite my own and others (Bob Lederer’s, for one) elaboration on how this can be done at minimal expense except for seed money which will be paid back with the first 5,000 letters mailed out.

  2. The LSB should require the Development Director to issue detailed reports on what is currently being done to solicit grants and large donations, and how effective are those efforts.

  3. The LSB should require of the Development Director reports on what followup has been done in contacting NYC politicians and others who have discretionary funds and capital funds available for projects, and in sponsoring the numerous and highly visible projects and concerts around the City. (What followup has been done with the Speaker of the City Council, for example, who has millions of dollars she allocates every year to worthwhile not-for-profit projects around the City?)

  4. The LSB needs to see Management’s written plans for off-air fundraising events, concerts, debates — not as substitutes for raising funds on-air, but to supplement them. (In my view, the job descriptions/contracts of all producers should stipulate that they are expected to put together (with others) at least one off-air fundraising event per year. Part of the management plan would spell out what support the station can provide to those activities.

  5. The LSB should require management to develop an off-air advertising campaign and time-line. It would include ads placed systematically in magazines and other media that would generate income. To go along with that, there would have to be proper set-up of the website to handle the gifts we’d offer. Steve Brown had long ago agreed to cover the costs of such ads he’d place in the Nation should they fall short of making back their costs, and I’ve followed up on this with my own contacts there. But nothing can be done without management’s assistance and synchronization with the wbai website.

Of course there is a lot more that needs to happen, particularly in upgrading and making far better use of the website, telephone system, building security, studio buildout, shutting down the storage facility, and other things that are in management’s control. But in this letter I outline the place to start immediately. We are paying the interim Development Director a DD’s salary for basically performing some administrative functions for secretarial work and data entry (of premiums). The GM needs to actually manage here and require his staff to do the jobs they were hired to do, and which the station desperately needs if we are to stay alive.

The GM and “Development Director” cannot just tread water. It is long past time to put these ideas, some of which have been discussed for many years, into action. Without doing so, the ship will not just continue to sink but capsize and hit bottom.

I’d also recommend that the Chair of the LSB serve as liaison between management and the board specifically on these issues, to monitor compliance and ongoing progress.

Thank you.

Mitchel Cohen

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