KZYX License Renewed by FCC

by Sheila Dawn-Tracy, September 23, 2015

On September 15th, after almost two years of delay, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally granted renewal of the KZYX license.

The news was first received by Director Meg Courtney through an email from Congressman Jared Huffman's field representative, Heather Gurewitz.

The nine page document can be found on the station's website kzyx.org, though it was only through multiple efforts that I was able to find the link, an effort that I could not successfully reproduce.

Despite a statement made by the newly hired interim General Manager Stuart Campbell (as of the September 7th Board of Directors meeting) on the morning news segment the following day that the FCC found no legitimacy to the claims of the five informal objectors, the official response of the FCC was "to partly grant and otherwise deny the objection." The specific circumstance in which the FCC found the station to be in noncompliance with its regulations was the failure of the station to have one full-time staff employee and one management level employee at the main studio during business hours. That finding was in response to Director John Sakowicz's objection that there was no staff present in the Philo studio when he arrived to do his 9am show, All About Money.

Former GM, John Coate's declaration to the FCC that Sakowicz may have been unaware that management was in an adjacent building on the premises did not satisfy the requirement that both employees needed to be present in the main studio. FCC Chief of Audio Division, Peter Doyle "admonished MCPB" for its failure to have adequate staffing on site.

The FCC cited the lack of names and specific information regarding the termination of three male programmers as well as the failure to provide affidavits from the three individuals to deny the claim of discrimination by objector M. Kathryn Massey. It further stated that such claims were matters to be adjudicated by the state courts or decided by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC.)

It should be noted that none of the objectors had ever filed a complaint with a federal regulatory agency before and had no knowledge of the level of substantiation that was required. The FCC did not ask for or give an opportunity for objectors to respond to a request to supply additional information which would have enabled validation. In fact, it was generally thought that after a second period of accepting additional comments was allowed and subsequently closed, that no further input would be considered. This proved not to be the case.

The FCC included 18 letters of support to the station penned between June and September 2015, 14 of which had been written after my public comment at the Board of Directors meeting of June 29th that not a single letter of support of KZYX had been written to the FCC during the initial open input period.

Had it been known that the FCC was still accepting information to be used in arriving at a decision, I would refuted the false assertions regarding my involvement at Board meetings and my role as a reporter made by both the former Board President, Elaine Herring as well as the acting GM John Coate in their sworn declarations to the FCC, under the penalty of perjury.

In the area of objection that the reduction of news content had not been adequate to keep the community sufficiently informed, the FCC decided that not enough evidence had been provided by the objector to show that the "station aired an insufficient amount of issue responsive programming to meet its public interest obligation."

With respect to allegations made by Sakowicz that employees (reporter Aanestad and News Director Brooksher) were wrongfully terminated, the FCC found that such matters are more appropriately handled by the EEOC or other government agency and/or the courts. It specified that the FCC does not adjudicate whether a station has complied with its charter or its bylaws nor does it have the authority to replace its General Manager.

In trying to return to the FCC document on the website, I happened upon a certificate from The California Broadcasters Association that found KZYX&Z "fully compliant with FCC rules." It was dated 2012. I believe that certification is no longer valid and should be removed. I also found the GM's blog unchanged with a picture of Coate still smiling happily though he has been out of the management picture for over 10 weeks.

While he was still Board President, Stuart Campbell stated that he would be administering the GM's blog and yet no updating of information is evident. While a lot of changes have occurred since Coate resigned, keeping the Board busy, it is misleading to retain outdated information on its website. Since it is apparently in no one's domain, it is an indication that a website committee be added to the newly created list of Board committees.

In other KZYX news, a short synopsis of the September 7th Labor Day Board of Directors meeting had the Board attempting to hire Stuart Campbell as its interim General Manager until it was pointed out to them that he had not yet resigned as President of the Board, creating a conflict of interest, however brief. It appeared that the agenda had not been structured in a logical order requiring the Board to table the GM hiring to the last order of business. Campbell did resign as a Board member. Subsequently Director Meg Courtney was nominated to replace him as Board President. The nomination was seconded and approved by the rest of the Board with the exception of Director Sakowicz who was absent.

As a Director cannot hold two executive positions on the Board, Courtney then resigned as Board Secretary. She then proceeded to nominate Jane Futcher to the position of Vice President, failing to obtain the resignation of the current Vice President, Director Bob Page. I tried to point out the error but was not recognized to speak by the inexperienced new Board President. Courtney then nominated Page to fill her former position of Secretary to the Board. All nominations were blithely seconded and approved without any of the Board members realizing that Page had not formally agreed to relinquish his position as Vice President.

The Executive Committee of the Board had decided it was desirable to hire an interim GM to insure the smooth operation of the station while in the process of locating a new person to fill the vacant position.

Director Ed Keller made the motion to hire Stuart Campbell as interim GM. It was seconded and passed by unanimous agreement. Campbell will be present at the station three days a week and be available in an emergency.* He intends to return to his teaching duties by February 8th.

A more detailed report of the September 7th Board meeting will be forthcoming. The next meeting of the Board will be on the coast on Monday, November 2nd. Location TBA.

*At the time of the Board decision to hire Campbell, it was not known that the part time arrangement of three days a week was in violation of the FCC staffing requirements.

8 Responses to KZYX License Renewed by FCC

  1. Tim in Albion Reply

    September 23, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Spin it all you want, the letter from the FCC was a slam-dunk victory for the supporters of KZYX and a complete rejection of the complainants.

    I urge everyone who is interested to read the actual letter from the FCC. It is far more interesting than I expected. It is also much easier to find than SDT implies – there’s a prominent link to it right up front and center on KZYX.org – so one wonders how to trust a reporter who has such difficulty.

  2. John Sakowicz Reply

    September 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    To the Editor:

    It’s absurd for KZYX management to say that the FCC decision to renew the station’s licenses was a “slam dunk victory” for the station.

    First, the FCC’s investigation took almost two years. In other words, the station’s license was held up for almost two years. That’s a very long time in the regulatory world. A two-year investigation is a rebuke in and of itself.

    Second, it’s almost unprecedented that the FCC completely revoke the broadcasting licenses of a presumably public radio station. A station would have to be commandeered by a terrorist group…something like that.

    Third and quoting from the FCC decision, “…the Informal Objections filed by John Sakowicz,
    Sheila Dawn Tracy, M. Kathryn Massey, Yasmin Solomon, and Sandra Peterson ARE GRANTED IN
    PART.”

    The FCC decision continues, “IT 1S FURTHER ORDERED that MCPB [MENDOCINO COUNTY PUBLIC BROADCASTING] IS ADMONISHED for failure to maintain both a full-time employee and one full-time management level employee at Station KZYX(FM)’s main studio during the license term.”

    The emphasis above in capital letters is the FCC’s own emphasis.

    A slam dunk victory? I think not. Couple the FCC’s two-year investigation and qualified decision with the decision by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to slash KZYX’s funding (the station does not reach enough of the minority community), and we get a more accurate picture of the serious problems at KZYX.

    In October, KZYX business records will be inspected as a result of a demand letter that was filed earlier this summer. Within a day of the station being served, former KZYX Executive Director and General Manager, John Coate, announced his sudden resignation.

    Was Coate’s resignation a coincidence? I think not.

    The demand letter was signed by two former KZYX Board directors, Doug McKenty and King Collins, and myself, a current board director, along with a former and highly respected member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, Norman De Vall, and Ukiah attorney, Dennis O’Brien.

    Attorney, Peter Kafin, will accompany us on the records inspection in October.

    Let’s be clear: There’s more trouble ahead for the bullies who call themselves KZYX management.

    John Sakowicz
    MCPB Board of Directors, 2013-2016, Board Treasurer, 2014

  3. Tim in Albion Reply

    September 23, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Sako, can’t you get anything right? I am not station management. And you didn’t get anything out of this bizarre adventure.

    “…we find that the
    Stations have served the public interest, convenience, and necessity during the subject license term.
    Moreover, we find that there have been no serious violations of the Act or the Rules, nor have there been
    violations by the Licensee of the Act or the Rules, which, taken together, would constitute a pattern of
    abuse.” That’s a slam-dunk.

    Face it, John, you failed. I know that’s impossible for you to admit, being a narcissist who must always be right; in order to maintain that delusion, you must twist facts around until they fit your narrative. But you didn’t know what you were doing and you didn’t get what you wanted, and that looks like failure.

  4. John Sakowicz Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    To the Editor:

    It’s absurd for KZYX management to say that the recent FCC decision to renew the station’s licenses was somehow a “slam dunk victory” for the station.

    First, the FCC’s investigation took almost two years. In other words, the station’s license was held up for almost two years. That’s a very long time in the regulatory world. A two-year investigation is a rebuke in and of itself.

    Second, it’s almost unprecedented that the FCC completely revoke the broadcasting licenses of a presumably public radio station. A station would have to be commandeered by a terrorist group…something like that.

    Third and quoting from the FCC decision, “…the Informal Objections filed by John Sakowicz, Sheila Dawn Tracy, M. Kathryn Massey, Yasmin Solomon, and Sandra Peterson ARE GRANTED IN PART.”

    The FCC decision continues, “IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that KZYX IS ADMONISHED for failure to maintain both a full-time employee and one full-time management level employee at Station KZYX(FM)’s main studio during the license term.”

    The emphasis above in capital letters is the FCC’s own emphasis.

    The objections were substantiated in part, and KZYX was admonished — terrible.

    A slam dunk victory? I think not. Couple the FCC’s two-year investigation and qualified decision with the decision by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to slash KZYX’s funding — the station was cited for not reaching enough of the minority community — and we get a more accurate picture of the very serious problems at KZYX.

    There’s more.

    In October, KZYX’s business records will be inspected as a result of a demand letter that was filed earlier this summer. Within a day of the station being served, former KZYX Executive Director and General Manager, John Coate, announced his sudden resignation.

    Was Coate’s resignation a coincidence? I think not.

    The demand letter was signed by two former KZYX Board directors, Doug McKenty and King Collins. It was also signed by myself, a current board director, along with a former and highly respected member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, Norman De Vall, and Ukiah attorney, Dennis O’Brien.

    Attorney, Peter Kafin, will accompany us on the records inspection in October.

    There’s more trouble ahead for the bullies who call themselves KZYX management. The truth shall set us free. Let’s be clear, KZYX is not a truly public radio station. KZYX is a closed clubhouse.

    What is KZYX?

    KZYX is a closed clubhouse that is not advised by a strong and independent Community Advisory Board and Program Advisory Committee. Both are weak and ineffective, and characterized by conflicts of interest.

    KZYX is a closed clubhouse that keeps its 2,100 members in the dark and fights every effort to organize them. The result is that membership has declined from 2,300 members in only the last few years.

    KZYX is a closed clubhouse that keeps its 80-90 volunteer broadcasters unpaid and fights every effort to unionize, or otherwise organize them.

    KZYX is a closed clubhouse that is a jobs program for the full-time staff at the station who will not disclose their salaries, will not provide job descriptions or work logs, and will not be subject to job performance evaluations by the Board of Directors.

    KZYX is a closed clubhouse whose program decisions are made by one person, the Program Director, who does little actual work, comes and goes as she pleases, and who also routinely censors programmers and otherwise purges her critics. The result is that she has remained unchallenged at KZYX for 25 years.

    Let’s work together to make KZYX truly public again.

    John Sakowicz

    KZYX Board of Directors, 2013-2016, Board Treasurer, 2014

  5. Tim in Albion Reply

    September 26, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Does Sako just have an algorithm that automatically spits out the same tirade against the same people, whenever someone replies to the previous one?

    Maybe he subscribes to the theory that “a lie repeated often enough becomes truth.”

    Either that, or he’s just become a tedious kook.

  6. M Kathryn Massey Reply

    September 28, 2015 at 9:13 am

    I don’t know who you are Tim, but let me respond for my part.

    Sheila is correct in that I was not aware I needed to supply the names of the three men who were removed from the air by the Program Director while she and another female programmer were kept on because of their friendship, but who had violated the Safe Harbor policy KZYX maintains. I was not aware I had the opportunity to detail my complaint.

    Some of the complaints were passed off by the FCC to be handled by other entities, for example, the EEOC. That does not mean a victory for the station. It only means other entities are better prepared to address the complaints and the complaints are out of the purview of the FCC. It does NOT mean the complaints do not have merit.

    If you Tim, feel that everything is wonderful, then how do you explain that few NEW people have stepped forward from the community to become members of CAB and PAC? If you feel that all is terrific, how do you explain and reverse the trend of membership falling off, underwriting tanking and dollars falling off? Why is it the same small cluster of people nominate and elect themselves to the Board without the membership being a part of the process. Tim, how do you explain this to for those of us reading this article?

    Maybe you don’t agree with the method of those of us who have tried to bring these facts to the attention of the community which gives the money, but it doesn’t negate the facts.

    On another note, you have attacked a Board Member who has been isolated and ostracized by the GM and current Board for bringing the many, many internal failings of this station to the public’s attention. It’s easy to attack others on the comfort of your home computer. You have reported NOTHING substantive, while Mr Sakowicz and others have reported facts witnessed firsthand.

    On October 7, several KZYX members will conduct a review of the infamous John Coate financial reporting. An attorney will be present. Coate resigned the day after receiving the letter about the members inspection. Remember, as a staff person, Coate is/was NOT legally responsible for the station’s financial status/practices. The Board Members ARE. Do you blame Mr Sakowicz for wanting to know what he is legally responsible for especially after the concerted and orchestrated effort by Coate and select Board Members to keep the knowledge of the total financial picture out of his reach?
    Mr Sakowicz has a financial background and career. He does forensic accounting. Don’t you think he would recognize issues that were off if given the chance?

    Tim, wouldn’t you want to know what you are legally responsible for in a case such as this? If not, you’re a dullard and a fool.

    BTW, one of the features Mr Sakowicz requested in writing his FCC objection was that the license not be renewed until John Coate was removed. Funny how that came to pass, Tim. Coate is gone and the license is renewed.

    Attacking people for how they report information is separate from the information itself.

    If you should write to attack me for writing my response, or for just having concerns, it won’t change the facts that have already been identified and presented to you and the public who donate.

    Dear Public, Pay attention to where and how your money is spent, not just by KZYX Board Members, but by all non-profits.

    M Kathryn Massey
    Mendocino, CA KZYX, Members for Change

  7. Tim in Albion Reply

    September 30, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Ms. Massey,
    The “attacks” all seem to be coming from you and Sako. I wish we could discuss KZYX in a civil manner, but that isn’t possible when Sako veers off into personal attacks whenever anyone disagrees with him; and now you seem to follow suit with your disparaging remarks toward me, even though we are unacquainted.

    KZYX has always been controversial (it seems to be endemic to public radio), and I have my own complaints about it. To me it seems like a valuable community resource that is getting better but still has much room for improvement. Reasonable adults can disagree about certain aspects of it while working with each other to make it better – and in fact are doing so all the time. Such people understand that the station serves a very diverse audience and cannot please everyone all the time, but can offer something of value to almost anyone.

    A few people, on the other hand, would rather burn it down because it doesn’t suit them. These people ignore or attack anyone who disagrees with their ideals. These tactics get them a lot of attention, but don’t lead to constructive change. Since they continue with such tactics, I am forced to conclude that they value the attention more.

    You want change? Stop writing inflammatory letters demonizing everyone who disagrees with you. Find people who love the station and want to make it better. Work with them. Put your ego aside and consider what other people want.

  8. Mary Massey Reply

    October 1, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Tim, you have failed to respond to what I have written. Contrary to what you write, I know of no one who wants to burn down the station. Certainly, I don’t.

    I write for myself and for no one who has expressed opinions or reported their own factual history with the station. The fact that so many have found issues with the current board and paid staff in the last decade alone, should give the community pause about supporting a business until real change occurs.

    As you rightly point out, the station has been fraught with problems from its inception. If there are other ways to help the station overcome the inherent infrastructure and its problems, why does this make a person suspect to come forward? Who is resisting change and who is resisting change to make the station stronger? Not the donors or members. Not the unpaid programmers. Who remains?

    I don’t see where I attacked you in my response except to say if you were/are legally responsible for the finances of the station but didn’t know or want to rock the boat to learn what it is you are responsible for then, it would make one a fool. I let that stand.

    So, the issues I listed in my response- can you write about those?

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