KZYX: Chaos & Hope
by Sheila Dawn-Tracy, December 2, 2015
In an unfamiliar darkness that signaled the return to standard time, the KZYX Board of Directors met on November 2nd at the Redwood Coast Senior Center in Fort Bragg. All Board members were present with the exception of Director John Sakowicz.
The Board approved the minutes from the two previous meetings of June 29th and September 7th. No minutes were provided for public review which, though unstated, has become the new norm. In the Board's Policies & Procedures Manual it states "open access to station documents to those who express an interest." It stipulates, however, that requests be made during normal business hours and copies provided upon payment of nominal copy costs. The public was directed to the station's website, kzyx.org, to access that information. In an online review, the minutes were found to be streamlined, trimming out all public comment including comments made regarding Board actions .
Such inclusion has been the standard practice of successive Board Secretaries. In contrast to MCPB's stated intention of transparency, station information is becoming a rarefied accommodation under the newly appointed Board Secretary, Director Bob Page. Under Matters from the Board, newly elected Board President, Meg Courtney addressed several requests from members including adequate written notice of the annual membership meeting. The Bylaws provide alternatives to written notification by informing members of the meeting through broadcasting frequent on air announcements a minimum of four days prior to the meeting and posting the information at the Philo studio. To save mailing costs, those options are the preferred and expedient choice.
The Board complied with a request for a written procedure for replacing misdirected and unreceived election ballots. The process includes having a qualified member sign a form affirming a ballot was not received before a replacement ballot is sent. A second ballot will not be sent in cases in which the ballot is misplaced or accidentally disposed. Seventeen requests were received for the 2015 election.
The idea of reviving the defunct Program Advisory Committee (PAC) was discussed. Director Jane Futcher was the only member of the present Board who had any recollection of the issues surrounding the creation of the PAC from serving on the Board in 2005. The PAC was created to provide greater community input into programming decisions. She described difficulty in organizing regular meetings — the same problem that currently besets the Community Advisory Board (CAB) —as one of the contributing factors in the PAC's demise. Former PAC members cite the veto authority of the Program Director to override the egalitarian process of the committee and the termination of popular news reporter, Christina Aanestad in 2009 by General Manager, John Coate without input from the PAC as more significant reasons for the disassembling of the PAC soon after.
Also discussed were ways to improve outreach for community committee membership. Several important committees remain unformed six months after their recreation was announced in May. The few that are active (the Search, Finance and Audit committees) are heavily dominated by station personnel and Board members. Part of the problem lies in the station's version of musical chairs after its executive committee reformed in September due to Stuart Campbell's resignation from the Board to take on the role of Interim General Manager and the subsequent redistribution of the Board's workload.
Board member Futcher has committed to creating an internet version of a newsletter by which members can be informed of KZYX activities, events and programming changes as well as other station developments.
She mentioned the printed newsletter, Radio Waves, which was produced by staff for a decade beginning in the mid-90s and which, conveniently, I had brought along two copies for the benefit of newer Board members.
GM Campbell discussed a new experimental strategy of ending the pledge drive early if the goal of 80k was reached before the scheduled end of the drive. The thorny question how members could call a membership meeting was attempted to be resolved by Board President, Meg Courtney.
After reading through Bylaw 10.03 regarding the right of members to call a membership meeting, she maintained that members could give written notice to other members. I asked for clarification of how it could be determined who were members without contact information. She replied, unsatisfactorily, that I could find members "in my own realm."
It completely went under the radar of the Board, its unnamed legal counsel and everyone present at the meeting that the language for notification of membership meetings in Bylaw10.03 is exactly the same as notification to members of the annual membership meeting. It includes the same alternative of notification by broadcasting frequent announcements on air a minimum of four days prior to the meeting and posting notice at station headquarters. It also states that the Board, who has access to membership information, has the authority to call a membership meeting.
This is significant because it provides a means where no expense is incurred by either the station or its members. It also provides an avenue for direct democratic member involvement in station governance and a way to determine whether that goal is supported by a necessary quota of station members.
In speaking to KMUD's General Manager, Jeannette Todd about membership meetings months ago, she expressed her opinion that if members wanted a membership meeting, she would work to facilitate its occurrence.
Facilitation by either the GM or the Board could help to derail a potential lawsuit for noncompliance of binding Bylaws and policies as well as heal the dissension that has marred the station's public image since its inception.
Search Committee— Chair Eubank reported that the job description for the General Manager is now posted on the station's website. Ads have also been posted in several venues. Applications will come through the website or be forwarded to him. Once received, they will be reviewed by committee members, a process which he hopes will be ongoing through December. Recommendations to the Board will follow to allow the final step of Board and staff interviews to be scheduled throughout January.
Finance Committee— Also the Finance chair, Eubank reported that the quarterly report from July to September 30th showed that expenses of $119k exceeded station income of $55k by $64k. He noted that sustaining memberships that have a positive impact on the monthly cash flow are increasing and thanked the members.
The largest percentage of expenses was for Gross Employee wages and benefits as well as the salaries paid to freelance consultants, aka two-thirds of the news department.
The Fall payment of $95k from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grant is expected soon giving station finances a temporary cushion. Since the time of the report, the success of the recent pledge drive added a minimum of $80k in donations, painting a much rosier fiscal picture.
Eubank was asked by audience member Jeff Wright about the cost of the news and specifically, how much of the $25k received from the one-day August pledge drive went to the news team.
Responding that he did not have those figures with him, Eubank stated he did know that the news team was over budget due to extensive coverage of the Lake County fires and that the August revenue did cover their salaries. Wright continued to question Eubank, causing Courtney to request an end to the dialogue. Still uncooperative, Director Keller made a motion that if Wright kept interrupting that he be removed from the meeting.
When asked by Courtney how that would be done, the usually mild mannered Keller responded that they should call the police.
It should be noted at this point that Wright had come to the meeting dressed in a black and white striped prison suit with a matching cap. Whether anticipating the response of the Board to his frequent interruptions or part of a larger theatrical plan, Wright stated that his lack of adherence to Board process mirrored the Board's lack of compliance to their own rules.
In an earlier meeting, Wright had asked what rules of order were being used to conduct the meeting. Acting Chair and then Vice President Campbell responded that they were "sort of using parliamentary procedure, not wanting to be a stickler for rules."
In a report by former Board member, King Collins of the conflicts among Board Members in 2005 (The Secret Life of KZYX), Collins notes that in 9/8/02 the Board adopted Roberta's Rules of Order by Alice Collier Cochran as the official Board meeting rules. Collins also acknowledges that conflict with irate public members also generated the same response of a member of the 2003 Board-- that of hiring an off duty policemen to eject any offending public members. No second for the motion was ventured by any of the present Board and a crisis was temporarily averted.
The meeting proceeded with a announcement by Courtney that she and Futcher, with help from Campbell,were the Election Coordinators for the upcoming March election.
The open seats are: District 1 (Redwood and Potter Valley areas) currently held by outgoing member, Bob Page.
The vacant Programmer Representative seat formerly held by Stuart Campbell.
The At Large seat currently held by John Sakowicz Courtney stated that on air announcements regarding the time frame for the election, candidate requirements and contact information for applications would begin on November 30th.
Director Thomas reported on attending a meeting of the CAB. In responding to questions from the audience, Thomas reframed his description of the meeting as an unannounced "private workshop over a pot luck dinner attended by people expressing interest in the CAB." The propriety of the meeting was called into question as the purpose of the CAB is to get input from the community and has not met in public even once in the current year despite minimum compliance regulations of the CPB to meet at regular intervals.
He announced that the public meeting of the CAB has been scheduled for Friday evening, December 4th. on air announcements will follow with more detail.
Action Items — Courtney announced the nomination of current CAB member, Jenness Hartley to fill the open Board seat of District 3 (Willits) vacated by Futcher to take an At Large seat which allowed her to also be a station programmer.
With three Board members this year resigning their seats prematurely, there has been successive appointments to the Board to fill the vacancies as allowed in the Bylaws.
Wright interrupted the proceedings to ask what were Hartley's qualifications. Director Thomas used a creative strategy to reign in the unapologetic Wright in taking a poll of the audience to see who supported the meeting to continue in an orderly manner. All hands were raised. Wright then took a similar poll asking the audience whether the questions he raised had merit but received no affirmation, although all knew it was just a procedural nicety,
Hartley was asked to speak to her radio experience. Hartley complied saying she had worked behind the scenes at CALX, at UC Berkeley while an undergraduate. Since coming to the area, she has volunteered during pledge drives, served two years on the CAB and has been a part of the Search Committee. She loved radio, particularly, public radio and would be delighted to serve the community in the capacity of Board member.
Public Comment — Wright objected to the public having no knowledge of the appointment prior to the meeting. He felt the nomination was predetermined through secret emails without any regard for public input. He accused the Board of “shuffling the deck” and subverting the electoral process selection of representatives by members in moving people into different Board seats and filling the vacancies by appointment.
He also noted that the Board was not in compliance with the FCC requirement to have a full time managerial presence at the station during business hours.
I commented that although I personally liked Ms. Hartley, I also objected to the process of closed nominations. I was disappointed that the vacancy was not filled by opening up the nomination to the entire community through an on air announcement of the availability of the open seat. I felt the appointment process was in essence, selective recruiting and that the Board was becoming an elite "friend of friend" organization devoid of diversity and differing points of view.
I asked where was the professed community involvement of public radio? Courtney was about to announce Hartley as the new Board representative when she was reminded that she had overlooked calling for a Board vote. Unsurprisingly, the vote was unanimous.
Similarly, Tony Novelli was nominated by the Board to fill the CAB slot that Hartley will presumably resign from at the next and only CAB meeting of the year.
Novelli gave his background as working in several capacities at Tucson public radio KXCI, one of which was as a CAB member. He works at a community organization in Hopland and also is a graphic designer with experience in electronic communication. He thought he could give assistance in helping Futcher set up the format for the e-newsletter project.
Wright again objected to the lack of public notice of the appointment and the lack of an open process.
I wondered if Novelli's help on the e newsletter would give him unintended access to member information which was being prohibited from other members. I said communication through the internet did not fulfill the requirement of communication to all, both members and the larger community. I felt it was exclusive in the area of financial constraints and expressed my feeling that station on air announcements were still the preferred method of easy non restrictive communication to the whole community. Novelli was unanimously approved for the CAB seat.
Courtney announced that the Programmer Representative seat will be kept open as its three year term ends in May. Once again she had to be reminded to call for a Board vote suggesting that all strategic planning ( or plotting) of Board business is previously conducted by confidential Board email, out of the public eye constituting the fabric of a closed session in violation of Bylaw 13.1 on public relations. "It is the policy of the Board to cause the membership of KZYX & Z and the community at large to be aware of the programming and activities of MCPB. The Fundraising/Membership committee"( still non existent) "will develop a public relations program including press releases, making news, time release news and the regular issue of a program guide."
In reality, the station has taken its obligation to dispense information and shifted that obligation onto the public shoulders by asking them to take responsibility to inform themselves through the station website.
State of the Station — General Manager, Stuart Campbell announced a "Building Community through News" event planned by the station's news team for December 20th. It is to be held at the Space Theater in Ukiah with Elizabeth Larson, publisher/editor of the Lake County News as the guest speaker.
Issues on which the team plans to focus their reporting include funding for fire districts, broadband service and mental illness with an emphasis on community partners. Supervisor Tom Woodhouse has agreed to help establish a community dialogue on the subject.
Operations — The change to improved internet service at the Philo studio and at the two transmitting towers at Laughlin Peak and Cold Springs Mountain is almost complete. The upgrade, provided by North Coast Internet, will allow extra access, security and options for delivery of the signal and programming commands to the transmitters. It will also, after initial installation costs, save up to $300 a month. The T-1 line provided by MCN will be retained for an additional month to provide back up while the new system is tested.
An application for a Mendocino County Community Benefit Fund has been made for a total of $19.4k-to purchase and install equipment that would give remote access to the station's two broadcast towers. The new equipment would have the capacity to allow county emergency services and officials to get access to the station's broadcast equipment in situations where staff or the broadcast facilities where not available.
The County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the sixty two proposals received on November 17th.
The station has two unfunded computer and software needs. The accounting computer and software are outdated and in need of an upgrade. The Donor Perfect software for the membership database is not designed for radio operations and will not allow the station to communicate with its membership by email. Campbell would like to switch to software provided by Allegiance. He expects the cost of the upgrades to be $5k each.
Programming — Campbell is temporarily stepping back from hosting Consider This which airs on Friday mornings. Cal Winslow will air a series of programs on California forests in its place.
Fundraising — KZYX & Z raised $8k from its silent drive (letters requesting donations from members) and is focused on increasing the number of sustaining members. The Fall pledge drive was successful, arriving at the pledge goal of $80k one day earlier than planned. One hundred sustaining members were acquired as well.
Grants — The CPB grant will total $124.5 k and is divided into fall and spring payments of $95k and $24.5k respectively.
A grant request is to be submitted to the Community Foundation of Mendocino for $5k . It is hoped that grant funds will help defray the cost of needed software upgrades.
Campbell reminded the Board that $55k in large donor contributions had been approved as a revenue stream in the current budget and thus far no plans have been made to generate this income.
Two auctions are planned for 2016-- one for Valentine's Day and another in conjunction with Nevada Public Radio with whom the station has previously partnered.
Membership — Statistics on membership were provided for the last eight years. The figures are generally tabulated at the end of the calendar year as a part of the election process. As of early November, the station has 2285 current members. The lowest figures were 2118 for last year and 2134 for 2009. Both 2013 & 2014 showed the highest level of members at 2396 & 2372 respectively. The years of 2010 & 2012 also had memberships slightly above 2300.
Campbell stated that no significant conclusions could be drawn from the fluctuations.
In response to questions raised by members regarding member communication, Campbell reiterated the Board position that due to an apparent conflict between State law and federal (CPB) regulations, the station cannot share member information. On the advice of unnamed counsel, the compromise offered was to have the entity that handles election ballots mail a letter from members so desiring to members on the membership list who would remain anonymous. The cost of the mailing, approximately $1500, would be absorbed by the members initiating the communication.
He wrongly asserted that the preceding solution was now Board policy although the topic has never come before the Board and the public for discussion and was never voted upon by the Board. At the February 2015 meeting, it was simply announced as fact by Campbell acting as Vice President of the Board.
Also responding to member concerns, Campbell went on to explain how the station's Safe Harbor policy which allowed adult content over the air between the hours of 10 pm & 6am, was rescinded by an on site decision made by the former GM, John Coate and Program Director, Mary Aigner. He cited staff concerns over the delay of the station license renewal by the FCC as the reason for the reversal. He also stated an intention to return to a Safe Harbor policy but it was part of a larger process that needed reevaluation.
Director Eubank asked that as a policy, is it a Board decision or an operational decision? Campbell responded that he thought it was an operational decision as it is addressed in the Employee and Volunteer Handbook which is a station operational manual. Eubank then asked,"If the policy is changed in terms of the Handbook, should that not be under the Board purview?" Campbell answered that he wasn't sure. Eubank stated concern regarding the process and requested that in revisiting the question, late night programmers be included in the dialogue and the decision making process.
Director Thomas added that when decisions are made that are likely to stir the public, the Board should be kept informed.
Eubank further requested that when a change of policy is expected to move forward, he would prefer that it be brought to the Board prior to any action. Additionally, if it should be determined that the policy change is under the Board's purview, he wanted to be sure that the public be engaged and a Board vote be taken.
I asked why the minutes were no longer available for public review. I then challenged Campbell's interpretation of the CPB regulations of donor lists, stating that he was only giving half the story.
In fact, the CPB regulations specify non disclosure of donor names UNLESS three specific requirements are met: Clearly disclosing to the donor that personally identifiable information may be disclosed to a third party; giving the donor the opportunity to opt out of such disclosure and an explanation to the donor on how to exercise the nondisclosure option.
According to West Smithers, an employee of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C.,the station IS REQUIRED (his emphasis) to inform members of their nondisclosure option.
I also asked who the station's lawyers were in this matter but Campbell, eyes averted, refused to answer. I asked if it was David Hopmann or Elaine Herring , both lawyers (Herring does not have a license to practice in this state) who were also past Board Presidents who might have a personal agenda which could bias their advice. I thought the whole Board should have the CPB document so they could be aware of the alternative option it presents.
Jeff Wright made a "prisontation." He presented $120 as his membership dues but wanted Safe Harbor as his premium. He said he paid for uncensored radio with last year's membership and Coate and Aigner had no right to deprive him of it.
He complained of the poor signal to the 88.1 frequency and wanted to know why the station refused to let listeners know there was a $25 Simple Living membership rate that was available to all who could not afford to pledge at a higher level.
Bob Bushansky spoke next and remarked that it took 83 emails between CAB members to set up the December 4th date that all members could attend. He spoke of the difficulty in bringing people together from distant points in the county.
He stated an opinion that the Board was a representative democracy elected by the members to do the day to day governance of the station. He thought it is not up to individuals to decide what information they wanted to have or what can and can't be done.
He advised the Board not to respond when there are difficulties with people in the audience.
Tony Novelli said he would send links to Eubank on donor software and hardware at discounted rates. As a CAB member he reviewed what he had heard from the audience: how to include the non internet community & work on getting station notifications out to the public. He said he was interested in the Safe Harbor conversation. He felt there should be a way for members to communicate with each other while still protecting their right to privacy. He added he felt it was honorable to take a cautious approach.
Derek Hoyle, the late night programmer and host of Music Out of Bounds expressed anger at Coate & Aigner's capricious decision to kill Safe Harbor and censor the content of his and other late night programmer's shows. He told the Board that the FCC specifies that they will not take any action whatsoever on material aired between 10 pm and 6 am. He stated the action was legally indefensible. He directed much of his anger at Campbell who was the Programmers' Representative at the time of the decision saying that Campbell didn't think that censorship of the radio station was very important but it was important to a lot of other people.
He complained that the rules are being applied arbitrarily, pointing out that a guest on Campbell's show used foul language during daytime hours without any attempt by Campbell to address the situation. A similar offense caused the removal of the popular Open Lines show along with its host, Doug McKenty, from the airwaves over a year ago.
Hoyle also said he had trouble with the new connection line to the satellite studio and was forced to leave the studio without being able to air his show.
CAB member, Tom Melcher asked that the December 4th meeting be publicized frequently and well in advance so that the meeting will be well represented. The next meeting of the KZYX & Z Board will be in Ukiah on January 4th at 6pm. Location TBA.