Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I believe it was in June that I last noted KPFA's interim program director Sasha Lilley and interim general manager Lemelm Rijio's Report to the Listener, "That was the only coherent report that Sasha Lilley, interim program director, has taken part in. Here is the reality, Ms. Lilley and interim general manager Lemlem Rijio, two grown women, cannot deliver a report on their own. With Andrea Lewis acting as moderator, the report was listenable, moved along nicely and sounded like you were hearing adults talking. On their own again, Ms. Lilley and Ms. Rijio are not just a mess, they sound like a really cruel Saturday Night Live skit."

Wednesday the latest Management Report to the Listener aired. To start with the good news, Ms. Lilley and Ms. Rijio were professional, prepared and there was no guffaws to be provided by the way they conducted themselves. That is no small thing and they deserve tremendous credit for the vast improvement.

Turning to the so-so or bad news, I doubt seriously Aaron Glantz would be featured on WBAI or KPFK, as he has been, promoting Pacifica's new online project The War Comes Home if other Pacifica stations were aware it was, as Ms. Lilley stated, a project to promote KPFA and provide it with an online presence. Ms. Lilley also explained two upcoming stories he will be covering which include homeless veterans and the abuses women in the military suffer. Mr. Glantz' The War Comes Home is a web site that produces audio and text reports and Mr. Glantz also blogs there. The audio portions a brief reports that can be picked up by other Pacifica outlets and, presumably, other public and college radio stations as well. As C.I. noted September 5th, the audio is "spots" or "carts" up to that point had ignored women: "Maybe it will explore command rape or some other topics the mainstream isn't already covering? And, let's be honest, women are the one being shut out of the discussion. Yes, Laura Flanders rightly noted that in terms of being invited to comment, but I'm talking about what I'm hearing from female veterans. They feel there was a 'flurry' of interest following the disgraceful treatment of Suzanne Swift and that interest then moved on. Certainly, the fact that The War Comes Home can post ten profile stories and not a one of them be about a woman backs their feelings up." So the issue of women, Ms. Lilley provided the news that they will now be covered by The War Comes Home. As to her assertion that homeless veterans are soon to be covered, The War Comes Home has already covered that topic so presumably they will be expanding on it.

As for The War Comes Home being a project to expand KPFA's online presence, KPFA's on hypocritical territory. They drove off a number of online listeners when they announced at the station's website that one of the measures they were considering was reducing online streaming.

On July 15th, royalty payments for webcast music will increase by as much as 1200%. This outrageous and unfair ruling will result in many webcasters owing music royalty fees that are more than their yearly budget! Because of this, many popular internet radio services will shut down.Non-commercial stations, like KPFA, must pay the commercial royalty rate once a certain amount of online listeners tune in. KPFA may have to limit the amount of online listeners we have.

KPFA posted that threat in July and I noted it in this report. The webcast royalty issue is still up in the air at this point but KPFA has removed the threat of "KPFA may have to limit the amount of online listeners we have." If they are now concerned with increasing their online presence, instead of disappearing the threat, they might want to try addressing it because that was probably the biggest topic this summer. I heard from community members complaining about it, I also heard from visitors. That was in July and the complaints continue. Kat does not even listen to KPFA currently as a result of the fallout this has provided. For Kat, it is just a matter of turning on the radio, but she was and is offended that KPFA would step away from Lewis Hill's mission of reaching as many people as possible and instead threated to reduce the audience.

Disappearing the threat did not make it go away or vanish from the minds of listeners. For the listeners' report to speak of the need to increase the online presence of KPFA mere months after KPFA was threatening to limit the stream is more than a bit hypocritical.

There never was and never will be a need to limit listeneres over the issue of royalties. KPFA can use the same button they do to remove objectionable langauge when bumper music came on. Listeners would hear silence during those bumper breaks. Programs that are devoted solely to music might require blocking but that was not what the threat stated, the threat stated online listeners might have to be limited. It was panic and overreaching on the part of KPFA and whether Mr. Glantz' project can increase their online presence or not, the fact remains that themselves have done more to damage their online reputation by making a threat.

To repeat, the threat is not forgotten. I heard from a visitor in Australia this week who wrote he no longer listens to KPFA and misses it but better to find something else available than to wait for the hammer to fall. They damanged themselves worldwide with that threat and, until they address it, side projects will most likely be of little help to increasing their online presence.

New programming on KPFA was put on hold at this site due to the threat. Members were outraged by it and C.I. declared a three month hold on it. That did not apply to my reports. I am allowed to note whatever I want. But due to members feelings and to address the outrage, C.I. noted in the gina & krista round-robin, that there would be no mention of new programming on KPFA for three months and, after the three month period, the mood would be measured again. On Monday, I decided I would steam the listeners' report Wednesday and cover it here. When I told C.I., C.I. said a few mentions would be included of KPFA to test the waters. So Aileen Alfandary was mentioned in a snapshot and Susan Faludi's Wednesday appearance was mentioned. The reaction? Still hostile. I heard this week from three members who had listened to KPFA online, who had donated regularly to KPFA, and who had complained via the KPFA complaint form about the threat. They each explained that KPFA had never bothered to reply.

That is why there is hostility to KPFA still. It has never replied. It has never replied to listeners who donate or do not donate, it has never issued any statement acknowledging the threat was a mistake. It was a mistake and until KPFA addresses that, they will continue to have trouble with their online presence.

As for this community, where do we stand? This report is the subject of Gina and Krista's latest poll. Members will determine whether the three month period is over or if it is extended and, if it is extended, by how long. There are many who feel like Kat, such as Zach and Mia, members who could listen over the radio to KPFA but make a point to now stream and they are not streaming KPFA. They are taking a stand of soldarity. When you are dealing with a listener report from a program director and a general manager and the topic of increasing online listening is brought up without either noting the problem KPFA created, you have to question the value of the listener report.

The year long sabbatical of Andrea Lewis from The Morning Show makes the "turning off" easier for most members. The shame there is that Aimee Allison, co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None, is filling in for Ms. Lewis and, no doubt, doing a wonderful job. The shame is that Philip Maldari did a wonderful interview with Susan Faludi about her new book The Terror Dream last Wednesday. Instead of merely reciting main points, Ms. Faludi and Mr. Maldari went beyond the book to offer additional examples of Ms. Faludi's thesis. But there are other streams to listen to online, including other Pacifica stations, and I doubt that Ms. Allison, a war resister from the first Gulf War, being added or Mitch Jesserich becoming producer of The Morning Show, will change the mood.

KPFA made a serious mistake by issuing that threat and to speak now, as Ms. Lilley and Ms. Rijio did Wednesday, about increasing the station's online presence without addressing the thing that has soured listeners was a mistake. I will check back in for next month's report. Hopefully, somewhere between the usual "I hate Dennis Bernstein" nonsense calls, the two women can take time to address the threat and issue an apology.