WBAI iGM Indra Hardat
at PNB meeting 10-29-05
Here are the remarks of Indra Hardat, WBAI interim general manager, at the Pacifica National Board meeting in Houston, on 10/29/05. She touched on loss of members at WBAI, programming (two times), FCC violations, and Wake Up Call, among other topics. Also included are questions and remarks of board members.
The audio file is: http://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/pnb051028/saturday/pnb051029j.mp3. This segment starts at 4:01 of the file.
Indra Hardat: (starts inaudibly)...we already had $150,000 deficit. Then we had a fund drive in May where we were short - we had a shortfoall of $400,000. So that put us - with like a 75 percent fulfillment rate it's like a $500,000 deficit, in essence. However, we had a successful summer drive, mini-drive, our goal was $325,000 and we raised $508,000. So we recuperated like $200,000. And one of the reasons for that success is that the drive was ... we were really prepared for that drive. We had all the premiums registered on time, we had everybody co-operating as a team, and working as a team. We had a health fair going on in conjunction with the drive. Except for manicure and pedicure, we had everything. We had a masseuse, we had people giving, uhm, all kind of free stuff going on - in terms of health. I don't know, I made use of a few of them myself - they had an acupuncturist, they had an orthopedic surgeon. they had many many health professionals giving free services, and when necessary, answering the phones, so we weren't losing many phone calls.
Right now we are in drive mode, and the goal is $950,000, and as of 4 p.m. today we were at $835,000, which suggests that we will end this drive at another $100,000 or so shortfall again. So it seems that this new year also will be a challenging and difficult one.
Because of all these hurdles we were forced to make payroll cuts of $170,000 in this current year's budget. And it's not easy ever to make pay cuts. But where else are we going to get the money from? We have no development director, we have a lot of negative emails flowing back and forth, we have people who have access to our airwaves destroying us, and chasing away the listeners. So our base has sort of reduced dramatically.
(6:25) Last year our paid listener base was about 21,000 paid members. This year it's shrunk to 17,000. Losing 4000 paid listeners in terms of money means that we'll always have to play catch-up, unless we do something really dramatic. And what I'm focusing on as the interim general manager is to network with our sister stations, see how they're doing it, work with them, they have a winning formula, and we should have been using them a long time ago, in a collaborative way.
Finances - well I've said it already. Finances is where we are. We ended this year with $120,000 in the bank. But we had $185,000 in accounts payable. So we had to postpone bills to have enough money to - so it's not real money - it's only on paper.
In terms of the AFTRA contract we are 95 percent complete. We have an appointment this week, Wednesday, with the AFTRA people and our attorney to negotiate our contract. So now I am hearing it has to come for approval before we sign it. I didn't know that before. (inaudible comment from a PNB member)
OK, Let's see, in terms of programming, we have done wonderful things, we have doubled the number of women in programming, we've added a Spanish language - public affairs department. And we have a youth programming with - well what I find with the youth, it's good to have a lot more youth, because the baby boomer generation is going to go over the hill now. (laughter) So we need the young folks. We really need to encourage the younger generation to get involved, we need to network with the universities and colleges and other grass roots organizations (8:55) and have training and all these wonderful things. But when you don't have money, we're always begging.
Also, in my mind, we have first voices, which is (9:10) American Indigenous program. That helps us understand the early needs of the American Indigenous people. And I think that's one of the great programs we've added on. Yes we need to do more, we need to be more diverse, and what we need to do is realistically track our programming and see where we can make changes to be more diverse and stay focused to the mission.
In terms of operations, we've installed the cuss box as they call it, so that the FCC cannot be after us all the time, but in spite of the - that we installed the cuss box, which is the delay unit as they call it, recently, two weeks ago or three weeks ago, we got another complaint from the FCC. So we are investigating that, so it means more legal fees for WBAI.
The vision is - what we need to do is upgrade our studios. we've bought many computers, and we have better tools to work with, but what we do is radio, and we did not upgrade our studios, our main control. We have three CD units that are really not working. And sometimes at work I was told that if you play with it a little bit, and romance it a little bit, it will work, but for the most part, it doesn't work. And we need to replace that, and we need a backup transmitter at the Empire State Building. We also have to have another set of T-1 lines comoing to the studios, and that we hope to accomplish pretty soon.
We are working on some new initiatives - see if it's there - On the 17th of November, for the first time in WBAI history, we are having a cultural fusion. We have a diverse group performing - African drumming, classical Indian dancing, we have, uh, Malachy McCourt, those of you who are familiar with him. He will read some kind of a poetry. We have a Yiddish skit going on, we have a flamenco dance, we have all kind of culture. And I think culture is healing. And we need it at WBAI.
Also we have, instead of the music-thon that we usually have in December, that didn't raise any money last time, we are using those three days to have a membership plus drive. What we are doing is having regular programming, but at the same time promote membership, just plain membership. We are hoping to raise $75,000.
And in the summer we plan to have a celebrity gala event, so those of you in the network who know any celebrity - we don't know too many at BAI - we don have names like Amy Goodman, Bernard White, they'll be there, but we still need some other celebrity name that will bring out the people in droves.
And apart from that, what I would like to see at WBAI is to have a level playing ground for all, to have a safe and equitable workplace, and also to have people being civil to each other, try to get along, work with what we have in common, and move the station forward. Thank you.
Ray Laforest: You mentioned an FCC violation. Can you tell us something of the nature of the violation? And where the complaint came from?
Indra Hardat: It's not a violation yet, it's a complaint. And we have to investigate it. I was told it is something of a national programming that we were doing, and something happened during the day, like three weeks ago or four weeks ago. but I don't - [responds to inaudible comment] - 2004? OK. Because one happened a couple of weeks ago, but maybe there is no complaint on that one.
Bob Lederer: Hi Indra, thanks for that report. Just wanted to share with people the impact of the change in hosts of Wake-Up Call, our morning show, and the reconstitution of the team, with a lot of new young people, what that's done for our listenership?
Indra Hardat: Wake-Up Call? - Deepa Fernandes - Deepa brought a level of vibrancy to the show, and a lot of youth are involved in that show. We've cut the morning news person from that. Because what happened is that we cut someone from every department. And the news department chose to cut that position. And I know it's a key to that, but I think a co-host for Wake-Up Call would be more of what should be going on, because in the past we always had Amy Goodman with Bernard to make the show in the past so successful. And in order to bring it back to that kind of level to where we had it in the past is to have a co-host - because it's a three-hour show, the only one of our shows that has a three-hour slot. And it's too much, even for a youth, to go on for three hours without having any sort of a break. So I would say that a halftime co-host is what is needed more than a news reporter. And perhaps the news department can incorporate the news in that show to bring it up to speed.
Steve Pierce: You said something that puzzled me. You said that there are people who have access to the airwaves who are destroying the station. I'm just curious, why that's the case.
Indra Hardat: Why that is the case, well, when we made cuts to the Wake Up Call news reporter, people went on the Wake Up Call for a week, two week, sort of - with a lot of negative things about management making these cuts. But we had to make cuts, because where else, how are we going to find the money. Right now, the money we raise from this fund drive will be exhausted by the end of November. But I know we are getting CPB money, and we can go on till January, when we have the Martin Luther King. So being a finance person, I know that we have to make the cuts. It's necessary. We even cut the listener support. We cut $365,000 from FY06 budget.
Steve Pierce: I wasn't asking so much about -
Indra Hardat: I know, but that's one of the things. So in the first week of the fund drive, we were getting many complaints about reinstating the Wake Up Call news, because they were told to call management and have the person - but I think that that kind of a - I think that just going on air just because you have access to airwaves, even though we have no gag rule, to tell people, air what's going on, I think it creates a negative feeling with the listener, and it's not productive. It's counterproductive, especially in these times when we are suffering from a financial crisis. So that's one of the shows that did it, and one would say, yes, there are other shows in the middle of the night, two o'clock in the morning, four o'clock in the morning and say "don't give money to WBAI," and there are such shows too, I don't know who they are or what shows they are, but I would get e-mails occasionally, people forwarding an email saying this was said on air at two o'clock in the morning, or this was said on the air twelve midnight. Telling people not to pledge, all these things are going on at WBAI. So it's like different people doing it at different times.
Steve Pierce: OK, Well I - I don't know what to say about that except that to use listener money to run a station to have people on the air telling listeners not to contribute, doesn't make a lot of sense. And so if we could somethow address this at the board level. I understand the issue about the gag rule. But I think there needs to be a discussion about how to keep this from happening on our stations.
Indra Hardat: Absolutely.
Patty Heffley: Can you just briefly say what the duties of the program director are in relation to the FCC violation and in relation to the lengthy fund drives and - what duties the program director has in all this fundraising. I always hear the public affairs director, and I hear you're trying to do things, and always the blame goes there, and I'm trying to figure out, what are the duties of the program director. Does he have anything to do with the FCC stuff? Does he have anything to do with the fundraising?
Indra Hardat: (19:23) Well I think the program director has a lot to do with the fundraising, because right now he is the only person who is raising the money for the station because we have no development director, and as a matter of fact he's been on the air almost every day 4 - 5 hours pitching. We need classes - we need more people pitching. We need - one of the things too that we're not raising that we used to raise, some of the shows; you can get it for free. That's one of the newest things that you can get most of the shows free. The arbitron for public radio has declined for all the public radio stations, more or less. Our base has shrunk, and we have to examine that. I don't think I know what all the reasons are, Air America may be one of them, reducing the fifty dollars membership to twenty-five dollars, that could be part of it. So there are many different factors contributing to the shortfall. But the program director, his job - ususally the development director is the one who would co-ordinate fund drives, in collaboration with the program director, the arts director, the public affairs director, and the news director. As far as FCC violation goes, it could be a public affairs show, it could be a music show. No one person really is to be blamed for these things, because the content may be there, when you have pre-recorded stuff, you don't know what' going to be aired. When you have open phone lines, that's when the delay button comes iont play. Before you take phone calls you are supposed to put it in the mode where if you hear a word you hit a button, the delay is seven seconds, six seconds and you can delete it. But, if you have content that is preproduced. You don't really know what - if you don't examine what's in there, you may have a violation.
Wendy Schroell: Hi Indra. Thank you so much for everything you are trying to do. Patty kind of said what I was going to say. I mean, I wasn't going to ask what was anybody's role, I was going to ask what is the program director doing to make sure no more FCC violations happen. I think it's great that you installed a delay. What we did at KPFT, you know, I had a huge problem with this, but we had basically people would get one warning, and on the second time they played something with a bad word in it, they're off the air for a month. And you know, I thought it was a little extreme, but you know I don't think so, I guess, because you can't - we have enough - you have enough problems with that station right now, we can't be - and there's so many people mad, I've heard that one of these complaints came from one of our friends, or someone who is part of the organization. So it's just crazy. I hope that measures would be taken so that there is some kind of real thing that people would pay attention to to make sure that they do listen to all their songs first, and - you can't control the callers, but - OK.
Sarv Randhawa: Thank you Indra, I want to commend you for taking on the responsibility for that station, and I happen to disagree a little bit with your statement when you said "I inherited a bad deal." My philosophy is that if I go to a situation where everything is working fine, and everybody is doing their thing, and making lots of money, everything is fine, then, I begin to look at myself, where is the challenge for me? So what you have inherited is not a bad deal, but what you inherited, in my view, is a challenging deal. And wht you do is, you will overcome the challenge, because, I see it, I see what you have done here in the short time you've been there. And also, this board here, it will look at WBAI, the sister station, it's not sitting there by itself. And I for one, I will support it along with the board in any way we can. Third - I want to tell you that the founder of this network, within fifteen months, he was going broke. And he called it "KPFA interim." And the last statement I want to make, just one, when they went on the air, they said, "the bay area needs this station, we intend to put it back on the air in a few months, and this time, we're going to keep it on the air." And it stayed there for 56 years. Thank you.
Dave Adelson: You know, listening to you, it's hard to hear the difficulty in your voice, but I want you to know, speaking for myself and I think the whole board, we appreciate your effort, and you have our support. Uhm, it's clear there's a war going on there, and you're caught in the middle of it, and it's not any one side to end that, both sides have to decide to lay down arms. And until they do you're going to have a difficult time. But you have our full support and thank you.
Indra Hardat: Thank you.
Willam Walker: (25:41) I'll echo what David said. I can't say it so eloquently so I won't, but please keep fighting the - I don't want to say the good fight. Like I said, he said it very well and I wish you good luck. Amen - there we go. I guess I just hope that - the decisions around cuts are just really difficult to make, and thankfully we haven't been in that situation. We've come near it - we've danced with it a KPFA. But I will just say that I know that - the way the radio listeneing happens in the Bay Area that morning news is really essential to our listenership. And if we were going to lose morning news it would be a really serious detriment. And I just hope that - Deepa's an established news reporter, so I don't think that you're going to lose that. But just hoping that that can be nurtured and it would be great to train young people to do news, it's one of the professions that pay in the commercial field. So, just keeping that in mind, and keeping the news alive, becuause I know that our cohort in the bay area is NPR, at least if you look at the statistics. And they've got morning news. So we've just got to make sure that we provide it.
Teresa Allen: Who's the other host for Wake Up Call? You said she's a co-host?
Indra Hardat: No, she needs a co-host. She has a full-time producer, but she doesn't have a co-host.
Teresa Allen: Do you archive all of your shows?
Indra Hardat: Yes. We started that July 30th.
Teresa Allen: All right, so -
Indra Hardat: With the help of Pete Korakis, I want to say. I want to thank him. from national - people always say we get no help from national, but we did get it.
Teresa Allen: So now that you have archives, if someone is on the air libeling somebody, or if someone is on the air cursing, or if someone is on the air that's telling people over your airwaves not to pledge, then you can take remedial action, right?
Indra Hardat: Yes, now that we have archives, yes.
Rob Robinson: I'd like to associate myself with David's remarks, Indra, we appreciate the situation you're in the middle of. But that doesn't change the situation - you're losing audience, or you're losing membership, or both, and cutting is something you may have to do, but it doesn't change that situation, it doesn't address that situation. So I guess my question to you is, and I say it with all courtesy, is have you personally made an analysis of what's going on there, and do you have a plan to address the problems that are resulting in the loss of audience and the loss of membership, and will you share that with us?
Indra Hardat: I'm still studying it. As everyone knows, I have a financial background and I'm not a radio person. But within this past five months I've spent 12 - 14 - sometimes 15 hours a day at the radio station. Bob can attest to that. And I've studied our airwaves. I've listened - before the archives, I start to, two hours every night I will rotate and listen to our airwaves, what are we having and what are we doing on the air. And I've found that we have some really great content, but also we have some radio that doesn't deserve to be on air, in my opinion. But some things I enjoy listening to, I said "Wow, I didn't even know we did this kind of programming." And I was very thrilled to know that we have great talent at WBAI. But we need to restructure, we do need to make changes. And with the program council, I don't know if it's working that well, because I've been told a few times that no quorum was met, and they had to cancel the meeting because of a lot of fighting. And everybody knows that there is a lot of fighting at WBAI, and I've walked out on some board meetings because it took two hours and the agenda couldn't be adopted, or the minutes couldn't be approved, or Roberts Rules wasn't clear, and I just walked away because people were very - I would say nasty to each other. And that's not a way to treat people. And if I'm going there to hear how WBAI can move forward, and this is how we are behaving, then no wonder we are in this situation we are in right now.
Rob Robinson: Thank you. I hope you'll share your analysis with us when you get done.
Indra Hardat: I will but it's a little bit premature.
Julie Rodriguez: OK, thank you very much Indra.
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