Dateline: Los Angeles
Successful Southern Internet Radio Station Lights The Road To KPFK’s Next Destination
by Ed Murray
What’s apparent in the current struggle at KPFK and Pacifica, is that the new regime of “revolutionaries” is intent on pushing the entire network into a murky, unknown area of operation. The model of listener-supported by voluntary contributions, which replaced traditional radio station advertising, could be going down the drain. Recent mis-management at the network, causing a huge financial loss, has led to almost endless fund drives, causing cursing listeners to find solace somewhere else on the dial. There’s a lot of other problems, of course, but lets kick those aside into the cardboard box to go through at a later time with a six-pack of Corona, when retrospection will be like therapy. Make that 2 six packs.
Because It could be, that purely by accident, Pacifica is headed toward a new paradigm of radio station operations, one that has already been pioneered by a good ole southern boy musician turned internet entrepreneur who is causing a storm of attention across the land. Since Pacifica’s yellow brick road has now ended about a mile into the bog of the doomed, one could ask “if KPFK broadcasts a program at 9pm on a weeknight and no one is listening, has it really happened?” I can’t tell you the answer to that, because I was never good at deep phisics, but it is a slim possibility.
The Nnitehawkk Lands in Louisville
First, let’s make one thing clear: we have no idea why Mr. Ringley has 2 “N”s and 2 “K”s in “Nnitehawkk”. One guess is that someone else was using the name “Nitehawk”. One researcher told me that George Noory used to call himself The Nighthawk. Anyway, Mike “Nnitehawkk” Ringley studied music at UC Berkeley. After graduation, he did a bunch of stuff, we don’t know what, but then settled in Louisville, Kentucky, where he bought an attractive home where he resides with his wife, Elizabeth and their children. It was there that he set up what would become his radio empire, the subject of the present comparison with the failing KPFK business model. It’s called Revolution Radio, and the website is www.FreedomSlips.com. A facebook video of the radio station shows a room full of computers, monitors and audio equipment, in what could possibly be the basement of his large 2 story home. The house in neatly kept, and has ample grounds to have fundraisers, grow vegetables, and enjoy the nice southern atmosphere. More on this a little later.
(The entire workforce at Freedom Slips/ Revolution Radio) ” are not paid for their efforts – nor do they expect to be.”
So let’s begin by taking a look at KPFK’s current financial situation. Things are bad, like really bad. The new General Manager, Leslie Radford, has cut staff salaries by 50%, triggering charges that she is “union busting”, and forcing the union to take KPFK into arbitration, which has happened.
On the other hand, the first thing I noticed on the masthead that lists the staff and crew who run the Revolution Radio station, is the statement that nobody is paid, “nor do they expect to be.” The full statement is: “Be sure to give them a shout out when you see them around – they are not paid for their efforts – nor do they expect to be. They do this for your benefit as much as their own.” Mr. Ringley has found the cornerstone of the new economics of running a radio station. Free Labor! No half measures like the General Manager of KPFK, Leslie Radford has done by cutting the wages of the staff 50%. The Nnitehawkk got it right from the get-go. Under this model, I would suggest the KPFK public follow the advice that the Nnitehawkk gives to his listeners: next time you see Ian Masters around KPFK, give the old guy a shout out, even if he is still getting half his salary.
And before anyone gets all gushy about not being paid, flip the coin over. The staff and programmers in Louisville are gaining valuable experience. This would be useful in the future if they come to the big city and want to get a high paying job in the radio business, you know, at a real radio station, like KPFK. In the big city everyone’s gotta eat. And if there’s no union, then management can never be smeared as union busters and austerity thugs. Let’s face it, austerity is OK for those who don’t have to have it.
Work in Kind
At a recent KPFK LSB meeting someone broached the subject of “work in kind” as a way of saving money. Now the weird thing is that when you look over the entire KPFK situation, the biggest mistake that management made in the past was not filing the audit reports and financial data so they could get their grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. According to some of the LSB members, this amounts now to a staggering 2 million dollars or more. It is beyond belief, really, that this happened, because with that gigantic mountain of cash, there would be no financial crises at Pacifica. Everyone would be getting full salary. So it is almost a joke to hear some of the schemes put up to close the black hole of debt. Like such pettiness as “work in kind.” But there is some merit to the thought.
Back in Louisville, Mr. Ringley has had to face these kinds of situations. He is not afraid to pitch in and get his hands dirty, get some friends, and do something. One of the projects that he completed is shown on his facebook page. He wanted to put in a nice patio, and he did. What do all the big shots at KPFK do? Many listeners and supporters are bringing in food, helping out, going to demonstrations, passing out KPFK flyers, manning tables. But what about the chiefs? The GM, or any of the higher ups? Where’s the patio that they built? A cute patio in the parking lot under the trees would be really nice. I predict it would be a popular gathering place. It would also give the staff a chance to put out some tip cups and some signs for the passerby to see. Instead of all the constant annoying fund drives, visitors to the station could drop by and leave a buck or two for their favorite programmer. Maybe even bring the poor sods a pizza once in a while.
KPFK Programming Is Fading Into Absolute Bordom
Now we come to the issue of programming. This is a hot-button topic at KPFK. There has been a titanic battle at KPFK over the years. Once the flagship of progressive thought and politics, the station is sadly fading into absolute boredom. It’s so bad that the fund drive programming is becoming more popular than any of the current shows. One wag suggested that the station should go on a 24/7 fund drive the whole year. A contest would be held as to who could bring in the most money in an hour. The winner would get a big cash prize, like $10,000 in gold. The rules would allow the program hosts to do almost anything to win and thereby enrich the station. Any product in the world could be used as a premium. Any tactic would be fair – crying, screaming, begging, sniveling. The hosts should be allowed to bring in hired guns, the pros from Home Shopping networks, or local Carnivals and State Fairs. These folks know how to pitch things big time. They know how to go for the gold.
End of Part 1