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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR THE FOUNDATION FOR CREATIVE BROADCASTING

 

July 25, 2002

 

This letter is being presented to you to by a group of volunteers and members of the KXCI community.  We share a commitment to the success of KXCI and to the core principles upon which it was founded nearly 20 years ago.  These principles as incorporated into the FCB Mission Statement were:

 

1)      To serve as a resource for the production and development of creativity in broadcasting;

2)      To provide community access to the airwaves; and

3)      To participate in and help to develop the art and culture of Tucson. 

 

KXCI was also founded on principles of participatory management.  All members of the community that worked to nurture and support the station were to be valued, including the board, the staff, the volunteers, and the members themselves.  Financial success was to depend on the mutual benefit of the station and its members. 

 

Recent events, as well as longer-term trends indicate that these principles are no longer the foundation for operation, management, and programming of KXCI.  For example, nearly 85% of the staff and volunteer positions at the station are volunteer programmers.  These same volunteer programmers independently develop and produce almost 80% of the programming broadcast by the station. And yet, volunteer programmers are not permitted to hold seats on the board of directors, are inadequately and inappropriately represented by staff to the board in the decision- and policy-making process, and currently have little or no input into programming decisions.  As a result, there is a feeling of disenfranchisement and alienation from the decisions that affect us and the stations programming and viability.

 

We are troubled not only by the kinds of decisions made by management, but also by how they are being implemented.  The policies, process and very mission of the station have been rewritten in the past few years, resulting in an environment that is anything but community oriented.  We do not expect everyone within the community to always get along or to have the same ideas, especially when it comes to subjective issues such as programming.  We do, however, believe that the very definition of community radio, as it was established nearly 20 years ago, as it is regulated and enforced by the FCC and our funding agencies, requires participation from all interested partiesthe community, the members, the volunteer programmers, the staff, as well as the board of directors. We are a publicly-funded, publicly-supported, volunteer-dependent non-profit, community service organization.  As such, the management of the station is beholden to the general public, volunteers and KXCI-served community. It is responsible for the development and implementation of policies and procedures that ensure not only legal and successful stewardship of the organization, but also adequate and satisfactory participation.

 

 

 

The feeling many of us have is that current management either does not believe in the merits of, or is unable to operate in, an environment where participation is the norm.  The very things that have made KXCI a successful and viable part of the Tucson community are the very things being excised by management in ways that are at their core counter to the concepts of our founding.  The current management philosophy is based on advertising-driven ratings systems and a bottom line orientation. It is management practice based on top-down decision-making and enforcement rather than a bottom-up, participatory, team approach.  It is a management style that always goes after the new listener, while neglecting the members and listeners we already have, the ones that grow with us. 

 

The focus on expanding market share, combined with authoritarian management practices, has served to alienate programmers and members from participating in policy- and decision-making.  Over the past 4 years, management has eliminated nearly all of the entry points for meaningful community, volunteer and member participation.  Participation makes community radio.  The ability to have healthy discourse about as well as input into the collective concerns of the station is what keeps many of us involved and excited.  It is what enables programmers to get on the air three or four times a year, year after year, to boast about the station, and urge others to get involved.  How can programmers do that if they are not truly involved themselves?  How can programmers do that when their involvement is not wanted, when it is discouraged and penalized?  What does this truly say about KXCI as a community?

 

You may recall that last year at this time the General Manager abruptly cancelled thirteen shows, and summarily dismissed ten volunteers without warning or prior discussion.  A large turnout at the July 2001 board meeting resulted and the board president indicated that the situation would be addressed.  To date, no real action on the part of the board or the station management to even broach these issues has been taken. 

 

A few weeks ago, the General Manager removed Mary Buckley, a long-time member, volunteer, DJ class instructor and enthusiastic station supporter, from the Music Mix, a show she has done for almost 10 years.  In the past, programmers were removed from the air due to poor on-air performance, because they violated FCC regulations, or because they were unprofessional or represented the station in a manner detrimental to the stations image.  Mary Buckley has done none of these things.  She was allegedly removed from the air because Tony was concerned that her 2 hours on air was interfering with her ability to sell underwriting.  However, her contract never made any connections between her sales requirements and her show. In fact, there are no consistent guidelines and standards applied to staff who have on-air shows.  Shouldnt management also be looking closely at and developing guidelines for the other staff who are on the air or otherwise unavailable during business hours?  At the very least, even if Mary were not meeting her sales requirements, removal from the air is not a smart management decision.  Why would Mary have any motivation to sell underwriting during those 2 hours when her love for the station is based on her participation in its main objectivecreative broadcasting?  As expected she recently gave notice and our station is now losing an experienced, popular, and committed programmer and employee because of poor management skills.  To make matters worse, when asked about the discontent of many programmers over her removal from the air, he jokingly referred to the new program director as the person responsible for dealing with it, demonstrating a lack of respect and accountability.

As the board of directors, you supervise the General Manager of the station. You protect its license and provide not only for the fiscal viability and success of the station, but also for needs of the community you serve in a way that is legally compliant, and morally sound.  As a publicly funded entity, the FCB is bound to the regulations and requirements of the agencies that fund and govern it.  As a membership-supported station, we are also responsible to our members, the very community that defines our existence and provides the very basis for its financial well-being.  As the board of a community service entity, you must ensure that your staff and volunteers are treated fairly and respectfully.

 

We are not confident the station is more financially viable than it was four years ago, nor that we are in legal compliance with our government and funding entities.  We are certain we have lost many, many longtime supporting members, and we know by our own experiences and those of fellow programmers that the staff and volunteers are not treated fairly, with respect, or with due process.

 

There are several key areas of concern we are asking you to address:

 

                    Currently there are no written policies and procedures in place for staff or volunteers.  There are no staff or volunteer grievance policies in effect. If a member of the staff or a volunteer programmer has a problem with the general manager or another staff member, there are no clear avenues for redress.

 

                    There are no clear criteria for the removal of programmers from the air or a clear process with regards to programming decisions.  The current system is based on personal relationships and subjective evaluations, resulting in a capricious and arbitrary process riddled with double standards. It does not engender a sense of common purpose or community, nor is it conducive to retaining highly effective and experienced volunteer broadcasters.

 

                    There currently is no clear process for gathering and utilizing input from the community, members, and programmers.  When questions and concerns regarding programming do arise, they are usually dismissed in a manner that indicates management has little regard for either the experience of the volunteers or the needs of the members. 

 

                    While the hiring of a Program Director holds the promise of facilitating more programmer participation and a more open process of decision- and policy-making, it is certainly not clear at this time whether the Program Director is being given the authority necessary to fulfill his role. It is difficult to know if programmer concerns will be addressed or if future programmer input will be utilized. Recent comments from both the General Manger and Program Director about this have been confusing and misleading..

 

                    While the removal of Mary and other programmers from the air appears on the surface to be an attempt to hold them accountable for their actions, inactions, or poor performance, there is no similar accountability for station management or other on-air staff.  When this concern has been voiced, staff and management have contradicted themselves and simply ignored the issue.

 

                    We feel our concerns for the quality of broadcasting, as well as our vast collective experience and expertise are being largely ignored.

 

Many of these issues were raised last year at this time. Due to board and management inaction, we find ourselves in similar circumstances. We would like to work with the board, station management and the community to ensure that solutions are implemented.  Broadly, the goals of our common work should be:

 

                    Increased accountability for all parties;

 

                    Better communication between the FCB Board, the staff and the volunteer programmers of KXCI; and

 

                    A fair, participatory, and more visible process for the evaluation and continued participation for all on-air programmers (both staff and volunteer).

 

More specifically, we are asking for the board to take action on the following items:

 

                    That the board take a more active and caring stewardship role of KXCI, one that reflects concern for a healthy employee and volunteer atmosphere as well as an understanding of the importance of community radio's contributions to Southern Arizona.

 

Some steps to aid in this process are:

                    The development, implementation and enforcement of fair and effective policies and procedures for staff and volunteers, including a fair and reasonable policy for grievance and conflict resolution.  Avenues for board redress of appealed management decisions must be included. 

 

                    Increased supervisory oversight of the General Manager, including an annual evaluation process that incorporates feedback from his subordinates, the board of directors, the volunteers, and members of the station.  We also suggest the implementation of a listener/member comment line that is not solely monitored by staff.

 

                    Development and implementation of a program for continued board and staff development, especially in the areas on non-profit financial management, organizational development, community building, communication skills and participatory management.

 

                    That the board of directors take a more active role in reaching out to its community, that it reestablish its commitment to community radio that is open to and appreciative of participation from its members, volunteers, and employees. 

 

 

 

Some steps to aid in this process are:

                    Providing clear and advance notice of all FCB board meetings, including active encouragement of community participation through on-air and Segue announcements.

 

                    Inclusion of a Call to the Audience at every board meeting.

 

                    Clear and public postings of board meeting minutes and by-laws at the station.

 

                    Re-establishment of programmer position(s) on the board of directors

 

                    Decentralization of programming decision-making through the appropriate delegation of responsibilities to the Program Director and soon-to-be established Programming Committee. Clear delineation between and communication about the responsibilities of the Program Director and General Manager is also called for here.

 

                    Publicly posting the list of board of directors and re-establishment of individual board member mailboxes at the station.

 

                    Re-establishment of annual staff, volunteer and member appreciation events, such as station-sponsored concerts and parties.

           

We feel strongly that financial success and a healthy, vibrant creative community are not mutually exclusive.  We look forward to working with you to ensure these issues are addressed.  We strongly believe that by taking these steps you reaffirm your commitment to community radio in Southern Arizona.

 

 

Respectfully,

 

Carol Anderson, Rubys Roadhouse

Amber Askey, Music Mix

Susan Banes, Music Mix, Broad Perspectives Radio & former FCB Board Treasurer                       

Sue Bumpus, Music Mix

S. Alice Cates aka Alice Jones, Music Mix

Eva Darrington, Music Mix

Gardner Deegan, Native Caller & Urban Indian Grooves           

Rob Emanuel, Music Mix

Janet Haines, Out Loud Tucson

Don Jennings, Locals Only

Patrick Jordan, Member & Programmer

Kidd Squidd, The Mystery Jukebox

Marty Kool. The Blues Review

Jason LeValley, Locals Only           

Jim Lipson, Programmer & Member

Xavier Lopez, Overnight Sensation           

Mark Martinez aka Max Webster, Centerstage

John Murphy, Celtic Crosscurrents

Matthew Nelson, Global Rhythm Radio                                      

Joel Parris, Esq., Sabor Latino & former FCB Vice President

Courtney Phelon, Music Mix

Jeff Rogers, Halftime at the Apocalypse

Roselady, Espresso Swing

Amanda Shauger, Programmer

Laurie Starr, Starr Tracks

Jim Swope, Jims Joke Joint

Turtle, A View From Slightly Off Center

Deb Whalen, Out Loud Tucson

Rebecca Wilkinson, Music Mix

David Yerkey, A View From Slightly Off Center

           

Penny Batelli, Member

Gina Campbell Emanuel, Member

Cheryle Gonzales, Member

Scott Daniel Egan, Former Programmer

Mike Gray , Member

Nate Homchick, Member                                                                       

Lanita Jones, Member 

Denise Kelly, Member

Leslie Lukach, Esq., Member, former FCB President

Kristin Neuliep, Non-renewing Member

Peggy Pratt, Member                                                                           

Angela Sass, Member

Lorraine Stockdale, Non-renewing Member

Tom Woolley, Member

T. Van Hook, Non-renewing Member

Michael Z., Non-renewing Member