Saturday, December 1, 2007

'NHPR static'

That's the title of a letter in my local newspaper today by a local guy named Sean Chandler: ["NHPR static"]. I don't know him, but because Chandler makes so many interesting points, I think I will post the entire letter [sue me for copyright infringement, if you must]:

Citizens of New Hampshire appear to getting mixed "signals" from the management of NHPR.

Recently the Concord Monitor reported on the public radio station's efforts to expand its broadcast to several communities across the state ("NHPR files to broaden reach," Local & State page, Nov. 28). Meanwhile the fundraising drives continue unabated due to reported shortfalls in past drives.

Why is it then that almost a year after NHPR purchased 20,000 square feet of prime commercial office space in the remodeled 2 Pillsbury St. location at a cost of more than $2 million, the management of the organization is unable to provide an exact date as to when they plan to move to this new location? This shell office space sits unoccupied and unused while the radio station tries to raise more and more public and private money. How is it that broadcast expansion efforts are aggressively pursued while this new location sits idle?

The citizens of this state deserve detailed answers as to what is happening with public money.

There is, interestingly enough, a large Premiere Properties sign up in front of NHPR's current location on North Main Street in Concord. Maybe Chandler missed that. It just went up a day or two ago. It would be ideal space for another media company and is probably going for a pretty penny.
Technically, NHPR's isn't really public money in the truest sense. Sure, the public has donated money. And it is "public" radio, allegedly. But, technically, public money is government money or money which should be accessible to the public ... the city, state, and federal budgets, the local cable media access center which is funded directly by the municipality, as examples, stuff like that. There is some government money going to NHPR programming but that is indirect. Government money goes into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and then goes into paying for some of the programming that airs on NHPR. I don't believe, although I don't know for sure, that they get money directly from the state or federal government.
Once you donate or give your money away to some other entity, it is no longer yours as a member of the public. It is then technically private money and they can do what they want with it. That is why they have directors and boards overseeing the money to make sure it is being spent or managed wisely. When those people fail to do their jobs, well, that is another story. And yeah, I agree that there should be some sort of oversight of the overseers, especially with non-profits, in my humble view. I have seen enough corruption over the years to agree with that position entirely.
Having said all that, Mr. Chandler does ask a good question: What are they doing with the money? And, to continue with that theme, What are the officers and board of directors of NHPR doing to ensure that the money is being spent wisely? One has to wonder.
I recall meeting a young woman about two years ago who was on the Community Advisory Board for NHPR. She lived in Goffstown or Weare, I forget which, and was an Amy Goodman fan. She originally was noticed by management after complaining that NHPR refused to put "Democracy Now" on the air. I guess she complained enough that they put her on the board. She had a lot to say about the lack of oversight and seemed like the kind of person I would want on a community advisory board. Not long after having breakfast with me, she said she was going to move to Chicago to be with her boyfriend who was in hotel management, if I recall correctly.
A little perusing on the NHPR site did yield some information but it is incomplete.
First, the Web page with the Board of Trustees information, lists the last meeting as Oct. 24. No other future meetings are listed. So, someone like Chandler can't really go to a meeting and ask about what is going on because there are no future meetings listed. Some readers in our community will recognize some of the names on the board: Barbara J. Couch, Martha V. Cunningham, Katharine Eneguess, Deanna S. Howard, Priscilla E. Kimball, Robert E. MacLeod, Martha Macomber, Sylvia M. McBeth, Patrick F. McGee, Ann McLane Kuster, Janet Prince, Michael D. Redmond, Stephen Reno, Marshall G. Rowe, and John F. Swope. It might be worth touching base with those people about what is going on but I doubt it.
NHPR's financial information is posted online for 2005 and 2006. However, when clicking on the PDF for 2006 [], it leads back to a page featuring Laura Knoy's interview with Barack Obama and a feature on the 2007 municipal election cycle. Oops.
The 2006 income tax returns are available, showing that NHPR raised more than $4.7 million in 2006. They spent $2.7 million on program expenses, $520k on management and general expenses, and a whopping $842k on fund-raising. I guess to spend almost a million to make five isn't so bad but it seems like a lot to me. That left about $709k in the bank, along with $2.5 million in "net assets and fund balances at the beginning of the year." So, at the beginning of 2007, the network was sitting on more than $3.2 million in assets. Wow. So, what is taking them so long to move into the new building again?
Getting back to another of Chandler's point though is why is NHPR trying to buy up a slew of LPFMs when they haven't moved into the new building? And, when looking at NHPR's reception guide [here:], one has to wonder about why they need to get these FMs or whether ordinary folks in the Granite State community should have access to them instead of NHPR. The LPFMs aren't there for huge public radio chains with $5 million budgets ... they are supposed to be there for amateur people interested in creating truly public radio stations like WSCA-LP 106.1-FM.

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