KPCC's Bill Davis Not Reelected to NPR Board of Directors | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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KPCC's Bill Davis Not Reelected to NPR Board of Directors

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Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 6:26 PM

click to enlarge BILL DAVIS VIA KPCC.
  • Bill Davis via KPCC.
Updated at the bottom with a lengthy response from Davis, including his disagreement with a few of the assertions presented in our piece. First posted at 4:32 p.m.

Bill Davis, president and CEO of Southern California Public Radio, which includes public radio station KPCC (89.3 FM), was not reelected to the board of National Public Radio, an NPR spokeswoman confirmed to the Weekly.

We received a tip that Davis was voted off the board. We tried to figure out if this was true or if Davis simply didn't run, but were unable to get further details:

"Bill Davis' term on the NPR Board of Directors runs until Nov. 2013," the spokeswoman told us. " ... He was not reelected to a new term."

We reached out to Davis for his reaction but had yet to hear back.

According to NPR's website the board met June 21 and 22 for a closed-to-the-public, executive session in Washington, D.C., and is scheduled to meet again Sept. 12 and 13 in Washington. Of the 17 members of NPR's board of directors, ten are managers of NPR member stations, voted on by their fellow managers.

Davis heads a station that has been aggressive in both its fundraising and news gathering in recent years. It has gone on a 34-journalist hiring spree (but also laid off 14 people in its newsroom), according to The Wrap.

It also doubled its fundraising success since 2010, the website reported.

But it hasn't been without growing pains. The Wrap said last week that KPCC's budget was enriched with a quadrupling of government support at a time when membership donations decreased.

KPCC content chief Russ Stanton disagrees with that last statement. After he essentially gave a Wrap reporter the you'll never work in this town again spiel, you might even call his stance embattled.

The station has also famously had a rough road in its attempt to increase its share of Latino listeners. After forcing Madeleine Brand to take on a co-host, A Martinez, for her namesake, well-regarded morning show, rebranded as Brand & Martinez, Brand took off and ultimately landed at competitor KCRW (89.9 FM).

See also: How KPCC's Quest for Latino Listeners Doomed The Madeleine Brand Show.

And then there's the issue of how KPCC spends the money it begs listeners for. It's a public radio station that's trying to take on more traditional print and web outlets for a share of L.A.'s online news pie.

And it has hired dozens of editors and bosses, some of whom know what they're doing.

Davis, meanwhile, received $402,127 in compensation in 2011, the last year for which records are available. That includes a $272,851 salary, along with a $93,270 bonus and other financial benefits.

Whew. That's 1 percenter money. Literally. Beggars can be choosy after all.

Does any of this have to do with Davis' departure from the NPR board? We have no idea. But we'll keep you posted.

[Update at 6:26 p.m.]: Davis sent us this response:

I don't think my not being re-elected to the NPR Board is either surprising or newsworthy. Rather, my being elected to the Board three years ago was very surprising. If memory serves, my election in 2010 was the first time that a representative from an NPR News station in either LA or New York had been elected to the NPR Board since the 1980s. The great majority of NPR Member Stations (i.e., the ones who vote in the NPR Board election) serve smaller communities, have smaller budgets and have interests/concerns that are perceived by their managers to be different in degree and kind from much larger stations like KPCC that serve much larger metropolitan areas. So, the politics of the NPR membership structure militate against representatives from the largest stations serving on the NPR board.

All of that notwithstanding, I think what may have hurt my re-election chances was my advocacy of the plan for funding NPR's development of its digital services. The plan, which charges larger stations more money for the development of these services even though the smaller stations benefit the most from it, was not particularly popular with any constituency, even though it's been tremendously successful and efficient. Supporting this plan--which I believe was the right thing to do--probably cost me more than a few votes.

Finally, this particular election was filled with great candidates. The manager who "unseated" me is an outstanding manager from Spokane, Washington, named Kerry Swanson. Kerry's a friend and he will be a great board member. I'm thrilled for him.

As for the other aspects of your story, if a "famously rough road" to increasing Latino audience results in a three-fold increase in the Latino audience (while also increasing the Anglo and African-American audiences [alas, Arbitron doesn't measure Asian-American audiences]), I'll take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Overall, our weekly audience is up by more than 20% from last year at this time. Next, you unfortunately repeat The Wrap's mistaken assertion that our membership revenue had declined in fiscal year 2012 (i.e., the year before we started down our "famously rough road"). We can't help it if The Wrap's reporters and editors don't understand non-profit accounting, but the clear fact is that our membership revenue increased in fiscal year 2012 to $9.46 million (up 10.23% from fiscal year 2011's $8.58 million). We haven't finished our audit for the fiscal year just ended (it won't be completed until sometime in the fall), but the un-audited results for fiscal year 2013 show an even greater increase in listener support, coming in at $10.66 million, an increase of 12.68% from fiscal year 2012.

In the past year we've had double-digit growth in our audience, double-digit growth in the size of our newsroom, double-digit growth in financial support from our listeners--plus triple-digit growth in the Latino composition of our audience. That's an incredible accomplishment. I'm fairly confident that no other public radio station in the country can make that claim.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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