Long Green

Folks in Boston will be interested in looking at the budget figures for WGBH shown in this blog last year from one Philip Greenspun. Among the gems:

Back in 2006, according to the IRS Form 990 (available from guidestar.org), the company was paying 14 vice presidents between $200,000 and $300,000 per year in current and deferred compensation. Henry P. Becton, Jr., the president, helped himself to $350,000 per year. [Did they need to pay Becton $350,000 for fear that this hard-charging young executive would be hired away by a new station in Los Angeles? The guy was in his 60s and about to retire, but presumably the Trustees of this non-profit organization thought that the wisest use of donor money was to give Becton a big pay raise.] In this economy, giving these folks a 5 percent pay cut should not result in anyone leaving for a commercial TV station (all of which are making drastic salary and staff level cuts).

The entire post is worth a good read or two. And in the comments section, he elaborated on the costs of fundraising:

WGBH spent $19,765,090 in 2006 on fundraising, including nearly $7,976,360 on salaries. This was more than 10 percent of their total expenses. In 2005, they reported spending $17.5M on fundraising, about 10 percent of their total $177M in spending. In 2004 they reported spending $16.4M out of a total of $181M.

It would appear that their fundraising expenses are growing faster than revenue. If individual donations shrink slightly due to the Collapse of 2008, they will spend more on fundraising than they receive in individual donations. We won’t know until the 2009 Form 990 is available.

In September, Boston.com ran a story about the belt-tightening at GBH, and the comments ran pretty rough, as here:

Unbelievable!! Bloated salaries, bloated management, employees there who check the internet all day and make personal phone calls and don’t do anything making huge salaries, then they have the audacity to build a palace with completely over the top corporate offices and conference rooms for a nonprofit. What a joke. We have family friends who have volunteered there. They spent all this time setting things up including food for the executives and the executives didn’t let the volunteers eat any food.

The volunteers were starving and they had to buy their own food while the greedy executives took all the good food leftovers and brought it home with them. This illustrates the culture there, greedy executives and lazy union employees, useless typical corrupt Boston organization, and they have the audacity to say they’re nonprofit and ask for money and go on TV and say they need all these donations. What a joke they should be embarrassed
and ashamed dissolve them!

Or one not quite so vitriolic:

It is more or less break-even, no big profits, but I counted almost 15 VP’s in their last filing . . . why so many for a small organization? Seems like you could get rid of about half of those $200-$300k positions along with some of their other reductions . . . save a few million. Also, to lay out over $165M on recent buildings is ridiculous for an org. their size. They will be cash poor for the next 10-15 years because of that decision.

Or this from a former employee:

I used to work at WGBH. They pretend this is a story about dropping donations and the economy when, in fact, its business model has been unsustainable for years. Management throws huge parties with shrimp, expensive flowers and wine for themselves and yet beg for money. The management is incredibly top heavy. And it has been a long time since the station produced anything new of any quality. The WGBH production unit charges double what any independent firm charges and so they have been losing business for years. The cameras and equipment are ancient technology — far below what you would find at any commercial sation. Most of the staff wouldn’t last 24 hours outside of a public-television environment. The video board is a perfect example of a complete waste of money. They decide to pay millions for something like a non-functioning video wall and yet lay off longtime staffers just before retirement. If donors knew how GBH management treated staff they would be appalled. GBH deserves absolutely everything it has coming to it and more.
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One Response

  1. It’s sickening to think how they spend so much time on the radio begging for money and then learn they spend it all on the suits. How many executives does it take to run a radio station? … I wish we could get the FCC to pull their “public radio” license from this gang and give it to a new non-profit.

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