DOLLARS AND SENSE AT WBUR. A business-consulting firm will begin setting up shop today at WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) in an effort to bring the Boston University-owned station's runaway costs under control.
Grant Thornton - whose clients include New Balance - will "review and [make] recommendations related to station operations, business office functions (including accounting, budgeting, and reporting), and personnel procedures and staffing patterns," according to a staff memo by the station's interim general manager, Peter Fiedler. Media Log obtained a copy of Fiedler's memo just before Thanksgiving.
The complete text of Fiedler's memo is as follows:
As I begin my sixth week at WBUR, I would like to share a number of my observations and some important developments taking place at the station.
As you all know by now, I have been holding individual meetings with members of the staff. These interviews have helped me learn a great deal about WBUR and understand the views and concerns of the staff in a relatively short time frame. I've quickly found that there is a very steep learning curve required for this job, and I'd like to thank all members of the WBUR community who have generously and candidly shared their viewpoints with me. I encourage WBUR staff members who have not yet met with me to please do so. Marinela Misho will assist you to find a mutually convenient time.
On Monday, November 29, consultants from Grant Thornton, a highly regarded national business consulting firm, will begin their work at the station. The Grant Thornton team will be located in the small conference room next to the general manager's office. Grant Thornton's focus will be on the administrative components of the WBUR Group. This will include, but is not limited to, review and recommendations related to station operations, business office functions (including accounting, budgeting, and reporting), and personnel procedures and staffing patterns. In addition, Grant Thornton will analyze fundraising systems and procedures, as well as other revenue streams including donations, grants and contracts, and underwriting. Grant Thornton will not be advising management on the type or format of programs currently being produced by WBUR. Their charge is to review systems, procedures, and management information processes to help establish a plan to improve station operations.
During the course of their assignment, members of the Grant Thornton team may ask to interview selected members of the WBUR staff in order to gain additional insight and to understand the context of station operations. My principal objective over the course of the next few months will be to concentrate on developing an appropriate framework that will support the core mission of the WBUR Group. As you may know, I have already decided to discontinue the Citizens of the World travel program. After careful analysis, it is apparent that the travel program does not adequately contribute to the support of our core mission of broadcasting programs of the highest quality. I intend to continue a systematic review of other station-related functions and activities to be sure they focus on maintaining our nationally recognized programming efforts and positively contribute to that end.
Although we are making progress toward examining station finances and identifying areas in which we can move forward, it is important to note that advances for WBUR will not be accomplished without some dislocation. A fiscally responsible plan will ultimately require us to prioritize activities and invest only in those that contribute to our principal mission. I am working closely with departments at Boston University to take advantage of existing central resources, such as assistance with purchasing, and to ensure that the most efficient and beneficial actions are undertaken during this period of transition.
Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any suggestions or questions, or if I can be of any assistance to you. I wish to thank each member of the WBUR community for your understanding and support during this time, and for the warm reception you have given me. It has made my work considerably more pleasurable. I hope you and your families have an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.
Peter Fiedler Assistant Vice President & Interim General Manager WBUR-FM 90.9 890 Commonwealth Avenue Boston, MA
Fielder's memo looks like good news for the station's staff and listeners. Rather than taking a chainsaw to programming, Fielder appears committed to managing his way out of the millions of dollars in debt left behind by longtime general manager Jane Christo, whom Fielder replaced on October 8.
The fear remains that Christo built up WBUR's programming beyond the station's capacity to support itself, especially in the post-dot-com '00s.
THE DEDHAM TORTURE CONNECTION. Farah Stockman has a truly odd story in today's Boston Globe about a Dedham law firm that's being used for cover with respect to a private plane linked to US-sanctioned torture operations.
FRONT-PAGE HEALY. Just-departed Globe reporter Patrick Healy has his first front-page story in the New York Times - a piece on rising tensions on Long Island between largely white communities and Hispanic day workers, many of whom are in the US illegally. [Whoops - wrong Healy. See correction.]