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Time To Tax WGBH Educational Foundation, Inc.?

Once upon a time you could enter the first floor of Boston’s Copley Square public library and escape having to listen to the self-promotional chatter of corporate-sponsored or underwritten radio show hosts and their Establishment or celebrity guests, while you read a book or sat in front of your laptop. Yet nowadays, the two former longtime WTKK-FM commercial radio talk show hosts that the WGBH Educational foundation hired in 2013 to co-host its “Boston Public Radio” daily morning show, Margery Eagan and Jim Braude, are also broadcasting their 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. show, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from a WGBH studio on the BPL central library’s first floor; and for 9 hours a week, the loud sound of their show’s chatter blares throughout the public library’s first floor.

Braude, a 69-year-old former Cambridge City Council elected official who is also a former longtime news show host at the Comcast/NBC Universal corporate media conglomerate’s New England Cable Network [NECN], was paid a total annual compensation of $406,287 between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 by WGBH, for hosting and producing both its “Boston Public Radio “daily weekday morning show and its “Greater Boston” daily weekday evening television show, according to the WGBH Educational Foundation‘s Form 990 financial filing for 2016.

One reason the “non-profit” WGBH Educational Foundation might be able to afford to pay one of its “Boston Public Radio” show hosts a lot more annually than many of the 1,779 single homeless adults who sleep in Boston’s homeless shelters each night (and who also might hang out in the Copley Square library by day) will ever see in their lifetimes, is because WGBH does not pay its fair share of local taxes. In 2017, for example, WGBH only had to pay $138,807 to the City of Boston—nearly three times less than what it paid Braude, individually, in 2017—as a “payment in lieu of taxes [PILOT].” Yet if WGBH was not undemocratically granted tax-exemption privileges, it would have been required to pay the City of Boston a local tax of $1,548,974 in 2017.

On page 32 of its Form 990 financial filing for 2016, the “non-profit” WGBH Educational Foundation also notes that “the foundation is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501 ©(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.” Yet between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, WGBH’s total revenues of over $415 million exceeded its total expenses of only under $199 million by over $217 million; and the value of WGBH’s total net assets increased from over $337 million to over $573 million during the same period. In addition, on June 30, 2017 WGBH had investments of over $35 million in hedge funds, investments of over $20 million in Central America and investments of over $30 million in publicly traded corporate stock.

In addition to receiving program underwriting money from corporate sponsors, the WGBH “public” broadcasting media firm also has pocketed a lot of money, historically from multi-billion dollar U.S. power elite foundations. Between 2001 and 2015, the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation, for example, gave over $13 million in “charitable grants” to WGBH; and in 2017 the Mellon Foundation gave a $1 million grant to WGBH. Between 2009 and 2013, the Park Foundation also gave five “charitable grants,” totaling over $1.9 million to WGBH.

Given how much money WGBH earns annually from its tax-exempt public broadcasting hustle/operation, it’s not surprising that its “Boston Public Radio” and “Greater Boston” host-executive producer is not the only WGBH executive who is being paid a lot more annually than the average Greater Boston area worker or the typical BP Library worker at the Copley Square public library. Of the over $86 million that WGBH spent on “salaries’ between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, the following other WGBH executives were also paid total annual compensations by tax-exempt WGBH exceeding $300,000 in 2017, according to WGBH’s 2016 Form 990 financial filing:

1. Jonathan C. Abbott, WGBH President and CEO: $634,074;

2. Benjamin Godley, WGBH COO and Press Bas. Sv.: $480,202;

3. Irvin A. Alexander III, WGBH CFO and Treasurer: $309,549;

4. John Bredar, WGBH VP National Programming: $412,238;

5. Raney Aronson, WGBH Exec. Producer: $361,406;

6. Winifred Lenihan, WGBH VP Development: $329,666
7. David Faning, WGBH Sr. Advisor/Producer: $36,613;

8. Paula Apsel, WGBH Sr. Exec. And Producer: $333,897;

9. Kathy Meek, WGBH Dri. Nat’l Sponsorship: $350,169; and

10. Terry Fitzpatrick, WGBH VP Children’s Media: $336,340.

To help fund things like more housing for low-income Boston residents, WGBH Inc. should be taxed like any other mass media corporation of Boston’s White Corporate Power Structure.


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