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Pacifica radio: “vast majority” of daytime WBAI paid programming to go next week

WBAIA sobbing Executive Director of the Pacifica foundation disclosed on Friday that union negotiations at Pacifica station WBAI have concluded and across-the-board layoffs are very near.

“It is with great sadness that I have to tell the WBAI listening audience that many of the voices that you have been listening to for many years will no longer be on the air as of next week,” Pacifica interim Executive Director Summer Reese announced over WBAI’s airwaves. “We will be laying off virtually everyone whose voice you recognize who is a paid programmer. This includes the vast majority of paid programming in the day time.”

It will also include the WBAI news broadcast, Reese noted, “which I know from feedback from the public is very important to the New York City audience.” Reese said that payments due to WBAI’s $50k-a-month transmitter will be used instead just to make the next payroll. “Most of your familiar hosts in the daytime whose shows you value will not even have the opportunity to say goodbye to you, for which I am deeply sorry.”

About “75 percent of the staff” will be laid off Reese reiterated. “We are only retaining those staff critically necessary to operational functions at the station.” Much of the programming WBAI listeners will hear in the coming months will be prerecorded, Reese disclosed. The station has moved all of its administration operations a new headquarters in Brooklyn on Atlantic Avenue, “and we are beginning to settle in there.” But the signal is still broadcasting from facilities at the City College of New York.

What I found most surprising about this impromptu press conference was that Reese announced that she has tapped into former interim KPFA general manager Andrew Leslie Phillips as WBAI’s new interim Program Director. Last we checked, the Pacifica National Office had put Phillips under “paid administrative leave” at Pacifica station KPFA pending an investigation of complaints against him. According to Phillips, the probe involved charges of racism at the Berkeley signal.

Apparently all is forgiven, or at least forgotten. Reese praised Phillips as “someone who has a deep understanding of who we are politically and culturally at WBAI in particular” in the Pacifica network. Phillips was Program Director at WBAI for nearly four years.

Phillips was in the studios as Reese made the announcement. He told WBAI listeners that he had “mixed feelings,” but “it’s a new day. We have to move forward. I don’t have to tell you why: NSA, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, drones flying overhead, scaring the hell out of people in Pakistan and around the world . . . you all know what I’m talking about. You all know that other stations don’t carry these stories the way that Pacifica carries them.”

“There will be a lot of changes this coming Monday,” Phillips added. “They won’t be seamless,” but “you will hear a lot of new voices [on WBAI]. Many of them will be Pacifica voices from other stations.”

The rest of the announcement focused on Pacifica’s financial troubles. “I currently have four out of seven units which do not have payroll for next week,” Reese disclosed. “I’m looking to find $100,000 by Monday . . . that is where we are at.”

“Pacifica,” she added, “is at a critical juncture in its history as to whether each individual station survives and whether the network as a whole continues to exist, at all.”

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40 Responses to Pacifica radio: “vast majority” of daytime WBAI paid programming to go next week

  1. Frank Bonarigo August 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Which of the paid radio personalities is WBAI keeping?

    Thank you,

    • Mitchel Cohen August 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      All paid on-air hosts are being let go.
      While I understand the need to do something about the drive time shows, the sacrificing of WBAI’s award-winning News team is as wrong-headed and self-sabotaging a move as could be made with regard to saving the station. Management should have at least kept 2 FTEs for the WBAI news team, to expand to 3 and to 4 as soon as possible.


      • MaryO August 10, 2013 at 6:18 am #

        Andrea.Sears, for one, is not letting this put an end to her reporting. Follow her on Twitter at AndreaSearsNews for information as her plans solidify.

      • Ann Garrison August 10, 2013 at 7:18 am #

        Where should the money for the two FTEs have come from?

  2. Matthew Lasar August 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I don’t know.

  3. Steve Harris August 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I thought most on air shows/announcers are non paid, be interesting to see what the overall wbai daily/nightly programming line-up looks like from here on out.

  4. Ed August 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I believe that this is the being of the end of the end for wbai. Ten years of miss-management and raceisem at the upper levels of the Pacifica, and this is the result. A community radio station with no concection to the community that it “calims to serve”. Next tearful stop, I am sorry folks, but to save Pacifica we have to sell the frequency 99.5. My best guess, six month to a year at the most. sorry to say. Please support and listen to CPRmetro on live stream, the only left voice left in NYC.

    • I don’t believe it for a minute! She has a motive to liquidate our NY station; we have long been responsible to serve NY and can’t use a trumped up excuse to stop now!
      When I was Subs Dir ’85 – ’96 we had almost no paid programmers, only news and the overnight producer/board op. BAI has been way messed up for all this time but don’t use it as an excuse to get the money from the sale of BAI, now that SHE has control of all the income from all the stations!

      • Ann Garrison August 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

        So where is the money supposed to come from? Do you think WBAI is actually raising money that someone is hiding? I believe they said that WBAI has not paid its Central Services contributions, for national programming, for quite awhile, and they’re hoping to have some or all of that, particularly the debt to Democracy Now, forgiven.

        • Ann Garrison August 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

          Not that forgiveness of debt owed to Democracy Now would raise operating cash. It would just make the whole situation seem less daunting.

  5. ED August 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Sorry, I made a mistake I was trying to say “begining of the end of the end”.
    Bad spelling.forgive me.

  6. Reva Byfield August 10, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    WTF?????? Somethings is very wrong with this picture.

  7. Reva Byfield August 10, 2013 at 4:54 am #


  8. Ann Garrison August 10, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Here is the archive of the broadcast posted to Indybay:

    One of the things that has had me throwing up my hands about the whole Pacifica Network for years is that when it produces unique content, it does not at the same time create an archive and generate a headline that can be found on the Web, outside the signal area, and beyond the time of the broadcast.

    I hope that this will be posted as a discreet archive with a proper headline on the WBAI website, with tags that make it findable in Google Search, in time. As of now, it is in the WBAI archives, in the time slot labeled “The Caldwell Chronicles.” The WBAI community is so traumatized that I’m not surprised and don’t mean to be critical that this hasn’t happened yet. I just hope it will.

  9. burnt August 10, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Why does WBAI have paid staff? Sure, you need someone to make trains run on time and pay the bills and maybe a tech resource, but you’re talking about a high-powered radio stsaion in the middle of the dial in NEW YORK CITY! There should be an unlimited supply of free, volunteer talent to pull in and run the station. The station must have a pretty messed up culture to be able to repel that kind of a resource.

    • Kevin White August 10, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      I agree with burnt. I look at this as an opportunity to bring in new all volunteer talent that won’t act like the French Revolution is taking place every time a manager makes a decision. Pacifica employment should never be considered a life long job. Radio doesn’t work like that and never should. Go back to mission-driven programming.

    • MaryO August 11, 2013 at 3:43 am #

      So radio should only be a playground for the independently wealthy? Who else would have the time to spend hours every day tracking down, confirming, recording, ad editing news? How consistent do you think programming would be over the long term?

      • Kevin White August 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

        At KPFT our news is all volunteer. It’s a great opportunity for college graduate internships. If you love Pacifica, why do you need to charge it money for your patronage?

        And things like Gary Null, “Magic Water,” “herbal cancer cures,” and black-hate radio have lost the station a lot of rational listeners.

        And if WBAI survives this, the program director better serve as a fact checker.” A fact checker might have save WBAI from failure and bring it back as a success.

      • Bradley Hall August 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

        Are you able to make your point? Or are you only able to ask rhetorical questions?

    • Ann Garrison August 13, 2013 at 8:40 am #

      I think it would be very tough to produce a daily newscast with all volunteers. KPFA has volunteer News Anchors who give all day every Saturday, or all day every other Sunday, to producing a half hour newscast, but I think it would be hard to find people willing and able to give all day every day during the week, to produce an hour or even a half hour newscast.

      In addition to whatever reporting they do, the anchors draw up the run sheet, a list of stories in cue, including more than are needed in case one doesn’t work out. They edit reporter’s scripts, and coordinate with them as their stories come together in the course of the day, stay on top of all the sound elements coming in, and are ultimately responsible for making sure the news goes on the air, on time, every day and moves from one story to the next as smoothly as possible.

      • Kevin White August 14, 2013 at 9:46 am #

        Hi Ann,

        I’m speaking in the short term here. There are loads of out of work college graduates who need internships on their resumes. A volunteer news room might be a benefit to more than just our problems.

        And piping in programming from California just might be a good move to finally acting like a radio network and build a national presence.

        Please remember that WBAI has a long history of scams and even violence. This is not a political purge, but an economic one that might have great repercussions a bit down the line.

        I don’t want to love WBAI, but I do want to point out that this is a great opportunity to get rid of a lot of troublesome errant employees that we can hopefully replace with a higher quality.

        We have to stop being “your grandfather’s radio network.”

        • Kevin White August 14, 2013 at 9:47 am #

          Lose WBAI, not “Love.” I need to learn the art of proof reading.

      • MaryO August 16, 2013 at 6:19 am #

        Thank you for posting this, Ann. Andrea Sears is my girlfriend, and so I have gotten to learn about the hours of work that go into a half-hour newscast. Many people don’t realize how much that takes–I certainly did not.

        • Bradley Hall August 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

          that’s better. share an insight, not a rhetorical question

  10. Kali August 10, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    From what Phillips said on air, it sounds like most of daily shows in drive time that had paid staff who were laid off will now have other Pacifica shows piped in. He said something about having shows in drive time that raise $6000 an hour, not $600.

    So they’re mostly replacing paid staff with other paid staff whose shows have proven themselves on other Pacifica stations. That seems like a smart move, though sadly, it will eliminate some local programming. Or perhaps they’ll put together a “Morning Mix” of volunteers like Phillips did at KPFA – problem is, he found that that didn’t hold listeners or raise money as some idealists would like it too.

    Again, it’s back to the questions Matthew asked of Phillips in another thread: how does Pacifica get better programming and more listeners, and does it mean “professionalizing”?

  11. thatgirl August 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Gee, the last time KPFK appointed an interim PD at WBAI, he was sacked for harassment, and knew jack about the New York market; the very definition of crazy is repeating the same action, hoping to get a different outcome.

    That a completely out-of-depth GM and “Development Director” (neither of whom know the first thing about broadcast, OR fundraising)–as well as the “Development Director’s” webmaster brother (WBAI doesn’t need no stinking triple-bidding) get stay on, paid is an insult to the only real talent WBAI possesses: that of the show producers.

    As predicted, this management, with the help of the LSB has run the station into the ground. Congratulations!

    • Ann Garrison August 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      WBAI’s website is, as Andrew noted in the broadcast, a lot better than KPFA’s, at far less expense. Andrew also said he thinks it’s the best in the network, and even though that’s a pretty low bar, it’s still worth noting.

      • Kevin White August 14, 2013 at 11:39 am #

        KPFT’s new website was provided for free. Why do we feel we have to pay for everything? We need to stop paying our friends, relatives and significant others for things we can get for free.

        If you were to discount KPFT’s terrible terrible programming, we might be the strongest of the five stations.

  12. John Whiting August 11, 2013 at 2:43 am #

    Pacifica’s sad history, which Matthew documented so voluminously, keeps getting sadder. Tom Lubbock, writing in The [London] Observer on the emasculation of Radio 3, summed it up as “…the (strangely merciful) law of institutional demise—by which, when an institution’s had it, it so alters itself that scarcely anyone who might once have minded, does mind when it goes…”

  13. John Whiting August 11, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    This is heartbreaking! I remember so well the day in the early ’60s when we at KPFA learned that Louis Schweitzer had given Pacifica his on-the-air plaything, a real live FM station in New York. For a sample of what Pacifica’s broadcasting was like in those days, click on my name above. By today’s standard’s, it was unashamedly elitist — you’ll love it or you’ll hate it.

  14. ap215 August 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    I’m a longtime listener to WBAI & i wanted to pass along this blog sounds like the network is being abused from within.

  15. Tracy Rosenberg August 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    I don’t know that the blame-o-rama makes much sense. The one thing you could depend on since 2003 is that WBAI would lose six figures annually. For six consecutive years when the current manager was nowhere to be found. So it’s not about him or the manager before him or the manager before that one except that they could not save the station from its crushingly high fixed expenses.

    • Lanya August 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Stop passing the buck. Your group has been in charge of Pacifica management since 2009 at this point, Ms. Rosenberg.

      Take some responsibility for heavens’ sake, and RESIGN so someone more competent can bring Pacifica back to health. What you and your friends have done to this network is tragic, unnecessary and just plain stupid.


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