A 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.”