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Pacifica asks for proposals to lease WBAI (see strings attached)

WBAIAs expected, the Pacifica Foundation has released a Request for Proposals to run Pacifica station WBAI in New York City via a Local Management Agreement. Various interesting strings are attached to this RFP, among them:

Pacifica must retain “ultimate control” over the LMA’s programming and even be able to preempt or reject various shows to prevent Federal Communications Commission violations “or to address an issue of local or national interest.”

The LMA must retain two Pacifica employees, “one of whom has managerial responsibilities and who reports solely to Pacifica.”

WBAI must have a main studio “staffed, in part, by Pacifica employees,” and:

“Pacifica will favor proposals that allow Pacifica to reserve some of the air time on WBAI for programming produced or selected by Pacifica. The days and times of the retained program blocks are negotiable.”

The RFP requires WBAI to retain its non-commercial status and adhere to Corporation for Public Broadcasting policies (or at least not jeopardize Pacifica’s ability to receive CPB grants).

This document strikes me as contoured for some group and/or someone who is very familiar with or even presently working with the organization. No judgment here. Just saying . . .  the deadline for proposals is November 6.


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4 Responses to Pacifica asks for proposals to lease WBAI (see strings attached)

  1. kml October 19, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Aren’t those, for the most part, the FCC requirements for any LMA/PSOA? As I recollect, we argued that CPRN breached these same rules in the KUSF Petitions: premature assumption of control, lack of main studio, bogus chief operator, etc.

  2. Matthew Lasar October 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Good point! The Broadcast Law Blog notes that a licensee can get dinged by the FCC for not having some of its own employees at an LMA operation. But those stipulations about reserving air time, preempting programming, and “advanc[ing] Pacifica’s mission” still strike me as going more than a bit beyond that, and potentially filter the range of applicants to those comfortable with typical Pacifica fare.

  3. Justine Valinotti October 21, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    So wait a minute…Pacifica wants “ultimate control” over programming.

    Isn’t WBAI in trouble, in part, because people aren’t tuning into the programs that are on the station now?

    What’s to say that any potential lessor could build an audience with that programming?

    If I were in a position to lease the station, I wouldn’t–at least, not under the conditions set out in the RFP.

  4. Matthew Lasar October 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Justine: FCC rules stipulate that a license holder retain 24 hour control over its license, hence the “ultimate control” language in any LMA deal.

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