WBAI, Pacifica Radio in New York City, Lays Off News Department, and Most On-Air Talent

Categories: Media

WBAI.jpg
Summer Reese, interim executive director of the Pacifica Radio Network, choked up as she announced this afternoon that legendary New York radio station WBAI was laying off its entire news department, and the majority of on-air talent, effective Monday.

WBAI, the station where Pacifica's flagship program, Democracy NOW!, was founded, has broadcast on 99.5 since 1960.

Andrew Phillips, former general manager of KPFA, Pacifica's Berkeley, California, station, has been appointed interim program director. The station's general manager, Berthold Reimers, and interim development director, Andrea Katz, will also stay on board.

"Today I have concluded union negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, regarding proposed layoffs here at WBAI, and with a very heavy heart, and very great difficulty, we will laying off virtually everyone whose voice you recognize on the air," Reese said.

Approximately 75 percent of staff will be laid off. "We are only retaining those staff critically necessary to operational functions at this station," she said.

"We have barely made our transmitter payments," Reese explained. WBAI's transmitter, located at the top of the Empire State building, is leased to the station at a cost of about $50,000 a month. In March, WBAI raised $500,000 to protect the transmitter, after the station was threatened with eviction for non-payment of rent.

"Most of the producers whose shows you value will not even have the chance to say goodbye to you, for which I am deeply sorry," Reese told the listeners.

SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents WBAI's paid producers, declined to comment on the layoffs.

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26 comments
wbaiview
wbaiview

WBAI has been in freefall for a long time. Since the death of the late Samori Marksman, who was program director for five years in the 1990's, the station has been adrift. Mr. Marksman was a much beloved and much hated character @ WBAI - he rewarded his friends and punished his enemies, much like his idols, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Workplace crimes were allowed to go unpunished under his watch, which set the stage for the workplace violence and outright theft that ran rampant @ Pacifica. If you want to know where all the turmoil started @ Pacifica Radio, it commenced @ the feet of Samori Marksman. He gave the green light at the behest of the thugs he brought in to Pacifica Radio

vsibirsky
vsibirsky

What a shame. WBAI was the salvation of my teenage years. Up all Night listening to Bob Fass! In my 20's I volunteered and sent money. Fast forward through the decades the station became un-listenable for me. Was it me growing up or an amazing radio station heading toward this time of extinction? I am sad but fear the time for re-invention is over and the death march will not be well attended.


vsibirsky
vsibirsky

As musch as it pains me to read this I realize that I (and my kind) are one  source of the problem. I started to listen WBAI in about 1964 and it was how I survived  my teenage years. As I I morphed in to my 20's I actually had an income and started to donate on a regular basis. In those years it was a passion and I  volunteered at the station and told everyone I met that they needed to tune in! Fast forward through the decades... every time I tried to listen was torture for me. Perhaps I grew up and away from the station but the only broadcasters I could tolerate  were the still magical appearance from time to time of Bob Fass gathering his Cabal or Corrine Furnn ari sending forth her amazing and constantly changing  knowledge about well of mind and spirit. The rest was just ego driven...garbage... how sad.

vsibirsky
vsibirsky

As musch as it pains me to read this I realize that I (and my kind) are one  source of the problem. I started to listen WBAI in about 1964 and it was how I survived  my teenage years. As I I morphed in to my 20's I actually had an income and started to donate on a regular basis. In those years it was a passion and I  volunteered at the station and told everyone I met that they needed to tune in! Fast forward through the decades... every time I tried to listen was torture for me. Perhaps I grew up and away from the station but the only broadcasters I could tolerate  were the still magical appearance from time to time of Bob Fass gathering his Cabal or Corrine Furnn ari sending forth her amazing and constantly changing  knowledge about well of mind and spirit. The rest was just ego driven...garbage... how sad.


vsibirsky
vsibirsky

As musch as it pains me to read this I realize that I (and my kind) are one  source of the problem. I started to listen WBAI in about 1964 and it was how I survived  my teenage years. As I I morphed in to my 20's I actually had an income and started to donate on a regular basis. In those years it was a passion and I  volunteered at the station and told everyone I met that they needed to tune in! Fast forward through the decades... every time I tried to listen was torture for me. Perhaps I grew up and away from the station but the only broadcasters I could tolerate  were the still magical appearance from time to time of Bob Fass gathering his Cabal or Corrine Furnn ari sending forth her amazing and constantly changing  knowledge about well of mind and spirit. The rest was just ego driven...garbage... how sad.

Stevart
Stevart

If they only had Janeane Garofalo on air then all would be well.  This is just a taste of the horrors of socialism/communism where everything dries up and dies.  If you don't believe me ask Michael Musto.  You reds were better off under Regan where trickle-down $$$ at least allowed you to intellectually navel-gaze the live-long day.  HAHAHA........

spoonsy38
spoonsy38

WBAI is the only station in New York City that broadcasts truly alternative programming. The material is interesting and informative. The voices and points of view heard on BAI are not heard elsewhere. It is an essential forum and cannot be allowed to go under. As Summer Reese stated, a station unfettered by commercial interests is necessary if we are to maintain a truly free society. Let's hope the reorganization will lead to greater strength, and let's give her efforts every support we can.


Berto
Berto

Pacifica radio is on borrowed time.  Their fundraising nets less and less each drive and their public affairs programming is stuck in a Stalinist mindset.  Oh and they hate white people too and make no attempt to conceal it.

Namorado_TX
Namorado_TX

. . . It occurs to me that perhaps an effort can be made among NY-area supporters to reform a new Pacifica station nearby, but outside of the costly NYC tax and high-land-values environment. Part of the reason for Pacifica's relative success in Houston (KPFT) is the much-lower cost-of-living here, and its few paid staff (mostly volunteers). Pacifica Peekskill, Tarrytown, Paterson, Freeport, Norwalk? Green Mountain State?

mowkurly
mowkurly

Cool! Now if we could just lay off Obama and his staff and dump MSNBC and NPR!

Seems the liberal media has taken a few serious hits recently.  

A sign that America is wise to liberal lefty propaganda and not buying it or paying for it.


mowkurly
mowkurly

Cool - nothing but a bunch of wacko commies!

Adriennelauby
Adriennelauby

It's very sad that good people have lost their jobs but don't count WBAI out.   Many of the programs at WBAI, as at all community radio stations, have always been produced by volunteers.  The new programming will come from a larger variety of view points and represent the thoughts of the many different NY communities. 

For the listener, it will be a greater risk-- You won't know if you will love the program before you tune in.  You won't have the comfort of hearing a familiar voice and a familiar format at any given time.   But, it will be worth the effort to check it out each time you turn on the radio.  In some ways it will be more reflective of the world we find ourselves in, somewhat chaotic, richly human, filled with people doing amazing things without a salary or a safety net.

I'm hopeful.  I've worked with Andrew Phillips.  He has a lot of energy and the drive to keep the programming moving forward.  I'm crossing my fingers that WBAI can develop upward from here.

oshma
oshma

Andrea Sears at least will continue to engage in the fine journalism that listeners expect. Follow her on Twitter at AndreaSearsNews to find out more.

nightwolfjw
nightwolfjw

Summer Reese knew this was coming when she became the Interim Executive Director of Pacifica.  So I don't want to read another editorial, article, story or any thing about Summer Reese crying, sobbing or choking it up.  She allowed all of this mess to happen at BAI and WPFW.  She can cry until the cows come home.  She had her chance to avoid all of this however she made some bad decisions that has thrown so much in jeopardy.  I bet she continues to get her paycheck along the minions she hired and put in place that are also incapable to run community radio stations and reach out to listeners and supporters in a good way.

Jay Winter Nightwolf - "That Damn American Indian Nobody Wants to Listen To.............

NickCooper
NickCooper

I think WBAI did a similar story about the Village Voice laying off their news department.

NickCooper
NickCooper

I think WBAI did a similar story about the Village Voice laying off their news department.

Nick Cooper, nickcooper.com

als135
als135

WBAI is a black anti-white racist radio station.  good riddance.

nweastcoaster
nweastcoaster

WBAI was a very entertaining and education listening experience while coming up in 70's and 80's NYC---Mike Feder, Lynn Samuels, Bob Fass, Margo Adler, Labbrish Reggae show, Reggie Workman, Robert Knight.

R.I.P.

mworkflow
mworkflow

@Namorado_TX One World Trade Center might be the next and more cost-effective locum for NYC broadcasters whose lease with Empire State or 4 Times Square expires in 2015.

dfmfacebook
dfmfacebook

@mowkurly: And there you have the wingnut mentality: If they don't agree with something, it has to be eliminated.

mworkflow
mworkflow

@mowkurly So what is your recommendation for a well-funded right-wing radio in NYC area? 

guestuser
guestuser

@nightwolfjw - Everybody knew this was coming for the past 10 years. WBAI hasn't broken even for 11 of the past 12 years. The list of people who "allowed this to happen" is vast. One of the problems with the democratization of Pacifica is that board members are always campaigning and blaming other people and rarely getting their heads around making tough decisions that may be unpopular. There's not much incentive to do so and that's why this didn't happen 7 years ago when everyone could see that it was just a matter of time. Summer Reese deserves a lot of credit for dealing with a situation she inherited that had been treated like a third rail in Pacifica for far too long. If WBAI's transmitter is not lost, it will be because of her courage. That said, there is no reason the new programming on WBAi can't be engaging and of service to New Yorkers and the station can't be rebuilt in a sustainable fashion. But it's long past time to stop pretending that what's been obvious for 10 years wasn't .... obvious. 

thatgirl4
thatgirl4

@nightwolfjw Too right! Between her, and the still-paid (and so far out of depth, it's laughable) GM and "Development Director," neither of whom know anything about broadcast or raising a red cent, expect it all to implode from incompetence.

WBAI "management" and the life-sucking LSB have destroyed WBAI once and for all. See what kicking people like Bob Fass to the curb brings you? Bad karma!

mplaport
mplaport

@als135 i've listened to wbai over the years and other than their stance against injustice and for the little guy, i never heard anti-white language.  are you meaning anti-white as in anti-privilege, anti getting benefits, farm subsidies, GI bill housing, etc...?  if that's the case, then yes, they are anti-white - as we should all be given that kind of leg up, unfair advantage is what this country is supposed to be about.  even so, let's say it is how you mean - do you think erasing an opposing voice is democratic?  can you not fashion logical arguments to combat it?   

Stevart
Stevart

@mworkflow @mowkurly Duh, it doesn't need to funded as listeners enjoy the programing and advertisers flock to the program.  Jeez, you libs are dull!

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