WBAI STRUGGLE – October 2016
From the WBAI Justice & Unity Campaign
1. Local Station Board Updates
2. Station Updates
3. Other “BAIs”
4. Community Events
1. Local Station Board (LSB) Update
Preliminary election results for the half of the board seats up for election show Justice & Unity listener candidates receiving 3 of 9 open listener seats and 1 of 3 open staff seats. As a result of personal term limits, which will lead to the seating of runners-up, we are anticipating that on the overall 24-member board, Justice & Unity will have 11 of the 24 seats, Indy Caucus/ACE will have 12, and there will be one staff member who’s not part of either slate. The new board will be seated in December.
The election will be discussed more fully in an upcoming release, but it must be said that the extent of the fight for the right to vote was striking.
First meeting of reconstituted WBAI Programming Committee (re-established by Local Station Board after 7-year lapse) – Wed., Oct. 19, 7 pm at WBAI, 388 Atlantic Ave. (bet. Hoyt & Bond Sts.), 3rd floor conference room. The public is invited. Directions: https://kpftx.org/pacalendar/cal_show1.php?eventdate=20161019
Next WBAI Local Station Board Meeting: 7pm, Wed., Nov. 2, 2016. Location TBA. The space will be fully wheelchair-accessible. Public Comment is essential. Please come out and share your ideas and views.
- What’s at Stake?
The station generates far less money than is needed to operate, and with other Pacifica units in distress, there’s no money and little inclination to share. The Pacifica National Board recently held two meetings at which all WBAI local board members, except the 4 that had previously crashed a national board meeting, were invited to share their views on what was happening with WBAI.
WBAI currently owes $152K to the Pacifica National Office and Pacifica Radio Archives (at $17K/month and $4K/month, respectively), phone bills ($32K), $1 million-plus accrued Empire State Building rent (at $38K/month for over 2 years), and various other external bills exceeding $50K; in addition, the station owes members premiums valued at tens of thousands of dollars.
WBAI has been running deficits averaging about $500K/year for five years. Keeping current with the basics -- salaries, healthcare, modified transmitter rent, and studio-office rent -- has sometimes been a challenge. Intra-organizational borrowing to cover the first two has caused some resentment, which, coupled with a decade-long racially inflammatory campaign by a millionaire formerly on our local and national boards, has created an atmosphere of hostility toward WBAI.
The 2014 refusal of the then-majority Indy-ACE group to accept an opportunity to submit even a combination of sustainability plans to the National Board was both foolish and arrogant. That history and the year-long 2016 boycott have caused many to think not only that people at WBAI cannot get out of their own way, but also that without significant intervention, they will drag the rest of the network down.
As you know, there has been open discussion in some quarters of the possibility of swapping / exchanging our 99.5 frequency for a down-the-dial station with reduced reach or of selling the station -- both of which Justice & Unity have consistently opposed. (No sale is possible without a member vote; again, the atmosphere that has been created is not helpful, since such a vote would be network-wide.) We also reject converting WBAI to a remote broadcast outlet for the other Pacifica stations. Absent a significant influx of cash, the remaining cost-reduction option is what’s commonly (but totally inaccurately) referred to as “leasing” the station for a limited period of time to stop accumulating debt.
A Program Service Operating Agreement (PSOA), known commercially as a Local Management Agreement (LMA), would transfer liability for operating expenses and allow limited control of programming to another organization, subject to terms of a negotiated contract. Justice & Unity does not have a unanimous position on this, but we want you to know that the details of any such arrangement would include the right for WBAI to preempt programming by the other entity (the contractor) for the public good and the right to reserve programming hours, as well as the obligation to monitor programming.
In 2013, after pushback to consideration of only pre-determined participants, there was a public Request for Proposals (http://pacifica.org/documents/Final_RFP_for_WBAI.pdf), and later, a decision to only consider noncommercial entities. Two of the organizations reported to have responded are:
- Manhattan Neighborhood Network, the public-access cable-TV station that airs programs of hundreds of largely community-based producers, including Democracy Now! and Economic Update; and
- Auricle Communications, which runs WFMU, a Jersey City mostly-music radio station whose flagship morning show, “JM in the AM” (http://jmintheam.org) -- which has featured segments supportive of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands -- is barely mentioned on the station’s website.
The Pacifica National Board will continue considering options for WBAI's future in the coming weeks. If a decision is taken to pursue a PSOA, Justice & Unity supports open discussion and unpaid producers having input with the negotiating team. We will keep you aware and informed.
2. Station Updates
- The Fall Fund Drive continues through October. Give as you can: http//www.give2wbai.org or 516-620-3602
- WBAI Job Openings: http://www.wbai.org/employment.php
Program Director, Development Director, Operations Director
Other Pacifica Job Openings: http://pacifica.org; see upper left corner.
THIS ELECTION: MAKE OR BREAK FOR WBAI
Almost a decade of Indy/ACE control = membership cut in half, fundraising days up by 50%, and 75% of the paid staff including the News Dept. laid-off.
Those who engineered the crisis are so resistant to power-sharing that when the board tied after the last election they began a boycott, so all year we’ve had no meeting quorum to do binding business or elect representatives to the national board and are under-represented there.
Meanwhile, WBAI has missed payroll, borrowed to cover staff insurance, and lost its phone service, severely curtailing guest appearances and listener call-ins.
Justice & Unity has begun the off-air fundraising they blocked, and revived the Membership, Outreach and Fundraising Committee.
We remain opposed to any sale or signal swap, and, of course, WBAI can thrive!
WBAI needs board members who will show up, not just show off.
For detailed instructions on completing your ballot, click HERE.
VIDEOS: JUSTICE & UNITY LAYS OUT THE ISSUES
For videos of Justice & Unity board members, including Lynne Stewart and Sharonne Salaam, interviewed by Bernard White, click HERE.
Community radio aficionados know that stations have shut down in recent years because of insufficient income. Because Pacifica is a network, one station’s resources can cushion another’s hard times, so we are all still here. But we all urgently need to increase listenership and revenue.
Pacifica National arranged coverage of the 2016 Republican, Democratic, and Green Party conventions. This collaboration provided an alternative narrative to the mainstream’s and a great service to listeners and affiliate stations. Using acquired mailing lists, the national office — with help from Justice & Unity board members — is connecting to area neighbors who support other non-commercial media. WBAI’s broadcasting expenses are lower than they were at Wall Street, but still higher than any other Pacifica station’s — and continue to exceed income.