WBAI STRUGGLE – Jan. 2018
From the WBAI Justice & Unity Campaign
1. Local Station Board Meeting: Wed. Jan. 10, 2018, 7pm
2. Station Update: Keep WBAI at 99.5FM!!
1. Local Station Board Meeting: Wed. 1/10/18, 7pm
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue btw East 9 & 10 Streets, NYC 10003.
Your presence at this Local Station Board (LSB) meeting will make a difference in the future of WBAI.
A $2 million judgment in the Empire State Building rent case is being used as justification for declaring bankruptcy and breaking up the network. It would lead to a sale of WBAI.
Public Comment is a mandatory part of each LSB meeting and your elected staff and listener representatives need to hear your ideas and concerns.
Come out, learn more, and share your views!
2. No Sale! No Swap! No Bankruptcy/Dissolution!! Keep Pacifica Together and Growing!
WBAI's contract to have its broadcast antenna on the Empire State Building runs through April 2020. Building owner, Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT), won a near $2 million judgment in October 2017 against Pacifica as WBAI's parent organization.
The monies represent the gap between the high and escalating $60,000 monthly rent and broadcast fees and the $12,000 per month that ESRT had been accepting between Summer 2013 and Autumn 2016, as well as interest and late fees.
ESRT can now execute that judgment by seizing the bank accounts of our 5 stations, the Affiliate program, the Archives, and the national office, and by putting liens on our buildings in Texas and California.
No one denies the matter is serious especially as ESRT has declined to give us a written agreement to halt collection preparation.
What is problematic is that using this debt as their excuse, an inexperienced Interim Executive Director with no clue of how to run a media network and a CFO whose desire to please the KPFA LSB in Berkeley seems stronger than anything else have been lobbying hard at the California Attorney General’s office, in online email groups, through various broadcasts around the network, and in the Wall Street Journal and other papers that we must declare bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is a federal court process that prioritizes the rights of the creditors. It will likely eradicate members' rights to approve the sale or transfer any station's license and the protections granted to staff through union contracts.
Only duplicity or ineptness would cause someone to add past debt and future expenses and assert that the roughly $8-10 million total requires selling a $50 million asset for $10-20 million.
There are alternatives, including competent and knowledgeable management and board members who do not panic but are instead open to all ideas.
Here's a bit about two alternatives: loans and programming partnerships.
Some well-to-do Pacificans are soliciting 1-year loans from friends at 8.5% interest to help quickly pay some or all of the judgment. That short-term or "bridge" loan being arranged by the national board member and her husband -- both lawyers --would be repaid by an in-progress $3+ million foundation loan with a lower interest rate, a longer repayment period, and an escrow or built-in reserve to handle at least 12 months of monthly payments. The "excess" funds could address other organizational issues.
The loans allow for time to think, plan, and implement various structural and programmatic changes needed around the network.
But there's an even better opportunity.
A Programming or Public Service Operating Agreement (PSOA) allows another entity to manage the station for a contracted period and pay all operating costs.
In Fall 2013, the Pacifica National Board authorized a request for proposals but did not go through with the process. Manhattan Neighborhood Network was the most solid of all the non-commercial groups and renewed their expression of interest in a letter in December 2017.
The organization is local and mission-aligned, and would immediately take us into hundreds of thousands of Manhattan homes by providing a dedicated TV channel for our content.
MNN would house the station, train producers, take responsibility for needed staff positions, and pay forward the $2 million that represents the ESRT rent for through the end of the lease. This means that neither WBAI or any other Pacifica station or unit has to think about that ESRT bill again.
The Empire State contract will expire before the PSOA contract.
And many believe that the availability of future rent could make ESRT more open to flexibility about how we address the present judgment.
Because the PSOA does not require the fees or sub-prime interest of the bridge loan and does not require our Texas or California properties as collateral, it should've been explored long ago.
Instead, the bankruptcy-advocating executives have not so much as sent an acknowledgment of receipt. And the Interim Executive Director has still not returned calls since before the judgment was granted.
We hope things will change soon.
Sign the petition to the PNB rejecting a sale or swap of our signal. Tell them we're not leaving 99.5FM:
WBAI Justice and Unity Campaign
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