Empire State Bldg Wins Judgement Against WBAI/Pacifica

Empire State Bldg Wins Judgement Against WBAI/Pacifica

We encourage you to sign the petition: Pacifica National Board: Do Not Sell or Swap WBAI's 99.5 FM Signal.

On Wednesday, October 4, the Empire State Building (ESB) owners won "summary judgment" against Pacifica, which means that without proceeding to a trial they were given a money judgment for $1.8 million representing the accumulated difference (and late fees) between the $50,000/month lease-license amount and the $12,000 payments that, in July 2014, WBAI's management had told the ESB was what the station could afford.

The $12,000 per month had been offered by another owner of broadcast antenna space and has been described by some parties as the "market rent." It had been accepted without complaint by the ESB for two and a half years during ongoing talks with a series of Pacifica Chief Financial Officer(s) and at least one national board chair.

Minutes before this ruling, the judge had announced that

Pacifica would not be allowed to amend its "Answer" or formal written response to the ESB regarding the lease being "unconscionable" or a gross violation of fairness.

In the hallway after these decisions, our pro bono attorney, Samuel Himmelstein, said he'd made the ESB lawyers a settlement offer and, in response to a question about the antenna / transmitter remaining at the ESB, he added that a good settlement should include being released from the rest of the lease within 6 months. The lease otherwise runs through April 2020.


For more on the court decisions, go to https://www.wbai.org/articles.php?article=3533 .

How the Pacifica National Board (PNB) chooses to address the $2+ million representing the judgment and rent since April 2017 and the $4-$6 million debt that the national management alleges, will make all the difference in how our foundation survives.

Settlement negotiations are ongoing and the PNB is exploring options.

The discussion of how to pay these bills has major consequences for listeners and staff at WBAI and other stations. Significant aspects of it need to be conducted in public! The national staff must end the practice of withholding information from minority members and must timely provide information to the full Board. The PNB majority must stop violating the bylaws in the scheduling of meetings. Board officers must facilitate genuine debate by scheduling reasonable agenda times and must utilize an impartial and transparent process for conducting meetings, including for adding agenda items. And they must end the muting of PNB members during meetings.

Justice & Unity rejects the proposal by the Interim Executive Director to sell/swap WBAI’s 99.5 location in exchange for a down-dial, reduced reception position and a pocketful of cash to apply to current network bills and years-old wish lists. (A signal sale/swap has also been backed in the recent past by Indy Caucus’s former PNB member Steve Brown and Caucus endorser Carol Spooner.)

WBAI’s frequency in the middle of the dial is the most commercially valuable one in the Pacifica family. If sold or swapped, it would never be recovered, and it could be swapped again or sold to those who represent the opposite of every Pacifica value. Too many have sacrificed too much for us to lose this now.

Will the PNB majority choose bankruptcy and let some court appointee decide our network’s fate? Will they sell the prime real estate that mostly houses our sister stations in Berkeley, Houston, and Los Angeles? (There is some vacant property in Berkeley and all Pacifica properties are believed to be free of mortgages.)

And why are they refusing serious exploration of temporary, cost-sharing collaborations between WBAI and other mission-aligned, non-profit media entities?

"Disaster capitalism," or the readiness to use real crises to implement drastic policies or lock in place temporary facts on the ground, like the "climate gentrification" we saw in New Orleans after Katrina and will see in coming months in parts of the Caribbean, is unfortunately sometimes supported by good people.

There are almost certainly good people among the PNB majority. It is time to remind them that WBAI's locally originated programming is as much an asset as our 99.5 center-of-the-dial position and the geographic reach it allows - and that, contrary to the Interim Executive Director's promise to the California Attorney General, we do not intend to give up our signal or resort to out-of-state programming inadequate to our communities’ needs.

The PNB can be reached through this petition.

There’s a bit of good news in that for a change, the Local Station Board (LSB) majority will not blow off the October monthly meeting, as they did in September (failed to post), July (failed to post), May (failed to post), March (scheduled late, after criticism), February (unilaterally cancelled), and via their boycott during all of 2016 while the station's condition worsened.

Please sign the petition to the PNB now, and on Wed. Oct. 11 at 7pm, come to the LSB meeting at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave, btw 9th & 10th Streets, Loisaida / Lower East Side, Manhattan, 10003, to share your ideas with the local board.

In unity there is strength!

Meanwhile, be sure to keep supporting the station financially as generously as you can. And as always, encourage your friends, neighbors and co-workers to give as well. This is vital to our day-to-day survival. The Fall pledge drive is underway. You can pledge by calling 516.620.3602, texting “transmit995” to 41444, or donating online at www.give2wbai.org. Donations of $25 or more will ensure your right to vote in next year’s board elections and on any ballot measures about our station’s future.