Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As Null fiddles...


As the bills pile up, rent remains in serious arrears at three locations, fundraising marathons fall way short of their goals, customers don't receive the products they paid for, and the programming continues to drive away listeners, there is a small group of dreamers at the Atlantic Avenue location. Dreamers? Well, I used to think that, but, as the station continues to deteriorate, I am more inclined to believe that something duplicitous is going on. The group comprises Berthold Reimers, who has a history of twisting the truth, and his cronies, who have a love-hate relationship with him. Why he still holds that job is a question that underscores my suspicion of a dubious scenario being played out.  So, yes, there may be dreamers in this cast, but their naiveté is being taken full advantage of by the schemers.

Bear in mind that these are inside people surely they know more about what is going on behind the green curtain than we do, at least that's what they like to tell us--except, of course, Reimers, he has been undercover  since 2009. Cross his palm with silver and he might answer his phone, but nothing is guaranteed. 

Mitchel Cohen and  Jim Dingeman sometimes admit that WBAI's programming needs work, but neither of them seems willing to do anything about it. Reimers is the only one in this group who has the authority to affect changes, but he is totally clueless when it comes to any aspect of broadcasting, so the station's glide into the morass if mediocrity continues with its diluted fare of insipid show, like mundane dj shows that push anything from record labels and boat rides to Jesus Christ. Null and lesser-known quacks use the station for free product advertising, and irresponsible producers foist upon a small dumbed-down listenership outlandish lies that are never challenged as the opportunists who create them get rewarded with free access to the station's microphones. 

I don't think anybody can deny that Mitchel and Jim have put in a lot of work in an effort to straighten out the mess generated by sloppy, unlawful handling of the so-called "thank you gifts," but when the station keeps running infomercials for products that it has not had the money to purchase, no progress can be made. Reimers has a habit of earmarking funds solicited on the air, then spending it on something else. We are told that Gary Null's products get special treatment, but even his "stuff" has been known to collect dust at Atlantic Avenue. Reimers has not made many appearances on the air, but he each time we hear his whimper he assures us that the "premium" issue has been taken care of—however, it hasn't.

As you may have noticed, when they run a marathon, WBAI's air becomes dominated by Gary Null—he is slick and he can bring in money. The fact that his good friend, Steve Brown, is an active member of the aforementioned Reimers coterie is something to worry about, and if Mitch thinks the newly appointed interim PD, Mario Murillo, is going to turn things around, he must not realize that Murillo is interim by choice and seemingly more interested in getting himself on the air during the short time he intends to stay. Here he is Tueday morning, August 26, calling Haskins from Bogata:
 
Now Dingeman is suggesting home delivery of the products, which is unrealistic, but this coterie lives in another world. In the midst of all this, Dingeman invites people to WBAI's office for a communal reading of "Hamlet" and to enroll in seminars on broadcasting! As they say, you can't make this stuff up.

Unless you look in on Nalini's PacificaRadiowaves list, you may not realize how disorganized and dysfunctional the Pacifica National Board and local boards are, but they have been going on for months, bickering, name-calling, finger-pointing, and accomplishing nothing. Most of those people have an inside track, but they are stuck in it. Sometimes, Mitchel Cohen will tell this rain-soaked group that the sun is shining, and they will tell him that WBAI will soon be gone. Here, some mean that it will finally succumb to years of abuse, others are determined to forcefully get rid of it. Mitchel's is the sole voice of ersatz hope. Here's a post of his from a couple of days ago:

"Actually, I think we HAVE done a very good job at WBAI, given the things we were up against. We kept the station going for 14 years in spite of all the negativity, violence, and stupidity coming from National. 
WBAI will not be 'gone soon' -- in fact, we have the possibility of becoming the funding source for the entire network once again (as we had done for years) if we do the proper promotional campaigns that Steve Brown, I, and pretty much everyone else except management has been pushing for (We're finally all united, here), as programming improves (which I think will begin happening in mid-September as Mario Murillo takes over as interim Program Director), and as we kick into gear more internet programming that is not hamstrung by the 168 hours per week limit in over-the-air broadcasting (and as we make the archives sortable by topic, key word, show, guest, etc.). What an opportunity!


Even though the numbers don't show it, we are not far from turning it all around financially. Just one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind.


You, however -- as a Director of Pacifica -- have a special responsibility for refocusing the network. In my view, you should strive to reach agreement with members of all factions to achieve that refocusing of national PROGRAMMING, PROMOTION, and INTERNET; end all the committees for now and bring everyone into focusing on those things. Put out coherent proposals that would win consensus or near-consensus from all directors -- it's really not that hard if you stay focused on the actual radio work of the network and less on the internal politicking."
                                                                    Mitchel Cohen

One wonders if Mr. Murillo will tolerate the kind of nonsense Geoff Brady dishes up once a week. This is from last week and it has to do with pyramid power:



Perhaps that's what they should be  doing at the Atlantic Avenue location: building a pyramid that can eliminate the electric bills.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Here we go again!


There are several Mario Murillos, I hope I have the right video. More on Murillo later, but please comment on this appointment, especially if you have information not likely to make its way into Wikipedia.

I wonder if he listened to Off the Hook this week?


or Haskins making apologies in a preamble to taking phone calls. Haskins is guilty of making and participating in unethical pitches, but this one is on Berthold Reimers, the station's top bozo.




We don't yet know who is included in Mr. Murillo's "WBAI Community," but let us hope that he paints that picture with a broader brush than do the single-minded Ebonistas who currently dominate the station's air. In fact, that term, when applied to WBAI's listeners and broadcasters ought to be a measure of intellect and a quest to feed it rather than of complexion and ancestry.

If Mr. Murillo does not grasp that, if he does not step in and thoroughly clean house to create a schedule of substantive quality radio, he might as well not bother.

Having read his introductory message, dated August 20, 2014, I get the uncomfortable feeling that nothing much will change, beyond the name on the door. However, in all fairness, he sounds like an intelligent man, so the question becomes, how strong is his spine? Will he stand up to Berthold Reimers, his uninformed nonsense and the cronies who must be gotten rid of if the station is to have any chance of survival.

Another very important factor is whether a source of real money can be found, because any restoration of WBAI is doomed to fail unless there is a substantial operating fund to sustain operation for the many months a meaningful transition will absorb. Mr. Murillo must have weighed all that before making his decision, or is he another dreamer?

We'll soon see. As we know, an iPD's tenure at WBAI can take less time than it does to count the number of listeners left.
  
Greetings to the WBAI Community
I send you warm regards and positive thoughts on these waning days of summer, pleased to once again be a part of the WBAI family after a five-year absence. It seems like only yesterday that I did my last broadcast over the airwaves of Pacifica Radio’s flagship station in July 2009, yet now I’m very much looking forward to the next few months of collaboration, camaraderie, and struggle.

iPD du jour, Mario A. Murillo
As some of you may have heard by now, I am taking on the role of interim Program Director after discussing the current situation at the station with many people associated with WBAI over the last few weeks. The question I continued to ponder was how and if I could factor into any of the potential, constructive solutions for making the station viable once again. I spoke with the station manager, several members of the local board, a number of veteran local and national on-air programmers, and many members of the communities that WBAI serves, including both current and former listeners who remain steadfast in their support of our unique institution, not to mention my own close circle of friends and family. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, knowing the many urgent challenges facing WBAI at the current juncture and how difficult it will be to have a long-term positive impact on the station. But in recognizing the extraordinary efforts made by dozens if not hundreds of people in recent years that have tried to sustain the station as it went through one of its most tumultuous periods in its legendary history, I finally decided to give it a try.

I come to this role with considerable humility, but also a strong conviction that WBAI still has an important role to play in the New York, national and global independent media landscape. I have some ideas and proposals as to what we can do to begin to turn things around, but I am a firm believer that it’s only through deliberation, participation, and collaboration that the station can move in the direction of a sustainable future that will serve as broad and diverse an audience as possible.

So I am eager to meet with many of you in the coming weeks and months to begin constructing a new WBAI, in person, on-line, individually and collectively. After reading the many proposals put forward by a wide variety of WBAI constituents related to rescuing and saving WBAI, I am convinced that we can do this, heartened by the interesting, indeed creative initiatives coming forward about programming, production, training, recruitment, social media engagement, new technology, and perhaps most importantly, fundraising and development. But I think it’s pretty clear that fundraising can only be successful if it is carried out in conjunction with a serious, comprehensive approach to all the other aforementioned items, all necessary prerequisites to rebuild the confidence of our listeners, and the entire community. This process includes finding a permanent home where the studios and offices are joined together once again, and addressing the issue of the exorbitant cost of our transmitter lease fees, which clearly has been a severe hindrance to any movement forward.

I have no false illusions that this is going to be easy, and already, I’ve heard from plenty of naysayers assuring me that this is an effort doomed to failure. I am not naïve, and certainly not new to this radio station. I am aware of the precarious nature of its possibilities for survival. For those of you who don’t know who I am (and I’m operating under the assumption that most of you don’t), I came to WBAI in 1989, as director of public affairs programming at a time of growth and expansion of the station’s membership base and fundraising capacity. I come from the world of radio journalism, with a track record of producing news and public affairs that attempts to shine the light on issues usually relegated to the margins when it comes to the major corporate media (sound familiar?). I’ve worked in commercial news radio, mainstream public radio, university-based radio, and grassroots community radio, always embracing the special responsibility of the broadcaster to serve as a vehicle of communication that can lead to constructive social change.

During my years as public affairs director (1989-1998), we as a staff implemented a comprehensive training and recruitment program, where many of today’s unpaid producers began their creative broadcasting trajectories over our and other airwaves. We streamlined daily programming in the key slots of morning and afternoon drives, creating successful shows out of Wake Up Call and Talkback, while making sense of where many of the other community-oriented specialty programs found themselves on the radio clock. We organized the first successful million-dollar on-air pledge drives, which continued to be the norm for several years as we solidified the membership base and emerged as the financial backbone of the Pacifica Foundation.

During this period, we were out in the community regularly, holding teach-ins and forums, and broadcasting live from all sorts of venues and events. We confronted the racism of the NYPD during episodes like the Central Park Five prosecutions and Amadou Diallo assassination; we challenged the illegality of the build-up to the first Gulf War in 1991, only to see it repeated 12 years later after 9/11; we celebrated Mandela’s release and triumphant visit to Harlem, as well as the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, and of Woodstock. We chronicled the struggle to stop the U.S. Navy’s bombardment of the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, and provided a forum to the valiant activists fighting for just solutions to the unfolding AIDS crisis. The station and its producers won countless broadcasting prizes, from the prestigious Polk Award to NFCB and CPB recognitions in public affairs and arts and cultural programming.

In my brief recollection here, I am only skimming the surface. It was indeed a golden era for WBAI, despite media historians’ consistent tendency to focus on the 1960s as the only relevant time in WBAI’s long history.

By no means do I point to this time frame to tout my own horn, as if this was the result of one person’s work or vision. Quite the contrary. It was the fruit of the labor of a solid team of collaborators that made this period special: from the management and full-time staff to the many unpaid community programmers, from listener supporters and volunteers to members of the local advisory board, many creative, talented, committed people had a hand in the success of WBAI. This is how it needs to be if we are going to build a truly alternative community radio outlet today and into the future.

Now naturally, things are much different today than they were then, and even as recently as five years ago, when I last hosted the morning show on WBAI on Friday mornings. Today we have many other technological tools at our disposal to get our voices heard, but at the same time, listeners now have many more options to receive these same messages. This objective reality provides us both with challenges and opportunities that we must confront and embrace.

So in the spirit of the many talented broadcasters, artists, activists, journalists, documentarians, musicians and technicians that have roamed the halls of WBAI, those still with us and those who have left us, I welcome the opportunity to work with each and every one of you - staff, volunteers and listeners - in the interest of strengthening an institution that in many ways formed me as a journalist, media activist, broadcaster and educator.

Starting this week, I will be away for a few weeks for a long-planned trip out of the country, but upon returning to New York City in early September, I plan to hit the ground running.

In the meantime, feel free to contact me at marioradio@wbai.org with questions, comments, suggestions, or even a friendly greeting.

Looking forward, always,
Mario A. Murillo

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Response to recent graphic commentary...



This was the graphic commentary in Chris Albertson's recent blog post of Wilkinson handling a snake with a poster of a skull and the words "RIP WBAI" behind her, as she said, "They're better than padlocks."
I've had a a few conversations with Margy Wilkinson, and witnessed a few of her conversations with others, in person or on the PNB Show, but I don't have anything to say about Wilkinson herself.  I know her only as a member of Save KPFA, the majority slate on the KPFA Local Station Board, which now dominates the Pacifica National Board, with Wilkinson as Chair and KPFA Upfront host Brian Edwards-Tiekert as Treasurer. I share the goals of KPFA's other slate, United for Community Radio, but feel no personal animosity towards Wilkinson.  The ridiculous ranked choice vote - in the 5th column - that was counted to settle a tie vote between WIlkinson and KPFT rep George Reider, making Wilkinson Chair of the PNB, was illegal according to Pacifica's by-laws. The by-laws call for a coin toss in the event of a tie. Subsequent majority votes to condone Wilkinson's illegal election didn't make it any more legal or admirable and the whole episode made the Board majority unworthy of listener members' trust.   


The calls to revisit that vote and flip a coin in accordance with the by-laws was not "dilatory," as Brian Edwards-Tiekert kept calling it. Cheating is cheating and you can't make it OK with a majority vote that it's OK. The Chair has enormous power on the PNB, and became the chair because her faction cheated, then used her authority as the Board chair to overrule any objections from the Board minority.  The cheating that made her the PNB Chair then made her the current IED - this time in accordance with the by-laws - which say that the Chair of the PNB becomes the IED when there is none. Would George Reider have become the PNB Chair if a coin had been tossed? He would have had a 50-50 chance, assuming a fair toss.
Would a PNB chaired by George Reider have fired Summer Reese and put Raul Salvador back in charge of Pacifica's finances? Would George Reider have released the workplace investigation of CFO Raul Salvador to PNB members who keep asserting their right to read it, to no avail? We'll never know the answer to any of these questions because the coin was never tossed, and Wilkinson was illegally elected.


However, the image in Chris Albertson's graphic com-mentary asks whether Wilkinson is scheming to sell WBAI.  My thoughts on that are:


1)  I'm opposed to selling WBAI’s license or handing it over in an LMA.

2)  Summer Reese put forward the most rational proposal I've heard for saving the signal and NYC-based programming instead of handing it over in one of these LAM agreements.  Reese said she would close the WBAI administrative offices but keep a recording studio open for NYC programmers who would send their programming to KPFK, where it would be sent back to broadcast on the WBAI signal, like the WBAI Hurricane Sandy broadcast Reese produced in LA, when WBAI was flooded and unable to produce. That broadcast from KPFK, on WBAI's signal, won Reese an LA Press Club Award.

How this is done technically is beyond me, but given that we're all hearing broadcasts produced around the world every day, I'm sure it's possible.  I don’t know whether this would have saved WBAI’s ability to produce live radio.

That was Reese’s idea for keeping NYC produced programming on WBAI air, and give WBAI a chance to regroup and try to regain its audience.  I liked the idea because it gave WBAI a fighting chance and prioritized programming over administration.  As a remote contributor to WBAI’s weekly AfrobeatRadio, I guess I would have continued to send my contributions recorded at KPFA to Exec Producer Wuyi Jacobs in NYC, where he would have handled the connection to KPFK in LA.   In this scenario, my guess is that the WBAI LSB would have had to act as a Program Council with the authority to assign air time, but my several conversations with Reese about this never got that far before she was out.

3)  At the last KPFA Local Station Board meeting, United for Community Radio rep Dave Welsh introduced a resolution to put the KPFA LSB on record in opposition to the sale of any station licenses or property. Brian Edwards-Tiekert then introduced an amended resolution which said that selling stations should be a last resort, and that resolution passed with Save KPFA’s majority support.   
However, there is an implicit list of priorities embedded in this resolution that should have been explicit. Last resort before what? Before Pacifica is forced into bankruptcy?  Or, before paid staff layoffs, mostly at KPFA and KPFK, which have the most paid staff?

Edwards-Tiekert's resolution, which Wilkinson and the rest of the Save KPFA LSB members supported, could be interpreted either way.   

Brian Edwards-Tiekert, and Save KPFA, have, so far as I can tell, always made KPFA staff salaries and benefits their top priority, so, given the vagueness of the resolution, I can only assume that selling WBAI’s license will be the last resort before KPFA layoffs.  The KPFA News Department’s alliance with the KPFK News Department, to produce what they call “The Pacifica Evening News,” and their partner programs Upfront and Uprising, incline me to think that selling WBAI will be the last resort before cutting KPFK staff salaries and benefits as well. Would they be willing to lay off Davey D Cooke, KPFA's most popular, and nationally syndicated radio host? I can't imagine so. Dennis Bernstein? His show also airs on a lot of Pacifica affiliates and has a fiercely loyal following, but that's a moot point, because Bernstein has so much seniority protection per the CWA contract. And besides, KPFA is about to hire a Program Director, so it seems unlikely that they're planning cuts. 

Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Margy Wilkinson, and the rest of the Save KPFA faction that now dominate the national board, could easily make the implicit priorities in their resolution explicit, at the next KPFA LSB meeting or on the next PNB conference call, and I hope they will do so.  
Selling WBAI or any station license or property is “the last resort” before . . . what?

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist whose reporting and analysis appear in the San Francisco Bay View, Black Star News, Black Agenda Report, Counterpunch, and Global Research, and on KPFA and WBAI AfrobeatRadio.  She has also been a guest and/or editorialist on WBEZ-Chicago, KQED-San Francisco, CIUT-Toronto, and Democracy Now.  In March this year she shared the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize with Spanish Senator Pere Sampol i Mas, for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Only on WBAI: Einstein was a phony


We have commented on Geoff Brady's "In Other News" show before, so most of us know that it is a weekly hour in the supermarket tabloid vein. Mr. Brady has been allowed to do this outrageous show for many years, and each time he talks about reptilians walking among us, auras being stolen, etc., he drags WBAI farther into a hole of ridicule and disrespect. 

WBAI repeatedly pats itself on the back for telling it like it is, sometimes claiming exclusivity in that area, but all of that is untrue. Listeners were expected to send in their money or purchase questionable products in gratitude for this self-claimed honesty, and so they did, because there were still programs that warranted  support. The schedule, however, continued to reflect management's incompetence, the technical quality grew worse, infomercials dominated much of the station's air time, and listeners finally had enough of all this, so they left.

I am not telling you anything you haven't heard for yourself or read about, but if you wondered how bad it continues to be, here is a sample from yesterday's "In Other News." I shortened it a bit, but you will hear the guest, Patrick J. Kelly, say a few things that I bet you didn't know. Brady, as usual, challenges nothing.  

Milking the listeners...

This post was added on August 5, but I decided to update and move it up, because very serious questions are being raised as to the accuracy of the figures made public by the station's GM. We are told on the air that WBAI is moving out of the red, but the optimism has a shallow ring to it. Where, indeed, did the money go?


Over on Nalini's list, where there has been an active but largely useless exchange going on for days on end, Kenya Lewis posted the following reality check, She doesn't post often, but she is among the few who can get right to the point and seems not to have been hypnotized by one faction or the other.

Many of us have seen Mitchel Cohen's everything's-comin'-up-roses defense of current mismanagement; Michael Haskins fantasizes about a rebuilt, rejuvenated WBAI, and last weekend, Tony  Ryan ("Sledgehammer") told Gary Byrd that he has plans to build a studio at the Brooklyn site, using his own money. He also said that the bills were almost paid, at last. This news both delighted and surprised Mr. Byrd, for very good reason: the facts belie it. Someone obviously delivered a case of rose-colored glasses to the Atlantic Avenue building and Reimers has been handing them out freely. He knows that he'll never find another $100,000-a-year job that demands no skills.

Obviously sick of this chronic delusion, Ms. Lewis offered something to think about:


Surely, I am not the only one who wonders why Berthold Reimers is still around. Anyone wish to take a guess?

UPDATE (8/12/2014)
A post that appeared overnight on the dying Blueboard shows that some people are counting as they wonder. The following was posted by "MYCROFTXXX" in response to the July 9th General Manager's Report to the LSB. Click on the green text to download that report).

Doesn't anyone there know how to add? 
The last five lines of the "PREMIUMS" graphic shows numbers that make no sense; the totals should be 1945, 3912, 56, 86545, 23, 92496, 10, 39120 rather than 
2086, 3912, 111, 162755, 46, 169999, 10, 39120.
I don't know what reason the totals for "Printed," "Paid & Shipped," "Returned" & "Total" are roughly double what they should be, nor what effect this would have on BAI's reported finances overall, nor if someone is pocketing $82,000 somehow, but I do know that the lack of ability to do simple addition demonstrated by this chart would get one an "F" in grade school.


Sorry, folks, with math like that I ain't sendin' yas no mo' money. An' I been sendin' yas money since 1971.... I think WBAI's finances should be made public iffen yas want any mo' money from da public, and dat da public probably deserves a forensic accounting of, say, the past 15-20 years' income & outgo. —"MYCROFTXXX"

If Berthold Reimers' resumé is not fiction, we must conclude that the discrepancies in his report are an deliberate attempt to delude us into believing that all is as well with WBAI as he continues to suggest. 

All the more reason to ask why this totally inept man has not been shown the door.