Sunday, March 11, 2012

The ongoing WBAI deceit...

In October of 2010, one of WBAI's true assets, Louis Reyes Rivera, was arbitrarily discarded by an "interim" program director, Tony Bates, presumably with the approval of then "interim" manager, Berthold Reimers. It was just one more glaring move in what has become known as the "Halloween Coup." Reimers and Bates were allegedly sent to WBAI with a mandate to right the wrongs of their predecessors and get the station back on its feet. That has not what happened, instead, this inept, corrupt management team has dragged WBAI further down the economic ladder and all but destroyed whatever respect was left. They have turned the station into a prime outlet for conspiracy theorists and medical quacks, a station whose time spent on fund-raising is ever expanded and utilized for scams in which this management team and its cronies enthusiastically participate. The listener-sponsor, without whose generosity WBAI cannot exist, used to be respected by all who worked at the station—they were our lifeline, our raison d'etre—and that respect was mutual. Now most of the listeners have gone elsewhere for the intellectual stimulation WBAI no longer offers, and some have been replaced by a nomadic listenership in search of light entertainment or racially-tinted rhetoric.

Mr. Rivera passed away on March 2nd of this year, leaving us a rich legacy, but also much work undone. WBAI management had callously disrespected him, failing—in its deplorable ignorance—to recognize the importance of having contributors of his intellect and creativity on the air. Other valuable producer/hosts were also thrown off the air or relegated to reduced air time in after midnight limbo. They were replaced by pap, fraud and commercial promotion, ranging from the cut-and-paste work of Robert Knight, a delusional hack who had been tossed out by a previous management team, to the aforementioned quacks, tabloid-like exploiters of fear, and purveyors of bland poppycock that can be had all over the dial.

The reigning hypocrisy and deceit that has taken over WBAI in recent years is well demonstrated by pointing to the station's offer of condolences to Mr. Rivera's family. It appears on the official web site and includes part of an interview given to Neo-Griot, writer Kalamu ya Salaam's blog, last November.

The WBAI piece neither acknowledges the source of the interview, nor admits that their's is a convenient abstract. Here, then, is a link to that interview in its entirety, and a portion that WBAI did not want you to see. The orange text—reproduced here in its original place—is what was omitted by WBAI. 
Although Mr. Rivera pointed out that his abrupt dismissal "had nothing to do with quality or performance," I believe it had everything to do with that—Louis Reyes Rivera was not someone whom they could manipulate or defang, he posed a threat to their systematic dilution of WBAI's program content.

In an interview on November 1st, 2010, Louis Reyes Rivera spoke of himself: 

I just got a phone call yesterday (October 31) from the interim Program Director at WBAI (Tony Bates) informing me that, as of the week of November 15, 2010, I will no longer be hosting my weekly radio program. 
I was informed simply that changes in programming were being made and that with the new grid (i.e., the programming schedule) in place, I was not on it and my program would no longer be aired.
I'd be allowed two final segments and that after the 15th, that's it.
I asked if I could be given a different time slot (my show airs from 2 to 3 p.m., on Thursdays).
The answer was a resounding, No!
You won't be on the air at all. 
ab: Please tell us about the reasons for the firing and about your program on WBAI. 
Louis: It's got nothing to do with quality or performance.
Having totally omitted the above (yellow) text, WBAI's site picks up Mr. Rivera's answer where it is safe:

"I've been at WBAI hosting a weekly show, 'Perspective,' for nine years with a focus on a blending of the arts and the social politic that drives the artist. With this format and a concentration on both poetry and Jazz, I've been able to interview poets, journalists, novelists, social activists, librarians, arts administrators and educators, promoters, social activists, musicians, composers, et al. 'Perspective' is the only Arts program that does this.

 In addition, I've brought to the station live bands (as many as 22-person orchestras) to perform on the air at no cost to the station.

In addition, I'm among the very few producers with direct ties to performing artists, and I've produced a number of programs that featured contemporary poets, Spoken Word Artists, etc., as specials. I've had the youngest performers (as young as six years old) and among the elders in arts (as old as 86 and still working).

In effect, by the time WBAI would be finished with me, I'd have established a genuine oral history of this period in relation to both the performing arts and the social activism that drives them. In effect, throughout its nine-year stint, 'Perspective' has enjoyed a huge following (relative to the station's listener base) from the New York Greater Metropolitan Area.  

As well, you should know that I have served as one of the five Shop Stewards of the Unpaid Staff Organizing Committee, the contractual union for all unpaid staff, for the past seven years. Please take note that the staff at WBAI consists of less than 40 paid employees covered under AFTRA and well over 200 unpaid employees who have no other bargaining voice outside of USOC. The overwhelmingly majority of those 200 are the producers and staff of the programs aired."


  1. In her letter of resignation of 23 September 2008, Nicole Sawaya incorporated an apostrophe to Lew Hill. Below is part this letter to Pacifica's founder. Much of what Ms. Sawaya wrote can be applied to WBAI. The full document can be found at:

    “Our country is at war. Our government is a death machine abroad and a fear machine at home. Our broadcast media is, in general, mind-numbingly useless, filled with shameless propagandists and completely profit driven. The earth’s climate is changing radically and the gap between rich and poor is larger than the Grand Canyon, with by far the larger group on the poor end. I could go on, but it would take a while.

    Your Pacifica is showing signs of stress as well.

    Sadly, it is no longer focused on service to the listeners but absorbed with itself and the inhabitants therein. I call it Planet Pacifica, a term I coined during my hiring process. There is an underlying culture of grievance coupled with entitlement, and its governance structure is dysfunctional. The by-laws of the organization have opened it up to tremendous abuse, creating the opportunity for cronyism, factionalism, and faux democracy, with the result of challenging all yet helping nothing. Pacifica has been made so flat, that it is concave – no leadership is possible without an enormous struggle through the inertia that committees and collectives and STV’s (no, not sexually transmitted viruses, but single transferable votes) can engender.

    Pacifica calls itself a movement, yet currently it is behaves like a jobs program, a cult, or a social service agency. And oftentimes, the loudest and most obstreperous have the privilege of the microphone. There are endless meetings of committees and “task forces”– mostly on the phone – where people just like to hear themselves talk. Sometimes they get lucrative contracts from their grandstanding. It’s been grueling for someone in my position, someone like me who is not a process person, much less a political gamer. I keep asking: what’s the endgame? Paralysis has set in, coupled with organizational drift.

    The programming isn’t attracting many listeners anymore, either. It skews towards the narrow in its editorial stance, leans towards the niche, and change to the programming can’t occur without a fight. The listening audience is small, in other words, the stations have yet to grow into their large signals.”

    Business practices are oftentimes shoddy and opaque and mirror the culture of our times – lots of self-interest with a focus on individual needs as opposed to performance, affordability, or the common good. And we’ve hit some tough economic times without having the general will to do the hard work necessary in order to ensure sustainability– contracting rather than continually expanding the size of our financial obligations. Basically, resources and airtime have been allocated for internal political purposes at the expense of service to audience, innovation, or the care and feeding of our broadcast physical infrastructure. Some of this has to do with the fact that very few people either on air or off air actually have radio experience, other than being part of Pacifica.

    Pacifica Maven

    1. Thank you for once again contributing such valuable information regarding Pacifica. I had not seen Nicole Sawaya's letter, but it really goes to the core of Pacifica's problems and puts into sharper focus what is happening to Lew Hill's dream today. I will post the Indybay link on the so-called blue board, as well as one to your comment here—I trust that meets with your approval.