Several posts, including many of mine, have contained suggestions in that regard. These recommendations (the serious ones) generally spring from disgust with the ones that dominate recent fund drives, some of which border on or cross into fraud. Others, such as the MLK musicals, are just in poor taste, and still more are inapposite.
As many of us know and some have observed here, there has been a gradual dumbing down of the audience. This has allowed program producers and hosts to air pap with impunity. I may seem to be drifting off topic, but these factors are closely related. The old WBAI audience was, by default, intellectually discriminating. Most listeners had been attracted to the station by the high caliber and diversity of its programs—they would have found the nature of today's premiums and pitches offensive, even if an intelligent program level had been maintained.
The fiscal reality that currently confronts WBAI has—in large measure— roots in the gradual deterioration of its program offerings. We are not talking about the current regime's fumbles and mis-judgements, for this is a problem that has festered for decades. That it would eventually lead to the situation WBAI faces today is a no-brainer. So much for cause and effect—as you indicate, positive steps need to be taken now.
With regard to the objectionable premiums and pitches, there is an immediate solution: put an end to them. All the phony "cures" and nuthouse conspiracy "documentaries" need to be banned from the air and allowed back only in cases where they are being discussed objectively. WBAI needs to get back to producing real documentaries, and some of the scams it has been airing would make great subjects for balanced examination. If that casts a shadow on the station for having aired them approvingly, all the better. Listeners need to hear that WBAI is getting its groove back and being honest again.
As I mentioned, there is a correlation between these premiums and many of the programs in the station's schedule. Such shows as Geoff Brady's In Other News are as unprincipled and dishonest as the Thrive and Zeitgeist conspiracy "exposés" WBAI has been pushing with gusto. The Double Helix cure-all miracle water—which some of us have ridiculed here—is an extension of several "healing" programs carried by the station. That includes Kathy Davis' programs, the ones where she feels those special healing vibes, and even Gary Null with his multi-colored "stuff" and theories. Kathy's sweet tone and Null's slick, NBC-ready spiel are the sort of thing that attracts the "new" audience. I bring this up, because such programs need to follow the outrageous premiums to the exit.
So, step one should, in my opinion, be to clear the WBAI air of these dishonest, image-tarnishing programs and premiums. This move ought to include the issuance of fund raising guidelines and a clear reminder of WBAI/Pacifica's original purpose. It is obvious that many current producer/hosts think anything goes and concentrate their efforts on gaining popularity for themselves and their shows. They can be critiqued but not blamed for that, because there is no real direction and, indeed, we have seen current management participate in these misguided efforts. The system is set up to create polarization. There is no longer a common cause called WBAI, for that has been reduced to serve as a platform for individual ambitions.
A vital part of the first step should be promotion. People like Knight and Haskins like to proclaim a new era for WBAI, but what they shout has a very hollow ring to it. A new era requires the kind of change people can hear in the programming, not in stagey, impassioned plugs. Money spent on positive promotion is money well spent, and if WBAI shows real signs of getting its act together again, the media will take note of and publicize it. You have to give people incentives for caring whether the station survives, or not. Finally, step one needs to include the materialization of a General Manager. Reimers has neglected one of his most important duties: communicating with WBAI's listeners. From what I understand, he is barely reachable by staff and volunteers. THere is a very good reason why the weekly Report to the Listeners program was initiated, it put the listener in direct contact with the one person whose decisions counted. Whether they wrote in or called during the program, they had an opportunity to exercise their rights as a member/sponsor. Their complaints were listened to and acted upon, their praise was gratefully accepted. These reports were aired live once a week, with a rebroadcast at another day and time.
I frankly tune out of those discussions because having been involved with them for nearly twenty years I find they miss the KEY KEY point...How the structure,content and character of PROGRAMMING in general and the actual demographics and culture of the audience interact to effect the way a station that depends on 80% of its revenue from listeners can sustain itself.
That is what I am talking about, but every time I speak up, I see someone like "Cricket," Knight or Somers pop up to ridicule my sincere efforts. I have been accused of harboring jealousy, wanting a job at WBAI, being a senile old man stricken with dreaded nostalgia, etc. Critique is interpreted as assault and strenuous, efforts are made to discredit me. My concern over such tactics is not that they might be personally injurious, for they are transparent and insignificant, but they do reflect an unhealthy, self-serving attitude that prevails among the cling-ons. These are morally bankrupt people who use the station for their own good and feel threatened whenever someone points that out. Not long after this back and forth was posted on the BlueBoard, two of these people popped up and began their trolling nonsense. They routinely and unreasonably defend WBAI's ills to protect their vested interest in preserving the status quo, so they, too, are an obstacle to progress. To me, that underscores the unhealthy stance that years of mismanagement has fostered at WBAI.
Everything else descends into personal innuendo and vituperativeness. Now, I am the last one to get high and mighty on that score. But I do believe that a discussion on how to get out of this mess is the key one.
The aforemention disruptive element are the reason why I concluded that a meaningful discussion—which, I agree, is sorely needed—cannot be held in the Blue forum, That's the main reason why I started this WBAI-focused blog, a place where the frivolous disruptions can be filtered out. Unfortunately, Google's Blogger software, which I am using, is ill-suited for running exchanges, so I am looking into a better solution. In the meantime, I wish people who are serious about restoring WBAI would comment. It amazes me that so many people who post on the subject of WBAI feel a need to do so under a pseudonym, but that seems to be the case. If they have something important to say, I really don't mind as much if they say it as Minnie Mouse, although some personal IDs might lend weight to the post. The important thing is—as you say—to get a real discussion started and to bring it to the attention of people who are in a position to do something about the problem.
In the meantime, we have to be realists and consider—as you also point out—the cold fact that funds are desperately needed, even as corrective measures are being taken. I gather from what you say that you—albeit reluctantly—feel it necessary to continue, at least for awhile, the shameful practice of pitching fraudulent products. I understand your thinking, but thoroughly disagree with that but feel that it is tantamount to agreeing with the status quo-ers. I believe there must be an immediate change, even if that means creating a hole in the cash flow. I realize that some bills cannot wait, but belts can be tightened—there is probably a reason why detailed accounting is not made public, so I'm sure that corners can be cut. A real effort should also be made to solicit sizable donations from people who have the means and understand the need for WBAI to once again feed intellectual hunger and reflect the cultural and political activity that keeps New York buzzing. The right person, armed with a well-crafted, professionally prepared presentation (narrative and supporting documents) should be hired to not only solicit contributions from well-connected and financially endowed individuals, but also work towards the possibility of forming a group of super sponsors.
In closing, I should note that I have but peripheral knowledge of Pacifica's current inner workings, the boards, the so-called democratic approach, the debts, the union agreements, the lawsuits, etc. It all sounds like a nightmarish tangle of past misdirection, fed off avarice, animosity and questionable personal agendas. For all I know, some or all of that may render my suggestions useless.
A commentary on Robert Knight
But wait! There's more! There's hope!
Yes, boys and girls, there is one way to overcome all this! Stay tuned to WBAI and you will be saved, because 99.5 is a radio frequency, and Ogre Obama cannot tell who is tuned in!!! Isn't that wonderful? Knight thinks so. Why WBAI, when there are so many radio stations throughout the world? The answer is elementary, my dear witless listener. Only on WBAI can you hear the truth! You heard him....the TRUTH!!!
Finally, don't miss Knight's thank yous to the gang: Kathy, Tony, Berthold, all the behinds he licked to gain access to the microphone! Note, too, that he includes Haskins, who has truly become one of them. —Chris Albertson