Saturday, October 20, 2012

Is the Stagnation permanent?

It is no secret that WBAI is stuck in a groove and that it continues to suffer under gross mismanagement. Several decades ago, when that mismanagement was a mescaline-head appointed by then Pacifica President, Hallock Hoffman, it did not take long for the opportunists to avail themselves of the power vacuum. The result was that Steve Post and Larry Josephson simply took over WBAI and used it to feed their own egos. That was done at the expense of loyal listener-supporters and the principles upon which Lewis Hill founded Pacifica. It was also a slap in the face of Louis Schweitzer, a highly principled man with an abiding belief in free speech, the furtherance of cultural exchange, and the importance of having an informed public. Louis, who it was my great privilege to know and regard as a friend, embraced Mr. Hill's concept of alternate radio, so he made Pacifica a gift of his ideally located commercial station, WBAI.

Louis felt betrayed when Millspaugh, Post, Koch, Josephson, and others began to abuse WBAI. I shudder to think how he would have suffered seeing the station in its present stage of deterioration. Louis loved to follow technological advances. He used to carry the weekly Chicago Symphony concerts live on WBAI and he was the first to have high fidelity transmission done over such a distance. His WBAI was also among the very first stations to experiment with stereo broadcasting. I bring this up, because I know Lou Schweitzer would have loved the Internet, iPods, iPads, etc., and he would have urged Pacifica to join the technical revolution. It was Lou who suggested to me that we apply for increased power and permission to move our transmitter to the top of the Empire State Building. He also lent us the money needed to purchase a new transmitter. It made a huge difference in our coverage and generated a substantial increase in listener membership. In his shamefully self-serving book, Steve Post, with typical vindictiveness and dishonesty, ascribed the membership rise to my leaving WBAI.

Today, the majority of WBAI's subscribers have abandoned the station, some—but only a small percentage—have been replaced by people who send in money for the wrong reason—they are not so much interested in supporting the station as they are in acquiring the products being offered as "premiums." When those overpriced "gifts" turn out to have been falsely pitched, even the gullible tune out. Here is what a lady posted on the BlueBoard recently:
I pledge for shows I like and—I hate to admit it—in recent years as bai has really been pushing premiums-for when there's a premium that really appeals to me.Initially I didn't like the whole premium thing [I liked having a Folio and being able to vote for board members] as it was overiding the initial reason for pledging and became more and more a cottage industry in itself.But I admit I got "corrupted" and have pledged when a show was offering a desired premium.
The greed and seeming inability of current management to recognize its own failures continues to diminish the ranks of listeners. You may have seen a recent comment here from BF from NJ:
Well Chris, It seems the same personalities are trying to solve the same problems. Hopeless. I think people should give up on this station, as I have, and take your money and support elsewhere.
It does not take ESP to conclude that the line between the former and present mis-leadership is barely visible, and one of the common denominators that should be clear to any regular listener is the rampant dishonesty. We do not see the internal dagger eyes or that baseball bat in the corner, we get but glimpses of the discontent that has staff morale at a low. We do, however, hear loud and clear the lies and detect the hypocrisy.

WBAI can be run honestly, but not with the present crew in place—not as long as people feel obliged to feed the invisible GM, or chatty Kathy, the blabbering heart of mindlessness, or the hateful, attention-seeking drama queen who would be a King, or the perpetually pondering PD, a man who came aboard to fix, but didn't even try.

Just today, Sidney Smith had an experience at the station that proves Berthold Reimers' complicity in the abuse of WBAI. Sidney posted about it here.

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