It's already dead.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Is it too late?
Disgusted/disappointed listeners are finally beginning to speak up against the abuse of WBAI that seems so readily accepted by Pacifica and our local opportunists—the people who are now delivering the fatal blow. This perceptive observation addresses the cowardly silence as well as the rampant on-air deception and lies. It was posted on the BlueBoard today under the handle: "One upon a time Member"
When the marketer "Dr." Gary Null returned to WBAI, I wrote in protest that I could not participate in maintaining a station that confuses narcissistic contrarianism and merchandising with criticism of and resistance to power. Before I wrote that, I heard WBAI "doctors" diagnosing people on the air, after a few minutes of phone rambling from the desperate "patient", sight unseen. Who can support that? Seriously, think demographics - what kind of people, with what kind of behavior, will support that month after month? Are there enough of them? Do they have the cash? I was dismayed that credentialed scientists associated with WBAI refused to demand an end to this (that's when I realized that the situation was not salvageable). The desperate gave more $$$, and I got to hear first hand who these people were, as I took the calls. The premiums aren't any more crazy than the regular free offerings. If you want to take money from the audience, it will have to be from the audience you built with the programming you offer. With all the money "Dr." Gary Null raised, did anyone wonder - even for a moment - at all the people who would REFUSE to tell anyone about the station, even about other programs, for fear that they'd be seen as lunatics? Did anyone wonder - even for a moment - at all the people who would simply walk away, shaking their heads, feeling like they'd been had (after given time and money)?
When I was in a position to ask the question at the station, I inquired after programming standards. Written ones. There were none. I asked if the PD met with the on-air talent. Not really. And never was there a checklist of (1) who was the intended audience, (2) how successful is this connection with that audience - and how is that measured, (3) how well does that fit within a broader station programming direction and mission, (4) what can the PD or others do to improve the quality and outreach, (5) what can the talent do to improve the quality and outreach? Nope. No questions. No records. And why should there be? The station's programming was often embarrassing, even downright dangerous - not merely annoying, or something I disagreed with - but dishonest and destructive. Why make a written record of that, who would sign off on that?
I have recently read a prominent WBAI personage denounce Al Lewis's fake birthday, in very disparaging terms. I couldn't listen to "Grandpa Al" because he was something between mean and cruel to people (really, if you only want to hear your own voice, why take calls - especially when you know half the callers are mentally disabled and will add nothing). But this poster's hang-up was with a 90th birthday party for a man who wasn't 90. Really? On the station with "Dr." Gary Null as star attraction, THAT is the big problem? The 90-year-old thing is just a joke - and lying about age is a common ruse among performers. And nobody took it seriously. It just shows how cynical and unserious the leaders of WBAI are. If there was any - and I mean ANY - integrity left anywhere at the station, they would appeal to the foundation to sublet the station's programming to some other group, perhaps an arts foundation for half the day and perhaps FAIR or The Nation Institute for the other half. Sure, I'd have plenty of quibbles with that solution, I'm somewhat to the left of FAIR/The Nation and probably any arts group who would have the wherewithal to run a station... but right now, we're talking about basic competence. And Pacifica doesn't have it.
I'll never forget going to a seder, a pro-Palestinian one, and the someone had said, "Oh, did you all get the email from ____ to give $25 and vote in the next Pacifica election?" Everyone said yes. And I said, "Hey, that's WBAI! Did any of you catch the show about..." And I immediately noticed that everyone (the room was filled with 20- and 30-somethings) turned in shock, with my partner tugging at my sleeve saying, "Nobody actually LISTENS to WBAI, honey." As I said, a handful of cynics behind the mics... and a rapidly diminishing number outside the walls who have long ago switched off the radio. That's WBAI.
It's already dead.