Saturday, July 6, 2013

The saving plans...

Since the middle of the week, when some of us waited to hear what went down at the Tuesday night meetings, there have been a few rumors and suggestions. The latter range from wishful thinking to practical ideas that could work if it wasn't for time running out. During all this, Reimers and his minions are acting as if this very real crisis were nothing more than an aggressive, pesky fly circling above the WBAI soup bowl.

A couple of sensible, appealing suggestions came from anonymous posters to the BlueBoard and a short, to-the-point one was submitted by Delphine Blue (you will find that one at the bottom of this post.

There were all kinds of reactions to these ideas. Some were sound, others not so, it seemed to me. Here is one of the latter and the rather lengthy reaction I had. Call it a tirade, call it redundant, call it Shanika...I hope you read it.


"A key problem in all this is not having steady drive time hosts... with Hugh, Esther and Robert possibly gone their (sic) needs to [be?] a lot of debate as to what to do." —Jim Dingeman (on the BlueBoard)

Dropping Hamilton, Armah and Knight is no loss to WBAI and its listeners—quite the contrary is true, for it is imperative that the station return to the principle upon which Pacifica was founded. Hamilton and Armah feed their myopic messages to a very small segment of WBAI's remaining audience: people of color, but only those who share a narrow view of the world. The fact that WBAI has also discouraged "black and brown" independent thinkers is often overlooked. Using an ancestral yardstick to focus on one particular segment of the area's population is wrong, per se, but further narrowing one's target down to a faction within that group is utterly ludicrous. Whether by design or incompetence, WBAI's audience has been dumbed down over the years. So much so, that it would accept an IfĂ©, a Kathy Davis, a numerologist, a DiMehle, a Geoff Brady, and a clammy handful of health "experts." primed to be spoon fed over-priced/under performing bogus "cures", digitalized doomsday theories, and pre-recorded pseudo spirituality, the station's most vulnerable listeners became its victims in a reprehensible practice designed to keep on the air, year after year, the opportunists and hustlers we all can name.

That includes Robert Knight, whose case is slightly different. He blathers on and on, but not about an imagined "community," his favorite topic is his love for self and hate for the man he voted for in 2009. Knight is driven by an agenda, but it is not—as one might gather from listening to the downloads that comprise most of his programs—totally sparked by an abiding hate for the current administration. I admit that I once thought that was his motivation, but I have come to realize that Robert Knight is a desperate man making a last-ditch effort to capture what he once apparently came close to possessing: a meaningful career in the world of journalism.

They tell me that he showed promise when he first came to WBAI, some forty years ago, but he overestimated his own talent, which included a fair amount of bamboozling.  Now he is the ambulance chaser who Googles and throws his downloads on the air to satisfy his own biases, fill time slots and cause a stir that might turn a spotlight his way. The problem is that it isn't working out for him. You may hear a faint "amen" from the small corner choir he preaches to, but gone with his windbaggery is whatever integrity he may once have had. Knight may himself believe that he is a journalist serving “cutting edge” news as a network anchor, but I think he knows that it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Sad, really, but self-inflicted.
All of this worked for far too long, but there came a time when WBAI's management, front-office cronies, and—very likely—Pacifica's board could no longer obscure the fact that listeners were abandoning the station in droves and outrageous bills were piling up like traffic in a flash fog.

So, i.m.h.o., dumping the three salaried, pretentious hosts, Hamilton, Armah and Knight is a no-brainer. I am not so sure that WBAI needs to think in terms of "drive time," anyway.

Were it not for the fact that racist, polarizing program content of a political nature has begun to characterize a schedule that also includes an overdose of insipid music programs, WBAI might have retained listeners whose need for intelligent radio brought them to 99.5 in the first place. They came and tended to stay, many even transferring their enthusiasm to their children.

Now the lure is double helix water, homo-friendly guardian angels, hours of alarmist crap on DVDs, heavenly shampoo, etc. worthless products that too often are not delivered to the paying listener, bear no relationship to Pacifica's stated mission, and do not inspire return visits. WBAI's current audience is not only small, it is nomadic.

The scramble to come up with a quick rescue plan at this stage demonstrates how disorganized and inept local and national management has been.

It is mind-boggling to think that there are a manager and board members who have been so blind for so long to the inevitable outcome. I see the most obvious victims of these games (for that is what they are) as the loyal listeners who gave their financial support, but there is another group that deserves our concern—perhaps even more: the hosts and program producers whose work and spirit is in keeping with Pacifica’s mission and the intelligent listener’s expectations. I hope they will be able to find another outlet for their talent and keep alive that odd enthusiasm that helped them survive the abuse and pettiness that polluted the WBAI work environment.

Delphine was one such person. She made a commendable statement when she quit WBAI and she also deserves our admiration for coming up with a simple, no-nonsense, do-able recovery plan that, alas, does not have time on its side.
Chris Albertson

Delphine Blue's proposal:

Date: Friday, July 5, 2013, 12:29 PM
I think WBAI should go to recordings from the Pacifica Archives exclusively for 2 
weeks to one month in order to re-establish the identity of the station. That would mean round the clock, exclusively, for two weeks to a month. After which a new grid would be introduced. The entire new grid must be in place prior to its launch. 

 No TBA slots sitting idle. No cart before the horse grid.

 No paid on-air hosts other than the news dept.

 The initiation of underwriting. This means a 10 second or shorter announcement saying the name of the underwriting entity.

 No premiums offered unless they are in house. 

My 4 cents. Feel free to argue amongst yourselves.


  1. >>>All of this worked for far too long, but there came a time when WBAI's management, front-office cronies, and—very likely—Pacifica's board could no longer obscure the fact that listeners were abandoning the station in droves and outrageous bills were piling up like traffic in a flash fog.>>>
    Yes / this is copied and quoted from the blog above.
    maybe the economy and strategy of those who pull the strings in the NYC, NYS and USA media markets that has given us the lies and let the "fox" into the discussion are somewhat also to blame. I was aware of the GN deceptive self service. appealing to sick folks with cures and all. we do live in a sick society. the money BAI needs can seemingly not be raised by the music, arts and political awareness shows.
    if BAI can cut real costs, keep the transmitter on the air and return to the quality and high standards of the olde BAI; that represents the best of pacifica.
    GN pays the bills BUT makes BAI obliged to that leach. Delfin Blue has a great suggestion, I would add that BAI needs continuity and programing to be able to survive. There is much that needs to ge done, we can save what is best, stop selling snake oil to those desperate GN listeners, we must keep the faith and avoid factionalism. please we need BAI
    a volunteer and long time listener

    1. Thank you for your comments. I, too, think Delphine has the right idea—she is one of the few regular hosts who has shown true concern for what is being done to WBAI, She quit when it became clear that this management is not going to show any responsibility or make any meaningful changes. I admire her for that and for the fact that she is still showing genuine concern.

      As for WBAI being able to raise the money it needs, I can attest to the fact that this can be done without sacrificing program quality or resorting to fundraising scams. What the station needs is intelligent programing that isn't narrowly focused on one or two segments of the market. Intelligent programing obviously requires a major change in personnel, from the manager on down.


  2. I used to listen to Delphine Blue and Mike Feder. That neither of them is there now speaks volumes about what things have come to at BAI.

    The only things still worth hearing on BAI are "Democracy Now" and Andrea Sears' interviews on the evening news program. At least I'll still be able to see/hear Amy Goodman if/when BAI goes off the air.

    1. I know what you mean. Delphine left of her own accord, driven by integrity, I think. When Mike Feder was somebody's guest the other day, he mentioned that he had proposed a show to management, but they never got back to him—typical. It is amazing to see how many talented people WBAI has discouraged in recent years, and how many hopelessly bod ones they have either invited in or allowed to stay. It is almost as if they were on a suicide mission. Thanks for contributing your comment.

  3. I happen to think that Hugh Hamilton has one of the better shows on BAI and I think his departure would be a loss. This despite that I have heard (and I don't even know if this is true - I've just heard it), that he was associated with the Burnham faction in Guyana.

    1. I used to think Hamilton had one of the better shows, although I was always bothered by his mannered speech. I have known people from Guyana; they spoke English with an accent, but none of them sounded artificial. When I put my positive views of Hamilton in the past tense, it is because I have since revised them, somewhat.

      There is—to me, at least—a noticeable and steadily increasing emphasis on all things black at WBAI. This includes the general promo spots for the station, music played between shows, and subject matter. Esther Armah is an unfortunate example of this kind of narrowcast, Michael Haskins is becoming intolerable with things like his "Lynching: An American Tradition," a CD he produced with Sally O'Brien and Dred Scott Keyes, and Kathy Davis inadvertently confirmed what I have been saying for some time, that they use the term "community" as a metaphor for "black and brown." I have spent most of my long life around black people, socially as well as in my work in the jazz and blues field, so it is not the race aspect that bothers me here, it is the racism. This group seems determined to turn WBAI into a black station, but not an intelligent one.

      Lately, I have noticed Hugh Hamilton leaning that way, increasingly. It's a shame, because he is an intelligent, knowledgable man who does his homework and treats guests with due civility. As for the Burnham connection, I have also heard that, but not see any proof.

      Thanks for your comments—sorry to have been so verbose.

  4. I really don't see that with Hamilton and although I have heard a lot of really bad nationalist stuff on BAI and although it's politically bad that is hardly the worst stuff on the air there. For instance a little while ago I heard Kathy Davis interviewing some guru type. His rant sounded to me like a Professor Irwin Corey routine - it was beyond laughable. When he was finished though Davis and somebody else who was there gushed all over him as if he had just recited something profound.

    As for Delphine's suggestion - I'm afraid that when people hear the contrast with most of what is on the air now they will hope for BAI's speedy demise!

    1. Hamilton is by no means the worst offender. There was a time when all that bothered me about his show was his affected delivery, but I have noticed a change in content, lately. This began to surface during fundraising drives, probably at least in part brought on by the nature of the "premiums," but it has become a more common attitude.

      When I criticized him on the BlueBoard for praising a book advocating that school children be encouraged to re-enact lynching incidents of the past, I suggested that this approach to childhood education was wrongheaded. Such atrocities should not be kept from them, I wrote. but children—being at a vulnerable age—ought also to be shown the positive side of our past—something they can re-enact with pride. In other words, don't emphasize hate and bigotry when preparing children for the future. Make them aware of the good and bad in our country's past, and encourage them to shape a brighter future.

      A few days later, Hamilton read selected parts of my post and, almost defiantly, made a rather childish vow to continue recommending this book and its teacher/author's methods.

      I, too, heard that Kathy Davis interview (gushes, and all). She and her guest belong more on "Saturday Night Live" than on WBAI.

      You make a valid point re Delphine's idea, but I don't think anything can generate hope for a speedy demise of WBAI as well as those Christine Blosdale infomercials.

      Thanks for your comments.

  5. Say what you will about JUC but at least we had some time free of Null and Knight!

    1. Knight needs to ride away on his imaginary horse, but Null and his new partner, Christine Blosdale, is still a prominent presence—he appears to have escalated the self-serving aspect of his pitches.

      I appreciate the comment.