Friday, August 16, 2013

A second look at Andrew Phillips

While I haven't completely given up hope that Andrew Phillips can perform a u-turn from his new driver's seat, I have to say that the prospect for recovery dims each time I hear him speak on the air. Wednesday morning, he was on with Ifé, who actually performed quite well. I have always regarded her as having a talent for broadcasting, I just don't think her strictly commercial hip hop trips ought to be taken at 99.5, and her Jet-cum-Reader's Digest "inspirational" quotes are decidedly for the simple minded.

Apropos undemanding listeners, I was startled and dismayed to hear Phillips defend WBAI's numerology program this morning. A listener called with four valid programming complaints. which the interim PD should have welcomed, but didn't. In fact, he immediately went into a defensive mode, especially when the caller likened Z. Starman to a ball-gazing fortune teller and said the best thing about his show is that it's on when hardly anybody is listening. Now I know why Starman said he had a feeling that only his time slot would change—Phillips seemed to suggest that the popularity of astrology was sufficient reason to schedule such a program. I wonder if he knows that the host tales his scam beyond the studio by inviting private "consultation." 

That same caller also pointed out that many WBAI programs drift off the intended subject, citing "Equal Time for Freethought" as an example. It was meant to give voice to the Atheist/agnostic point of view, but has become a rudderless trek into whatever comes to the host's mind. Knight was guilty of that with his "Earthwatch," which became focused on whatever ambulance he chased that week, usually online. I think Phillips demonstrated how blurred his vision of a healed WBAI really is. I used to think the housecleaning that last week rid the station of Armah, Knight, Davis and Hamilton was not entirely a money-saving move, but I am now afraid that I overestimated Andrew Phillips' good judgement. I now see that some of his "reasoned" changes were, in fact, done by default.

I should have known better. I should have seen that gigantic red flag he and Summer Reese hoisted when Berthold Reimers was allowed to keep a job that he has so thoroughly botched for the past three years. More flags went up this morning when he allowed Michael Haskins to take over the hour and inject his racist notion of "community." 

WBAI needs management with brain and spine intact.  I don't think it has found that in Andrew Phillips, but I would love to be proven wrong. 


  1. Spot on. Defending the numerology show (or numerology in general) is itself a dealbreaker, but Phillips digs his hole even deeper by supporting other crackpots. And even more indefensible than retaining Reimers was retaining the worthless Andrea Katz -- the opportunity costs there were significant. I haven't met Phillips, but things are not looking good. And I have heard that he used to work for Gary Null, which is just ... unfortunate.

    Agreed about Ife and that she would do very well at a commercial station. She's a very pleasant person with a good commercial-radio mien.

  2. Ditto to Solomon's remarks--and Chris's.

    I've heard the same positive evaluation of Ife from people who worked with her. However I can't stand her voice or her blather. Her inspirational quotes of the day sound like they came out of Chinese fortune cookies. She's the main reason I no longer listen in the mornings.

    And Haskins is the main reason I don't listen in the afternoons. I don't think he is capable of shutting that big mouth of his from which nothing profound ever emerges.

    There is no reason why Katz or Reimers should still be at the station. And Starman should be humanely destroyed.

    My initial optimism is flowing down the drain along with my leftover double helix water.


  3. TPM--Which is worse: Having bought double helix water, or having voted for Bush fils?

    While I don't share your dislike of Ife, I agree with Solomon and Chris when they say she doesn't belong on WBAI.

    The scary thing is that she's still not even close to being the worst or most inappropriate host/producer on the station. Say what you will about Samori Marksman, he never would have let the likes of Christine Blosdale, Kathy Davis, Andrea Katz, Starman or Michael G. Haskins anywhere near a BAI microphone. And he would have put Robert Knight out to pasture when he started losing his marbles.

    While Philips took some good first steps, he still has a long, long way to go before WBAI wins back old listeners or gains new ones.

  4. I share your concerns, Chris, about Andrew's answers to the listener with the "Four Concerns".

    However, I disagree with your line about Michael G. Haskins, who is the ultimate professional. Not only did I not find his remarks to be "racist", I found them very helpful, in light of some of the proposals apparently under consideration for changing WBAI.


    1. Thanks, Mitchel. What I found to be "racist" this morning was not any opinion expressed by Haskins, it was more a perpetuation of attitudes that I sensed among a certain group of WBAI people in the past year. It surfaces in many ways, some quite subtle, and it has about it an air of cliquishness that makes some white listeners feel excluded from the perceived WBAI "family." I have heard alienated callers bring this up—they sense—correctly so, I think—that they are excluded from the "community" people like Haskins, Esther Armah, Felipe, and others constantly refer to. There is much talk about "black and brown" people, "brothers and sisters," etc. and, indeed, one often hears that reference made in situations that also affect poor people of other races. This is a very obvious and deceptive segregation that takes place in the minds of people who are personifications of WBAI.

      Listeners also notice the preponderance of black people in management and second-tier management positions. The so-called "hip hop takeover," Jeannie Hoppers "Liquid Lounge,", Tony Ryan's "Soul Central Station," Gary Byrd, "Underground Railroad," the numerology guy, the 3 - 6 pm "drive time" slots, the morning program, etc. etc. It all adds up to an Afro-centric station with some white asides. I am not talking about quality, for the good and bad comes in all shades, however, there has been a major drop in the intellectual level that once characterized WBAI. That, too, has been duly noted by the disenfranchised audience, which, I should point out, is multi-ethnic/cultural.

      I don't think I am telling you anything you don't already know. :)

  5. I agree in all salient respects.

    It appears – disappointingly but unsurprisingly, I suppose – that Pacifica/WBAI ‘management’ are simply attempting to maintain the same sense of ‘purpose’ which both betrays the original foundational principles and purposes and has led them to this rather desperate impasse.

    To employ the tired old ship conceit, they’ve been taking on water and sinking while also steering a course for the rocks – unsteadily, yet ever so surely.

    They’re now, in the hope of ‘saving’ the figurative ship, bailing a bit, throwing a bit of cargo overboard, keeping the same captain and navigator, and steering the same but ever-so-very-slightly altered course for the rocks.

    This is not a strategy sufficient to claw your way free of the leeward shore and those sharp, nasty bits of rock as you’re taking on water.

    [Thus endeth the conceit ;) ]

    ~ Indigo Pirate

  6. Well.
    He has bin there, done that. Andrew Philips, that is.
    Back in the mid 1980's, Andrew Phillips was WBAI's Program Director for one or two years. Wanted to move the programing to a “magazine” format. But that was way before the internet, when people knew what “magazines” where and actually still read them.
    Previous to that, he actually did some real radio work in Germany.
    I like Andrew Philips. I think he is very intelligent, knows a hell of a lot about radio and communication in general; and he is a decent, considered human being.
    Of course all of these character traits make it impossible to effect any real change in the isolated little petri dish that is WBAI.

    The sad fact: WBAI currently is just not enjoyable to listen to. It has, for many years, bin occupied by a bunch of people who are obsessed with their politics and their revolutions, and don't give a damn about what it SOUNDS like! Yes, Radio is all about SOUND. I'm not talking about the “light fm” kind of sound. I am talking about the kind of sound you hear when “announcers” or “hosts”, who have never learned the basics of how to speak in to a microphone or how to pronounce vowels and consonants without sounding like there is a gallon of saliva pouring from the corner of their mouths, unleash their daily dose of propaganda. It's the sound of long fingernails scratching on chalk board.

    Look, I'm not saying that their propaganda is wrong. I actually like Hugh Hamilton. I think he is a very smart person, and I actually AGREE with 85% of the stuff he says. But I can't LISTEN to him on the air, because he does not make good radio! Hugh Hamilton in the lecture room of a university I could listen to for hours on end. On the air for about 5 minutes. Then I switch to WNYC. Or to my ipod. Same goes for Michael G. Haskins. A really smart, and nice person. But he has never learned how to SPEAK in to a microphone. The list could go on and on: Sally O'Brian, half the news department, Ife, et all.

    I don't care how good and important the content of programming is: if I get it presented nicely arranged on a clean plate with adequate condiments, I will happily sit at the table all day long ordering one course after the other. And leave a nice tip after I pay my bill.
    If on the other hand I get it poured out of large bucket in to a pig trough, I will turn away in disgust and switch on NPR. Yea, I know. NPR is on a slippery slope towards back-door commercial radio, but as long as WBAI keeps re-hashing the same old shit and acting like a bunch of old trotskyists at a Spartacus League meeting, what the hell choice do I have?
    I don't.
    And that's why WBAI cant pay it's transmitter rent: 'cause nobody wants to pay to listen to that shit!
    I happily give my money to Democracy Now, and to WNYC. But I'll be damned if I'll pay even one cent to a bunch of wheezing, sniveling, grunting, lip smacking “announcers” and hosts who are hired based on their political ideologies and the color of their skin.

    “Good, listenable radio” and “affecting social change” are not mutually exclusive. Unless the station is WBAI, that is.

    Good luck to you, Andrew Philips, on resurrecting WBAI from it's coma. From the looks of it, you have one more shot before it gets turned in to some gawd-awful rapp station. I will keep my fingers crossed, and I might even send in a check.

  7. When he was on the air this morning, Andrew Philips gave his e-mail address:

    The new studio's mailing address is:

    388 Atlantic Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY 11217.

    However, I'd suggest e-mailing him, as I suspect something sent to Atlantic Avenue might get lost in the shuffle.

  8. Summer Reese and her co-conspirators have effectively squelch demands that they answer questions regarding possible ulterior motives, conflicts of interest, and back-handers that they may or may not be receiving for deliberately sabotaging WBAI.

    What have they said about rumors that they are destroying WBAI to lower the ultimate price of the sale of the broadcasting license to Clear Channel Communications? Industry insiders are saying that Clear Channel is eager to get into the business of serving the under-served NYC market for country music. An unnamed source was recently told off-the-record by a Clear Channel radio executive that "soon the concrete canyons will be echoing with cowboy yodels, which have not been heard there since the days of the tv series McCloud in the 1970's, a halycon period of American family values for which everyone feels nostalgic."

    Is that the hidden agenda of WBAI's management team?

    1. I think many of us have from time to time wondered if there is a hidden agenda—after all, the Pacifica/WBAI path is strewn with such things, and individual self-serving motives abound within.

      Having said that, we can still not be sure what the current motivator is, but I would not put too much faith in anything than an "unnamed source" was told "off-the-record."

      What on the surface appears to be a hidden agenda may well, in fact, be that not-so-veiled ineptitude.

    2. I would agree. I don't think WBAI, or Pacifica is organized enough and functional enough to HAVE a hidden agenda! It's just a huge pile of mess. At the root of it all is the question whether WBAI's main purpose is to promote Radio as an art form that is also social responsible, or if it is to serve as the mouth pice and organizational tool for a handful of garden variety minority groups who seem to think WBAI is rightfully theirs, because it is part of what society owes them. These minority groups are for the most part not at all interested in Radio as a form of art, but merely see Radio as a tool for communicating whatever ideology happens to be on their menu du jour. And that's exactly what WBAI for a long time has sounded like: boring, monotone, at times even unintelligible because of the station's constant refusal to tech people how to speak in to microphones.

    3. Yes, there is certainly not within Pacifica or WBAI sufficient unity to form a joint agenda. There are apparently two main factions, and they are both made up of delusional people. The common cause should be to make WBAI significant, but that term has many different definitions within the station. That's why the slate really needs to be wiped clean before there can be real hope for a restoration. Some of the insiders seem to feel that bad is good if has been around long enough.

  9. A few things - while I think, overall their has been considerable improvement we still have the likes of Geoff Brady and Kathy Davis inflicted upon us. That said unlike many who comment here I happen to like Hugh Hamilton and Ife and I am NOT a fan of Democracy Now. Also I think that Null does good, professional work although I certainly do not like his snake oil peddling. To put it mildly having dinner and seeing a show with Goodman is NOT my idea of a good time! Also, to me, much of what is on BAI does not represent the "left", maybe somebodies caricature of the left but not the 'left'. I consider myself to be a Marxist and a materialist but much of the politics that I hear on BAI seems to be the product of RCP, IAC, Spart. screamers and other ding bats - yuch! Please do not call this kind of thing the left. In line with allusions I have seen here years ago, when he did the news, I thought that Knight had some promise, although even back then there were some problematic signs. He was the obsessed with astrology and also had a habit of using words that he made up. I guess he though that this was witty but me, and likely others, just found this to be obnoxious. Anyway lately he seems not to push the astrology nonsense to much but has gone way off the deep end in most other respects.

    1. Hugh Hamilton was not terrible, but—like Knight did full circle—he was beginning to lose objectivity and go with the flow that has Haskins and others regarding WBAI as their "community" station, that word having been reduced to what they like to call "black and brown" people. This, of course,has a polarizing effect and—were this group to get its way—the majority of the populace reachable by WBAI would be excluded. That was already beginning to happen and it added to the size of the exodus. With Armah and Hamilton gone, and Knight barely hanging on in a much reduced role, there is a chance that the station can regain its balance. There is no dearth of independent-thinking blacks and hispanics in New York, so WBAI does not have to lose its multi-etnicity in order to elevate its intellectual appeal.

      Although they were dismissed for budgetary reasons, some of the 19 who were laid off needed to go. Let's see how Andrew Phillips does—it is a difficult task he faces. As for the station not being "leftist" enough, if you mean that it should be decidedly on the left, we disagree. I think it is very important to bring the listeners all points of view, allowing them to make choices. If we just get on the microphone and speak to ourselves, we are just as bad as the other guys.

    2. Please don't misunderstand - what I object to is the stuff spewed out on BAI being labeled as "left" what the political direction of the station decidedly is is, I think, a separate question. I may illustrate with an example - It was quite awhile ago but I actually used to hear commentaries by Vic Perlo on BAI now that has been replaced by promos for Carl Dix. IMHO that says it all!

    3. Get the point. Sorry if I misconstrued. These days, whether you look left or right, they want you to see black—not of the beautiful ebony variety, black as in the pits.

      Ashes to ashes
      and dust to dust
      if the creditors don't get 'em
      ignorance must.

  10. As long as racist Amy Goodman is framing "black and brown" issues, there's no problem. When Tim Wise does it, no problem. But when "black and brown" people speak to their own issues, it's a problem. This has been an issue at BAI since Samori and was at the least part of his health demise. These comments and call-in comments prove what many Black people have come to know : so-called white progressives, anti-racists, and "leftists" are the most vile undercover racists/white supremacists. 2 hours of Esther and 2 hours of Hugh during a 10 hour span is "too much Black"? Really?

    1. Amen!! Could not agree more!!!

    2. This may be true, but you are missing the point!
      I liked Samori Marksman. I knew him in person, I found him to be extremely intelligent, eloquent, a very nice and gentle person, and I even agreed with a lot of what he said.
      But on the air he was boring! It was not good radio. If you are going to present your issues and opinions in such a way that listeners fall asleep, you are not doing anyone any good.

    3. That's why it is essential to have in charge a Program Director who commands a view of the entire schedule and has the foresight and good taste to keep Lew Hill's vision in focus. If you take a good look at what Hill had in mind, you will see that he had the right approach, an enduring one that could be applied to any cultural/lifestyle changes.

      Some people become very defensive when Mr. Hill's name and concept are evoked, because they don't grasp its scope—they therefore see it as a threat to whatever they are doing and/or a call to return to decades-old program schedules.

      As for the armchair "radicals" who wish to see WBAI change its spots, their expressed bitterness and hatred is often a "rebellion" against their own failure to make a mark.

      Soft-spoken, reasoned and well-chosen words ring louder and have a longer life than their shallow shouts.

  11. Changing the Program Director alone won't do the trick. You can have the best Program Director in the world, but if the Station Manager and the station's owner (Pacifica) aren't willing, it won't help. What is needed with at WBAI is that for once and for all, the purpose is of the station is clearly defined and locked down. This conflict regarding the station's purpose has bin simmering for the last 35 odd years. It seems to me that the man reason this conflict has not bin resolved is because people are so scared of these very vocal, extreme minorities. Everybody keeps pussyfooting around the real issue: radio that is technically and artistically poorly produced (no matter what ideology it professes) is simply boring and unlistenable radio, and will not attract any listeners that are willing to donate money.
    Micheal G. Haskins sounds like crap. Not because he is black, not because he is a leftist (I don't actually know if he is or is not, nor do I care). He sounds like crap because he has not learned how to speak in to a microphone, he has not learned how to enunciate words properly. He has not learned how to breathe properly when speaking on air.
    Dread Scott Keys is another example of someone who has no business being behind a microphone. Not because of what he had to say, but because when he spoke, it sounded like saliva was running out of his mouth like water over a dam! He never had any vocal training.
    But at WBAI if one mentioned these things, one was immediately branded a racists and culturally insensitive, and that was the end of that.

    1. I did not mean to suggest that all the station needs is an intelligent, experience Program Director, but some of the problems you point to would not be chronic if there were a good one in place. I refer to Haskins' inability to utilize a microphone properly (quite apart from the fact that he has nothing of value or interest to articulate) and Dred Scott Keyes' muffled narratives. Unlike Haskins, however, Keyes is a good producer who know how to work with the equipment. I could add many examples to the amateur list, for there is so much evidence of sub-standard work that one almost marvels whenever professionalism creeps in.

      Of course, articulation can also induce a cringe or two, as exemplified by the off-turning slickness of that horrid pitch lady they imported from the Coast. We are told that next month's fundraising marathon will be something completely different; fortunately, there is no way to take that scam but up.

      Some people at WBAI have had the race card up their sleeve for so long that it has become unreadable and as transparent and ludicrous as the "Sandy did this to us" excuse Reimers and his apologists keep on the tips of their forked tongues.

    2. Samori Marksman enabled Dred Scott Keyes and Micheal G. Haskins. Haskins was brought in by Keyes and Marksman protected Keyes and allowed Keyes to steal the station blind. Haskins stinks and Keyes LITERALLY stinks.
      This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book

    3. Yes I know, but I still liked Samori Marksman. And, Samori had his own struggles and power structures to deal with- Keys was one of those. But yes, I certainly can attest to the fact that Keys literally stinks. That clown never understood the concept of soap and water, or toothbrush and mouthwash. Many years ago, I came close to an actual physical fight with that rancid little shit, when he tried to bust his way in to Master control. I forget if this was before or after Dave Metzger threw me against a wall of lockers outside the Public Affairs "office" (in actuality it was more like a garbage dump) in the old Eighth Avenue studios. Ah, what fun times we had! :-)
      Seriously though, I think WBAI is doomed. It missed it's chance to stay relevant. Now nobody of relevance needs it anymore. There is plenty of good programing to be had on the internet, whenever one want's it. Why bother with FM radio anymore?