Saturday, August 10, 2013

Random thoughts:The Summer report

The big news is that Pacifica IED, Summer Reese, gave a live Report to the Listener this Friday afternoon, and she had at least one surprise announcement: There is a new Program Director and it is Andrew W. Phillips, who held the same position a few years back. He was with her in the studio and rather than go into details regarding the program, I will attach at the end a piece posted elsewhere by Matthew Lasar. It will give you the gist. I will mention the good news that some of the overpaid dross has been dropped—including Robert Knight, Hugh Hamilton, and Esther Armah. The bad and inexplicable news is that Berthold Reimers was not fired, but the WBAI News Team is no more. The official reason given for these changes is  a drastic budget cut, but I think programming judgement is a big part of it, too. Making that judgement henceforth will be left to Andrew Phillips, if the invisible GM doesn't interfere.

The Report got off to a dramatic start with tears from Ms. Reese. Some posters on the BlueBoard doubted that they were genuine, but I think they were. My impression of Summer Reese changed somewhat as the program progressed and she got into discussing the Pacifica rules and board structure, which are hopelessly awkward and require expensive elections while never producing positive results. Then, too, Pacifica has a history of being sued by the opportunists it attracts—they have been settling out of court, and the price has been high.

A BlueBoard poster felt that some members of that forum would be disappointed if the station were saved, and he is probably right, but that board attracts some rather uncaring, infantile elements. The fact is that it is also frequented by people with genuine concern. My personal feeling is that everything should be done to save it, but only if it is thoroughly cleaned up in the process. I'd actually rather see it go down than continue as a last (or only) resort for an inventory of broadcasting hacks. If Pacifica can somehow manage to pay the bills long enough for the station to grow the brain it once had, I feel it is worth a try.

Mr. Phillips sounds like he is on the right track, but I worry when he defends Berthold Reimers. I hope that's just him playing politics, for I cannot see any reason why Reimers was hired—much less why he has lasted so long. There has to be some explanation for that. They also must. must, must free WBAI of Kathy Davis, and either abolish or render powerless the LSB.

Pacifica IED Summer Reese in
studio w. Michael Haskins and
an unidentified standee. 8-9-13
Frankly, I don't see how the station can be saved; it is too deeply in debt, the bills are going to keep coming, and if the audience hasn't lost all faith in the station, it will take a long time to win back its trust. 

I have a special interest in the transmitter and its location, because that change took place on my watch. I borrowed $20,000.00 for the equipment from Lou Schweitzer (interest free), and the Empire State Building paid for the move, being anxious to hook up as many stations as possible to their new universal antenna. It was a lot of money back then, but doable. The result of having increased power and height quickly paid for the extra expense.

I bring this up, because I hear people suggesting that WBAI should find a 
more affordable location for the transmitter. Yes, $50,000 is a lot of rent to pay each month, but it only sounds truly unreasonable because it is not commensurate with the station's income. This, in turn, is due to WBAI not having much to offer on the air. The solution is not to lower the power or find cheaper transmitter facilities—the solution is to create a better station, one that will attract more listeners and, ergo, more donors. This and previous managements have a way of coming up with disturbingly half-assed solutions to problems that they themselves created but cannot admit to.

I hope LSB member and Reimers apologist Frank LeFever is no longer trying to promote the station's bad programs, and that Reimers allows Phillips to do what he deems necessary. I think we learned from the Chris Hatzis experience that this miscast manager feels threatened by a PD who has the experience he himself so sorely lacks. 

Here—to give you an idea of costs 47 years ago— is the loan agreement I signed with Lou.

And here is Mathew Lasar's piece on the live broadcast:

Pacifica radio: “vast majority” of daytime WBAI paid programming to go next week

WBAIA sobbing Executive Director of the Pacifica foundation disclosed on Friday that union negotiations at Pacifica station WBAI have concluded and across-the-board layoffs are very near.

“It is with great sadness that I have to tell the WBAI listening audience that many of the voices that you have been listening to for many years will no longer be on the air as of next week,” Pacifica interim Executive Director Summer Reese announced over WBAI’s airwaves. “We will be laying off virtually everyone whose voice you recognize who is a paid programmer. This includes the vast majority of paid programming in the day time.”

It will also include the WBAI news broadcast, Reese noted, “which I know from feedback from the public is very important to the New York City audience.” Reese said that payments due to WBAI’s $50k-a-month transmitter will be used instead just to make the next payroll. “Most of your familiar hosts in the daytime whose shows you value will not even have the opportunity to say goodbye to you, for which I am deeply sorry.”

About “75 percent of the staff” will be laid off Reese reiterated. “We are only retaining those staff critically necessary to operational functions at the station.” Much of the programming WBAI listeners will hear in the coming months will be prerecorded, Reese disclosed. The station has moved all of its administration operations a new headquarters in Brooklyn on Atlantic Avenue, “and we are beginning to settle in there.” But the signal is still broadcasting from facilities at the City College of New York.

What I found most surprising about this impromptu press conference was that Reese announced that she has tapped into former interim KPFA general manager Andrew Leslie Phillips as WBAI’s new interim Program Director. Last we checked, the Pacifica National Office had put Phillips under “paid administrative leave” at Pacifica station KPFA pending an investigation of complaints against him.According to Phillips, the probe involved charges of racism at the Berkeley signal.

Apparently all is forgiven, or at least forgotten. Reese praised Phillips as “someone who has a deep understanding of who we are politically and culturally at WBAI in particular” in the Pacifica network. Phillips was Program Director at WBAI for nearly four years.

Phillips was in the studios as Reese made the announcement. He told WBAI listeners that he had “mixed feelings,” but “it’s a new day. We have to move forward. I don’t have to tell you why: NSA, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, drones flying overhead, scaring the hell out of people in Pakistan and around the world . . . you all know what I’m talking about. You all know that other stations don’t carry these stories the way that Pacifica carries them.”

“There will be a lot of changes this coming Monday,” Phillips added. “They won’t be seamless,” but “you will hear a lot of new voices [on WBAI]. Many of them will be Pacifica voices from other stations.”

The rest of the announcement focused on Pacifica’s financial troubles. “I currently have four out of seven units which do not have payroll for next week,” Reese disclosed. “I’m looking to find $100,000 by Monday . . . that is where we are at.”

“Pacifica,” she added, “is at a critical juncture in its history as to whether each individual station survives and whether the network as a whole continues to exist, at all.”


  1. It's good news that there will be programming changes, but please don't take either Reese or Phillips at face value. Reese has centralized power, along with her sidekick Tracy Rosenberg, and they want an end to the governance system not for the network's benefit, but so they can retain total control. Reese and Rosenberg went on the warpath against Andrew Phillips, when he no longer towed the Pacifica line (he actually ended up instituting some good programming at KPFA, after much community pressure). There are some who believe Reese offering him the WBAI job is just a way to make sure he doesn't sue over wrongful termination at KPFA.

    1. Thank you for that information. I guess it wouldn't be Pacifica if there weren't some underlying nefarious scheme. From what I have read re Phillips' alleged racism, the guy who pointed the finger sounds like an opportunistic troublemaker. We have some of those here at WBAI, so people had better brace themselves.

      I must confess to having been surprised today when Reese brought Phillips to the studio—the last time I read about their interactions was when she removed him from his job at KPFA and declared him to be on "administrative leave."

      Guess we'll wait and see.

    2. "Opportunist troublemaker" is way too kind. And if you want a good ear to the ground, find your way to the "KPFA Listeners" open group on Facebook, where much about the current politics of Pacifica and its board is discussed smartly and openly.

  2. It’s disgraceful that Rebecca Myles has been fired and Kaffy Davis has not.

    Ms. Davis is a remarkable human being in that she has lived on the planet for more than four decades and shows no evidence of having been affected by The Enlightenment. She still believes in souls, spirits, crystals, magnets, and angels, but seems unaware that the mind is what the brain does; that spirits and angels were invented by scientifically illiterate folk who knew nothing of cells, DNA, molecules, and microbes; and like that idiot, Starman, that the only large celestial bodies that affect the earth are the sun and the moon—the closest star to our solar system is Proxima Centauri, and it is 4.3 light years or 25.275 trillion miles away.

    Guests on Ms. Davis’s shows are allowed to make the most outlandish claims without a shred of evidence about stigmata, angels, cancer cures and magic elixirs. Ms. Davis not only doesn’t challenge their claims; she usually endorses them. She is an ignoramus.

    Ms. Myles is a remarkable journalist and a skilled interviewer. I shall miss her more than the entire rest of the WBAI news team.

    As far as Reimers goes, one can only conclude that he is in possession of some rather compromising photographs that could destroy the lives of Ms. Reese and other decision makers at Pacifica National. What else can explain the survival of this demonstrably incompetent fool?


    1. I totally agree with this!

    2. Thank you, bklynsteph.

      Ridding the station of Kaffy Davis, Geoff Brady, and Starman is the sine qua non to regaining my financial support for WBAI.

      And bringing Ife Dancy back to WBAI is an ominous reversal of direction. Ms. Dancy’s inspirational thoughts of the day and her vacuous blather constitute a serious affront to all intelligent life in the universe.


  3. Addendum:

    Here is part of the plot synopsis for the movie THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE:

    “During the Korean War, the Soviets capture an American platoon and take them to Manchuria in Communist China. After the war, the soldiers return to the United States, and Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) is credited with saving their lives in combat. Upon the recommendation of the platoon's commander, Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor for his supposed actions. In addition, when asked to describe him, Marco and the other soldiers automatically respond, ‘Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.’”

    As it turns out, Raymond Shaw is an anti-social, misanthropic sociopath. His comrades have been brainwashed by the North Koreans. That’s why Marco his other comrades of arms repeat, "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

    I wonder if the North Koreans captured Summer Reese, Dr. Frank LeFever, and the members of the WBAI LAB, and through brainwashing have obliged them to repeat, “Berthold Reimers is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most hardworking human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

    That would explain a lot, wouldn't it?


    1. "Brainwashing" - a creature of the cold war - is about as real as the magic cures and conspiracy lunacy spouted on BAI these days.

    2. I agree and was by no means serious in my discussion of its use or effectiveness.


  4. I thought Reese’ and Phillips’ report and their actions to be reason for guarded optimism – emphasis on the word ‘guarded’.

    The situation is desperate, which both increases the chances of catastrophic failure and collapse and also increases the latitude for sweeping (dare I say ‘radical’?) action.

    This has been an institution locked in failure mode for literally decades. Its chances aren’t good, and its only chances are those that allow for and follow clear lines of authority and decision making.

    If there is to be any chance of anything worthwhile emerging from the wreckage it will depend on the decisions made, the quality of their execution, and whatever the gods of chance have in mind.

    Personally, I wouldn’t be too troubled by keeping the likes of Reimers in place. It provides some illusion of continuity at a time of attempted radical restructuring in which much has been (rightly) swept away. It also provides the opportunity to continue to take advantage of his being inextricably interwoven with the evolved failure paths that need to be severed. I appreciate that it’s galling no end, but I wouldn’t be too concerned unless signs emerge that Reese and Phillips are actually relying upon his judgement as opposed to using him before chucking him out the window.

    I think it inconceivable that BAI and Pacifica will ever have anything approaching the influence they once had upon the culture, but something, if only something lesser, might emerge which is worth having as one voice among many in a rapidly shifting and evolving world culture.

    In any event, I wish Reese and Phillips well, and they may wish to play Stan Rogers’ ‘The Mary Ellen Carter’ as a bit of inspiration for when one attempts to save a situation which has been driven on the rocks by drunken fools and where one’s efforts are scorned or mocked:

    ~ Indigo Pirate

  5. Indigo,

    Like all your comments, this one makes a lot of sense. And I loved the song, "The Mary Ellen Carter".

    I disagree about the logic of retaining Berthold--who is, incidentally, the kindest, bravest, warmest, most hardworking human being I’ve ever known in my life, because of his reputed $100,000 annual salary. Add that to Davis's reputed $50,000, and that's $150,000 a year, or $12,500 per month just to pay the salaries of Bert and Kaffy. Can the station afford this?

    My figures are guesstimates based on what I've been told by people closer to the station than I am. But even if I'm off by 100%, do people sending money to the station want even $6,000 going to Davis and Reimers?


  6. Thanks for your kind words.

    I don't necessarily disagree with you. I think I simply meant to suggest that keeping existing management around for a bit isn't necessarily suggestive of an indefinite or long-term commitment to them. A lot of folks seemed (understandably) very concerned as to that possibility. For all we know they may be kept on for a month or two, or perhaps a bit more than that – that costs a bit, granted, but Reese may have judged that to be a worthwhile expense with respect to a presentation of ‘continuity’ while pitching for loans or other transitional support, or she may have other valid considerations.

    I'm also not privy to their contracts and thus I'm not in a position to speculate intelligently as to the best way to move them out the door if that were, indeed, one’s decision. For all I know they may be approaching some contractual renewal horizons that mean it would cost as much or more to sack them immediately than to let them hover about as figurehead ghosts for a bit while making whatever use may be made of them.

    I simply don’t know.

    A lot of folks are looking to see heads on pikes, I think, and while that may or may not be appropriate it tends to cloud one’s thinking as to the best way to attempt to save a desperate situation – my principal point, then, perhaps, however unclear I may have been in attempting to make that point, was simply that they aren’t necessarily the key issue at the moment, and that all one can do, in the end, even as spectators, is hope that Reese and Phillips are making the right decisions.

    ~ Indigo Pirate