Friday, September 6, 2013

An internal memo from Andrew Phillips

Please click on note to enlarge it


  1. I’m inclined to agree, from what evidence we have available to date, with your judgement as to Phillips.

    It appears, though, that they’re very far behind the curve and well into crash-and-burn territory – as Phillips acknowledges, not every situation is salvageable.

    I don’t know the physical layout, materials, acoustics, of the new place, but one off-the-wall thought that occurs to me is to improvise a form of master control there to coincide with the new fund-raising cycle 1 October.

    Just treat it as an ongoing remote: ‘This is WBAI-FM, a work-in-the-process-of-rebirth’. Much of air is going to be from tape and/or outside sources anyway, and any free-form host who can’t work amidst activity and a bit of construction isn’t worth her/his salt, anyway. The honest sound of professionals working with the background ambience of life, work, and construction might make for some very interesting radio, actually.

    Incremental costs should be minimal – the necessary phone lines and control for transmitter, etc, have to be paid for no matter what, if WBAI survives at all, so the additional cost of a portable console, a few directional mics and some moving blankets should be minor.

    It should be a perfect environment for fund-raising – have at least a few volunteers in to take pledges.

    Off-the-wall suggestions aside, I’d be betting against survival in any meaningful form.

    I continue to feel that the best approach would be to actively seek out some existing non-profit or educational institution or foundation to take over the frequency, clean house, and find ways to move meaningfully forward in a new media-digital age.

    The natural tendency in situations like this is to try and ‘save’ the situation. The hard question, of course, is if that’s possible. Or desirable.

    Phillips seems to ‘get’ that.

    I suspect I disagree with many of his values and priorities, but that’s fine – the world needs as many clear and intelligently differing voices as it can find – and I wish him well.

    ~ Indigo Pirate

  2. Another unsolicited off-the-wall:

    Seize the opportunity presented by the present desperate situation during the course of the fund-raising drive that begins 1 October to launch an ongoing systematic dialogue that extends beyond your present self-definition.

    Speak, on the phone, live, with people of intelligence, insight, and influence – yes, present listeners, too, but you mustn’t limit yourselves to your present audience, you need desperately to connect with the world out there, beyond your present self-reflections.

    Pose a simple question, sincerely, and elicit and solicit thoughts, sincerely:

    ‘We are a radio station that occupies one of the most desirable frequencies in the most important market in the nation, arguably the world.

    ‘We have the potentiality of extending that locus through the digital media of our time, and of tomorrow.

    ‘We are fundamentally committed to education in the deepest meaning of that word: Arts, public affairs, children’s programming, music, news.

    ‘From a clean slate perspective, what should WBAI *be*?

    ‘What should a station dedicated to education and public service in the truest and broadest sense do, what can it do, what should it be about?

    ‘How might we do that?’

    Speak, on air, live, with folks in foundations, media, arts groups. Let the listeners hear it as you pitch to survive.

    Re-define yourselves. Engage with the world to find a path to seek rediscovery, re-birth, and re-dedication in ways that matter.

    Stop trying to navigate forward by looking back.

    Wipe the slate clean.

    Use the phones, reach out to people in music, theater, newspapers and news departments, schools of journalism.

    You have the world at your service if only you ask, engage in genuine dialogue, are open-minded, and if you listen.

    Think how powerful it would be if WBAI became the station that defined itself and its purpose in dialogue with the finest minds in academia, media, the arts, entertainment, public affairs, and news – on air, live, working without a net, fighting to survive – and to *matter*.

    ~ Indigo Pirate

  3. I don't get the poster's point. Or is there a point? Is WBAI/Pacifica Battleground just sharing information?

    1. Sharing information—historical as well as current—and encouraging serious discussion. The only other WBAI-specific forum for exchanges is the so-called Blue Board, but it attracts many posters whose purpose seems to be a disruption of any real dialogue. That is what led me to start this blog—it is open to all points of view, but not to what we know as "trolling."

      As a former manager of WBAI (1960s), I am very concerned for its future, and when I see people disregard principles in order to further their own agendas, and an inert, inept manager allowing such abuse, it compels me to speak up. Pacifica's founder, Lewis Hill, felt strongly that open dialogue and the knowledge learned therefrom were essential war-prevention tools. Pacifica's mission was to promote enlightened discussion and multiculturalism. This was happening until opportunists came along and derailed the mission.

      Right now, as the station faces extinction from years of abuse and a succession of misguided management teams, something positive is finally happening. Andrew Phillips may not have come along in time to avert the loss of WBAI, but he is trying hard, doing much that should have been done years ago, and—I think—earning our support. I don't agree with everything he does, but that is as expected—the important thing is that he has opened the door to hope.

      My "Pacifica Battleground" tag was intended to point out the irony of a pacifist organization being plagued by constant internal backstabbing and attempted power grabs. The listener—for whom Mr. Hill founded Pacifica—has been lost and is disregarded except when money is needed.

      So, my point is to restore WBAI's integrity, give it back its brain, and provide an intellectual platform for people of independent thought. Access to the station's microphones should not be limited to self-serving hosts and producers who see WBAI as a permanent outlet for their personal interests, nor should it focus its broadcasting on any particular segments of the populace.

  4. If only Andrew Phillips could have returned when Samori Marksman died...

    Even though I don't agree with everything both of them said or did (and believe that, at times, Marksman was very misguided), they seem(ed) to understand that BAI's and Pacifica's role is to be an alternative to everything else that was on the dial.

    In other words, you keep people like David Rothenberg, Michio Kaku and Chris Whent on the air, not because they did great programming 30 years ago, but because they are offering insights (and, in Kaku's case, covering topics) not found elsewhere on the radio, and presenting their work in an intelligent yet engaging matter. And you broadcast Amy Goodman and Rebecca Myles, not because they represent some kind of fiery radicalism people associate with BAI's past, but because they are uncovering truths of which other radio producers are ignorant, or that said producers won't touch.

    What Phillips seems to understand is that he has to find more people with the qualities I've described, and what topics/areas would interest potential listeners, while keeping abreast of the world situation.

    1. Justine, I find your post to be admirably on the mark. I wish more people had your grasp on things.

  5. Who was that moronic woman that Phillips had on this morning to comment on the NYC mayor’s race? I’m sure I’ve heard more vacuous, superficial, naïve analyses, but can’t remember when and by whom.

    Prediction: The Nation Magazine radio show hosted by Mark Cooper will soon return to WBAI.
    It looks like Phillips is going to bring WBAI back to the Mary Frances Berry days when it was in the hands of the DNC and The Nation crowd. Ian Masters is very much part of this group, which sees politics in terms of a Manichean struggle between Democrats and Republicans.

    What’s my problem with this?

    Well, I have several:

    1. The Democrats have been complicit in allowing the closing of public schools and their replacement with charters.
    2. The Affordable Health Care Act is an abomination which will enrich insurance companies and do little for anyone else. Neither party will ever support single payer.
    3. Democrats have collaborated with Republicans in forging horrendous “trade” treaties which are actually the removal of tariffs on imported goods which allow multinational corporations to move jobs to areas where there are no unions nor environmental laws.
    4. Foreign policy is a constant: Continuous wars in which the U.S. invokes “American Exceptionalism”—a myth concocted by the American ruling class that disguises imperialism and colonialism as altruism and the spreading of democracy.

    As Gore Vidal observed, America has one political party with two right wings.

    It’s getting harder for me to take WBAI seriously as a source of information. Black Agenda Reports has better journalists as does Harper’s.

    It doesn’t matter. We’re all going to die soon. If not from the radiation flooding out of Fukishima, GMOS or climate change will get us. Or maybe World War III.


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    What WBAI needs professionalism and integrity which is not exemplified on your blog.

    1. Yes, WBAI has needed professionalism and integrity for many years, and never more than it does now. I assume that your post is not unintentionally funny—at least I hope, for your sake, that this is the case. :)