An unvarnished blog that dips into the past and comments
on the present of WBAI-FM, a once significant, intelligent New York radio station that chronically suffers abuse from within.
A very positive sign.~ Indigo Pirate
In general a lot of the programming on the station is still awful but I have seen some improvement so maybe this is a process that needs to be given some time. Anyway although I agree that the programming over the last few years has gone from bad to terrible I’m afraid that, at this point, I really don’t think that improving the programming will help the finances of the station very much. Maybe BAI should look into some kind of commercial support like NYC. I don’t know if this is the solution or even a good solution. Yes, the programming should be improved but I don’t think that improving the programming alone will do the trick.Regarding current events, the recent Syrian crisis certainly seems to have inspired not only the right wing nut cases like McCain but also the clueless ultra leftists. I certainly heard enough of this kind of stupidity, and related stupidity, tonight on BAI. It became clear to me that Knight is not the only Obama basher; he evidently has a lot of company. In fact there are still a lot bigger fools on the air then Knight. That said we don’t have to agree with everything that Obama does. In my opinion he certainly is wrong about this Syria thing, but in thus case I think that we have considerably more opportunity to influence what happens if we direct ourselves to that effort rather then just puffing out are chest and speaking to ourselves and engaging in the kind of silly and destructive criticism I heard on BAI tonight.
I share your pessimism regarding the station's ability to survive the financial mess created by years of inept governance and exacerbated by Berthold Reimers, a recluse who never rose beyond being a pro forma GM.Having been extremely critical of the station in its current mis-shape, I cannot ignore efforts to make improvements. We don't know if Andrew Phillips cut the strips occupied to no good effect by Armah, Hamilton and Knight solely for budgetary reasons, but their discontinuance was the first positive step towards bringing the station back to the principles by which it originally operated. Other, more subtle changes have taken place and we are told that they are interim measures put in place while Mr. Phillips creates what eventually will be the morning and drive time offerings. I think we should be supportive and heartened by this, and I have to say that the foot down approach that gave rise to this post is particularly promising. It tells us that, busy as he is forming new programs, Andrew Phillips has not turned a deaf ear to the ongoing abuses that take place elsewhere on the grid. I only hope that the improvements he is making reach a new audience, as well as disillusioned former listeners before the WBAI piggybank starves to death.Obama? Well I am as disappointed and disgusted with his handling of Syria as anyone can be. He deserves severe criticism, but I think people like Knight do the station a disservice when they resort to infantile name-calling and schoolyard behavior. Nobody would have been more outraged by Mr. Obama's warmongering ways than Lewis Hill, Pacifica's founder, but Mr. Hill was an intelligent man and I believe his response would have been civil, reasoned and, ergo, effective.WBAI and, indeed, Pacifica itself, have been led astray and to a possible dead end by the likes of Knight and other myopic, self-serving armchair activists who are blinded by bigotry, ignorance, and personal agendas.Are there bigger fools on WBAI's air than Knight? That's a difficult question to answer, but he is certainly not alone—what distinguished him and made me place him on the spotlight was the wide discrepancy between his high profile and low performance, the fact that he was receiving excessive paychecks and air time. He was also among the station's most hypocritical hosts and his disrespect for listener-supporters was appalling.Finally, you suggest that it might not be a bad idea to adopt a form of commercial support similar to the readings employed by WNYC. If that could be done without jeopardizing the station's independence, I would not be quite as opposed to it as I am. That said, the current serial airing of meaningless promos is every bit as annoying as commercial advertisement, and serves no real purpose other than to have listeners reach for that dial or scanner button—or "off" button, for that matter. There should be far less need for aggressive on-air fundraising, and no need for frivolous "premium" offers if the station were once again to communicate with and shows respect for its listeners. Rather than descend to the gutter and beg, WBAI should concentrate on airing intelligent, informative thought and entertainment, produced and delivered authoritatively by inspired people. There should be emphasis on telling the truth, whatever that may be, and at least a good percentage of what is heard at 99.5 should be a true alternative to what is available elsewhere.As Groucho is said to have remarked at the packed funeral of Columbia Pictures' founder, Harry Cohen, "Give the people what they want and they'll show up."
I guess we need to give Philips some time, but things can't change soon enough for me. I ordinarily don't listen to the radio before the afternoon but Today I happened to be listening some time between 9:30AM and 10AM. I heard some guy being interviewed who was saying that he woke up one day, heard voices, saw angels, etc., etc. I am not making this up - I really heard this. My wife is a psychiatric social worker. She deals with people who hear voices all the time but she would never think of interviewing them on the radio - only at tne present BAI could something like that happen. Oh, but I bet that this program started on time!
When I first saw your comment, I thought you were talking about Kathy Davis—she hears things, feels vibes, and is guided by preternatural beings, including homeless angels who may be homocentric.Then I saw that you were talking about a horse of a different color, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, and I wasn't surprised. He has been distancing himself steadily from reality as most of us know it.Personally, I am not one to feel supernatural vibes or hear dead people speak, but something—call it what you will—tells me that such nonsense is now too ingrained at WBAI to materialize and walk out the door.
Speaking for myself, (and perhaps others), I am a long time, die hard listener. By force of habit I generally keep may radios tuned to 99.5. Only relatively recently have I begun to listen to KCR and NYC partly because BAI has become so dreadful and partly to escape the incessant fund raising. Given all this I might laugh at things like people hearing voices and seeing angels, miracle cures and wacky conspiracy theories but will still listen. This may characterize some but there are two, (at least), problems. Number one the crazy stuff allows people with an agenda to easily dismiss good alternative material by saying something like,”… yea but that’s the station that has programs about angels and takes people who hear voices seriously…”. The other problem although I might just laugh at the crazy stuff how about somebody who just happens to tune in by chance and hears this kind of thing? Do you think that such a person will ever turn in again?
Chris, I agree with everything you've said about Andrew Philips' actions, Robert Knight and the possible future, or lack thereof, of the station. You and the other commenter are right in saying that it may be too late to save the WBAI we knew, but at least Phillips is taking some necessary positive steps. And, yes, he needs to get rid of Reimers and his crew.As much as I've come to dislike Obama, I also think Knight has gone off the deep end. And, it pains me to say this, but in listening to Bob Fass in the wee hours of this morning, I felt like I was at a Rolling Stones concert: All I could do was to remember what once was. He was responsible for much of what is still good, not only on BAI, but on radio generally, But he isn't what he was. Perhaps he can't be.
the radio station needs a cleaning, but more needs to exposed about the past of WBAI. For example, the porno movies made @ the station, the sexual abuse by former PD's and Public affairs directors, the mail theft, a murder committed by a producer, the former fake union, etc. All of this needs airing - NOW!!
I can attest to the mail theft charge, even name an early perpetrator, Steve Post, but I only know of the porno shoots and fake union by way of rumors. We had a recent allegation of sexual harassment, an outrage compounded by current management's attempt to punish the victim, but a murder? Since you comment anonymously, you will need to provide more than rumor if you wish to be taken seriously. I know there's smoke, but let's see evidence of fire.That said, WBAI continues to attract the occasional undesirables, including people who would not have made it past the front door with responsible management at the helm. First order of business has to be restoring WBAI to the kind of radio station people used to point to and/or work at with pride. Right now, Andrew Phillips has his hands full trying to raise the Titanic.
I must say that there seems to be some improvement. Thinking to get a good laugh I tuned into Geoff Brady last night, (9/16), about half way through. Much to my surprise it wasn't half bad - in fact it was a very interesting interview with an author who seemed quite sane. Of course I didn't hear the first half of the show, maybe that was the usual nutty stuff, but what I heard was actually quite good.
You beat me to it, I was going to make the same comment. Like you, I tuned in late and found the guest quite interesting—he saw the absurdity in the "hollow earth" theory and there being a veritable heaven below! I don't know if this is Brady having seen the light (as it were) or if he is actually aware of the lunacy he normally airs. BTW, I learned yesterday that he produces "Law and Disorder" which is a good show.
It may have been a fluke! I heard Brady tonight (9/23) and the show was as nutty as ever. It was followed by Kathy Davis whose show was nutty in a different way. Maybe Monday evening has been chosen as the ding bat zone!
Yes, it would appear that the hour of sanity was a fluke. I just checked out yesterday's show (as much as I could take of it) and you are right, he and guests were as nutty as can be. don't know if it is real paranoia or old-fashioned scam, but this is extreme and has no place outside of SNL.