Saturday, November 9, 2013

A dark man-made cloud...

It has come to my attention that the Federal Communications Commission is in receipt of a formal complaint against WBAI's fundraising tactics, which the complainant (who has requested anonymity) sees as a serious infringement of the rules governing a non-profit broadcaster's solicitation of support. More specifically, as I understand it, the complaint centers around the infomercial-like segments that are out and out sales pitches for merchandise.  

It is difficult for me to predict how the FCC will react to such a complaint, it depends on the current commission’s makeup—I believe the present one, headed (as of last month) by Obama appointee, Tom Wheeler, could go either way in a case like this. Years ago, when a Jesuit watchdog group objected to Amiri Baraka’s use of “fuck” in a poem he recited for us, we received notification of the complaint, but it was dismissed because he was an acknowledged, published author. An odd double standard, I thought, as I breathed a sigh of relief.

As was their normal procedure, that complaint was added to the FCC’s Pacifica/WBAI file, which meant that—although it thus did not pose an immediate problem for us—it could eventually become a part of a detrimental accumulation.

This new complaint is more tangible, so I mention the Baraka (then Leroi Jones) case merely to point out how ambiguous FCC decisions can be. I find it difficult to imagine a valid excuse for not looking into such a serious infringement, especially one that is as clear and documented as this one. If the commission has it in for Pacifica, this would be manna from heaven. I don't know if this is an isolated complaint, but, if not, there almost has to come a point where the Commission’s action no longer is theirs to make.

Were WBAI an isolated case within Pacifica, I would be tempted to believe that this might be a part of someone’s wish to get the station out of the way, but the same scenario is apparently played out at KPFK, even with the same leading actors, and I have heard no talk of the PNB wanting to leave Los Angeles.

Personally, I wish WBAI and Pacifica could survive, but only if there are radical changes for the better. That is a prospect for which I bear little or no hope—it is too late, the damage too severe, the bureaucracy too tangled and corrupt. 

Given that, I reluctantly feel that Pacifica needs to be closed down, and I am probably being far too optimistic when I wishfully hope that Lew Hill's concept of intelligent alternate radio strikes the fancy of someone with similar ideals and the funds to implement them. Not likely to happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

Having said all that, I think there is sufficient disgust and anger out there to not rule out the possibility of further complaints, and I also see the likelihood of the FTC being set in motion.

What are your thoughts on this?


  1. It’s both unfortunate and unsurprising.

    In a real sense the place ended long ago, I think, and barring angelic intervention, the end has long been near.

    ~ Indigo Pirate

  2. Looks like somebody harpooned Gary Null!!!
    The problem is not with BAI or even Pacifica, the problem is with the flawed way in which Community radio as a whole finances itself. One solution would be a subscription based model of content delivered to paying subscribers. Of course, this would exclude the lunatic fringe at BAI, and their un-paying audience, but that just might turn out to be a blessing. If there is any greater conspiracy behind this complaint, it is only to increase the odds of the LMA going through. The more interesting question is whether the LMA will turn Pacifica into an NPR clone or will it be something else. Hey, we might even have Amy Goodman contending with the marketplace forces to put her show on the air!

    BTW blogosphere mentions Amy Goodman's boyfriend at BAI studios, when DN! was just starting. Was he associated with either BAI or Pacifica?

    1. Brown.Null are the prob. berkeley could have charged payola since 2010, but we put Pacifica first. TURNOFFNULL--lying sack of murder. Null does not know what is coming. He will be OFF PBS within a year and most of his PRN peeps will drop out--he;s HATED by aids/gay community. Join FB TURNOFFNULL

  3. What do you think explains Null's stance on AIDS? Is he in denial on the personal level, because he is dealing with it himself, or is it part of his marketing?

    1. I think it's marketing—Doesn't he claim that one of his products either cures or prevents AIDS? He sees the money the big guys are making, so he declares their product ineffective and suggests that they are blocking real solutions in order to sell their useless impression is that this is his m. o.

  4. I think one reason why people have been reluctant to call out BAI and Pacifica on their fundraising schemes is that, to the "lunatic fringe" (and a few others affiliated with the station), exposing the station or the foundation to the wrath of the FCC is tantamount to cooperating with "The Man." Those folks also believe that if you criticize Gary Null (who, from what I understand, was despised by other BAI producers and staffers), you must be doing the bidding of the rapacious pharmaceutical and medical establishments. Or, by their reasoning (if it can be called that), if you couldn't stand to listen to Esther Armah or Kathy Davis, you are a racist.

    1. Points well taken, Justine. If it was not reluctance to appear siding with "The Man," which I think it may be in many cases, it could be a simple matter of listeners making an alternate move and tuning out. That seems to have been a rather common decision. Null is probably too slick for the present WBAI audience—back in the old days, he would not have gotten away with it, In fact, he would not even have been given an opportunity to make the attempt.

      I don't think WBAI's management and "producers" set out to dummy down the audience, they just—by default—brought it down to their level. They set the new standard, and it was low. It also continued that intellectual descent until they found water....double helix water...Eureka! They had hit rock bottom. Sadly, many of them don't even realize that—but the day of reckoning is almost here, even for the dumbest, most obstinate of them.