Sunday, February 2, 2014

Labor's love lost?

WBAI Staff Meeting January 30, 2014

Bob Hennelly, Interim Program Director held a meeting at WBAI’s Brooklyn Headquarters. He spoke about how WBAI is in a crisis mode. He said the challenge is to fix WBAI’s business model, to bring programming back to a dynamism of the past.

Radio he said is to provide company, sanctuary, to support and engage and challenge with conversation that is relevant to the lives of those listening. Hennelly is opening the lines during morning drive time. He intends to con- tinue to co-host the morning show and build the drive time audience for at least 30 days.

Hennelly said he will cut out California imports during the 3pm weekly time-slot. This drew applause from the room. Instead the Interim PD said he will look for those who can engage on a variety of local and international issues and who can deal with open lines for that 3 pm slot. It would then deliver a greater animated listenership to Hartman’s show.

Regarding news, Hennelly said he wants to coordinate programs which already feature some headline news, but develop a series of daily reports which include basic coordinates like traffic and weather.

Regarding the current programming staff, Hennelly said it is impossible to keep track of some programs broadcast every two weeks or monthly and he will attempt to regularize those shows. “Every other week programming is not the way to program the radio.” He said he wants the voices on now to build a larger audience.

The February marathon will be one where the pitch is the show and the station. Premiums are thank you gifts, not the object of the fundraising and a list of available thank you gifts was provided to each producer. It is available here: Mondays are to be reserved for pitching for listeners to become a WBAI Buddy.

Berthold Reimers, WBAI’s Station Manager, entering the meeting said WBAI needs to raise $400 to $500,000 during the Feb. thon. This includes $55,000 a month for the transmitter. (station owes Jan. and then Feb.) Berthold says that if we raise the funds needed the talk of RFP’s, the Request for Proposals, will go away.

If you have the rights to any material you want to give listeners as thank yous for pledging they need to be registered with Andrea Katz, BAI’s Development Director asap. Email her: Andrea at She is able to arrange downloads from the website with proper notice.

Also discussed was pitching partners. Hennelly said management would be available to pitch with programmers during the February thon. They will complement their efforts and program. “There has to be another voice in the room, someone unrelated to the program. Someone validating and respecting your work.” He said WBAI is show business. “Show business with a conscience.”

Here's Bob Hennelly's phone number: 973 714 0923 Email: pd at

Linda Perry 
WBAI News, New York 


  1. Interesting. Good strategy. Bring in Thom Hartmann, syndicated with Air America/Clear channel and their wealth and cut out the Pacifica. What is the relationship between Pacifica and its radio stations? What is to prevent BAI from developing programming totally independent from Pacifica, making the station independent of Pacifica? Does BAI pay Thom Hartmann or does Thom Hartmann pay BAI? Does Thom Hartmann make any money from broadcasting over BAI without advertising? Is Hennelly trying to bring BAI from under Pacifica or is he trying to make money that will be p[aid as dues./fees to Pacifica?

  2. To the best of my knowledge Thom Hartmann broadcasts over BAI gratis. IMHO the Hennelley report seems to indicate that things are headed in a better direction. I would like to see ALL the embarrising stuff - the quack medicine, mystics and conspiracy, (and other) nuts off the air right away but I do not know the internal dynamics at BAI and maybe this can't be done as quickly as I might want. Also, what is Hennelley's background? I keep seeing negative references to his connections with mainstream organized labor which, to me at least, is a very positive thing.

    1. I am also under the impression that WBAI is getting Hartmann's show gratis, and Hennelly has said much that would indicate his awareness of WBAI's programming problems, but the show goes on and the cringe factor has not been eliminated.

      There is nothing wrong with honest labor unions—I am all for them where they are needed, but they often attempt to make incursions where they are neither needed nor wanted by the workers. The hypocrisy of this guy pushing the unions and attempting to make organized labor WBAI's raison d'etre while the station continues to ignore its overdue debt to the 19 laid-off union workers is outrageous.

      He also, as you point out, continues to allow the quacks and scam artist to use WBAI for their business. Today, I heard Kathy Davis aid and abet her numerologist in his scam, all in the guise of selling "buddy" commitments, and
      although Blosdale and other infomercial people seem to have been put aside, we still hear insidious advertising, warped news, and racism every day. He has himself said that he doesn't think the offending, unprincipled hosts need to be taken off the air—he somehow thinks that a repair job can be done.

      The reason why you keep reading negative references by me regarding Hennelly and his labor intrusion is that I see it as a self-serving scam that virtually eliminates the bulk of WBAI's potential audience. It is not his fault that listenership figures have dwindled down to the lowest in New York City, and that what is left mainly represents a small fraction of one community. The level of intellect used to be high, but it is now at a nadir, and he is not doing anything to correct that—reading yesterday's news from the New York Post, Wall St. Journal and NY Times only underscores the station's sorry state.

      I see no hope for the station with Reimers still there and not showing any signs of intelligence, Summer Reese making idiotic decisions, such as letting the news department go while giving more prominence to silly harebrained leftovers like Michael Haskins, and an opportunist like Hennelly performing on the job self-training as iPD.

      You wonder if getting the loonies off the air can be done quickly? It can be done faster than you can say Gary Null, Robert Knight, Kathy Davis, Geoff Brady...

  3. I am not sure, if it was idiocy or politics on part of Reese and/or the Pacifica National Board to eliminate the BAI news department. A lot of stuff about Pacifica does not make sense: For instance, Pacifica's Washington DC station has been on the air since 1977, and yet it apparently never went beyond syndicating Democracy Now and playing music. You would think that a progressively oriented and politically active organization such as Pacifica would develop quality news, journalistic, and public affair programming to reach out to the people working on the Capitol Hill, and so far, in the 37 years it took the DC station to become economically unviable, they hadn't.

    1. I have not followed the D.C. station's programming, but, as far as I understand, it was mainly a jazz station. I wondered what they (Pacifica) were thinking, Before I left WBAI, in the late Sixties, there was talk of establishing a D.C.bureau, which made much sense—a jazz focus does not. Granted, jazz has dominated my life—it is a music to whose practitioners I owe much to, and one that I gave greater-than-polka air time to at WBAI, but never at the cost of other essential subjects in the arts. WPFW's location makes giving it a political/public affairs focus a no-brainer—it should have served all Pacifica stations well by being on the spot, as it were.

  4. Di8d they actually play Polka in the 60's? People don't realize that in a good deal pop/new wave music, the synthesizers have replaced accordions, creating a sort of danceable electronic polka for the kids in the 1980's. Accordion has been associated with mostly Europeans, but I saw footage from the 1930's US and the guy was playing what I thought was a cowboy harmonica tune, on an accordion.

    NPR established a news-bureau in DC, where Nina Totenberg was extremely productive and influential in her journalism, helping to derail the Bork nomination and almost doing the same with Clarence Thomas in the 1980's. BAI claims to be more revolutionary and radical than "mainstream" NPR, and yet, I don't think that Amy Goodman has accomplished anything similar as far as influencing events. There is a trend among journalism students to want to change the world with their reporting. Hennelly may be a competent radio program director, but his quip that BAI is a "showbusiness with a conscience" is just not on the same wavelength as any idealistic student in Columbia Journalism School.

    1. Don't forget Lawrence Welk and before him, ArthurTracy, *The Street SInger," who was extremely popular in the 1930's and lived into the '90s. Then, too, there was musette, which the French played and many Americans loved. In the WWII years, polka continued to pop up—I think the Andrews Sisters took "Beer Barrel Polka" to the upper regions of the pop charts. I don't think we played any polkas on WBAI, actually—it just wasn't in our showbusiness conscience to do so.

      Nina Totenberg deserves to be remembered more than she is, I think. Hennelly may be a "competent" PD, but he has yet to give evidence of that. In fact, I think his Madison Avenue copywriter mentality—which manifests itself in his penchant for coming up with meaningless slogans—is insulting to the intelligence. WBAI, of course, should be radio with a conscience, as it once was, but he does not seem to grasp that.

  5. Brooser and Chris--As soon as I heard Hennelly say "showbusiness with a conscience," everything else about the fund drive--including the assertion that "the program is the premium"--started to ring hollow, at least for me.