Friday, February 14, 2014

The Reimers Valentine's Day "report"

We were told to listen as Papa Reimers explained everything and brought us up to date. Well, here is his "report" in its entirety. I have included Michael Haskins' remarks as a frame, of sorts. Please notice that neither mentions the overdue severance pay—in fact, Haskins would have us believe that there were no outstanding bills at the end of last month, or is it year?

And here's something Reimers posted to the staff this morning (note that he is still at 120 Wall St.!!!). It looks like his intended script for the report—I wonder what made him not deliver it on the air...
Good morning, listeners. This is Berthold Reimers, General Manager of your station. I am here with you this morning to report on the situation at WBAI. There are lots of rumors afloat, and many people are understandably confused about what’s true and what’s not. 

The first thing that needs to be clarified is the question of the LMAs, or Lease Management Agreements by which WBAI would be handed over to an outside programmer. On Sunday, our former Program Director told a reporter that if the situation were not turned around in “just a couple days,” Pacifica would sell the license for the station or lease its airwaves.” That is absolutely not true. In fact, the Pacifica National Board this past weekend voted to put off any consideration of LMAs for 60 days in order to give WBAI time to work out a realistic alternative. 

Second, it has been repeated on air numerous times these past two weeks that we could not offer premiums  because we could not afford to buy them. The former Program Director also told a reporter this week that the reason we had to conduct a fund-drive without premiums is that we have none. That is not true. WBAI and Pacifica have a deep reservoir of fabulous programs on CD. We also have a substantial inventory of books and DVDs. And starting next week we will return to pitching premiums. Even NPR does not conduct fund-drives without premiums. 

Members of the WBAI community don’t agree about much, but there is ONE THING we all agree on: everybody wants to move away from so much on-air fundraising. Diversifying revenue streams is a high priority, and there is a team working on a plan to increase the share of funds raised online, in the community, and via traditional non-profit strategies. The plan includes a carefully timed transition, steadily reducing on-air fund-drives as the new revenue sources emerge and stabilize. It is just common sense that we cannot jettison overnight a method that has kept us alive for the past 60 years. And that is what we did this month. It was a big mistake. 

In fact, we are now in much bigger trouble than we were two weeks ago. As most of you are aware, neither WBAI nor Pacifica has a cash reserve. Pacifica can no longer bail us out when we are short of cash. So we need to raise money fast. 

The good news is that with a successful fund-drive, we can definitely break even during the current quarter. Our monthly expenses are down to about $125,000, half what they were a year ago. In fact we nearly broke even during the last three months of 2013 in terms of operating expenses. But we still had debt: for120 Wall Street, moving expenses, and we had to pay back money we had borrowed from WPFW. 

We have left only one significant external debt, and that is the severance pay. It is a big problem because even if we dedicate the entire Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant to it, we still need an additional $90,000 to pay the full severance. 

But think about it: IF this fund-drive is successful, we may for the first time in a long time make it through a quarter without depending on Pacifica to bail us out. AND we will have no external debt! Of course we need to do much more than break even. But breaking even is important: it will stabilize us and give all of us new hope. 

The last two weeks have set us back, and we need to catch up quickly. But we have the possibility, with this fund-drive, of turning a corner. After a very long fifteen months since Superstorm Sandy, we are close to getting back on an even keel. BUT ONLY IF THIS FUND-DRIVE IS SUCCESSFUL. 

You the listeners are the ones who have made it possible for WBAI to survive all the turmoil over these past fifteen months: 

· losing our offices and studio;
· moving to new locations; 
· producing radio with makeshift studios;
· trying out several new program directors. 

It has been one helluva year. But all along, we have been getting closer to financial stability AND deeper community.

The Community Advisory Board has been working for months on a plan to diversify revenue streams and will be implementing it in the coming weeks. We have more volunteers taking up the slack, dedicating countless hours to getting out premiums  faster than ever before. And we are creating new partnerships and alliances. For example, we are working on an arrangement with the Brecht Forum where we will record some of their outstanding programs to share with our listeners. 

We CAN turn a corner if you the listeners will stand by us once again. Our expenses are much more realistic now, but our position is still precarious. Please, we have come a long way, but we still must get over this final hurdle.

Berthold Reimers
General Manager
WBAI 99.5 FM Radio
120 Wall Street - 10th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 209-2820


  1. Why does Haskins sound like such a door-mat, pitching the station to the labor unions even as they kicked out their man? Doesn't he have any self-respect? Reimers didn't say much at all, couldn't even bring himself to speak the truth and actually say that he fired the program director? Look at his address, Is he still on Wall Street? I think that the reason Hennelly was fired, was because he inadvertently mentioned that the emperor has no clothes. No friend of free speech like BAI and Pacifica management...

  2. Quite ridiculous, of course.

    It will be interesting, I think, to see how well they do with a return to infomercials. I'm curious as to whether or not they may not have saturated the limited market represented by WBAI's limited audience.

    In any event, I would imagine that Reese's perspective is the desire to minimize the damage from WBAI's haemorraghing, as I would think the imperative of moving to an LMA/PSOA (or outright sale) is clearer than ever.

    In the end, I think, when it's clear to the board that the only choice is LMA/PSOA/Sale or the collapse of the network opinions, grandstanding, and factions won't matter very much.

    ~ 'indigopirate'

  3. Brooser--Lately, I've been hearing longtime producer hosts utter the word "if" in reference to WBAI's survival. I even heard one say that this might be the station's "swan song."

    Could the return of Reimers be a sign that the end is near?

  4. There is a small group of people, who are desperately holding on to the BAI, their version of it. Initially I thought that it may have been a small clique of long time employees desperately holding on to their jobs, whoever comes to take over the station. Then I heard one listener referred to it as the "last black radio station", as if it is a national treasure. Combined with the fact that Bernard White was trying or working to work on the lease agreement (and likely failed), it seems that a bunch of aging black power intellectuals is holding on to the BAI as if it is their own. Reimer and the real management team is in the shadows, and only the desperate financial situation and their own lack of confidence in their own ability to raise money lets them pick various interim program directors and individuals, like Gary Null, who bring in revenue for them, and let these outsider program directors run the show, hoping that they will improve BAI's financial fortunes. Obviously they care nothing for the content of these shows, so long as their bring in the revenue. The station is in the free fall. I am not sure how close the ground is, or if a golden parachute will open. We don't know the real agendas.