Wednesday, March 5, 2014

As the deck chairs pile up...

WBAI is an amazing place. You've got people working hard to make up for inexcusable neglect in fulfilling pledge deals (collecting the money seems to be less of a problem) while that and other avoidable problems are driving the station deeper and deeper into a cesspool created by Pacifica and the amateurs it hires to occupy the front office. In the meantime, those who could do something about it seem oblivious to the outrageously bad, stagnant program schedule, which now continues intermittently as listeners are insulted with reruns of questionable infomercials and relentless marketing of Gary Null's products. WBAI has never been more deserving of the "Radio Unlistenable" tag.

The station's web site was always clumsy and inadequate, but now it is more unreliable than ever—the program schedule is hopelessly outdated and names are misspelled; Berthold Reimers' claims regarding its efficacy and popularity are—like so much of what he says—untrue, and even the on-air people are confused. We have seen this before, but—like everything else at Reimers' BAI—nothing is corrected, so hosts are still showing up for programs that have been pre-empted by this marathon without end, or not showing up for shows that are, in fact, still scheduled. It's bad enough that they haven't been given the right information, but Reimers compounds the confusion by issuing misinformation. Even his right-hand person, Andrea Katz, is a victim of his ineptitude. Here she tells the producers that she has not been told how long the extended marathon will last. No communication, no planning ahead, either:

That was yesterday, March 5th. Here's today's:   

The severance pay has still not been received by the 19 people laid off, so there is a great possibility of lawsuits in that connection, and then there is the matter of Reimers' raffles—funds were raised from listeners with the promise of a weekly Apple iPod Nano, but there were no Nanos nor could Reimers come up with the money to acquire them. Ditto an Apple laptop. The whole matter was simply dropped, as far as I can tell, no announcements, no apologies, no respect for the listener-supporters, no morals.

Tony Ryan patrols a 2009 LSB meeting, armed with a rather
menacing stance and sledgehammer. To see this startling still
in context, go to the previous post
Reimers has surrounded himself with sycophants, people who—for various reasons, mostly to hold onto their air time—cling to WBAI in the knowledge that they would not be accepted elsewhere. Of course, it isn't really their air time, but bad management gives them reason to believe that it is—and therein lies a big factor in WBAI's decline.

Why, for example, was Sidney Smith among the 19 and not Michael Haskins or Tony Ryan, who cannot hold a candle to Sid when it comes to operating the equipment?

Don't you love what Reimers and his cronies call the WBAI "family"?


They are part of Terry Goodman's response to a rambling, somewhat disconnected post ny Jim Dingeman, who heads the WBAI CAB. Terry Goodman has been associated with Pacifica and KPFK for about forty years, serving station and foundation in various capacities and on various levels. Over the past few years, I have been impressed by his knowledge of the bylaws and mentalities that dictate Pacifica's directions and misdirections. He is an astute observer whose honesty may not always win him friends, but certainly respect—Pacifica needs more people like that. I wish he would contribute to this blog, because he has a marvelous way of cutting through the crap.

What you see here is but a part of Terry's response—he may have me beat when it comes to writing lengthy posts, but he has a lot more to say that is worthwhile.

"A tipping point was reached about thirty years ago, when the most powerful staff members at several stations silently re-characterized the Foundation's purpose as broadcasting in alignment with their consensus political ideologies, a situation that has persisted with increasingly open acknowledgement. This new "left progressive" purpose is fundamentally hostile to all potential managers, staff members, and listeners with broader tastes or more open minds. Nonconforming staffers were made less and less welcome over the years, and listenership shrank more often than it grew. A corresponding steady decline in accuracy, honesty, research, professional quality, pre-production effort, educational value, and diversity of opinion severely limited future possibilities for change and growth. Even Pacifica's best programming now is frequently redundant, with different hosts exploring the same issues again and again in a similar manner from nearly identical perspectives.

The pre-democratization Pacifica National Board and management, also corrupted by the existing Mission drift, may have recognized part of the problem, but blundered terribly in attempting to address it. 
The post-democratization structure of Pacifica left the primary responsibility for addressing audience drop issues (as before) in the hands of station General Managers and Program Directors. Pacifica hired its new General Managers and Program Directors largely on the basis of political ideology, personal loyalty, or factional loyalty rather than Mission loyalty, broadcast vision or managerial competence. Managers did not believe themselves to have the option of rejecting the local consensus political ideology that severely limited possibilities for change and growth, so sometimes consolidated local supporters around a subset of the recharacterized Pacifica Mission, further narrowing each station's audience.
The LSBs do not control station programming. They support or resist the decisions of managers that they occasionally have a role in selecting, pestering, or ousting.
The low ratings of every Pacifica station is pretty clear evidence that they all need reformatting. If management with the vision and courage to attempt this was able to sneak in, its decisions would be loudly and perhaps violently opposed by local station staff, governance, and listener-subscribers.
Audio and video programming compatible with Pacifica's stated Mission is now more readily found on the internet than on Pacifica's terrestrial broadcast station.
The growth of "premium problems" is evidence of bad management. The shrinkage of "premium problems" is evidence of good management.
Pacifica must produce new programs with relevance to contemporary events, but it need never broadcast the immediately forgettable while it maintains a rich archive of well-produced educational specials and unique performances of historical interest or timeless merit. 
Any change that reduces the airtime of any program is opposed, at a minimum, by the impacted programmer and the program's fans. If a station's Program Director is allowed to be successful when cancelling a program, multiple programmers and listeners may feel threatened by such a success, especially if the quality or popularity of their favorite programs is low. A typical Pacifica response to PD or GM attempts to improve programming is complaints of improper process and demands from multiple programmers and their supporters to "restore the grid." 
It is not realistic to expect ego surrender from any air talent, especially good air talent. It is not realistic to expect any air talent to recognize that it isn't good. The best and worst Program Directors typically have egos almost as large as the programmers whose work it is their responsibility to evaluate.
I don't see any rush to sell a Pacifica station, which requires membership approval if not court ordered. I have seen a delay in the scheduled consideration of LMA proposals. If an LMA successfully facilitates a needed reformatting at WBAI, other Pacifica stations might well face similar remedy in the not-too-distant future.


  1. When I saw the photo of the doofus with the sledgehammer I was reminded of film footage of People's Temple. (Is Null the Jim Jones character in this charade?)

    1. Well, there is that green and red stuff he wants people to drink. :)

  2. A few very quick points:

    The disarray would appear to be growing, which, given the previous level, is something of an achievement.

    Mr Ryan is guilty of both menacing and of carrying a deadly weapon, both of which are serious crimes – too bad no one bothered to phone 911.

    Mr Ryan also ought to be taught that a sledgehammer, while impressive for frightening very small children and leftists (arguably equivalent) and in Hollywood films, is an extremely poor choice as an actual weapon unless one’s adversary intends to lay down and be quite still – rarely the case. Its inertia is enormous, which cannot be compensated for fully my mere strength, and the most useful part of a sledgehammer as a weapon is actually the handle – still with inertial issues, and still therefore far from ideal.

    A tightly rolled copy of The New Yorker is far more effective – ‘Yes, the New Yorker’.

    ~ ‘indigopirate’

  3. Say, Chris, do you create the graphic banners on each post? They're very well done -- clever and attractive. Kudos.

    1. Yes, I do all the graphics—a throwback to my very early years in Copenhagen, where I was a commercial artist. Thanks for the compliment.

  4. I saw this photo before. I didn't know that it was Tony Roberts. Disgusting photograph. Why was he carrying it and whom was he trying to intimidate?

    1. It's Tony Ryan, the man Reimers appointed to be Chief of Operations. He is apparently known for being a management tool and rather unrefined, for want of a more apt description. When Ibrahim Gonzales brought to a staff meeting an open letter addressed to Reimers, seeking signatures from program producers (39 had already signed), the purpose was to improve the station's offerings. Ryan did not sign, he just crumpled it up and tossed it against the wall.

      I hear that weapons, including a knife, have been brought to WBAI meetings. This still id from a video that shows Ryan walking around, menacingly, as the attendees scream at each other,. To view this is to see why WBAI is going under. Here is a link to the entire video: