Tuesday, March 4, 2014
One reason why they left...
Yesterday, on a list-serv far away, someone suggested that WBAI ought to conduct a listener study to find out why their ranks have do drastically dwindled. According to a recently published survey of New York FM listenership, WBAI now has fewer people tuned in than any other station, and that includes some whose call letters will probably not be familiar to you.
"How can that be?," ask some of WBAI's fossilized fixtures, "My show has lots of listeners." Unfortunately, that can not be said of any the current offerings, even the good and decent ones, for years of amateur, self-serving crap has spoiled it for those who worked hard and with true dedication. When you delude yourself and blithely keep treading the old wheel year after year, it may be difficult to face reality, but it is no secret that there has been a gradual, massive exodus over the past few years. I'm sure there are still some who think like Bob Fass, who called in to his own show a couple of weeks ago and more or less attributed the low audience figures to wishful thinking on the part of people who want WBAI to go under.
These days, as a serious decision regarding the possibility of sale, lease,frequency swap, etc. is allegedly close to being made by the Pacifica Board, the panic level has heightened considerably. It manifests itself in different ways, depending upon the nature of the eventual loss: Last Sunday morning, we heard sincere emotion expressed by opera lover Ivan Hametz, who dutifully and without pay shows up week after week to share his passion for the music. On the other end of the spectrum, we find Gary Null, who seems to love himself more than anybody else does. He shows up every weekday and is all over the schedule during fundraising drives. His stake in WBAI is not as noble as Mr. Hanetz's, for he is there to further his own commercial business and one can tell by his threats and histrionics that the prospect of losing WBAI as a marketing venue is not something he takes lightly.
Of course, Null is but the most prominent of today's angst-ridden crew, and he does have his following—whether it outnumbers the listeners who left 99.5 in disgust over him has not been determined, but he is often cited as one of several factors.
It really boils down to an across the board lowering of standard and ethics. Null probably led the parade of quacks that are so prevalent on the program schedule, and he is no mere walk-on when it comes to WBAI's other listener-repelling blemish: fear mongering.
There is much of that inherent in his health crusade—probably more than there need be—but Mr. Null is now churning out videos as fast as he does books. These are tossed-in-the-pot, formulaic "documentaries" featuring spoken statements interlaced with bland music of the kind radio sound effects libraries used to offer. by people whose name is likely to be recognized.
Null's tabloid "journalism" is the perfect complement to the station's other fact-twisting fare—just enough truth to ignite doubts regarding the veracity of what people are hearing. If it were not for years of lowering WBAI's intellectual level, this sort of thing would have even fewer takers, but it does relatively well in terms of fundraising.
As Null crawls farther and farther out on that limb, he competes with such established WBAI fabulators as Kathy Davis and Geoff Brady. Like Null—and almost every other WBAI interviewer—there is only one point of view. they still call it "free speech radio," but they make it decidedly one-sided, by omission.
Brady's weekly program, "In Other News," is like a satirical sketch, except that it isn't. If you have ever heard Kathy Davis' show, "Heart of Mind," you know that she is out of touch with reality, a person moved by age-old vibrations, angels, and such. Brady is perhaps more gullible than anything else. His guests can make insane claims and he will not offer a hint of challenge. Put these two together with Michael Haskins and you have your finger on the pulse of the intellectually challenged. Add a guest like Brit Stuart Wilde and you have something that will make a Dali painting look like Gainsborough's little boy.
Mr. Wilde's twin sister was a pop singer and he owned a Carnaby Street bluejeans business in the days of the British Invasion. As lifestyles changed, he retooled, relocated to California, and became a jack of all trades. His music endeavors included hip hop and lyric writing; he made frequent theatrical performances, gave lectures and took a deep, apparently lucrative dive into metaphysics. He also had a sense of humor, so it may well be that he was putting everybody on, including Brady (no challenge there). He wrote a slew of self-published books, one of which mesmerized Brady and became a WBAI premium.
Mr. Wilde passed away almost a year ago, but no mention is made of that nor of the fact that this program is old enough to have been originally aired from 120 Wall St.
Here is a series of sound bites from Brady's fundraising special of yore—I kept enough of Wilde in there to give you an idea of where he was coming from and there is a taste of Brady's awe over the purple hand of Jesus. My favorite part of this clip, however, is the "profound" input from local philosopher, Ms. Davis, and how can we not appreciate Haskins going all goosepimply over the thought of "blowing love." You have to hear it for yourself. —Chris