Monday, October 6, 2014

The Fall Fundraiser... is it aptly named?


Last week, in a cameo appearance on the morning show, Berthold Reimers, the little GM who never could, mentioned that there were still 3,900 premiums from past fundraisers that have not been delivered to the listeners who paid for them.

That is, of course, outrageous and probably criminal. Now, without having caught up on this delinquency, a new month-long fundraiser is disrupting WBAI's program schedule. This morning at 7, when the latest beg fest was kicked off, Michael Haskins declared himself "very excited," and began his usual recitation of station IDs and trite false claims regarding WBAI's alleged importance. The news glimpse wasted time on a "commencement address" to 20 Goddard College  graduates, delivered by the convicted murderer Wesley Cook, who calls himself "Mumia Abu-Jamal". Cook graduated from Goddard via correspondence while serving a life sentence in Philadelphia. All this is the stuff failure is made of at WBAI.

In the hour that followed, I heard Amy Goodman offer her $2000 dinner with guilt-free coffee. Then there was Cornell West going overboard with his rhetoric and theatrics, and that horrid West Coast woman, Margaret Prescod, somehow concluding that buying a documentary on Haiti is going to help that country's people. It's all a part of the BS that dominates this once remarkable radio station.

Would you send them money? Would you pay for products that have been fraudulently hawked by people whose main or only interest in keeping WBAI on the air is entirely self-serving? Would you pay a shamelessly hiked-up price for a product that is more readily available as a gratis download or a considerably less expensive item with guaranteed swift delivery by Amazon?

Do you worry about the money not being there to pay Berthold Reimers' $100,000.00 salary? 

Do you wonder why WBAI has lost the overwhelming majority of its listener-supporters? Do you wonder why stars who once went out of their way to help the station no longer care? Do you wonder why the once-supportive mainstream media has lost interest? Do you wonder why WBAI is operated by incompetent amateurs and its microphones (when they work) hogged by the same old stagnant opportunists decade after decade?

Aren't' you the least bit curious to find out what's going on?

Well, I am. I would love to know how Kathy Davis' phony spiritualism, Geoff Brady's reptilian warnings, Mumia's drivel, Hopper and Anderson's record promotions, Bob Fass' incoherent battle with Mr. Microphone, and all that pedestrian pop music that the likes of Ifé and Tony Ryan waste air time on is going to help the people of Haiti, oppressed Palestinians, America's poor and others who don't have a "show" on WBAI.

I would also like someone to tell me about the petrified Pacifica Foundation, the one whose raison d'être becomes blurrier by the day.

Do you have questions? Answers? 

16 comments:

  1. I have no answers, except that your criticism of Kathy Davis is wrong. Kathy is a kind, loving and forgiving person. She has withstood a large amount of fecal matter thrown @ her from you and other WBAI staff and she has emerged strong. She was immensely supportive of producers and prevented them from being dismissed as long as she could until she lost her job. Contrary to what the alien Andrew Phillips said, she belongs on WBAI as long as she wants. You have proven the rule that if you are under 8 and over 80, you can said anything you want, even if it is lies like you tell every day!!

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    1. If Kathy is so wonderful, why do you feel a need to hide your identity when you lay it on thick for her.

      I have another question now: Why did such a wonderful, "kind, loving and forgiving" person make strenuous efforts to sell a bogus cancer cure to WBAI listeners? I have other questions, but I think that one ought to suffice... for now, at least.

      Awaiting your objective answer.

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    2. What Davis is in her personal life is of no importance, nor a requirement, to having a radio show. The fact is she wastes WBAI’s airwaves on New Age hocus pocus nonsense. In the past she has hawked mystical water that, from what I understand, was even too much bullshit for the scumbags in WBAI management. The only fecal matter regarding Davis is Davis herself.

      Anyway, I switched on WBAI a few times during the day to see if it was doing the non-New Age and snake oil premiums pledge drive as planned. So far, at least WBAI is doing things in an old style manner, from what I heard. Murillo is taking a gamble, and time will tell if he's right.

      The telling thing here will not be the pledge amounts for the first or second day, but the amounts on the days after that. Will the stream stay steady, providing it even starts well? WBAI will have to pull money from a lot of people who normally want their pseudoscientific powders and assorted junk, or, at least, the promise of receiving them.

      "Do you wonder why WBAI is operated by incompetent amateurs and its microphones (when they work) hogged by the same old stagnant opportunists decade after decade?" It's called elitism. The left, contrary to its propaganda, is all about elitism. A long time ago I had an idea about making several hours per week “listener time.” Listeners would write in and have their names put into a hat (or bag, box, bucket) and pulled at random to do a one hour show, one time only, any topic of interest to them. That would be the truest community radio. In fact, you’d probably hear stuff about things going down in neighborhoods you’d never otherwise hear.

      Well, I had the radio on and Forlano came on. Holy smokes! She has not only NOT improved but gotten worse. Her opening attempt to beg for money went by in moments (sounding totally lost), and her jokes were beyond bad. She may be better suited for the old Gong Show, as a replacement for The Unknown Comedian (Murray Langston). I turned it off within 5 minutes.

      As I have said before. If I am spending $2,000 on a woman, it sure as hell isn’t going to be Amy Goodman…

      Do I worry? No, I laugh at WBAI.

      SDL

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  2. What I wonder is how WBAI's listener support was still $10.8 million as you reported a few days ago. Yes, that's down from 13.6 million in 2006, but it's still a lot of listener support considering the quality of the programming. Do these supporters actually listen to the station? Are they somehow unaware of what's going on behind the scenes, and what their donations are really paying for?

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    1. I have learned to not trust any figures published by WBAI under its current "management," ditto Pacifica, actually.

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    2. You're mixed up. Those figures are for Pacifica, not just WBAI. If WBAI had that kind of revenue, it would be dancing down easy street.

      And, not to be redundant, but I don't think a lot of contributers listen to more than Gary Null and his ilk. The crowd I call the silent New Age crowd. That bunch like the snake oil premiums. It will be hard to get them to cough up money just to support WBAI without getting their miracle powder. That crowd normally provides probably 30% - 40% of the total contributions during a pledge drive. Do they know about WBAI's intrigues? Probably nothing beyond what Null tells them, if they even care. Buena suerte Mario!

      Anyway, I am eagerly awaiting the daily tallies.

      SDL

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  3. WBAI used to be relevant maybe when radio in general was more relevant, not sure. Also, not sure if the other Pacifica stations are having the same problem and all the stations that "ask" for money (WBGO, WNYC, WPKN) or it is isolated to WBAI or only because the money needed is so great and the pressure seems to be constantly on the program hosts and the listeners to cough up the bucks. If I were in charge, I would have NOT located downtown at such a pricey address. It would have more sense to buy a house and renovate it or else a long-term, lower-rent proposal in a building in Brooklyn or uptown where buildings are plentiful and rent is more reasonable and where WBAI purports to represent the common people, places like Inwood or Harlem or Washington Heights or whatever. Operate the place on a shoestring like you have to do NOW. There should have been belt-tightening and austerity now before it came to this. There are lessons to be learned here and someone with their head in the sand doesn't see it. How about living frugally for the lean years (or did no one perceive this was coming) Put money away a la Apple Computer for a rainy day. Also, like most stations (except the NPR stations) but like college stations and WPKN: Make the GM the only person who gets paid a salary and the chief engineer gets a whole salary or half-salary and make it reasonable. Why should Bert Reimers get $100,000 a year when most general managers at successful commercial stations don't make that much or their salary is tied to productivity or billing?
    Make it totally incentive-laden, like baseball teams do with baseball players. WBAI has neither the money nor the
    listenership (or potential pledges) to do anything else. I would love to contribute my time to WBAI but it seems like such a cesspool of disorganization, dysfunction and egos that nothing gets accomplished and everyone has their own ax to grind, their own agenda and maybe being on the inside, no one can see what is so obvious to the rest of us. The shows I happen to hear are okay but occasionally I hear something that sounds so amateurish, like high school radio, it is laughable. For instance, the Artsy Fartsy show sounded like someone's audition tape and any major market commercial station would have simply deleted it. When I listened, it was a show from 2011 that was reviewing "current" movies and no mention was made prior to the beginning of the show (or else I missed it) that the thing was four years old, an eternity in radio, especially for something topical like this show. I remember years ago that WBAI, in order to go against the grain and be counter-culture, never started their shows on time and nothing ended on time, but it made it difficult to schedule or predict anything. Maybe WBAI needs to be run more like a mature station, it needs to grow up and needs to take a cue from the other stations that
    are listener-sponsored and also maybe the "professional" stations. Sadly, it might be too late. WBAI has been on the air for almost 60 years and it has a proud tradition but not sure if it can regain its lost luster. I am hoping this ends well, but it might not. Good luck, WBAI. Glad to see the snake-oil salesman Gary Null is gone. These are welcome first steps.

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    1. WBAI's "success" was always relative. Its controversial nature and radically different approach to broadcasting put it in a category that was unique in a market that competed for advertising dollars and ratings-generated audiences. In 1960, when WBAI became Pacifica-owned, there were no commercial-free stations other than WNYC, which was owned by the city and had been on the air since the mid-Twenties (Giuliani sold it to a public broadcasting foundation in 1995). So WBAI was also the sole listener-sponsored station. Annual membership was under fifteen dollars, the reward being an eclectic schedule of great, intellectually rewarding programs and a subscription to the Folio, which contained a listing and descriptions of the on-air offerings. Even when we came up with the fundraising marathon idea (which was a first in the country and, perhaps, anywhere) the "product" was WBAI itself, the concept of free speech, diversity, intellectual stimulation, and honesty. So you can see that the stations you mentioned have taken their cue from WBAI. Are they in the same dire straits? Not really, but although foolish spending and amateur management has caused many of the station's problems, a major factor is the flawed programming created by stagnant host/producers who have axes to grind, agendas to pursue, and egos to pamper. In other words, WBAI remains unique, but no longer in a positive way. It has lost most of its listeners and respect, in general. A few years back, the thought of WBAI going off the air would have caused widespread concern, not just from listeners, but also from people who recognized its value as a standard bearer. It would have inspired media support, such as editorials pointing out its significance, but that is no longer the case. The only people who give a damn are the choir to which it preaches and the opportunists whose personal needs (material or otherwise) it serves.

      Your sad assessment of the current WBAI is, regrettably, on the money, as it were. I think it is too late for a recovery. BTW, unless you have inside information that has not yet reached me, I believe Gary Null is still there, doing his thing. He brings in money when those endless marathons dominate, but his presence and slick, hypocritical presentations are not doing anything to heighten WBAI's reputation.

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    2. Good and interesting observations from both of you here. I always enjoy reading things like this.

      First, I think a great example of a self-sustaining commercial free radio station is WFMU. They hold an annual pledge drive of two weeks duration and have their annual record convention, which is the biggest and best in the entire area. They have about a $2 million budget per year and meet it without problems. WBAI can only dream of making one tenth of that in two weeks!

      I don't think putting WBAI's transmitter in the Empire State Building was a bad idea back when they were able to afford it (1966?), at a cheaper rent. In fact, the high elevation allowed WBAI to reach many areas it wouldn't have otherwise. Remember that we are talking about the pre-World Wide Web days here.

      There were many people in suburbs that were able to pick up WBAI and not feel so isolated because of the ESB originated signal. I know how many now older homosexual men and women have said how WBAI helped them get through things. Without the ESB, they would not have been able to hear it.

      At one point WBAI did own "The Church" as their headquarters. However, it was sold off in the late 1970s, for reasons I am not sure about. I think anyone who is still at WBAI from those years still decries it as a horrible decision. Considering what that property is now worth, it was an amazingly bad decision.

      WBAI is now an insulated little playground for politicos who are totally out of touch with any sense of reality to play politics in their own little world. Why does WBAI suck? Because it has become all about cronyism and whom you know, and not intelligence or talent. If anyone comes in and tries to change that little playground, they get thrown out with plenty of vitriol behind them.

      There are definitely people getting salaries at WBAI simply for whom they know and not for having positions that produce anything that justify their salaries. There are a few positions that are too time consuming to permit a person to earn a living while holding a position, like general manager, program director or chief engineer, but they are few.

      SDL

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    3. The sale of The Church was actually quite straightforward:

      It’s helpful to bear in mind as a matter of context that immediately preceding the decision to sell The Church Percy Sutton and his people were very actively on the make as a New York political machine and controlled the local board. This led, first, to the attempt to fold WBAI into Inner City Broadcasting. When that attempt failed the decision to sell The Church followed in very short order.

      The public records reflect clearly that as the sale was made, the original note retired, and a series of short-term loans were put in place, restructured, and retired, monies were siphoned off, presumably to Sutton’s political cronies and apparatus.

      Mystery Solved.

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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    4. I remember when John Stanley (remember the British guy who was the Bob Fass fanatic?) would call up WBAI to discuss WBAI internal politics, he would mention Inner City Broadcasting and Percy Sutton's brother(?). Sadly, that stuff was beyond my teenager knowledge of the station's history at the time.

      SDL

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  4. How about this: Steve Post, Marnie Mueller, Pepsi Charles, Micki Waldman, Bill Kortum, Dick Demenus, Richard Harris,
    Frank Heller....These are people I think about when I think of the glory days of WBAI. There are still some originals left, but not many

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    1. The era you allude to was definitely many scores above the present fossil, but I believe there were other periods that either equalled or exceeded that time in the station's history. It has never before hit a bottom that is deeper than the one it has been brought to in the past decade. Yes, a handful of good people remain, but they work under stress and often at hours when even fewer people listen. WBAI is a much abused radio station.

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  5. http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2014/10/community-stations-fire-your.html has some good comments.
    Meanwhile, KPFA's Dennis Bernstein is going after management and staff because cuts in his Flashpoints show budget have been proposed. Flashpoints is KPFA's most expensive show based on a per hour cost. Dennis has already cost Pacifica about a half million dollars in sexual harassment lawsuits. A few years ago KPFA adjusted expenses by cutting staff hours. Shows were given so many staff hours to cut. Almost all shows doled out the cuts proportionally to staff. For example if Show X had 4 staff with 120 total hours and hours were cut to 90, then each person was cut 25%. Except with Flashpoints Dennis decided to cut one person (female, natch) entirely, and then went on the air wailing that management had cut the female staffer. Natch, Dennis made no mention that he didn't take any cuts for him or his male buddies.

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  6. Yes, sexism has been a big problem at KPFA for a long, long time. Why is it that men on the left can be worse than any other kind? The new management appears to be better, so far at least, appointing a woman to the program director position.

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  7. That's not what happened at KPFA, Anonymous. In 2009, when KPFA was running a $585,000 deficit a la WBAI but with no help from the Empire State Building, hourly reductions were made in some staffing positions. No paid programmer lost more than 4 hours weekly, except at Flashpoints where Nora Barrows Friedman, the co-host, received a 50% cut in her hours from 40 to 20, Totally disproportionate. Same as now where there are no cuts at all to any paid programmer's hours (and there are more than twenty of them) unless they are associated with the Flashpoints program. And several new hires. Salaries and benefits overall are projected to *rise* in 2015 by six figures. It's targeted retaliation, not budgeting. And unfortunately against one of the stronger shows on KPFA. It's because of people like Anonymous who is a staffer nursing grudges. The former Flashpoints co-host (before the one whose hours got cut in half and who quit in disgust. She's now a published author after doing quite well with Al-Jazeera English) sued KPFA due to the actions of former GM Jim Bennett, who fired her, essentially for complaining about work conditions. She had a lot of issues with Bernstein, but the reason for the lawsuit was that she was fired for complaining. As long as Pacifica keeps firing people for petty retaliatory motivations, it's going to keep paying out settlements it can't afford. Flashpoints easily makes $250K+ for KPFA annually and has since 1992.

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