Saturday, November 1, 2014

Unsolved puzzle

Many have tried, even more wish they could, but all have in one way or another been discouraged from cleaning up WBAI's program schedule. In recent months, we have seen a total amateur named Tony Bates handed the task--he had no clue, so he only succeeded in making the station more unlistenable before an alleged criminal incident and generously signed staff/volunteer petition hastened his departure. He was succeeded by Chris Hatzis, an Australian who actually had radio experience. He wrote a promising report indicating that he  knew what had to be done, then failed to do anything at all. Circumstances surrounding his departure are murky. Next in line was Andrew Phillips, another Australian, and the only one who did not head straight for the microphone. He had an impressive radio background, however, which  included previous stints at WBAI and another Pacifica station. It did not take long for Andrew to make his behind-the-scene presence felt on the air, so there soon came into view a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Sad to say, it also did not take long for him to be discouraged—that happened when iED Summer Reese did not see improved programming and ethical fund raising change things around overnight. She ordered the immediate return of infomercials, quacks, propagandists and fear mongers—WBAI's dumbed-down listeners (what was left of them) responded and pulled out their credit cards. Andrew was not fired, but Reese had obviously created an untenable situation, so he did what any person of integrity would do: he quit.

There followed a short period when Berthold Reimers, the $100,000.00 figurehead, took over the PD job and, as one might have expected, botched it. Taking advantage of a vacuum, Bob Hennelly invaded the morning show, which had become a source of much embarrassment in the hands of Michael Haskins, and within a week elbowed his way to the iPD job. His only real interest was to make WBAI the voice of local labor unions, which turned out not to be quite as seamless a marriage to the existing racist Mumia mumbo jumbo faction as one might have envisioned. When not on the air on the morning show, Hennelly was out there, mostly in New Jersey, selling air time to union chiefs. It was all very transparent and short-lived.

Reimers had once again stepped in and brought the station down some more (can you say "gospel show"?) when another alumnus, Mario Murillo came forward and took over the iPD job. He is on a six-month sabbatical, so the "i" is clearly to be taken literarily. So far, he has made himself a regular on that morning show (which has had as many different names as the station has marathons) and there is a discernible change in the way some things are handled. Murillo will decidedly not succeed in changing things around before he leaves, but at least he is not just sitting there.

Yesterday morning, he again pushed Haskins aside and did his thing, which has been to replace Hennelly's union focus with one on South America, but Murillo is a bit more subtle about his agenda. Here are some excerpts from yesterday morning that will give you an idea of Murillo's course. He does acknowledge that WBAI is in a deep hole, but he has not yet done any of the essential weeding. Hearing him talk on this clip, we know that the morning show will no longer be a bus driver's holiday. Expect an emphasis on South America and.... are you ready? Expect Bernard White! Notice on this fragment that Murillo is not at all pleased with the marathon extension that is taking place, suggesting that Reimers and/or Pacifica is interfering again.


  1. I think John McDonagh would make a great program director. He can give up the hack.


  2. My vote for PD is the little ball of energy himself, Jim Freund. Why? I would love to hear him do a Report To The Listener. The way he is, he'd forget there are any listeners and just keep yapping to himself for the full hour AND be more truthful than any recent management. Actually, he's been around so long, he may do a good job.

    I wonder what this Chris Albertson guy I've heard of would do these days...

    If not, as stated a while back, Chef Gordon Ramsey.

    I do know Max Schmid should be chief engineer/operations manager/whatever already, after all this time.


    1. I love that idea, SDL. I would love to see Chef Ramsay try to fix that mess. That would be entertaining. More entertaining than almost anything on WBAI now .But then, so is watching moss grow.

      Chris in NJ

    2. Jim Freund as PD is an interesting idea. but, with all those creditors pacing in front of the door, we have already seen much more than an hour of these wolves. Jim would know what to do, but we cannot expect any of the present insiders to tackle the job with the firm hand it requires.

      Chris Albertson would systematically (but swiftly) rid the station of its considerable deadweight, including shows by producer/hosts who have the skill but whose work belongs on another station. In the beginning, the vacated air time would be filled with rebroadcasts of the best programs, past and present, with a temporary sprinkling of programs produced out of house.

      The above would be preceded by meetings with all but the hopelessly clueless to find out if they can fit into a schedule that itself fits into the concept of Pacifica's founders—not one that holds up a mirror to the past but one that applies its principles and intellectual level to the present and future. Before any of this is initiated, Albertson would conduct the first in a weekly series of a live programs called "Report to the Listener," laying bare the station's current situation (obscuring no warts) and his immediate plans, soliciting ideas, support, and patience. The key word in all of this is CHANGE and an important inducement to convince people that this is more than the usual BS has to be made conspicuously on the air. This is perhaps best done through immediate removal of stale programs.

      He would also send out an appeal to serious departed (but still kicking) listeners and the hundreds of people whose past association with WBAI gave their career a boost. This would be an effort to encourage a "give back" to a station that vows to work hard in an all-out effort to earn and regain the trust and respect it once enjoyed. Gallery exhibits, film evenings, boat rides and salsa evenings are wonderful and ought not be discontinued, but the funds raised from such functions is petty money—WBAI needs and has the capacity to stage major fundraising events. Albertson would not abandon the marathons altogether (after all, he practically invented them a half century ago), but he would institute seamless, year-round solicitation of affordable membership and only resort to a marathon if an emergency calls for it. That marathon will have no products disguised as "gifts" and designed solely to pry open wallets, just the listener's strong desire to keep WBAI and its nourishing programs available. Should it again get to a point where only endless infomercials can pay the bills, the listener-sponsored concept must be declared a failure and the station sold or leased to the most socially conscious bidder.

      Chef Ramsay does indeed know how to get rid of the bugs and fire the incompetent. I'm sure he could also turn a lowly burger joint into a ritzy gourmand's hangout, but can he prepare a grid becoming the demanding ear?

      Max Schmid may well be the most professional member of WBAI's staff. He also grasps the concept and truly deserves a place at the top.

      That said, welcome to the blog, namesake from NJ.