Friday, February 28, 2014

BAI? Pry it from my cold dead hands...


"Hello, everyone..." In case you missed the February 27th Gary Null Show, or its encore this morning, you might be interested in hearing the following excerpt.

Although the were in separate studios, picture Mr. Haskins seated on the knee of his pupeteer du jour, his facial expressions morphing from awe to bewilderment as he mutters his echoes. At one point Haskins admits to not "getting it," but listens carefully to Null's words and you might conclude that—valid points notwithstanding—neither does he.

What do you think?



BTW - The bad cut in the intro is not mine.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stephen Brown defends Gary Null


I am not quite sure what their association is based upon, but Stephen M. Brown and Gary Null seem to be joined at the hip. Both are shrewd and successful marketeers, and both have a more than casual interest in WBAI. Mr. Brown has served as a member of the dysfunctional WBAI LSB and Null, as we all know is the man whose persuasive rhetoric, books, DVDs and long line of products give him generous access to the station's microphone, and brings in money as it limps from cheque to cheque.

Mr. Null has devoted followers as well as detractors, many of whom have become more vocal recently, as the station becomes increasingly dependent on Null for its existence. Mr. Brown, who had advocated that Pacifica sell all its stations, is thought by many to be maneuvering for a takeover that would include Null. Both men are said to be multi-millionaires with solid "connections." 

As you may know, I regard the intimate tie between Null and WBAI/Pacifica to be unhealthy (pun intended) and have expressed my opinions here and elsewhere for the past couple of years. I had not had a response from either gentleman—nor did I ever seek one—but yesterday there was a lengthy post on Nalini's PacificaRadiowaves list from a defensive Steve Brown, addressed to me and Kevin White, another outspoken Null critic.

Kevin will probably have his own response, but here is my post as it appeared on PacificaRadiowaves early this morning. 

Stephen M. Brown wrote:
Setting aside loaded words such as “ilk” – your use of which is a favorite tactic of dishonest debaters who seek to prejudice their audiences in the absence of a real argument – you have turned common sense on its head. Gary Null’s show is far and away the most popular show ever aired on WBAI. Its audience is the largest in WBAI history (more than 50% of all tune-ins), and has been the largest for all of Gary Null’s 37 years on the station.

I replied:
Listening to Gary Null on WBAI’s air is the best argument for what I am saying. I do not doubt its popularity, but neither do I see that as a measure of its suitability on a Pacifica station, nor—for that matter—as a mark of quality.

So if you say that WBAI’s management lacks integrity and intelligence for putting Gary Null on the air, then you are also saying that WBAI’s listeners lack integrity and intelligence for listening to him, and for regarding his show as the most interesting and empowering on the station.

That is precicely what I am saying, “integrity and intelligence” referring to management’s grasp of (or willingness to abide by) the principles set forth in Pacifica’s original mission statement. And, yes, I am also suggesting that years of pedestrian, doctrinaire programming—stagnant banalities—has gradually replaced an audience that sought intellectual stimulation and cultural awareness with one whose needs are less demanding. In short, a steady diet of self-serving, bland blather, myopia and empty rhetoric has changed the demographic of WBAI’s listenership to one of low expectations.

A sprinkling of good radio continues to act as reminders of the station that once was, but most of the hold-outs—listeners who continued their support—have now joined the mass exodus.  Listeners used to support WBAI because it offered them an eclectic choice of programs from which much knowledge and enjoyment could be derived. Their intellect was nourished rather than insulted. 

Intelligence is insulted every day on WBAI, whether it is through outrageous, baseless claims made in the field of health by self-appointed “authorities,” stories of "homeless angels” escorting gay couples down the street, reptilians from outer space stealing innocent people’s auras, or just convenient remolding of fact. You may think otherwise, but I see such dishonesty as reflecting a disrespect for the listener. 

That the audience, even a majority of it, regards Gary Null’s show as “the most interesting and empowering on the station” is not disputed by me, but I do see it as a sad group portrait of what the WBAI audience has become. As I pointed out (and you mocked), Mr. Null’s program would not have made it to WBAI's air in the days when we strove to fulfill Lew Hill’s mission and provide an incisive alternative to what the rest of the dial had to offer. Content over popularity, if you will. In the latter category, we find the likes of Aimee Semple McPherson, Limbaugh, Tammy Fay and Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, or Justin Beiber. Allvery popular in their time, and with proven ability to generate income, but would you feel comfortable hearing them at do their thing on WBAI?

Oh, I forgot. You also claimed that putting Gary Null on the air not only showed that WBAI management lacked integrity and intelligence, but also lacked “respect for its audience.” Funny that you should say that, because I remember reading -- in one of  your own blogs -- that (and I paraphrase from memory): “The greatest respect a radio station can show to its listeners ... is to listen to what they want.” Isn’t that why WBAI management has been airing Gary Null for the last 37 years?

I was talking about the need to reinstate the regular airing of a live "Report to the Listener,” which I—as WBAI’s manager—found to be essential in our efforts to maintain a dialogue with our listener-sponsors. It gave me and program producers a valuable opportunity to listen to the people for whom we kept the station going. Their program suggestions and criticisms were excellent guidelines as we evolved. We also read all incoming listener mail, often on the air.  These weekly reports also served well to keep listeners informed of our activities and plans.

Once again, Chris, your allegation, like a rant from Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, is empty of evidence, but full of snide and prejudicial insults, such as “cunning opportunist.” Perhaps you are right -- maybe Gary Null really is a “cunning opportunist.” But the only way you can prove that allegation is to read his mind. Can you read Gary Null’s mind? No? Then let’s look at your allegations that are at least possible to prove – for example, that Gary Null delivers “lies.”

I do, indeed, see Gary Null as a cunning opportunist with an often blatant disregard for the facts. If it is true that he has issued the pharmaceutical industry, Act Up!, the AMA, etc. an open invitation to join him in broadcast debates, I am not surprised to hear that the response has been negative—Mr. Null’s intentions may well be regarded with skepticism.  He is, after all, a cunning entrepreneur.

As for his opportunism, it does not take an industry pro or any special cleverness to see that WBAI affords Gary Null advertising of incalculable value. He may not make any money directly when his products are sold by the station, but you, as a marketer know the purpose and value of giving out free samples. I have never looked inside a shipment of Null premiums, but I would be very surprised if each box did not contain at least one offer for replenishment and/or another “life-giving” Null product. It is common practice and I’m sure one batch of green or red stuff leads to another and that even “Heavenly” shampoo does not last for life.

When I pointed out that Gary Null, after his most recent return to WBAI’s air, attributed a further drop in listenership to his absence, your response was:

You write, Chris, as if these things were not measurable, or as if you think that no one will notice that your statements have no basis in reality. Gary Null has been raising 33% to 50% of all WBAI fund-drive revenue for the last 37 years (up to 75% for the last 3 years), according to the station’s own records. He has also been raising a similar percentage of KPFK fund-drive revenue (at least during the last two years, for which I have seen the station records). When Gary Null went off WBAI’s air for 7 days, a few weeks ago (he is now back), not only did WBAI’s fund-drive revenue plunge dramatically, but so did its listenership, as clearly evidenced by the sudden upward spike in the number of listeners who immediately began tuning into Gary Null’s show on his Progressive Radio Network (PRN), both online and by phone. (These online and phone call-in results are precisely measurable. And to nail the point: Gary Null’s PRN phone listeners alone now exceed 60,000 listeners per day in the US and 123 counties throughout the world.
  

Let me first remind you that WBAI’s listenership has been in steady decline for the past few years and there is no way of measuring it from one week to the next. One thing we have to bear in mind is the aforementioned change (I call it dumbing down) in audience makeup. What we have today is a listenership whose size is determined more by the products offered than by the scheduled daily programs. These tend to be shoppers rather than people seeking intellectual enlightenment. They come to the station to purchase items that are presented to them in infomercials, and when the sales stop, they generally don’t hang around. As a listener-sponsored station, WBAI cannot expect to subsist on that basis, which is why fundraising marathons dominate the annual schedule. When the programming was substantive and ever fresh, one fundraising marathon a year was sufficient—it usually lasted less the two weeks and offered only the station itself as an incentive. We did not profess to have power to cure cancer, autism or other diseases, but we tried our best to combat ignorance with enlightenment.

If Gary Null has as many listeners on the phone as you claim, and if he is as concerned about WBAI as you say he is, please explain why he hasn’t used his obvious influence on the station’s management to eliminate the obvious quacks and fearmongers? Could it be because he is one of them? He becomes incensed (and rightly so) when the station fails to ship his products to the purchaser, but WBAI’s management does not hear a raised voice from him when they sell theirsustaining memberships in raffle style yet neither deliver nor acquire the prize objects—that is another form of fraud that Mr. Null apparently is not bothered by As you must know,  I am by no means alone in my negative assessment of Gary Null as a smooth operator who justifies his abuse of the station by being very good at raising money. I’ll grant you that he is that, but I ask you to look at the station today… it is paying the price, and so are we who are concerned over its 
fate.

Nobody is waiting in the wings, ready to mount a white steed and set things straight—the loyal listeners have made the most powerful statement by tuningout. Some of us have tried to prevent the now inevitable not so dignified death of WBAI as a significant component of a noble concept. This has never been an attack on Gary Null alone, but he is a dominant factor and he has set the tone and charted the path leading to the dead end ahead. One might say that we who dared to find fault with the so-called “new” Pacifica came too late and found the infestation to be too advanced. 

Chris Albertson

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


If you come here often, I hope you spend some time reading the comments left by other habitués. Brooser Bear, for example, has taken a close look at Facebook and how WBAI people make use of it. I think his findings are quite interesting, He posted them as a comment, but here is a direct link. Let us know what you think.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blosdale's mystery blond benefactor and Null's Fascism...


They have just posted some tallies to the WBAI website. As expected, the return of Null, reimportation of Christine Blosdale, and questionable premiums has yielded considerably higher figures, but it also raises some questions.

First, the totals:

February 13 - 17
Total in pledges: $32,520

February 18 - 22
Total in pledges: $114, 450

That adds up to $146.970

Which leaves $297,335 to be raised before meeting the goal.

At this rate, and operating from a nadir of morality, they ought to be able to cover currently outstanding bills, but then it starts all over again, and there are limits...

My 2 questions:


1. Since his return, Gary Null seems to have discovered Fascism in America and either filmed it, written about it, or both. Whatever it is, he is good at selling it to WBAI's gullible. The tallies show a total of $14,800 raised under the name of Fascism Inc.


I guess that's a wholly owned subsidiary of Null enterprises, so I think we ought to be told how much money he makes on this deal. He did not kiss Null's behind out of any love for WBAI, everything he does on its air is for his own benefit, you can be sure of that.

2. A whopping $19,800 is attributed to Monique Guild consultation.

I have not heard those commercials, but I did a quick Google and came up with a smiling blond whose FaceBook blog is as disorganized and silly as a Pacifica meeting.

WBAI's savior?
She only boasts 181 "likes," so she obviously isn't registering all that well, but there is something in there about her having been interviewed by Christine Blosdale at KPFK. Hmmmm.

From her blog, I gather that Ms. Guild is a "Futurist, Business Intuitive, and Wealth Builder." I assume that she is selling consultations, which is not an uncommon ploy for opportunists who use WBAI for their own interest.

Here is a link to Monique Guild's blog. Tell us what you think is going on.

Reimers fantasizes...

The following appears on WBAI's website under the heading: WBAI's Station Manager Delivers Letter to Listeners. Notice that he only mentions two Program Directors (there were actually three) and that he refers the jettisoning of a 60-year model. One wonders what he is talking about here, but the main thing to notice is that Berthold Reimers still lives in a world of his own, one shared only by a handful of his coterie.

 Brooklyn, New York 02/21/2014 by Berthold Reimers (WBAI)


Berthold Reimers, Station Manager for listener-sponsored, non-commercial WBAI, Progressive Pacifica Radio in NY.
Over the past sixteen months, the WBAI community has had more than its fair share of turmoil: one hurricane, two temporary studios, one temporary office, three moves, nineteen layoffs and two program directors. All of this tumult has been disconcerting, even scary. You can hear the gloom in the voices of some of our producers. Naysayers abound, but there are also many dedicated people working hard to solve longstanding problems, and we are on track to make a dramatic recovery.

BAI BUDDIES
The Buddy program-has been wonderful for WBAI. When listeners automatically give us a certain amount each month, we have at least one predictable income stream. This is precious, financially and as encouragement to everyone who works at the station. I want to thank all of you who have signed up and make sure you know how important you are. Some BAI Buddies have not yet received their cards and tote-bags. There is no excuse for this (other than the fact that we don't have the staff to do it). I promise that you will receive them by the end of February.

GARY NULL
Gary Null is back on the air at his usual time from noon to 1, Monday through Friday. His two-week absence was extremely unfortunate, but Gary's loyal listeners can be assured that his popular program will continue to be broadcast on our airwaves. Archives for his show are here.

FUNDRAISING
We tried a new approach, "the program is the premium," but it was unsuccessful. This concept does not work for most public radio stations, and it did not work for us. We basically jettisoned overnight the model that had kept us going for 60 years. Of course we all want to get away from WBAI's undue reliance on premiums. 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. This plan includes a carefully timed transition, steadily reducing on-air fund-drives as the new revenue sources emerge and stabilize. In the process of transitioning to new revenue streams, we will need to experiment, and the recent effort did provide some lessons learned. But the tuition for those lessons was exorbitant: The first two weeks of February set us back a quarter of a million dollars (we usually raise at least $18,000 a day), and we are now in crisis mode. Bills are overdue. Payroll is looming.

THE FINANCIAL SITUATION
While the situation is extremely precarious, it is nowhere near as grim as it was a year ago or even six months ago. Don't forget that last February we were still reeling from Superstorm Sandy: we owed $250,000 on the transmitter and another $150,000 for office rent. Month after month WBAI depended on Pacifica to help with payroll and other expenses (which is one reason why Pacifica no longer has any cash reserves with which to help us or any of the other stations in the network). We had no choice but to slash costs: we moved to Brooklyn and laid off three-quarters of the staff. The situation only started to turn around in October, when we had a very successful fund-drive that generated nearly $850,000, almost $200,000 more than the $650,000 target. Most of the extra revenue went to pay back debts to Pacifica and Silverstein Properties (we made our final rent payment for our former offices), as well as to purchase more premiums. And, although we had to add a few days, our December fund-drive also exceeded its target. Because we have drastically cut costs and enjoyed two successful fund-drives, the Pacifica National Board voted earlier this month to give WBAI two more months before considering any of the LMAs (proposals to give up control of our programing through leasing arrangements). We have sixty days to prove to Pacifica that we can be financially self-sufficient. With a successful fund-drive this month, we can continue to break even over the next quarter. Of course, we have to do better than break even, but our current and very realistic goal is to cover our monthly expenses, raise about $35,000 to build a studio at our Brooklyn location, and organize a big fundraiser to pay the severance we owe our laid-off employees.

PREMIUMS
Too many listeners have still not received their premiums, but there are a lot fewer than there were two months ago. Volunteers have been churning them out as fast as they can. How did we get so far behind, you might ask. After the hurricane we worked out of temporary offices for seven months with our equipment, supplies and premiums scattered in various storage units around the city, not sure where we would be month-to-month. But we dug ourselves out of that hole and by mid-summer moved to Brooklyn. Then, just as we were looking forward to settling down and catching up, WHAM, we had to lay off nineteen employees including most of the administrative staff. Since then, other than the brief stints with the two programming directors, we have had only TWO (including me) paid employees working full-time at the office. No regular company could lay off most of its staff and survive, but at WBAI, interns and volunteers have picked up the slack. As General Manager, premiums were my responsibility, but I could not figure out a way to do my job, the jobs of all the people who were laid off AND recruit and organize volunteers to get out the premiums. I just couldn't do it. As a result, we have a backlog of e-mail and voice messages from people upset about not receiving their premiums. WBAI is very fortunate to have top-notch interns and volunteers. For three months now, they have been coming every Sunday to help pack and ship premiums. But this is still not enough. So beginning next week, we are going into full-time Listener-Service Mode. Starting Monday, our Brooklyn office will be set up to accommodate at least eight volunteers at a time. We will contact every listener who has had a premium problem and resolve it. We will call every WBAI Buddy. Our goal is to fix all of these problems by the first day of spring on March 20. We are determined to regain the trust of our listeners. By the way, if you have a premium problem, you can contact us via email or phone. We prefer emails so that we can look up your record before calling you back, but you are also welcome to call. The email address is premiums@wbai.org. The phone number dedicated to premiums is (347) 529-6664.

VOLUNTEERS
The crisis at WBAI has had a wonderful consequence: we are creating a real community among the listeners who volunteer regularly. Imagine that! You can help WBAI get out premiums and make genuine new friends at the same time. If you have time, send a message with your contact information to: volunteers@wbai.org. It's time to turn all this theory into practice. Besides, working and talking with other listeners can be interesting and fun.

TAX FORMS
This is yet another problem for which I must ask your understanding. You need this document to get credit for your generous donations and file your tax returns, and we will get it to you by February 26.

FINALLY
The gloom-and-doom crowd-those who claim that any optimism is just wishful thinking-do not know what is really going on. Yes, we still have many problems, but there is also a solid basis for hope. We could not have survived all the turmoil without our dedicated staff, producers and volunteers. But, most of all, it is you listeners who have inspired us to carry on despite all the obstacles and naysayers. I am deeply grateful to you, especially to the many people who contacted us this year to wish us well when the situation was most treacherous. Your encouragement was essential. The last two weeks were especially rough, and we need to catch up quickly. But we can do it. Breaking even for two consecutive quarters will give us all renewed hope and confidence. Our foundation is much stronger, but our position is still precarious. Give us another chance, and we will put the community back in community radio. Once we have stabilized our finances and built our studio in Brooklyn, we will have consolidated operations in one affordable place. That will made a huge difference. We are already exploring options for the popular call-in shows, as well as innovative ways to cover local news. And we want your input. Sometime soon you will be receiving with the newsletter a survey asking for your opinions about all of this. 

Thanks very much, 
Berthold Reimers

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Null: Uncle Sam is killing WBAI!



Let me preface this by pointing out that there was a time when I suspected the government of attempting to discredit WBAI. The year was 1967, the news was dominated by the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement, two polarizing events in our country's history, both of which generated major public clashes and outrage. WBAI, then a Pacifica station in the original sense, was deeply involved in coverage that often was at odds with that of the mainstream media.

For several months, Dale Minor submitted extraordinary reportage from Vietnam. often painting a picture that starkly contrasted the glimpses presented by wire services and the mainstream press. Before he traveled to Saigon, Dale had experienced tumultuous times in the South of our own country, reporting alongside Chris Koch on that violent struggle. Archived Pacifica programs like "The Battle of Danang" and the series, "This Little Light," are among the highlights that represent WBAI's past as a producer of exemplary radio documentaries.

Such memorable work as WBAI's News and Public Affairs Department produced during the station's early Pacifica years, enhanced the station's image as an independent voice in what FCC Chairman Minnow described as a "vast wasteland." It also belied any notion of the station having become an object of government infiltration, but events later occurred that raised doubt in my mind.

At the time when Chris Koch's Paris vacation turned out to have been a news-gathering trip to Hanoi, I was taken by surprise, but it did not occur to me to question why he chose to spent a holiday without his family. 

Soon after his return, as the second in his new series of Hanoi reportages was about to air, Chris surprised me again, this time by falsely accusing the station of "suppressing" his program, and me of having censored it. It was a rather clumsy setup on his part, but it does not take much to stir up sensibilities at a station so deeply running on ideology. I will not go into details of this incident now, for it would take many pages to do so. I am, however, always prepared to answer any questions put to me on this matter.

Briefly, let me say that Chris Koch resigned, publicly painting himself as a victim of censorship. He knew better, of course, but when NY Board Chairman Harold Taylor and I spent the good part of an evening trying to dissuade him, Chris told us that he "was going to resign, anyway," because he had other career plans. The next thing we knew, he was lecturing on his Hanoi experience and hinting that he had been a victim of censorship at WBAI. It was quite extraordinary and confusing. Why, one had to wonder, was this dedicated Pacifica veteran out to destroy WBAI?

Not surprisingly, a group of devoted listeners saw through this and formed a committee to "save" the station. One thing they dug up on Chris Koch was that he had been a U.S. student delegate to a Helsinki peace conference at which—according to the NY Times—all the official American attendees were recruited by the CIA.

When I mentioned the strange possibility that the CIA might be behind a willful attempt to smear WBAI's image, my friend, Nat Hentoff, wrote in the Village Voice that I knew a lot about jazz, but that I was "apolitical" and should know that the CIA did not get involved in domestic matters. He was, of course, wrong on that point, but I had only thrown it out there as one possibility. The fact was that Chris Koch was deliberately blemishing WBAI's image, and it just didn't make sense. It still doesn't, nor does the seemingly impulsive hiring, by Hallock Hoffman, of a totally inexperienced out-of-towner, Frank Millspaugh. At Hallock's request, I had set up a screening procedure that yielded three highly qualified candidates to replace me. Delighted, and impressed by their backgrounds (one came with glowing recommendation from his previous boss, Norman Cousins), Hallock asked me to set up appointments for him to conduct the final interviews. Imagine my puzzlement when he arrived and told me to cancel the appointments, because the position had already been filled! I spent a month trying to teach Frank the ropes, but he seemed disinterested. I later found out that he had been recommended to Hallock by Chris Koch (who purportedly was now persona non grata at Pacifica); that he and Chris had been co-delegates in Helsinki, and that he was a fairly heavy mescaline user. The plot thickened...but wait! There was one other thing that didn't make sense: Dale Minor introduced censorship to WBAI and the Board refused to hear complaints from the affected producers (including Barbara Dane).

I am still not afflicted with paranoia, but I sure wish someone could dig up these old WBAI mysteries, and solve them.

All may not be lost, as it turns out. Enter, from stage right, the uncrowned king of WBAI, Saint Gary Null. As you may have heard, he is back on the station's air, very chummy with Berthold Reimers, and more intolerable than ever. On Thursday last, he told his listener(s) that he is an "investigative reporter" (move over bobby K) and that he highly suspects government intervention at Pacifica/WBAI. He acknowledged that WBAI's listenership is at an all-time low, but the blame was not the programming (although he has suggested that it suffers when he is not on the air), but the government! He seems convinced that the Feds see WBAI as a major threat, because it is the only voice of truth on the radio band. That has led Mr. Null to conclude that there are rats sneaking around at CCNY and the house on Atlantic Avenue—they are there to extinguish this beacon of all that is good and just. Null went further and swore that he and his investigators will get to the bottom of this—it's a promise. What the stuff maker-cum-political-analyst did not explain is why the government—or any other entity, for that matter—would wish to silence a radio station few people have ever heard of, a station so abandoned that it ranks at the very bottom of listenership in a major market like New York.  

Well, here it is in his own words. Both segments are from the same show, but you will notice an abrupt change in audio quality. Haskins was operating the console.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The dream that became a nightmare...


Today, Tessa Stuart of the Village Voice did a follow-up online article regarding the circa $225,000 in severance pay owed to 19 former WBAI employees. Six months have passed since the due date and if the new March deadline is not met, costly lawsuits are inevitable. Read that article here. Here, too, are a couple of comments on the situation (courtesy of Indigo).

As all of us who occasionally tune in to 99.5 probably have observed and most of us can acknowledge, WBAI's exterior can no longer obscure the decay that in recent years has made the station largely unknown.

There was a time when the commercial media recognized WBAI's value and responded accordingly. Their reporters listened, often marveled, and frequently gave us support. That has changed. Oh, WBAI still gets mentioned in the press, but only when things are going wrong—as they now seem to be from day to day. Terribly wrong. Fatally wrong.

One expects a station like WBAI to move with the times, if not stay slightly ahead of it, but WBAI ceased progressing many years ago. It once inspired much interesting conversation and changed lives, but it is now barely worth mentioning, except for its creative and intellectual decay, which still has many people baffled. How could it have happened?, they ask, for the dumbing down process was slow, almost seamless. I noticed it over forty years ago, but mainly because I had such a close association, and even then, the extent to which the abuse would go was beyond my imagination. The truly sad fact is that even people who saw the cracks in the wall failed to do anything about them, and somewhere along the line, the fall became systematic; The Pacifica Foundation, owner and ruling entity, let go of the reins as it, too, fell into the hands of incompetent opportunists.

WBAI has limped along, managing to stay on the air despite perennial infighting, coups and agenda-driven vandalism. One subtle but defining change was WBAI's attitude towards its listeners, who—although that is often forgotten—also are its
sponsors. As inept management increasingly shirked its responsibility, many of the station's hosts and producers took advantage of the situation and pushed the envelope further. Pacifica stations were created to push the envelope of authoritarian acceptability, creating programs that took thought and artistry in new directions, but now a staff of salaried and volunteer workers saw their chance to use WBAI for their own benefit, so they pushed the envelope to spots that best served themselves. In the process, the listener-sponsor's participation and importance was overlooked—except, of course, when more funds were needed.

Putting aside our program schedule to conduct the first fundraising marathon was not an easy decision to make. We announced how much we needed in order to stay on the air and we honored our own pledge to resume normal broadcasting the minute our goal was reached.

Our listeners sensed and shared the urgency, so the fund drive was over in s few days and the money received exceeded the pledges made. There were no premiums offered, nobody was invited to buy an expensive meal with a "star" or offered a miracle cure. The only scare tactic was a very real one: the prospect of losing New York's voice in the wilderness: WBAI-FM.

Today, it is all about gimmicks. "The Program is the Premium" sounds great, but it becomes meaningless when most of the programs are substandard by any measure. WBAI's audience, already drastically reduced, realized that, so the February fund drive hit an all-time low, another interim Program Director was disposed of and the station was again turned over to Gary Null's business ventures.

Apart from the deplorable quality of its stagnant programming, WBAI has lost all respect as the paint peeled off and the true nature of management, Foundation, and board-seated cronies formed a sharp, ugly picture.

It is just a matter of time before this house of cards collapses. We should all hope that all parties responsible disappear and that the new ownership at least gives the reborn station a semblance of the dignity many good people tried hard to maintain.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eavesdropping...

NOTE: The next Pacifica National Board meeting will take place on Thursday, February 20, at 8:30 PM. You can listen to the stream at http://kpftx.org.

Monday, February 17, 2014

This week's horror show menu... Feb. 17 - 23

Here is what  Reimers has in store for WBAI's listeners for week one of the reborn fundraising marathon. It was attached to a staff memo, then scrubbed (presumably in the spirit of secrecy). I imagine that the dollar amounts represent the individual goals, but the significance of showing some in red eludes me. Be warned that Christine Blosdale is back, having once again been flown in from the Coast, and Gary Null is also back, his "differences" with management apparently having been resolved. All very predictable, tentative, and suicidal for WBAI.

A quick tally tells me that the week's goal is $135,500 of which 24,000 is listed in morning show black. Quite a jump from the $29,000 or so that Hennelly (according to Mitchel Cohen). raised last week. Let's... see, if they reach this goal, they will just a little more than they owe in severance pay, and let us not forget that pledges and receipts are two different things, just as these figures do not reflect the cost of buying/manufacturing the "gifts" nor mailing them out. Did I say, mailing? That part of the marketing operation does not seem important to management, but you can bet they'll get Gary Null's stuff out!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

As predicted...Blosdale is back.

Letter to staff: February 15, 2014:

Dear all,

I would like to keep you informed regarding plans for the next 4 weeks of Fund Drive. Because of the time restraint, we have not solidified the schedule for next week but we have accommodated a few shows based on circumstances. However, I can't promise to accommodate all. You will receive an e-mail from me this Sunday as I meet with staff members to finalize the schedule for next week. There will no doubt be lots of re-broadcast. Christine Blosdale will be in New York to help with the pitching for one week.

Pre-emptions during this coming month do not necessarily affect programming decisions after the drive. I will call all producers affected and I will try to set up a meeting immediately after the drive at City College. During this drive, we have to make the equivalent of at least $20,000.00 per day for 25 to 30 days in order to honor our severance obligations and to catch up on all our bills (excluding back debts to the National Office) for Central Services. These past two weeks we have increased our BAI Buddy by about $1,500.00 which is a great step towards  eventually reducing on-air Fund Drive. 

Thanks,

Berthold Reimers
General Manager

Didn't we tell you? —Chris

Null: Asset or liability?

The following is my response to posts entered in defense of Gary Null on the PacificaRadiowaves list after Stephen Cohen cited him as a problem rather than an asset. 

Thank you, Stephen D. Cohen, for reminding Pacifica’s decision makers of the hypocrisy inherent in their embrace of charlatans like Gary Null. I believe Lew Hill wanted truth to be one of KPFA’s distinguishing factors, but it has over the years become quite acceptable to ignore it. Now it is money that points the way and determines what is ethical and what is not—if it brings in funds, it matters not that it goes against the direction and conduct outlined in the original Pacifica mission statement.

Gary Null is a case in point, but he is by no means the sole abuser; he is often singled out because he is a smooth operator whose persuasive sales talk has brought Pacifica stations like WBAI a significant amount of money, and thus garnered him willing participants on management levels. His recent, abrupt departure from WBAI was a business decision he was forced to make when that station’s hopelessly inept management so botched up shipment of his products that it was impairing his image. Null knows the value of a wholesome image—it is something he has pursued diligently as he built up his business.

Null needs WBAI, but the station needs him even more, and that is only because it has allowed itself to become dependent on him. Null knows that, and so the game is played. This time, persuading Null to make another u-turn might take a successful effort to fire Berthold Reimers—Summer Reese was unable to make it stick in the first round, but I am sure she hasn’t given up, and Null is just the dangling carrot to give her the needed energy, as it were.

It is not difficult to find good deeds for which Gary Null has been responsible. He is clever enough to have added a few real ones to  the imagined that make up much of his sales spiel, but that is more a sign of cunning than of beneficence. Does our government’s aid to so-called “third class” countries justify the murderous drone attacks on innocent civilians?

All the shock I hear expressed over the possibility of introducing corporate underwriting to Pacifica’s air is rather laughable when one considers the fact that such advertisement has been employed by WBAI hosts and producers for many decades. When they give out their personal business numbers and other contact information, they are not promoting WBAI. Quacks and numerologists are using the station’s air to solicit customers and purveyors of popular music use it to advertise commercial entertainment events. A veritable parade of unethical entrepreneurs find Pacifica stations to be a free, effective tool for their own business ventures.

Supporters of these infringements upon Pacifica’s stated principles sometimes argue that the audience is too small to even entertain the notion of commercial advantage, but the abusers of Hill’s open microphone concept obviously don’t agree. Having said that, I should point out that the well may finally be running dry for the opportunists as well as those who enable them. WBAI is experiencing the lowest listenership in its 54-year history and, according to Nielsen, is now registering at the very bottom in a survey of New York area FM stations. That is almost one for the books when one considers that WBAI has a transmitter sending its powerful 50,000-watts signal out over the area’s most advantageous antenna, atop the Empire State Building.

As WBAI’s manager, I made the decision to move it there almost fifty years ago, and the positive results were immediate. When the current station and Foundation management complains over the high rent charged by the ESB, they fail to understand that a transmitting facility is only as good as the content of its signal. When the present arrangement was implemented, WBAI was a the area’s most important source of enlightenment, an innovative, creative station with broad, unsegregated appeal to the intelligence.

I do not recall how much it cost us to have this facility in place—certainly much less than today's $50,000 monthly rent—but it was a big expense for a small FM station to have in 1966. It was also a rewarding venture, because it brought to an expanding audience the very best that radio had to offer. A look at today’s on-air fare at WBAI is a look at beauty disfigured. Those who maintain that the transmitter rent is too high should look for a solution in the form of improved programming—the answer is not to move or lessen the power, the answer is to justify it through quality programming, which can only be achieved after all the opportunistic entrepreneurs and agenda-driven dilettantes have been shown the door and dedicated, skillful management let in.

I wish it wasn’t too late for that, but I am afraid that it is, so the best that can happen to WBAI at this point is placement in competent, caring hands. It will never again be the station Lewis Hill and his associates had in mind, but there is still the possibility to save the station from becoming an outlet for light entertainment or another kind of destructive propaganda.

Null is not by any means the only culprit, but it can be argued that he was a Pied Piper who took the rats in the wrong direction and led them in.
—Chris Albertson, Feb. 15, 2014 

More BlueBoard censorship


This morning, I made three attempts to post a response to R. Paul Martin's BlueBoard, but he has apparently added me to his growing list of the banished, a list that includes active Pacifica and WBAI board members, along with anyone who dares to criticize his despotic mismanagement of that old forum.

Include the names of outcasts like Michel Cohen, Carolyn Birden, Cerene Roberts in a post and it is re-routed to the generalissimo's screen for "approval." It may eventually make it through, but then it is usually outdated. If you misspell these names, they will make it, but then you have given the despot a foaming at the mouth hissy fit. Isn't free speech wonderful? Isn't it amazing that people who purport to be supporters of Lew Hill's concept so completely miss the point?

Anyway, my post doesn't really warrant repeating here, except as an example of how ludicrous the little guy has become.

Here's the innocuous response I attempted to post on the BlueBoard. It has to do with today's WBAI piece in the NY Times:


And here is a brief e-mail note I sent to R. Paul Martin when I realized that my post is in his banishment bin:

To: wbaimod@listenerforums.net
Re: Frivolous censorship

R. Paul, you will find two or three posts entered by me today. Please do not publish them as I have had my fill of your idiotic censorship.



Chris Albertson


I will have more to say about this on my own blog, where free speech is practiced 24-7.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mayhem in the AM: Hennelly on the defensive...


As Berthold Reimers recites his litany of Hennelly's lies, the new has-been gets out an e-mail message.

Dear colleagues,

This morning I was fired by our GM. I wanted to thank you all for your support and commitment to the listeners.
I want to give a special shout out to Michael G. Haskins who worked so hard with me to re-establish our critical relationship with our audience.

Once we opened the lines back up hundreds responded but Pacifica's dysfunctional governance and the troubled WBAI business model meant we had no running room.
For those of you who stepped up and created call in afternoon drive time programs out of thin air, thank you, thank you. I listened to them all and am so proud of what you did. For those of you who gave up the bi-weekly silliness and embraced a weekly schedule, I hope they let you stick with it.

Ironically, I had just announced that DC 37's executive committee had voted to give us $5,000. In 90 minutes I raised $1,900 calling folks.
As producers, continue to explore ways you can fund yourselves. I will be glad to do whatever I can to help and promote the important work you do.

I do believe there are 100 groups, unions and individuals, that would pay $5,000 to keep us on.
I also know that, had I had a chance to continue to execute my approach, we would have gotten underwriting from organizations like the Municipal Credit Union.

I do think that the Pacifica governance model has profound structural problems which keeps it inwardly focused on itself, instead of on a nation and a world that so desperately needs its full attention.

Yours in solidarity,
Bob Hennelly

The above was published online by Politico Feb. 14, 2014. If you wish to read the article, here is a direct link.

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A letter to the dear, dear WBAI family...

As predicted, the Hennelly fundraiser is a bust, he has been fired, and it is back to scamming as usual. Do I hear someone say dejá vu all over again?  Well, here's a letter from Berthold Reimers to the producers, posted this evening. I don't know how he became "Gene" manager, but that is an interesting typo.

Dear WBAI Family,

I have a few announcements to make:

First, Bob Hennelly is no longer a member of WBAI management's team.

Second, as most of you no doubt have observed, the Winter Fund-Drive has been disastrous so far. The experiment launched on Monday, "The program is the premium," is simply not working. This concept does not work for NPR, and it it dd not work for us.

Of course, we all want to get away from WBAI's undue reliance on premiums. Diversifying revenue streams is a high priority, and thee is a team working on a plan to increase the share of funds raised online, in the community, and via traditional non-profit strategies. This plan necessarily includes a carefully timed transition, steadily reducing on-air fund-drives as the new revenue sources emerge and stabilize. We cannot jut jettison overnight the method that kept us alive for the past 20 years. And that is what we did these past 2 weeks.

We are resilient, however. Starting next week, on Monday, February 17, we will return to pitching premiums. I assuming that you are not ready to pitch a premium since management did not ask you to prepare for this. Therefore all programs for next week are pre-empted pending my speaking with each producer. I want to give you enough time to prepare a premium that you can pitch starting the week after next, beginning Monday, February 24.

Of course, all producers who already have a premium are welcome to do so (please call me). Also, I ant to encourage producers to consider pitching to their listeners in-house premiums (ones we don't have to buy) that are offered by other producers. Perhaps, your listeners might like something a bit different? (Contrary to rumor, I DO welcome experimentation.) Please e-mail me before you register or send premiums to Andrea Katz.

What are you going to say to your listeners next week? Share with them, please, my message here to you. Let them know that the last two weeks were an experiment that set us back, and that we need to catch up quickly. But also let them know that we have the possibility, with this drive of turning the corner. IF this fund-drive is successful, we may for the first time in a long time be very close to making it through a quarter without depending on Pacifica to bail us out. Let our listeners know that, 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.

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. THAT is the message to share with your listeners.

Remind your listeners that they 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;n 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. We have more volunteers taking up the slack, dedicating countless hours to getting out premiums faster than ever before And we also have many more New Yorkers, not that involved in the past, who are merging to help us. We CAN  tun the corner if our listeners will understand that.

Third and finally, the recent drastic program changes are reversed. We are going back to the programming grid from three weeks ago.

Finally, I welcome your calls. I know that all of this change must be disconcerting. There are hundreds of you, however. Please give me time to get back to you. Of course, you could come visit me in our Brooklyn offices. But if you cannot make the trip, I WILL get back to you.

Thanks,
Berthold
WBAI Radio 99.5 FM
Gene Manager

A Politico article on the WBAI crisis...

Amid rumors of Hennelly's firing (possibly just someone's wishful thinking) comes a somewhat shallow Politico article. It is a not so focused look through the WBAI keyhole, but it adds a couple of pieces to the puzzle.

A listener's comment on the severance outrage...


While my deleted post was highly critical, I hope I did not give the impression that I want the station to fail. I don't. There are a lot of voices and programs that I will miss terribly if the station is sold off and/or the slate is "wiped clean"... and even for those programs that don't particularly interest me, I believe it is an important part of the mission to give voice to the voiceless... celebrating fatness, empowering the disabled, telling the stories of First Nation people, the struggles of various ethnicities you otherwise never hear about... it's all good... that is what free speech is all about!

I love a lot of the music shows at night and on the weekends, Labbrish, Simon, Irsay, Bob Fass, David Rothenberg, Ifé and of course the highly underrated and ingenious Uncle Sidney, just off the top of my head... I would really miss hearing Max's voice and his show too. I would hope they would at least retain some of the more creative and interesting people for the programming schedule... there are a lot of very talented and hardworking people at WBAI who are not getting the credit or the respect they deserve mixed in with those who don't deserve what they get. But that's life, I guess.

My anger and frustration is really directed toward the Management and whoever else is responsible for screwing the workers out of their severance pay... even worse, behaving in such a cruel and heartless manner and putting them in a position to be thrown out in the street with no income... the management's wall of silence not addressing the issue and creating an unnecessary crisis in the lives of some of the most decent, loyal and hardworking people who have been with the station for 20+ and 30+ years. These are real people, human beings, friends, colleagues, comrades who have given WBAI the best years of their lives which have now been turned upside down, and adding insult to injury the immediate crisis they have been thrown into is being marginalized and ignored... that is an injustice of the highest order. If Summer Reese is indeed working hard to resolve the severance problem, she has my most sincere gratitude and respect for that.

I get the part that there is no money... really I do. But surely the management was fully aware of the length of time that the unemployment benefits would last and had plenty of time to act accordingly... to put SOMETHING towards funding that severance... to at least make sure the most vulnerable would be taken care of in some way... plus cutting off the medical insurance and medication of a former employee who had to be taken away in an ambulance as a result.. WHY??? The way this entire fiasco is being handled by a self serving and uncaring management is an outrage and no way or what you say can change the fact of that.

Severance issue and injustices aside, I have no dog in this race and would be perfectly happy if the station would have a successful fund drive and continue on just the way that it is. I love the kinder, gentler approach of fundraising.. and if only it had been tried a few years ago, when there was a higher listenership and less desperate situation, I believe it could have worked. I do believe Mr Hennelly, er, Bob, means well, has a lot of great ideas and is trying his best to do the impossible... I like the way he is encouraging more openness and dialog with the listeners but sadly the listeners are just not there in sufficient numbers to raise enough money for survival. Hopefully they will call out the cavalry soon... I mean they really do need to do that, like, yesterday... or is it gonna be "the big fool said to push on"? (Farewell, Pete)

I also wish Gary Null would come back on the air... I am sure he is aware how bad this thing is tanking and I bet he would not refuse if he were asked for help. I like him better when he is teaching and not pitching... it's not so much the health programming in general that is bad, but its constant association with pitching that is destroying the credibility of the subject. A reasonable amount of health programming is a very good thing... the constant dependency on it to raise money is a problem. The Gary Null show is excellent and really should be a part of the station and the network, however having his reruns take up 60+% of the airtime pitching premiums even grates on my nerves... and I like him.


As much as I wish the station could just continue the way it is, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time that it is simply unsustainable. I would consider Ken Freedman and WFMU partnership to be in the category of "best possible outcome" for sure. I do hope they would keep the best staff (like Max) and good producers... talk and politics in the daytime and all the cool music and madness at night.

I don't know why I even bothered to write all this stuff knowing it is only gonna be deleted... 

Chris, you are welcome to grab it for a comment in your blog if you want.

 
Sorry I can't comment there because of my Google issues... in order to post a comment I have to unblock a number of google domains in several routers, IP Tables, browser blockers, etc... and then reblock it all again when I'm done... all that work and it just ain't worth it.


PS I liked your Xmas video card, also I have an old 78 that looks like it was signed by Jack Teagarden I always wanted to ask you about buried somewhere around the house... oh well...

To all the people here [on the BlueBoard] who have been nice to me (Wendy, and others) I just want to thank you all for your kindness and taking the time to read and talk to me. I don't like to hang around places I know I'm not welcome, but I had fun here for a while and I only came back because for once I had something of actual importance to say. 

PLEASE help keep that severance issue alive until it is resolved.
 Best wishes to everyone... and to quote the words of a famous and legendary friend:
"Be nice to each other"