Friday, July 17, 2015

And so it goes.... sad to say.


These days, if they have heard of it at all, very few people give any thought to WBAI, but, in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, it came as close to being a cultural salon as any extrasolar gathering could. In a broadcast communications wasteland where Madison Avenue and D.C. lobbyists called the shots, WBAI and its two West Coast sister stations offered an intelligent, unfettered alternative, an outlet for vision, substance, and a focused backward glance. This concept was new to America's fast-growing electronic media and it could only be realized with independent support: listener sponsorship.

It was an extraordinary experiment that got off to a slow start, but worked as it began to attract some of the 20th century's most creative and visionary individuals. Pacifica stations were oases where the accomplished and aspiring sought intellectual sustenance. 

Sad to say, the stations also eventually began to attract people of less noble needs—opportunists who saw in Pacifica's open microphones a chance to pursue personal interests. The metamorphosis was slow and almost seamless, but it spread beyond on-air narcissists and exploiters to local management and, indeed, the National Board itself. You will get an idea of how far the abuse went when you read the observations by "Indigopirate" that follow this piece.

If you are reading this, you probably have some familiarity with today's Pacifica and, perhaps specifically, WBAI, a station to which I came as a volunteer in 1961 and left as General Manager in 1967. It is a very different station today—not only in terms of reflecting a changed culture, which was to be expected, but, regrettably, in terms of intellectual level, broadcast quality and attitude—all of which have been lowered. A few producers are still in place, but their programs have become aberrations.

For the past five years, WBAI's General Manager has been Berthold Reimers, a man who has shown neither intelligent judgement nor devotion to duty. In fact, he has barely shown himself during all this time, a period in which the station's financial and intellectual status has maintained a steady decline. This has not gone unnoticed by the listenership, which today is at an all-time low. WBAI's programming is stagnant, locked into a racist black ghetto mentality groove of limited appeal that no longer is a viable source of revenue. The solution, as management sees it, lies not in improved programming and a return to broader focus, but in extended, often fraud-based fundraising that has taken on the form of hour-long infomercials of which a handful is repeated ad nauseum.

To some of us, whose only vested interest in Pacifica is to see it and its stations restored to their former significance—the recent hiring of John Proffitt as Executive Director brought hope.

Here was a man with broadcast management experience, a man whose history with the Foundation was an association with KPFT, the least misdirected Pacifica-owned station. We did not hear him speak at great length, but what little he had an opportunity to say publicly made sense and gave the impression that he was as appalled by the Board and station-level incompetence as one might expect a professional administrator to be. 

Admittedly, some of us found it odd to see a person of Proffitt's experience and apparent levelheadedness accept a mission impossible, but maybe he knew something we didn't, so why not wait and see. It was already rumored that he would fire Berthold Reimers on this trip to the East, so that would open the door to recovery—albeit ajar.

Proffitt came to town Wednesday and immediately attracted opportunists like Frank Lefever (the man has no shame), who characteristically intruded himself as Reimers conducted an ass kissing tour of the Atlantic Avenue premises and arranged a meeting with a select group of the station's producers. With a lump of sugar in their midst, the flies wasted no time.
L to R: Linda Perry, Sally O'Brien, Proffitt, Fran Luck,
Janet Coleman, Shawn Rhodes at 388 Atlantic.
Thursday morning, Linda Perry's news was solely devoted to this event and we heard Proffitt express unconvincing optimism, which prompted a "Thank god" from hopeless host Haskins. That this was a deceptively edited puff piece became clear as a slightly longer version quickly appeared on the station's web site and during station breaks. It is deceptive and aimed at a dumbed-down audience. In the meantime, WBAI is airing the usual infomercials, although the next fund drive is not scheduled to start until July 20. 

We are hearing desperation that could have been avoided under proper management. From what we heard at this week's Pacifica Finance Committee meeting, thousands of dollars are unaccounted for and important questions regarding Reimers' activities are begging for answers, so we could still see that long overdue pink slip handed to a do-nothing GM. —Chris A.

The following comment was submitted by the astute observer known as 'Indigopirate', who is no stranger to WBAI and its past.  


The truism is that a fish rots from the head. I’m not personally knowledgeable as to the internal dynamics of the Pacifica National Board and its internal politics at the time of the mid-1970’s, but I am personally familiar with their putting in place a WBAI Local Board dominated by Percy Sutton cronies in the late 1970’s who had a very personal agenda of pushing a ‘minority’ ‘community’ line to transform WBAI into a part of their Inner City Broadcasting empire. These were politically connected folks, and at that point in their lives and careers they were cashing in, in a very big way. White liberal guilt-tripping along Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers lines and anti-semitic accusations were significant if not indeed the principal elements involved in that process.

The first fruits of that effort were Anna Kosof as station manager and Pablo ‘Yoruba’ Guzman as program director, and the move to reformat the station as a Salsa station as part of Inner City Broadcasting. The ensuing staff rebellion and occupation of ‘The Church’ at 359 East 62nd Street temporarily derailed the PNB sanctioned and Local Board directed attempt to redefine the Pacifica and WBAI missions as ‘progressive’ ‘community’ political advocacy primarily along ‘minority’/‘community’ lines in place of the original ideals which had led to the station’s and the network’s rise to cultural significance and indeed for a time some prominence.

When that first effort failed the subsequent effort saw Guzman move on, then Kosof in turn, and the rise of the self-proclaimed revolutionary Samori Marksman. This second effort proved enduring, as the overwhelming majority of the remaining talented staff had either previously seen or now saw there was no interest in the sort of radio that had led WBAI and Pacifica to cultural prominence, and that its replacement, thinly veiled leftist political advocacy and conformity, with all other remaining programming tolerated only at the margins only as what the program director referred to as ‘bourgeois nonsense’ intended to draw contributions from the dwindling remains of the previous WBAI audience (and who were frequently privately stereotyped and characterized by Marksman in explicitly antisemitic dismissive terms of contempt).

The rot, then, historically, began at the head, and continued, and continues still.

The remarkable thing is that the slow disintegration of the fish has been such a slow process. I suppose that’s a simple reflection of having had a signal which reaches a metropolitan area of 20,000,000 or so population. In that sense it isn’t remarkable at all.

How could one not, with such an enormous potential audience, not find enough to sustain oneself?
—Indigopirate

16 comments:

  1. I speak only for myself, of course, but four or five of the six people in that little photograph I would change my seat or cross the street to avoid being near.

    Their affect sucks major.

    ~ ‘indigo’

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    1. Frankly, you could be speaking for me, as well, Indigo.

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  2. Whenever I see talk about '77 era WBAI I get John Stanley's British accent swirling around my brain. I just remember in the late '70s/early '80s he would call into a show, regardless of the topic, and just go right into a tirade about '77 until he had to finally be cut off, since he would never get off the phone when asked or said to.

    Anyway, I realized who would truly be the best new PD for WBAI shold Murillo actually leave. Howard Jordan is cut from the same mold and can toss the word "racism" around like few others. When I was in th kitchen and had him on for about 10 minutes, I lost count of how many times I heard "racism" or "racist." Must be so sad to be such an obsessive personality.

    SDL

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    1. I'm afraid the Jordan types are legion at the current WBAI. Their self-love has blinded them... kinda like what they say about masturbation :)

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    2. Maybe they should put mirrors in the hallway at WBAI, so they can admire themselves?

      Also, heard Null mention his studio got a new soundboard, so he is donating the one year old one he has been using to a "sister station." I would guess WBAI. Must be cool to be able to buy new equipment like that and flaunt it on WBAI.

      SDL

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    3. Null's generosity made me reach for a box of Kleenex™... but my tears of gratefulness dried up when the brand brought to mind my late friend, Louis Schweitzer, who spent a lot of his Kimberly-Clark money creating and supporting a radio station for entirely altruistic reasons.

      No mirrors needed, SDL. Their self-admiration is as strong as it is delusional—mirrors might shatter the illusion.

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  3. If you think Howard Jordan's show is bad , (which it is ) listen to Gary Byrd , This man , along with Howard Jordan
    are imo, out and out racist . Make no mistake about it , these two Hate ANYTHING white .
    Along with any guests they have on. Disgusting .

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  4. In the photo is the totally worthless Shawn Rhodes, a talentless wanna be rock musician, a management stooge like Tony Ryan. He can go to hell!!

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    1. He seems to do a decent job of operating the console and I am not aware of any of the customary hatred spewing from him, although his affiliation appears to be with the racist faction.

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  5. WBAI has become nothing more than racial-centric I hate whitey, I am a victim because of white people. all white people are slave owners radio. The programming has never been worse. If they need money, get it from the black community which has never supported the station.

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    1. They are only addressing a segment of the community and, possibly aware of that, they play up past and present incidents of racism to foment hatred where it previously was less pronounced. It is unfair to judge black people in general by the actions and venomous utterances of the station's current occupiers and the gullible minority that hasn't caught on to their game.

      That said, it is true that the odds are against tuning in to WBAI and not hearing racism (real, exaggerated, or imagined) spewed by individuals who either seek to capitalize on the present headlines or inflate them. At WBAI, small, hateful minds seem to relish the bigotry they purport to condemn—one does not hear but one side of this issue. The negativity occasionally pauses, but only when there are attempts to extract money from people who see lynchings as an unthinkable evil rather than a sales tool.

      Sounds overstated, but it isn't. They want you to believe that racial prejudice only flows one way and that African ancestry immunizes one. That, however, only proves how wrong-headed their obsession is. The fact is that WBAI has essentially been taken over by a small group of social misfits who will resort to anything in order to justify their self-serving schemes, whether their individual aim is to feed an unwarranted vanity, attract attention, generate personal income, vent ignorance-nourished hatred, or simply hold on to a job for which they are unequipped.

      Years ago, when WBAI's programming was aimed at intelligent listeners of all backgrounds, the station produced significant documentaries aimed at telling the truth. Money never flowed in, but we did not have to resort to tabloid journalism, propaganda, or the shameless maketing of highly questionable products. ur fundraising marathons aired only once a year and ran only until a set goal was reached in pledges. There was no normal program aired during these fund drives, but neither did it take more than a week or two to return to normalcy. We also tended to receive more money that had been pledged.

      It may sound strange these days, but people supported WBAI because they found the programs worthy of their support—no magic water or other "cure" was dangled before them, no phony "survival kits", no political agenda, no artificial "documentaries" sounding false alarms, etc. There were true issues, but they were discussed and brought to light in WBAI's normal programming, not distorted for sale to a dumbed down, steadily dwindling listenership.

      I am more than tired of repeating the many abuses suffered by WBAI at the hands of these vandals, but I see the station heading for the abyss at an accelerated clip, so all this will soon be lamentable history. Let's hope it will also serve as a lesson for any future attempt to create an honest form of communicating to America;s under-educated public.

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    2. The fact that WBAI/Pacifica face ever-diminishing listenership and ever-diminishing financial support reflects the fact that the agitprop of resentment and hatred are of absolutely no interest to the claimed target ‘community’.

      There is no support for this.

      The utter abject failure of WBAI/Pacifica at their self-assigned ‘mission’ to their self-proclaimed ‘community’ is, ironically, a positive indicator that the real world, real communities, riven by strife and struggle as they may be, hasn’t descended to their depths.

      May they dwell there in all their self-imposed horror and hatefulness until the end.

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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    3. As usual, Indigo, your words express my own sentiments with enviable terseness.

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    4. Let them enjoy themselves while they can because it is the last time and place where they will be able to. The party is winding down, and now we're on last call. Once they move the transmitter to a cheaper place and can't even afford that, the curtain will drop.

      Unlike those losers, I worked all week and made enough money on NFLX, AMZN, GOOG and GOOGL to pay my way for a year without having to beg for money, a desk or a used soundboard. They should learn to move their whining, ever expanding asses a bit, too, considering most of them are as wide as elephants. I guess it's a safety zone to hide yourself away in past events rather than dealing with current instability, like ISIL having essentially formed a new country in the Middle East, etc.

      Anyway, I turned forty-nine at midnight and am thinking that I'm too old for this crap. It's not like I have any vested interest in what becomes of these clods. My two favorite Pacifica shows are produced in California, anyway. I have my own radio show to worry about.

      SDL

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    5. HAPPY BIRHDAY SDL! So, next year is a big one and I bet that—even if you wanted to—you won't have the Hate, Hate Show to turn on, and those dimwits at 99.5 will still have their heads stuck in the sands of time.

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