Thursday, December 31, 2015

As 2015 slips into memory...


So, we have made it through another year of degradation and WBAI is still on the air—most of the time. But this is not the station it became when Lou Schweitzer donated it to Pacifica 55 years ago. It is not the station that served as a cultural barometer in the Sixties, it is not the station that continued to enlighten and entertain its listeners in the post Vietnam years... it is not even the station that made it into the 21st Century.

It is but a faint shadow of all that. Coups and corruption have scarred WBAI, attracting an element so far removed from its noble aims and early accomplishments as to be unrecognizable, except for brief, scattered moments of intellectual stimulation. 

These moments, dwindling even further, kept WBAI on the ground level of good radio for a remarkably long time, but the jaws of ineptitude kept chomping away, clearing a path for opportunists on every level. A new low was hit with the hiring of Berthold Reimers, a self-proclaimed savior who has failed the station spectacularly. 

The WBAI that enters 2016 at midnight is a morally bankrupt radio station that bears little resemblance to the real thing. Rudderless, its bastardized hull floats aimlessly in a septic tank of deceit and imagined self-importance. It has no studio, no respect (self- or otherwise), no piggybank, no audience.

The audience remained faithful far beyond reasonable expectations, but it eventually departed and radio stations, once considered bland, gained comparative significance.

Where is the audience?

When it finally dawns on WBAI's misguided producers and hosts that they are preaching their propaganda and selling their bogus "gifts" to their own, they will come to the realization that this is indeed the end of the road.

A few former faithful listeners, staffers and volunteers still tune in, but no longer to reach out. Now it is the incredulity of longevity that maintains their interest. 

One former faithful who lost all hope after somehow enduring three or four years of WBAI's systematic decay, heard the exit of 2015 this way.

It will undoubtedly end in the new year—with a blend of whimper, legal action, disgrace and unfounded outrage—but there is not much left to lose, so sorrow will be reserved for the handful of stalwarts. Let us wish them well and hope that they find a station that recognizes their worth.


16 comments:

  1. As I have been saying in recent times, I don't think WBAI's destiny is in its own hands anymore, but the hands of the California entities - PNB, KPFA, KPFK. WBAI is now just one of the other three stations they own.

    Let's take a simple look at WBAI, However.

    Listenership is in free fall, which means fewer potential financial supporters.

    WBAI has taken a greater than ever turn at being a racial based station and being ever more exclusive, rather than inclusive as it once was.

    Over roughly the past year and a half we've seen Mario Murillo and Jeannie Hopper come into the PD chair and attempt to put on new shows, which have proven to be flops at raising financial support. Anderson, Forlano, Halper, The Blacks, etc. are down at the bottom and are lucky to raise any money at all.

    So much time is spent on ever less successful beg-a-thons that listeners are ever more fed up with it. With a lower listenership, WBAI is finding out that even the most stalwart contributor has their limit. They have hit a limit in how much money they can really expect to get from listeners.

    As with other Pacifica stations, WBAI is now relying on the deaths of listeners who have left a bequest in their wills to help them financially. This morbidity can only go so far, as a limited amount of these one time donations can come from only so many listeners from the grave

    The ever increasing attention to hocus pocus and conspiracies has driven many serious political and arts oriented listeners away.

    Scams like premiums being sold and not mailed have caused so much bad blood that it even gets mentioned often by phone callers.

    The WBAI debt is such a mystery that even their financial chair, R. Paul Martin, can't get straight figures from GM Reimers.

    The GM Reimers has made it clear he has no idea what he is doing, as evinced during the times he deigns to make personal appearances to answer questions.

    It is claimed that negotiations are on-going for the rent at the ESB, but this has been claimed for at least two years. I don't believe there are any negotiations. I personally believe the ESB is in demand of their money and threatening, or has already initiated, legal proceedings in the matter. The peace conferences at the end of WWI took less time!

    WBAI is reliant on two people for half, or more, of their fundraising, on and off air - Gary Null and Amy Goodman. Below them is a secondary level of 8 - 10 people, who make almost all the rest of the funds. Included in this second level are WBAI's Irsay, Schmeid, Whent, Hammetz, Davis, and non-WBAI personalities, like Prescod, Blosdale. In other words, the vast majority of WBAI's on-air personnel don't earn shit! And all of them together can't earn enough to have the station break even.

    The two big variables in whether WBAI can survive are the machinations currently going on at the PNB, which has a majority that seems to want to destroy Pacifica with the intent of capturing the KPFA license, or at least sell off WBAI to raise funds for operating the other Pacifica stations.

    How many people will die and leave WBAI a bequest? In 2015, KPFA was lucky to get one bequest and claim a second one, rightly or wrongly, to the tune of $1,000,000. Without that $1,000,000, KPFA would have been in trouble. However, how often will things like this happen?

    I've said for a long time that WBAI will exist as long as it makes just enough mney to be able to stay on the air, even if they move the transmitter to a garage top on the edge of town. However, the events in California may be the deciding factor in WBAI's destiny. At this point, The Factionalists don't seem to care how much they violate laws and by-laws. All that can stop them seems to be legal intervention, but does even the California AG office really care? Pacifica's great friend is their now being so irrelevant that nobody even notices them.

    And a great tune for Pacifica: Black Sabbath - Am I Going Insane (Radio). The lyrics are so perfect...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWvWWR34fsM

    SDL



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  2. Feel sorry for BAI, but frankly, again, people like Marksman, Robert Knight, Jesse Keyes, Mario Murillo destroyed the station. Marksman in particular, with his iron-fisted Stalin-like rule. He was a bastard, killed the spirit of BAI. May he be cursed every day!!

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  3. The real tragedy is that once WBAI is gone, it will be very quickly forgetten, except perhaps by historians of the media. As Chris and others have noted, most of the former audience has died or abandoned the station. Those that remain have an average age roughly equal to that of the College of Cardinals or Brezshenev's last Politburo and are dying at about the same rate as Korean War veterans.

    A few of the current on-air personalities will remain in memory. James Irsay is, I believe, first and foremost among them. Others include Ivan Hametz, Max Schmid, Joyce Jones, Chris Whent and--even if he doesn't have the smoothest presentation--Michio Kaku. Irsay has worked on a commercial station and, I believe, could do so again. So could Jones. I think that the others could, but Hametz's, Whent's and Schmid's ages would probably prevent them from being hired. Kaku also could, but those doing the hiring in commercial radio probably wouldn't appreciate his style.

    Happy New Year to all!

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    1. The fact is, I believe, that WBAI is already forgotten by an audience that once was able to support it in good conscience. They recognized and appreciated an approach to broadcasting as well as individual programs that distinguished WBAI from the rest of the FM dial's offerings. Equally important was the fact that the average listener-supporter had an open mind that allowed her/him to not only accept contrasting viewpoints but to also learn from them.

      It's probably silly of us to continue to mourn the imminent demise of a radio station that, essentially, became a footnote years ago, but while hope is gone, remnants of the main ingredient remain. Besides, there are times when even the worst of dramas compell us to catch the last act.

      Happy New Year to you, Justine.

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    2. For the record. Kaku is in syndication - appears regularly on CBS News and Mike Sargent appears regularly on the PBS News Hour, as recently as this past Thursday. He is also an accomplished film director.

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    3. I'd like to see Pacifica board meetings syndicated to Doctor Demento's show.

      SDL

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    4. That would be interesting, but how about the Jerry Springer Show?

      Or a live TV special where Geraldo Rivera opens the Pacifica safe?

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    5. Springer is a great and fitting one. With the violent nature of some of the people at Pacifica and WBAI, it would be ideal.

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  4. This is heart breaking, and was so avoidable. This the end of WBAI was more a Suicide than a death by natural causes.

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    1. You're right about that, Sidney. Thank you for keeping your podcasts coming our way.

      For those who may not have discovered Sidney's podcasts, there is a link near the top of this blog's home page.

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  5. Bob Law .. can't stop saying "Martin Luther King" or "as Martin used to say". It's like he is on auto pilot ...
    Byrd managed to get someone who is more racist than him—didn't think that was possible.

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    1. Bob Law is a DJ who produced a documentary that purports to be a history of black radio in the U.S.

      It has good moments, but it is sadly slanted and uninformed. Perfect for the downgraded WBAI. I don't think Byrd is knowledgable enough to notice Law's flaws.

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  6. Was that Guy Lombardo?

    KGT

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    1. The Auld Lang Syne rendition

      KGT

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    2. Got it! sSorry for being so slow.

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