Thursday, January 14, 2016

Making a sow's ear....

It was exactly fifty years ago that we worked on the realization of what I still regard as my most important contribution as manager: upgrading WBAI's power and coverage. It made a huge difference by improving the quality of our signal and increasing our coverage. Now we were easily received by people who lived out of range or in places that required a roof antenna for reception of our signal. At 99.5 they found a radio station that did not underestimate their intelligence, a spot in the middle of the FM dial that was refreshingly different from anything they could find to its left or right. 

I don't recall how much we paid for our Empire State Building hookup and rent, but, as predicted, it turned out to be a sound investment in more ways than one.

Sadly, that no longer holds true—not because the monthly rent and hookup fee have gone up considerably, but because the station no longer offers a radio experience that merits the wide coverage. WBAI has gone from being a source of extraordinary artistic and academic expression for all seeking intellectual nourishment to a stagnant voice for one small segment of New York's population. 

Programs aimed at educating the young and enlightening their elders have over the years been replaced by deliberate disinformation, bland music, a racist agenda, and sub-par, meaningless drivel. When funds are solicited, the original Pacifica objective is touted but at all other times it is contravened. With very few exceptions, WBAI's air time is wasted on doctrinaire reshaping of African-American history, vanity blather and hour-long infomercials offering bogus medical "cures" and poorly produced, one-sided "documentaries." The listener response has, in the main, been abandonment, which brings me back to the transmitter and its greatly diminished usefulness.

$55,000 a month is a high price to pay for transmission when hardly anyone is listening. That being the case, it would seem logical if efforts were made to bring the product (WBAI's on-air offerings) back to a level and substance that attracts financial contributions. Why should anyone pay a red cent to hear hateful disinformation, audio selfies, or shoddy presentations of inferior music? 

The ESB came close to pulling the plug on WBAI's transmitter, but ended up agreeing to a lower monthly payment. This was hyped by Station Manager Berthold Reimers as an accomplishment, but he failed to tell the listeners that only the monthly payment had been lowered, not the actual rent. In other words, the debt grows every month, to a point where is is now reaching a million dollars. Reimers is the head-in-the-sand ostrich, but the day of reckoning is nigh. Fixing the obvious damage (bad programming, worse management) might have prolonged the life of WBAI, but no such thing was done. Yes, there ere some program changes, but almost all were for the worse. This is a tangle of abuse and neglect that can no longer be  unravelled, and if you wonder why the Pacifica National Board has not stepped in, just look at the mess those bozos have created.

I deserve no credit for predicting that 2016 will be WBAI's last year. It has long teetered on the brink of obliteration. The dregs of the PNB are doing some shady maneuvers to sell it, the listeners are gone, the spirit ignited by Pacifica founder Lew Hill in 1949 dissipated decades ago.

So, the next time you hear someone blame the perilous state of WBAI on the economy, technical advances, or a storm called Sandy, just say "Arf," cause it ain't so.

How ironic that the very upgrade that helped WBAI blossom in the Sixties has been made the bane of its existence in the teens of the following millennium. We once were the little station that could... the mouse that roared... once, a long, long time ago.


  1. Chris, I am sorry that your visionary work is being undone and rendered for naught.

    "The good men do is oft interred with their bones."

    1. Thank you, Justine. Well, it had a few good years before the cracks began to show.

    2. How about, "The fault Dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves".
      We sat back and let it happen in so many ways.


    3. I don't know if there was anything that could have been done to stop it. So many of the now gone lefties kept giving WBAI money because they really believed the "it's better to have a shit WBAI than no WBAI" line all those years. There are still some of those dopes around. However, most of them realized one day how stupid they were and moved on.

      Maybe if a couple of hundred people got together to demonstrate outside of WBAI something would happen, but the last time anything like that occurred was during Leid's tenure.

      As long as that minimum amount of money keeps coming in, WBAI will roll along. Add to that people dying and leaving some money to them, and it's business as usual.


    4. Someone might create an Intelligence Matters group. :)

      I seriously doubt that it can keep rolling along. Remember, the money coming in now is already way below the minimum required. Add to that the debt accruing for the ESB rental, Reimers isn't going to grow a brain and from what I see of the LSB and PNB elections, it can only get worse. Rock bottom has been reached.

    5. As morbid as it sounds, people dying put money into Pacifica stations recently. Of course, how many times this will happen is a variable.

      We always remember the ESB debt, but forget the Democracy Now debt. If I am correct, those are the two biggest debts amounting to $2,000,000 or more already.

      I agree it can only get worse, minus any large bequests. Have they hit rock bottom? I don't know, really. What are the legal fees with regards to the new Null lawsuit? Oh, zero... My mistake. I think they will roll along until a debtor finally says they want there money or we go to court.

      Anyway. You know that I think WBAI's destiny will be decided in California. I think it will be sold off and the money will find its way into the KPFA faction.


    6. I am almost certain that the California mob will discard WBAI. I just hope that their underhanded maneuvers bring them their just deserts before that. Aren't we still waiting for the California audit?

    7. At this point, the audit seems as real as Null's lawsuit. I think it has faded away into nothing.

      I think that one day we will wake up, turn on 99.5 FM and hear, "Heyyyy! A good morning to you on the new WFUK, dance 99!" Yes, a secret sale out of nowhere. It's probably already in the works, which is why WBAI is allowed to wallow as it has.


    8. That's an interesting theory, but does such a transaction not require advance public notice?

    9. Notice to whom? Not on the air. And the way they flout rules and laws? Who's going to know or care?


    10. I wasn't thinking of Pacifica or WBAI giving public notice, I thought there might be an official notice—the airwaves are, after all, supposed to be public. If so, the word would not take long to leak out.

    11. I would assume some notice on the FCC website, as I have found for other stations. However, you'd probably have to go look for it. If word got out in general, it would probably be because of some radio business trade publication that monitors stuff like that picking up on it and mentioning it.

      But again, how many people care? And when dealing with the scum of the PNB majority, you know they would try to pull something like that. Look how they started that KPFA license capture foundation. My question is how they expect to capture the license.

      Also, the FCC has been so cut down that I don't know how they even function now. They barely have any employees, half or more of the field offices have been closed, etc. It's mainly just a board and some paper pushers, at this point.


  2. howard jordan ... keeping the racism going ! Such dedication.

    1. As more of them come aboard and "management" demonstrates by its silence its utter disregard for the truth, WBAI's racists demonstrate their ignorance and escalated their venomous idiocy. Some of them are so dense that they may not even know how much their disinformation and negative mindset set back the advances achieved by the 1960s Civil Rights movement. They should be working to complete that job, not to negate it.


  3. Empire State Realty Trust is a publicly traded company obligated to act in its shareholders' best interest. By calling in the debt couldn't they force WBAI into bankruptcy, making way for a new owner of 99.5 who could afford to pay the full rental rate for that tower space? Curious if ESB management has considered that at all, or if any of the shareholders are aware enough of the situation that they could demand it.

    1. Well, one could buy a share of ESRT (January 15th close $17.20) and go to the next shareholders meeting and ask about the matter during Q&A. They hold an annual meeting, the last being June 2015.

      Google info and chart:

      ESRT website:

      I've been telling people for years that if they hate a company, to own one share, so you have a right to go to the shareholders meetings and speak, as well as vote in the elections.


  4. For Lew Hill, Chris, and a few other pioneers,

    To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

    Now all the truth is out,
    Be secret and take defeat
    From any brazen throat,
    For how can you compete,
    Being honor bred, with one
    Who were it proved he lies
    Were neither shamed in his own
    Nor in his neighbors' eyes;
    Bred to a harder thing
    Than Triumph, turn away
    And like a laughing string
    Whereon mad fingers play
    Amid a place of stone,
    Be secret and exult,
    Because of all things known
    That is most difficult.