Monday, May 30, 2016
Can WBAI get it up?
It all seems finally to be falling apart beyond repair. There is no noble effort in evidence, just the same old costly ineptitude and a steady overdose of fabricated history and racism, with a lot of help from a likeminded faction on the Pacifica National Board. As I always say, may the real Pacificans find new outlets when Lew Hill's shattered dream becomes but a memory.
At the bottom of this post, you will find Steve Brown's reaction to Reimers' staff notice as sent by him to Lydia Brazon, Pacifica's extraordinarily mis-cast Executive Director.
Schedule from May 31 to Sunday
1925 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Dear Lydia –
It is my sad duty to report an increase in the rate at which WBAI is rushing towards bankruptcy, thanks to the latest announcement from its general manager, Berthold Reimers, to WBAI staff. That email is posted above. In it, Reimers lists the programs to be pre-empted during the fund drive. He says these programs are being pre-empted either because they do not raise enough money or because they have refused to pitch.
But Reimers appears to be lying – intentionally lying – in the case of at least one pre-empted program. He may also be lying about some of the others, but I have no first-hand knowledge about them. So let me focus on the program about which I do have first-hand knowledge.
One of the programs that Reimers has scheduled for pre-emption (and which, in fact, he has already been pre-empting for much of this fund drive), is the Gary Null show. Yet the Gary Null show is, and always has been, the biggest fundraiser for WBAI (as it has also been for KPFK). During the past 37 years, the Gary Null show has regularly accounted for up to one-third to three-quarters of WBAI’s entire fund drive revenue.
So Reimers cannot claim that the Gary Null show “does not raise enough money.” Nor can he claim that Gary Null “has refused to pitch” – since I have seen copies of numerous emails sent by Gary Null to Reimers (and to Development Director Andrea Katz), reaffirming his willingness to pitch for the station “on any day, in any time slot, during any fund drive.”
In fact, Null’s email response to Reimers’ notice the he would again be pre-empted (again) from the fund drive for allegedly not raising enough money or refusing to pitch was:
“You are preempting my program but I have repeatedly volunteered to pitch. When will you stop this personal vendetta…it is not professional or helping the station.”
To put it bluntly, Reimers is telling a deliberate lie to his staff, and to you, as executive director. His announcement pretends to be concerned with maximizing WBAI’s fund drive revenue. But by pre-empting Null’s show during past, present, and future fund drives, he is deliberately choking off the station’s revenue stream.
Why should Reimers want to choke off WBAI’s revenue stream (and lie about his reasons)?
After all, with Gary Null already pre-empted from this fund drive, WBAI is barely averaging $7,500 a day (really only $5,200 a day, given the collection percentage). But Gary Null has often raised $13,000 to $20,000 a day on his show. This would mean WBAI could earn – not $7,500 a day – but as much as $27,500 a day.
Which means that Reimers is shamelessly deceiving you and the national board (not to mention his staff and the station’s audience) into believing that the station can raise no more than $7,500 a day (or $52,500 a week), whereas the truth is that -- if it stopped pre-empting the Gary Null show – the station might be raising up to $27,500 a day, or as much as $192,500 a week.
Or consider another, even more telling example: Only recently, in the month of December, three of Gary Null’s pitches – tickets to the world premiere of his new documentary; tickets to his lecture on self-actualization; and a raffle for a one-week “retreat” at his Texas health facility – raised a total of $90,000 for WBAI, at zero cost to the station (i.e., the station did not have buy or fulfill a single premium). That was a fundraising record for the station.
And Null was ready to repeat it, for this or any other WBAI fundraiser. But instead, Reimers cancelled his regular Friday program without explanation, and then pre-empted numerous other of Null’s regular broadcasts during the fund drive. This action (and since Reimers had the figures, he knew what he was doing) deprived the station of several hundred thousand dollars in fund drive revenue.
Why would WBAI’s general manager want to cripple his own station?
Reimer’s deliberate crippling of WBAI’s fundraising ability – and his lies about it, as illustrated in his email appended below – are nothing new. For example, by deliberately refusing to fulfill the premiums pledged for and paid for by thousands of WBAI supporters, Reimers predictably caused our listenership and membership to fall precipitously during his three-year tenure as general manager. From a high of approximately 18,000 members just a few years ago, we are now down to a pathetic 6,800 members. This is less than a third of what WBAI needs to make it solvent and healthy.
But maybe that’s the plan -- to make WBAI insolvent and unhealthy. If so, whose plan is it?
As general manager, Reimers takes his legal marching orders from you, Lydia, and from your faction on the national board. So what is a reasonable person supposed to think? You and your faction on the national board have access to weekly and even daily information about the sorry state of WBAI’s finances, and why they are in such a sorry state. Yet you choose to do nothing about it. So why shouldn’t I assume that you are acting to implement the goals of your faction and its leaders, several of whom have publicly expressed the desire, in emails and media interviews, to break up the Pacifica network, sell off WBAI, and divide the sale proceeds (estimated at $100 million or more) amongst yourselves and your stations?
Of course, the bylaws forbid you from selling WBAI – or any Pacifica station – without permission from the membership, which you would never get. So one obvious way to achieve your faction’s publicly stated goals might be to drive the foundation into bankruptcy, allowing you to seek protection under Chapter XI of the federal bankruptcy statutes, which would suspend Pacifica’s bylaws and permit you to sell WBAI without member permission. (And possibly sell WPFW and KPFT as well, which it is reported that you may also be planning. Indeed, CFO Sam Agarwal has already floated a public plan for selling WBAI “within 90 days.”)
Is that what is on your mind? Such an explanation would certainly help makes sense out of the otherwise bizarre and puzzling behavior of WBAI General Manager Berthold Reimers, who has been deliberately choking off WBAI’s revenues and driving it into bankruptcy, while hypocritically pretending to work on its behalf.
If my description of your plans is accurate, I do not expect this letter to change those plans, nor cause you to stop Berthold Reimers from deliberately wrecking WBAI. But writing this letter is good therapy for me. It will also, I hope, bring this issue into the open (for whatever good that may do).
Steven M. Brown
Director, Pacifica National Board