Sunday, April 28, 2013

WBAI left a lasting impression...

I frequently criticize the music programs on the current WBAI, and have been called a nostalgic, living-in-the-past old man by people here who obviously don't 
understand why I find Ifé, Hopper, Ryan, and others missing the point of WBAI.

Yesterday, I received in the mail a new record release, a nicely crafted wood box 
containing five LPs and an elaborate LP-sized book of notes and photos.

It is not something I would normally bring up here, but one of the sessions by the historic New York Arts Quartet took place right in our studio at 30 
East 39th Street. The notes refer to that and paint a flattering picture of WBAI 
and the sort of cutting edge work we were doing. It might make it easier to understand why I am so appalled by
the station's current disc jockey approach to music.

Here is an excerpt from the accompanying 150-page book that pertains to WBAI. I apologize for repeating the second panel, a mistake due to the text being photographed rather than scanned—I did not want to bend and possibly mar the wonderful book.  (click on the text image to enlarge it):

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bamboozled and Bewildered are they

When I re-entered the WBAI arena in 2009, I soon found myself huffing and puffing, dismayed to see so many people abuse WBAI with impunity. I had seen the seeds sown many years earlier, but the resulting crop was far worse than I could have imagined. It had, as it turned out an ugly Monsanto quality about it, yet, it was a mixed crop, so I maintained hope and lifted that green curtain. It was by no means an original thing to do, but I sensed a hesitancy on the part of many who felt as I did about what could best be described as a dummying down of WBAI. When attempts to contact the station's management failed, I tried another approach and did my best to point out what I saw as flagrant violations of Lewis Hill's original concept and stressing the sheer folly of self-delusion.

It gave me some comfort to see that I was not expressing the feelings of 
a minority, but I soon discovered that few who saw what was going on were willing to speak up directly. Thus, the voices raised were mainly those of the 
abusers, opportunists who saw, but tried to obscure, the writing on the wall. 
Several of these people went on the defensive (anonymously, for the most 
part), but the shortcomings that for too many years had characterized their 
work at WBAI now carried over to what well could prove to be a not so gratifying climax. So they raised their flimsy shields, pointed a chosen finger at 
reality, and hurled epithets in the direction of any light that shone on their 
dark corners.

In the meantime, Berthold Reimers, the latest squirt of enabling glue, was busy dodging listeners, running up bills, and tucking them away like so much listener e-mail, so many ignored phone calls. This was one of WBAI management's secrets until a giggly Summer Reese blew in from the 
Coast and lifted the veil to reveal what gross negligence and exemplary mismanagement hath wrought. Ms. Reese, Pacifica’s latest  Interim Executive Director, was affable, but if she perceived the 
extent of the station manager's destructive ineptitude, she chose not to act 
on it.

Revealing the extent and urgency of WBAI's financial problem was a bit of a bombshell to snug abusers. Suddenly, that writing on the wall became clearer, so much so that even the most delusional among them could now begin to make it out.

Out? The mere word had a chill to it, but it was a taste of reality they had managed to overlook for many decades. Action was called for and even the 
most fossilized now stirred. Reimers whimpered something about creating 
"BAI buddies," but creditors were not living in his dream world. They shouted 
something about "a half million dollars," and seemed in no mood to dilly-dally.

Reese's response was

As in WBAI Transmitter Fund.
There followed a flurry of anxious pitching, but it only staved off the wolves temporarily. "Never mind," the turf-protecting abusers sighed, when gullible listeners bought their hype and made pledges, "we can breathe again." So, they went back to their routines, wheeled out Ifé and her turntables (with help from Michael Gee-whiz Haskins) and hip hopped their way to temporary 
rented quarters at a college station. It was cramped, you had to climb a steep 
hill to get there, but it was Harlem—it was that imaginary "community" they 
so much wanted WBAI to represent.
Not everybody made that uptown trek. Oh, "Tom from the Bronx" was on the 
phone when they finally connected it, but he almost lived in the hood, anyway.
Something, however, was missing.....
The listeners!
While all this clawing for turf, backstabbing, and stomping on the grave of Pacifica founder Lewis Hill was escalating, the audience had quietly slipped away...
...bamboozled and bewildered. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Even the Chairs can't come to order

WBAI is not the only Pacifica station that has been reduced to near-rubble by poor management and self-serving hosts.

The following was written by a member of the WPFW LSB (Washingtin D.C.)

Pacifica’s leadership crisis: Summer Reese shouldn’t hold both of the foundation’s top spots

The Pacifica Foundation is in trouble and the problem starts at the top. The listener-sponsored, progressive, anti-war radio network – which operates five stations in as many major markets and has more than 100 affiliates – is experiencing widespread upheaval. Up to this point I’ve kept my concerns about Pacifica interim executive director Summer Reese to myself, but after what I witnessed in D.C. Superior Court last week, I must speak out.
The case in question involved a frivolous lawsuit to stop Pacifica’s D.C. station, WPFW, from moving to a new home. The defendants included WPFW’s general manager and three station board members, including myself. There was one other defendant, Ms. Reese, who used her testimony to jeopardize the very foundation she heads up. Among Ms. Reese’s inaccurate statements was that she’d been forced to sign WPFW’s lease for a new home.
Judge Geoffrey Alprin didn’t buy it. He asked Ms. Reese if anybody put a gun to her head. Turns out they hadn’t. The judge’s further questioning revealed that it wasn’t a gun but a vote of the national board, which governs the foundation, that led her to sign the lease (which she was in favor of).
Supposedly Ms. Reese was in court to protect the interests of Pacifica. But she didn’t. Not only did she testify against the foundation’s interests, she also failed to secure legal representation for herself or her fellow defendants despite repeated requests.
Here’s what’s going on: Ms. Reese wants to fire WPFW general manager John Hughes, but she hasn’t. That’s because she needs to maintain board support if she’s to keep her own job as interim executive director, and the board isn’t comfortable with firing Mr. Hughes since he’s got a contract and hasn’t been written up by his direct supervisor (Ms. Reese). So in an effort to make Mr. Hughes appear weak (and fireable), Ms. Reese has undermined him time and again. Nowhere is that more apparent than in regards to the move.
WPFW’s current home is being demolished and the station must vacate its building by April 30. The clock is ticking. Since it’s Pacifica that signs the lease, not WPFW, Mr. Hughes is dependent upon Ms. Reese for her signature, as well as to provide prospective landlords with requested financial documents, something she’s repeatedly failed to do in a timely manner. What’s more, despite the difficult situation WPFW finds itself in, Ms. Reese has gone weeks without responding to Mr. Hughes’ calls and emails, letting her personality conflict with him interfere with her duties as interim executive director.
Sitting before Judge Alprin, Ms. Reese likely saw a perfect storm gathering. A ruling against WPFW and Pacifica could be blamed on Mr. Hughes, thereby giving Ms. Reese the needed cover to fire him. And she appeared to adjust her testimony accordingly. Fortunately it didn’t work.
Those of us who are apart of Pacifica are often too quick to call for a change in leadership. The network’s near constant churn at the top creates a dizzying merry-go-round of instability. But after what I saw in court, it’s clear change is needed.
Now, I realize that Ms. Reese isn’t likely to resign. Nor is the national board likely to call for her to step down, in no small measure because she’s the chair. Apart from being a clear conflict of interest – she heads up the body that’s supposed to oversee her – this arrangement just isn’t working, as the instability across the network makes clear.
It’s not just WPFW that’s suffered under Ms. Reese’s watch. WBAI in New York is teetering on the edge, having all-but lost its ability to broadcast from atop the Empire State Building and the station is now housed in several temporary and scattered sites throughout the city. At Pacifica’s flagship station, KPFA in Berkeley, Ms. Reese just issued an abrupt notice of her intent to terminate the interim general manager despite the fact that the station’s local board opposes the firing and the national board wasn’t consulted. Also under Ms. Reese’s watch, Pacifica’s corporate status lapsed, putting the foundation in jeopardy and leading to the loss of its name (now officially Pacifica Foundation Radio).
What’s become clear over the past year is that Pacifica is not well served with one individual holding both of the foundation’s top spots. It’s time for a change.
Pete Tucker is a member of WPFW’s Local Station Board

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pacifica's House of Cards...

This just in: Last Saturday, at KPFA's LSB meeting, Pacifica's Interim Executive Director, Summer Reese—the lady who came to town, laughed a lot, and revealed the true nature and urgency of WBAI's debt—told that station's Interim GM, Andrew Phillips, to pack up. As Phillips, a man who has the broadcasting experience Reimers so sorely lacks, put it,  "Summer Reese told me I should be prepared to vacate my office next week."

When last I heard of this lady's activities, she was running around in Brooklyn, looking for a house suitable for WBAI as it's new home. How she was going to buy a building in New York without money, credit, and listeners is a mystery. So, to me, is the fact that she did not tell Berthold Reimers to vacate his office (the temporary one). These people live in a dream world, but I think their house of cards is coming down, and they can only blame themselves—but, of course, they won't.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A petition that does not go far enough...

UPDATE: I have added two astute observations/suggestions at the bottom of this post. Chris

The following petition was presented to Berthold Reimers and the assembled staff and volunteers at a staff meeting that took place Thursday, April 11, 20013. It is signed by 39 producer/hosts, but the signatures become most interesting when one notices who didn't  take pen in hand.

That said, I have mixed feelings about this open letter, because the financial crisis is far from solved and it is going to get worse as listeners once again become subjected to endless on-air pitches in the next couple of months. Most listeners have, as we know, already abandoned WBAI, but there are a few left who helped Reimers get past the last hurdle he created with his negligence.  As I have said before, the wolves are still out there and their hunger has not been satisfied, but if Reimers and his cronies  think that the listeners are ready to continue their support, they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

So far, WBAI has been lucky—against all logic, some people continued to send in their money to pay for unearned salaries, sub-standard, stale programs and lightweight pop music. I predict that this will stop and WBAI will become the fatal victim of greed, ego, and general mismanagement. Everybody loses. 

Some of us have tried hard to get Reimers and his group to understand that there is no hope for WBAI's future unless there is a drastic change in what is being broadcast. Reimers finally seems to get the message, but only up to a point—bringing James Irsay back was a good move, but it is also a futile move unless several hours of WBAI's currently scheduled programs are dropped. Not phased out, dropped!

This process should have been started three years ago when Reimers was hired, so it may well be too late now, but every day that these embarrassing programs continue to air brings the station closer to extinction.

Getting back to the open letter. It is signed by many of WBAI's worthy producer/hosts, but I think they make a big mistake by asking that program changes be put on hold until there is a Program Director—the station can't wait, change must come right now. It takes Pacifica forever to hire people to such positions, because all the damn committees and boards get in the way of expediency. It only takes one unpaid transmitter room bill to put the final nail in this Pacifica-made coffin.

The letter should, in my strong opinion, demand the resignation of Reimers and his gang, and an expedited search for a real Program Director. They are out there and the right person can be in place rather quickly if the process is allowed to take place without egos and bureaucracy getting in the way. This can only happen if there is a thorough weeding out of the useless opportunists.

It will not be an easy task, because these people will not go away without a fight. There is already great internal animosity among the staff and volunteers. Thursday, when this letter was presented, Tony Ryan, one of Reimers; flunkies, grabbed it, crumpled it up and threw it against a wall. Had he read it thoroughly, he might have seen that it is more a request for time than for change—it is, ironically, a petition that favors the station's ingrown dross, at least for the time being.

What do you think?

Here is a response addressed to the signatories of that open letter by Sidney Smith (Uncle Sid) and posted to the BlueBoard. Sidney has a wonderful way of cutting through the crap and getting to the core of the matter. That's what he does here:

Well, here we go again.
Putting aside if or not the Manager has authority to do any program changing this action you guys are doing is profoundly unwise.

Comrades we don't own our time slots. You don't I don't we don't. We also don't have a 'birthright' to be on the air. 
I always felt that this notion of entitlement was 'the' core dysfunction around here.You me the whole crowd we own 'nothing' here. It's 'all' in trust.

Hey pretty much everybody on this list is a pal. Some seriously good pals, but I have to disagree with ya on this one.

I don't know what to do to save the station. I don't know what changes should happen. I just know change needs to happen. Serious Radical Sweeping Change!

Change that may not include all of us. Change that may see some, maybe most of us being altered or outright removed.

This turf fight that seems to be brewing I see as a move to keep the local status quo going into eternity. This static comes at the worse possible time as well.

What the hell are we thinking?!
Our programs 'more' important than the actual station it broadcast on?
Folks you do know that WBAI may not make it? A realistic bookie would give us 40% odds tops. You do get that right?
We're 'still' very much in the most critical, and potentially deadly crisis of our entire history.

...and we do this?

We start what could be yet another internal conflict? Yeah I can already hear it..."my show"..."my show"..."my show" ..."democracy procedure"..."who are you to say shit" blah blah...

Angels weep.

Here's a litmus test.
Would you give up your regular slot for the good of the station? If it would help this place live?

Yeah, I love doing my show too. However, does it outweigh the institution? I think we all need to seriously think about and confront this question.

This petition to me is just more of the same 'ol same 'ol of this place. It's how we always react to anyone poking the anthill. I even noticed some of the warring factions are getting together for this.

Nice, swell. At least finally we have something in common. We all want to be on the air forever. Good grief.

I'm on the verge of saying fuck this. Fuck all of it.
Enough enough enough!
Bleep this I'm going home to bed.
                                                      —Uncle Sidney

The following suggestion was posted to the BlueBoard in response to a request from Jim Dingeman that Paul Fischer attend a staff meeting and voice his suggestions for a solution. Mr. Fischer spent five years as WBAI's News Director and about a year at KPFA in that same capacity. He also worked at CBS news for 31 years, and is the producer-host of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" a series occasionally aired by WBAI.  Mr. Fischer's impressive broadcasting experience gives him insight to Berthold Reimers' incompetence. Here is what he suggests: 

Friday, April 12, 2013

The right move: James Irsay is back

This morning at 10, intelligent programming returned to WBAI...well, at least for a couple of hours. 

I don't know whose idea it was to bring back James Irsay, but it is a 
big step in the right direction. Whoever initiated this (was it Reimers?) 
deserves applause. Irsay, an accomplished pianist, is witty, intelligent, 
very much at home with the microphone, and thoroughly professional.

Giving him two hours a week is as good for WBAI as would be getting rid of Ifé, Armah, Knight, Kathy Davis, Tony Ryan, Starman, and others, too numerous to mention.

The program is Morning Irsay and it will air Friday mornings from 10 to Noon. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

WBA Infomercials

Today I heard an infomercial by Vikki Hufnagel. The program was listed as "The Ethical Doctor," but surely there was some mistake. They were on the phone with someone who has just the right sprouts to circumvent cancer.

No, this was not a fundraiser for WBAI, there was no mention of the money still needed for transmitter room rent and other immediate needs—this was just a strong, lengthy endorsement of a particular brand of spirulina and how and where to buy it. They gave out the 800 phone number more than once, urging listeners to take advantage of a current discount price. This Hawaiian brand of these vitamins was of a much better quality that any that could be obtained at Whole Foods, someone said. There was no attempt to conceal the commercial aspect of this one-hour offering from the station they love to hawk as "commercial free." 

Compounding this breach of professed principles was Michael G. Haskin's very own commercial that came on the 2PM break. He played a recording by Craig Harris and delivered an enthusiastic ad lib commercial for his band's current appearance at The Mist, a Harlem restaurant. The plug included the phone number for reservations, etc.

The Hawaiian vitamins and the Menu and ambiance of The Mist are probably beyond reproach, but that is not the point here. Two people, an alleged "ethical" doctor and a deluded, self-righteous station staffer seriously and un-abashedly broke an important part of the principles laid forth by Pacifica's founders. One of them, at least, also demonstrated thereby how readily he lies to WBAI's listeners. If this, and worse abuses are okay with you, then, by all means send in your money to keep the station on its crooked path.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dead End Destination?

A message from Berthold Reimers

As you read this amazing message from the man who has been all but invisible for three years, please bear in mind that he has had ample opportunity to do something about the station's most abominable offerings. The fact is that he has done nothing to improve WBAI—instead, he has allowed the bills to accumulate and such total crap as the numerology program and Ifé's lightweight disc jockey show to be added. This is so contrary to some of the ideas he brings up here as his "vision," that one has to wonder if Berthold Reimers is all there, mentally. I really mean that—read the crap he puts forward here and think about his performance over the past three years, and where it now has put "our beloved station," as he so disingenuously puts it.

What the hell does this idiot mean when he states: "As you can see, I have been thinking a lot about programming and about WBAI's future and its impact on NYC and the world." ?

I, for one, can't see that, much less hear it. And why did he not mention any of this on Kathy Davis' Report to the Listener, a week ago? Was this "vision" of his delivered by one of Davis' homeless angels (remember that one?) this weekend? Did he overindulge on that miracle water?

Does he think pedestrian hiphop music and warmed-over, biased "news analysis" has an impact on the city and the world? The only impact all this nonsense and the station's dummied down conversion to black street rethoric has had is a mass listener exodus.

Dear WBAI Producers and Staff,
I want to thank you for your pro-active participation theses past eight weeks. WBAI is still broadcasting thanks to you and our listeners. I would like to take this opportunity to look to the future although we are not yet past the many hurdles we face.

For the past 15 years, there has been much discussion about WBAI's programming and the need to improve it. Simultaneously, the constant change in management - from the GM to the PD - has had a destabilizing effect on our beloved station. As you are aware, we are now without a Program Director and a Program Council/Programming Committee, and I am functioning as the de facto Program Director.

Although, I did put out an ad for Interim Program Director and I have received many résumés that I will review, time is not on our side. Therefore, as we can no longer wait and use these circumstances as a reason/excuse not to make changes, I want to share with you my vision and goals for improving WBAI's programming.

1. My vision for WBAI comes out of conversations that I've had over the past three years with Program Directors, Producers, the National Office, and Local Station Board members. I intend to make WBAI the champion of content and a place where one can expect to be challenged intellectually.

WBAI can no longer have programs with long monologues and diatribes. We must become the place where intelligent discussion occurs and eventually stimulates everyone’s listening to re-evaluate firmly held positions. Also, as WBAI has lost its ability to be a trendsetter in Arts, Music and Popular Culture, I intend to add at least one extra hour per day of Arts programming that will explore and expose the richness of New York City and its various communities. I would also like to improve our Public Affairs programming by re-directing our focus towards content and themes in lieu of narrowly defined categories. For example, I would rather cover the exploitation of the poor by the rich instead of focusing on say a specific group. Of course, the specific group will be part of the discussion, but the essence of the programming shall be focused on the idea and concept of exploitation.

2. One of the sharpest criticisms of Management has been that we have not evaluated, nor given guidance to Producers for the past 10 to 15 years. I would like to change that ASAP before we embark on massive program changes that are certain to happen within the next three to six months.

3. On January 28, 2013, I sent an e-mail/memo to Producers asking for a self-evaluation programming review of their programs. The deadline was originally February 15, 2013. However, due to the station’s move to two different locations while in the middle of a fund drive during that month, only a handful of Producers submitted their material. Now that the fund drive is over, I would like to remind you that this mandatory programming evaluation is essential for your program to remain on the air. I want to give everyone a chance to champion their program before any changes are made. The form is available at
The new due date is April 30, 2013.

4. I intend to foster an environment where Producers will collaborate on special projects. I would love to see Producers work on projects they feel an affinity towards and Management will do its best to support you. Moving forward, I hope to see most ideas and projects initiated by Producers. Here are two projects that I’ve initiated:

a. After the 2012 debate between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney on International politics, I was so upset that Africa was not mentioned once that I contacted Wuyi Jacobs of Afrobeat Radio and asked him to begin planning a symposium on Africa. Thankfully, Wuyi had already been thinking of such a project and we are already in the working and planning phase. Several WBAI Producers have advised me that it would be much more democratic, inclusive and efficient to send out a request to all staff interested in this project. Although my style is to approach individual Producers and brainstorm, I immediately embraced this suggestion and I am now opening the invitation to all to submit ideas and to participate in this symposium that will be organized by Wuyi and sponsored by WBAI.

b. Hugo Chavez's death has left us all perplexed. I have reached out to William Camacaro of La Voz Latina to ask him to put together a special on Latin America called, "Hugo Chavez". I am certain that William is very competent given his connections to the Venezuelan government, Bolivian government and other activists. However, again, after advice from several WBAI Producers, I want to open the invitation to all WBAI Producers. Also, I have already contacted our West coast sister station KPFK that did some serious segments on Hugo Chavez to collaborate with us. I am looking forward to your feedback and participation.

5. Many Producers have complained there is not a yearly schedule of events so that they can plan and contribute. I am asking you to send me suggestions for events you want WBAI to cover for the next coming year. Once I get your suggestions and recommendations, I will set up an agenda then get more feedback from you before I set up a fixed agenda for the next 365 days.

As you can see, I have been thinking a lot about programming and about WBAI's future and its impact on NYC and the world. I know these are trying times and I recognize that these ideas of mine have not been shared with you in the past because I was waiting for a PD to do so, but I am certain after what I have witnessed these past four weeks that you will rise to the occasion and do right by WBAI. Looking ahead, it would also be advantageous for any incoming PD to have some structures in place rather than having to create it from scratch. So, I am calling on you to participate in this process and I would like to thank very much the WBAI Producers who suggested to me that instead of approaching individual Producers for projects that I send a call out to all Producers. I am looking forward to your suggestions and participation. I am sure I have missed all kinds of angles that are crucial, but I am sure you will point them out.

I am looking forward to the formation of a program council within the next month as instructed by the PNB to implement my vision.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their effort in these difficult times for we could not have done it without everyone’s participation.

Berthold Reimers
General Manager
WBAI Radio 99.5 FM
250 Vesey St, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10282
(347) 903-2986
(212) 209-2820