Friday, May 24, 2013

Time to step on the brakes...

I picked up the following this morning. It comes from Mitchel Cohen and appears to be addressed to Pacifica's National Board. I often disagree with Mitchel, but we are basically on the same wavelength when it comes to the desperate need for efficient management. As the voices of disgust grow louder, his plea to the PNB adds new thought to this tangle of confusion and misdirection: 

The Pacifica National Board must NOT lay off any more staff at WBAI. We are down to a skeleton crew already. That's the wrong way to deal with the financial crunch, by imposing IMF-like austerity on WBAI.

The PNB and local management must PROVIDE LEADERSHIP, by mobilizing all staff and listeners to undertake the following campaigns for the next few months; if those don't work, then and only then should the massive cutbacks be brought to the table:

1) Expand the donor base / membership by 50 percent, within the next 3 months. This can be done. In fact Steve Brown and I proposed ways to do this for the last ten years, and no management has said "Yes, let's try it!"  I'm not going to go into the details here, the plan has been laid out in quite some detail many times previously.

An increase in membership to 22,000 is required at the current average annual donation rate for WBAI to approach sustainability.

Expanding the membership base should be WBAI's #1 priority. The PNB has a responsibility to develop plans for doing that, before it considers laying off staff members.

2) Negotiate a new agreement with the Empire State Building for a not-for-profit rate, that would cut our antenna expenses of $60K per month by at least 50 percent. Bring in supporters among the City Council. There are reasons why this is achievable at this time that I'm not going to go into here. If management doesn't know how to do that, then APPOINT SOMEONE COMPETENT to put together a team to map out that strategy.

3) HIRE a competent program director who will focus NOT on fundraising for now, but on improving programming.

4) Advertise & promote the station in many venues, not just on WBAI's airwaves.

5) Immediately implement Steve Brown's proposal for revamping premiums delivery. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are pledged in each drive that go uncollected. Let those who know how to structure this properly have authority to actually go out and collect those funds.

There are more points, but MY point is that the PNB and management need to provide leadership as organizers, and not act as austerity cops. All of these require mobilizing listeners and staff in organized teams.

I and others have offered to organize within that framework, but seeing these proposals allowed to wither on the vine every time by management on national and local levels, I must insist that for them to succeed would require support from management and staff -- support that has simply not been there.

The PNB has the obligation to provide leadership for the next 4 to 5 months and let us turn this around. Of course, if the PNB wants to lose WBAI altogether, keep on with these austerity measures instead of EXPANDING the outreach, and you'll doom WBAI. Come on, PNB, be the leaders and organizers you are, not austerity cops! We have the well-worked out plans, let us run with them!  —Mitchel Cohen

And if you need more evidence of Berhold Reimers' incompetence and neglect, there is this note from Mitchel, inspired by Amy Goodman's fundraising pitch this morning:

"Last year I attended Dr. Gabor Mate's sold-out and wonderful talk in Berkeley on behalf of KPFA. Afterwards, I spoke with him and he offered to do a benefit-talk for WBAI when he was in NYC. I relayed this information to management, and followed up with both Gabor and WBAI.

As has been so often the case, nothing was done.

Now I hear on WBAI that Amy Goodman is pitching premiums by Gabor Mate on behalf of the station -- great! But imagine how much more powerful it would have been to have integrated the premiums with a series of workshops and larger benefits led by Gabor, with funds going to WBAI." Mitchel Cohen

A Footnote:

Frank LeFevre, Berthold Reimers' vainglorious Apologist-in-Chief, has made a feeble attempt to excuse Reimers for ignoring this fundraising opportunity. There is, of course, no valid excuse forsuch chronic neglect of duty by the GM. With such people as Reimers and LeFevre intimately involved in the station's governance, it is not difficult to understand why WBAI now finds itself on the brink of obscurity. —Chris

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Is it too late?

Disgusted/disappointed listeners are finally beginning to speak up against the abuse of WBAI that seems so readily accepted by Pacifica and our local opportunists—the people who are now delivering the fatal blow. This perceptive observation addresses the cowardly silence as well as the rampant on-air deception and lies. It was posted on the BlueBoard today under the handle: "One upon a time Member"

When the marketer "Dr." Gary Null returned to WBAI, I wrote in protest that I could not participate in maintaining a station that confuses narcissistic contrarianism and merchandising with criticism of and resistance to power. Before I wrote that, I heard WBAI "doctors" diagnosing people on the air, after a few minutes of phone rambling from the desperate "patient", sight unseen. Who can support that? Seriously, think demographics - what kind of people, with what kind of behavior, will support that month after month? Are there enough of them? Do they have the cash? I was dismayed that credentialed scientists associated with WBAI refused to demand an end to this (that's when I realized that the situation was not salvageable). The desperate gave more $$$, and I got to hear first hand who these people were, as I took the calls. The premiums aren't any more crazy than the regular free offerings. If you want to take money from the audience, it will have to be from the audience you built with the programming you offer. With all the money "Dr." Gary Null raised, did anyone wonder - even for a moment - at all the people who would REFUSE to tell anyone about the station, even about other programs, for fear that they'd be seen as lunatics? Did anyone wonder - even for a moment - at all the people who would simply walk away, shaking their heads, feeling like they'd been had (after given time and money)?

When I was in a position to ask the question at the station, I inquired after programming standards. Written ones. There were none. I asked if the PD met with the on-air talent. Not really. And never was there a checklist of (1) who was the intended audience, (2) how successful is this connection with that audience - and how is that measured, (3) how well does that fit within a broader station programming direction and mission, (4) what can the PD or others do to improve the quality and outreach, (5) what can the talent do to improve the quality and outreach? Nope. No questions. No records. And why should there be? The station's programming was often embarrassing, even downright dangerous - not merely annoying, or something I disagreed with - but dishonest and destructive. Why make a written record of that, who would sign off on that?

I have recently read a prominent WBAI personage denounce Al Lewis's fake birthday, in very disparaging terms. I couldn't listen to "Grandpa Al" because he was something between mean and cruel to people (really, if you only want to hear your own voice, why take calls - especially when you know half the callers are mentally disabled and will add nothing). But this poster's hang-up was with a 90th birthday party for a man who wasn't 90. Really? On the station with "Dr." Gary Null as star attraction, THAT is the big problem? The 90-year-old thing is just a joke - and lying about age is a common ruse among performers. And nobody took it seriously. It just shows how cynical and unserious the leaders of WBAI are. If there was any - and I mean ANY - integrity left anywhere at the station, they would appeal to the foundation to sublet the station's programming to some other group, perhaps an arts foundation for half the day and perhaps FAIR or The Nation Institute for the other half. Sure, I'd have plenty of quibbles with that solution, I'm somewhat to the left of FAIR/The Nation and probably any arts group who would have the wherewithal to run a station... but right now, we're talking about basic competence. And Pacifica doesn't have it.

I'll never forget going to a seder, a pro-Palestinian one, and the someone had said, "Oh, did you all get the email from ____ to give $25 and vote in the next Pacifica election?" Everyone said yes. And I said, "Hey, that's WBAI! Did any of you catch the show about..." And I immediately noticed that everyone (the room was filled with 20- and 30-somethings) turned in shock, with my partner tugging at my sleeve saying, "Nobody actually LISTENS to WBAI, honey." As I said, a handful of cynics behind the mics... and a rapidly diminishing number outside the walls who have long ago switched off the radio. That's WBAI.

WBAI isn't going to die.
It's already dead.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pertinent reading...

Ibrahim Gonzaléz's Mother's Day letter, which he posted on the BlueBoard. This link will take you to it:  Ibrahim's letter.

Robbie Barish, who first came to WBAI in 1966 and wisely used it as a stepping stone to the broadcasting industry and impressive higher learning, has recently been of invaluable help to Bob Fass, who inspired him so many years ago. Like all of us who knew the ethical, principled WBAI, Robbie is dismayed at the implosion he sees. He commented on it in the BlueBoard forum. I recommend that you read his words.

Here is another voice of reason as posted to the BlueBoard. I don't know who this person is, but the critique of WBAI's programming direction is sadly accurate. Read it here.

You have probably heard Christine Blosdale, the woman KPFK sent to WBAI as a pitcher during the last marathon (seems like only yesterday and it almost was). Well, she's back and up to her old tricks of defrauding the listeners. She also appears to be pitching for the GM job at KPFK, which is giving her more publicity than she probably wants. Take a look at this.

I just came across this on the web. It's Berthold Reimers' pre-WBAI resumé and it will either amuse you or enrage you:  The Reimers story.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Berthold Reimers is still hiding, even from the staff whose salary he cut off. He still expects them to report to work at their own expense. Some salaried people should have been removed from the station a long time ago (Robert Knight, Kathy Davis and, indeed, Reimers himself) but there are also those who earn their paycheck and without whom the WBAI would stall altogether. Not to give them as much as transportation money and hiding from them is outrageous confirmation of Berthold Reimers' incompetence. He must be dismissed as soon as possible,

Berthold Reimers is still in hiding, but something is going on, and it does not bode well for WBAI's future. If you have listened to the station in the past month, you probably noticed that no serious fundraising has taken place. Last Sunday, the host of "Everything Old is New Again" made a brief statement indicating that things were on the mend. Anyone who heard that and has noticed the absence of pitching and escalation of mindless pap, can easily assume that WBAI's economic situation is no longer dire.

Here's a message posted today on the LSB public list by R. Paul Martin:

"WBAI General Manager Berthold Reimers has informed me that as of tonight 
there has been no new progress in getting enough money for WBAI to pay 
the current $119,000 that it needs for the Empire State Building 
payment, payroll and other bills.
Pacifica Management is still trying to get a substantial amount of cash
together to help WBAI's finances.
When I hear more I'll let people know."
—R. Paul Martin (posted to another list) 

Here, also posted today, is a note from LSB member Cerene Roberts, who is still barred from entering the station and posting on the list LSB list-serv. That, alone, tells us how disorganized and polarized these amateurs have made WBAI's governance. What Ms. Roberts suggests is too logical and reasonable for these management people to pay attention to it. There is a faction that absolutely hates Cerene Roberts, whom they describe as a violent person guilty of going on a destructive rampage. Well, perhaps that's true, but the accusers—who regard themselves as the "good" guys—regularly test people's ability to sit still while they work the wrecking ball. These "angels" will maintain that Roberts' compassion is but a ploy to disrupt the order of things.

Cerene Roberts' post:

Dear Pacifica Lovers,
WBAI's paid staff should have received paychecks on 4/30. They did not. 
And further, they only received 1 business day's notice of this misfortune.

Tomorrow, they are required to begin a 30-day marathon. (This follows a 2-month funddrive during the first half of which all staff offered premiums, etc. During the second leg, they begged long and hard for $300K+ to save the transmitter from ejection/eviction from the Empire State Building.)

In New York City:
  • A monthly subway metro card costs $112
  • A week's worth of groceries is $40-$75
  • A cellphone bill could run $50-$100
At the upcoming meetings of the local and national boards on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, I will bring the motion that WBAI management pay each staffperson at least $250, immediately, providing them the ability to travel, eat and, communicate.

The Local Station Board (LSB) meets on Wednesday 5/8 at 7PM, at Alwan for the Arts, 16 Beaver Street in downtown Manhattan near the bull. (Trains: #4/5 to wheelchair-accessible Bowling Green, #2/3 to Wall Street, #1 to South Ferry or Rector,"J" to Broad.) There will be time for Public Comment. It is hoped that the manager will make an appearance and provide useful financial information. 

The Pacifica National Board ( meets on Thursday 5/9 at 8:30PM (Eastern) by telephone. It will be streamed at One hopes that reliable information will be presented.

I ask that someone with posting priviledges to the LSB's listserv forward this note. I am blocked from posting to that list.

Cerene Roberts
-- In my individual capacity and NOT on behalf of either the WBAI LSB and PNB

Friday, May 3, 2013

The race card?

The following announcement from IED Summer Reese regarding a change at KPFA is rumored to have its basis in an accusation of racism. Mr. Phillips is a white Australian with a Pacifica association that predates his appointment as KPFA's IGM. If the card played was, indeed from the race deck, WBAI had better brace itself. However, as things are going, the fear of such internal finger pointing is moot. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A May Day Message

The following report from R. Paul Martin was posted 
May 1, 2013. May Day, ironically. It speaks for itself:

Ibrahim González, gentle soul and WBAI faithful that he is, posted on the Blue Board that he would give the station back any penalty money they might be forced to pay out by the union. This is mostly drawing praise for Ibrahim, but Sidney Smith has experienced homelessness and the thought of an encore makes it difficult for him to be quite as noble. Here is the response he posted on that board. He asks just the right questions: