Pacifica Radio Planning Self-Dismemberment at WBAI


by Robert Knight

Pacifica Radio's amateur "democratically elected" National Board is moving rapidly in secret session to abdicate operation of its "listener sponsored" WBAI --  by "leasing" the signal and management of its financially-challenged New York station  to an undisclosed external entity as early as November.

The Pacifica National Board's (PNB) desperate "plan" is to magically absolve more than a decade of its self-inflicted network-wide "structural maladjustments" with a "radical stationectomy."  

The PNB and its agencies (created and operated at a conservatively-estimated cumulative cost of more than a million dollars) are proceeding on a classified basis to enact bad policy with irretrievable consequences, with the same haste and imprecision as Congress' passage of the PATRIOT Act.

Like Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to "end" the Vietnam war, Pacifica is similarly thwarting public disclosure and informed debate -- much less direct "listener/subscriber" participation -- in such a fundamental and unprecedented mutation of the Pacifica infrastructure.

This illustrates the current Pacifica "governance" structure's peculiar conception of "Transparency" as: "Something that cannot be seen." 

To paraphrase Joseph Heller's brilliant "Catch-22" in regard to the need for whistleblower "Sunshine" on Pacifica's secret policy of Private deals for Public radio:   

"Where are the [Edward] Snowdens of [Pacifica's] latter-years?"

 Here's an excerpt of how the NY Daily News' David Hinckley covered Pacifica's pending purge:

New York's WBAI (99.5 FM) seeks leasing deal to save station


    The current WBAI as New Yorkers know it may be in danger as the financially troubled station seeks a lease-management arrangement.  

    Progressive radio station WBAI (99.5 FM), long teetering on the financial precipice, may resolve the issue by leasing itself to another operator.  Such a deal, known in radio as a lease-management arrangement (LMA), would put all programming in the hands of the leasing entity.

    Steve Brown, a member of WBAI's local station board, revealed Monday that the Pacifica National Board (PNB), the governing body of WBAI and four other Pacifica stations, has started the process of seeking LMA bidders.  "Although WBAI might not be sold (yet)," said Brown, "it seems almost certain to be leased."    He circulated a memo from PNB member Cerene Roberts saying that the national board met Oct. 3 to ask that its executive director draw up a "Request for Proposals" - that is, a call for bids.  The board met again Oct. 10 to order that the request be published.  

    There is a Nov. 6 deadline for responses.

    WBAI, which has been financially precarious for almost the whole six decades it has broadcast in New York, has recently slid to the edge of insolvency, laying off staffers and warning that it cannot pay its bills.  Some members of the PNB have reportedly advocated selling WBAI, which would relieve Pacifica of that ongoing debt crisis and provide capital for the other Pacifica stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Washington. [...]

    The LMA is often used in radio to transfer programming control while a station is going through the sometimes-lengthy process of getting approval for a sale....The biggest fear among WBAI staffers and supporters is that the loss of WBAI would remove a progressive voice from a radio market whose dominant talk voices are conservative.

    Brown expressed hope that if WBAI goes the LMA route, it can vet bidders and "lease to an entity (or person) with impeccable left or near-left credentials." ... He also noted that PNB bylaws require WBAI to have a local station board, which could potentially complicate LMA implementation.

In this tragic episode of "strife imitating art," The Simpsons' local TV anchor "Kent Brockman" famously summarized the PNB's imminent abandonment of WBAI as a Pacifica owned-and-operated "listener-supported" station:

"And I for one welcome our new insect overlords.
I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be
helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves."

Well, mummy has to hurry now, to go catch that Gravy Train.  
Now promise me kids, that you'll try your very bestest 
to get along with your new WBAI stepdaddy -- m'kay...?  
I'll never leave you, and I promise I'll write you every day!

PS:  Your severance checks are in the mail.  Really.  
Just trust us.  We'd never keep any secrets from you!

- Love,

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