SAVING WBAI (SEPT. 23, 2013)




I’m only going to respond briefly to part of the WBAI-related situation, here. There’s more discussion by Local Board members at (only members of the Board can post to that listserve, but anyone can read it).

I strongly opposed the layoffs at WBAI, especially that of the News Department, and I urge everyone else to do the same.

On the other hand, Pacifica and WBAI made the decision which I agree with IN PRINCIPLE: That no on-air people be paid a salary. And so, ALL OF the paid on-air programmers were laid off, including the News Department (Jose Santiago, Andrea Sears, and Rebecca Myles), Robert Knight, Hugh Hamilton, and Esther Armah. Which leaves around 230 unpaid staff.

As of last January, we had the following monthly expenses:

Wall Street studio  =  $38,000
Antenna/transmitter =   50,000 and rising
Paid staff  = approx. $140,000 (including health care, etc.)

That’s $228,000 PER MONTH
Does not include equipment, mailing, premiums, telephone or other expenses; nor does it include payment on debts.

Since then, WBAI has FINALLY moved out of Wall Street (I’d been arguing that for YEARS), and done so on the cheap, thanks to amazingly strenuous work by volunteers and management, saving around $20K in the move itself, and around $28,000+ per month in rent for studios; and since the layoffs payroll is down to around $50K per month (including health benefits).

Even with the layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, WBAI is not taking in enough money to sustain itself. We’re falling short, in my estimation, by approximately $30,000 per month, not including payment on what we owe to Democracy Now!, National Office, Archives, Free Speech Radio News, Silverstein properties, and to the listeners who ordered and paid for premiums that have never been sent (although this last item is improving).

Those are the facts. How one interprets all of that, why that’s so, what spin one puts on it, really is not relevant (whether accurate or not).

The reality is — and I wrote this in a detailed report 3 years ago! — we need to at the very least expand WBAI’s membership by 34 percent within 1/2-year just to become sustainable. (See for those reports.) Steve Brown and I submitted two similar plans for how to do that — 10 years ago, and renewed and further developed every year — but they’ve not been implemented by ANY management regardless of faction.

Furthermore, there are no plans for a concerted attempt to let the 17.9 million people in our potential audience who never heard of WBAI know about WBAI’s existence. Nor has there been a mass fundraising mailing to our database in the last 3 years! The situation is tragic, it could be rectified, but ….. it’s simply not being done (despite other good things that ARE being done, in my view. But the necessary big ticket items are simply not being done).

I don’t have much hope for WBAI’s continued existence unless management allows those of us who know how to organize (and that includes several in all factions) to give us the station’s support and allow us to initiate major campaigns to immediately increase listenership and fundraising to the station.

Mitchel Cohen
former Chair, WBAI Local Station Board (2008-2012)


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