History of WBAI

2010 marked WBAI-FM’s 50th anniversary as groundbreaking radio at 99.5 FM.

WBAI is New York City’s premier non-commercial, listener-sponsored radio station presenting an extraordinary range of programming and in-depth exploration of topical issues and the arts you will not find in the mainstream corporate media.

Since its inception in 1960, the station’s radio personalities and staff, in concert with its listeners, have continually pushed the boundaries of what radio can look — and sound — like. In 1978 WBAI broadcast George Carlin‘s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television,” The station was subsequently hauled into court by the federal government (thank you, Jimmy Carter). The case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and came close to bankrupting the Pacifica network. While destroying us financially, it also really put the station on the map.

From its new offices on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, WBAI continues to challenge the powers-that-be ruling our world. The station is uniquely governed by listeners and staff as part of the national Pacifica Foundation.

Headquartered in Berkeley, California, the Pacifica Foundation oversees four other stations in major U.S. markets and more than 100 affiliated stations.

WBAI’s mission:

“in radio broadcasting operations to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors” and to “gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups.” – from the Pacifica mission statement

WBAI unique programming covers a dynamic and boundary pushing range of territory. Call-in from listeners is featured on many shows with opportunities to provide feedback and air opinion.

Daily WBAI programs cover topics ranging from:

  • politics
  • the arts
  • human rights
  • racial justice
  • the environment
  • education
  • alternative health
  • New York City and national news

– and so much more.

Meet up with a regular WBAI listener and you will find someone with a vast array of knowledge on the issues of the day, with a more expansive and well-informed perspective than one gained from listening solely to the mainstream media. WBAI programming addresses topics ranging from science fiction and criminal justice to the inside scoop on the latest films, computers and cell phones, to alternatives to the mainstream medical paradigm.

Amazingly, WBAI’s 50,000 effective watt signal from the antenna atop the Empire State Building is the among the most powerful in the region enabling it to be heard in Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and parts of upstate New York as well as the 5 boroughs. The programming is also offered via the internet at wbai.org.


Cast your vote in the Local Station Board elections, which take place 2x in every three year period.

VOLUNTEER your work at the station, mailing out premiums, phone-calling subscribers and — most important — helping to get the word out about the station’s very existence, to expand listenership!

WBAI exists and survives because of listeners and supporters like you.

The station does not accept advertising, underwriting or grants; therefore, the station is not beholden to any corporations or special interests. This is incredibly important in a world where corporations have an almost unshakable hold on so many facets of our society and our lives. Supporting WBAI makes certain that this independent premier New York City community radio station survives and thrives for another fifty years!

Join us. How? BY LISTENING. And BY VOTING. Tune your dial to 99.5 FM for a week and then see how your life has changed.


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