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March 9, 2009

Alert Regarding Proposal to put WBAI into "internal receivership"

For a while now, members of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) have been focusing their concerns about the Pacifica Foundation's financial problems on WBAI, which has fixed space-related expenses almost twice that of the other four stations combined. More so than other stations, WBAI has not been meeting its pledge goals in recent drives. The focus on WBAI has recently been sharpened by our station's $150,000+ shortfall in the February pledge drive. Last night, on the public conference call of the PNB, it came out that Grace Aaron, the new (as of January) board chair from Los Angeles station KPFK - who is also the acting Executive Director because that position is still vacant - is now floating the idea of putting WBAI into "internal receivership" (i.e., taking control and management away from the local station) and running the programming out of the Pacifica National Office. No decision has been made public - yet.

When WBAI listener representative Nia Bediako (of the Justice & Unity Campaign) insisted that Aaron's proposal must be discussed in public session, Aaron said it could only be discussed in executive session because it involved "confidential advice of counsel." Nia argued passionately that separate from the issue of the lawyer's advice, a policy of this scope and significance must be publicly discussed, but her motion to add the item to the public agenda was defeated by a vote of 6-11. The other 3 WBAI National Board members (from the ListProg/ACE/"independent" faction) -- Kathy Davis (staff rep), Carolyn Birden, and Jamie Ross (listener reps) -- voted against public discussion.

Clearly we must rise up and say, "Hell no!" to this effort to destroy local control of our beloved station. Some suggestions, for starters:

1)   Email the National Board at pnb@pacifica.org and tell them you are dead set against any plan that removes local control from the station and its programming, and that any discussion of the proposal to do so MUST be held in public. We particularly need to demand that ALL of the WBAI National Board members take this position and hold it firmly.

2) Turn out for the next meeting of the WBAI Local Station Board on Thursday, March 26, at 7 PM at a location to be announced (check the web at www.wbai.org), and let the entire local board know what you think.

3)  Plan on organizing together to fight this attack on WBAI - and to work on all the viable strategies folks can come up with to bring the station out of its financial crisis.

Other ideas are welcome. The next National Board conference call is Friday, March 20. We will keep people posted, and they can email us with questions or ideas at info@justiceunity.org and sign up for our email list at www.justiceunity.org.

(212) 591-2111 * www.justiceunity.org (join our email list there) * info@justiceunity.org