WBAI fails to meet payroll, pay rent

By Mike Janssen

Money shortfalls at New York’s WBAI, one of two Pacifica Foundation stations that must relocate their studios later this month, continue to worsen.

At the end of April, WBAI lacked funds to pay staff or rent on its antenna, according to an email by the treasurer of the station’s board.

WBAI owed about $119,000 and had $4,000 in the bank as of April 29, Local Station Board Treasurer R. Paul Martin wrote in an email that was sent to an LSB Yahoo! group.

The station is mandated by law to pay its staff, and missing the rent on WBAI’s antenna on the Empire State Building could result in “very bad consequences” if not paid by Monday, May 6. As of that date, the station still lacked the money, according to a later email by Martin.

CPB funding for WBAI has been held up because Pacifica has yet to issue an audit for fiscal year 2012, according to minutes from an April 10 WBAI Local Station Board meeting.

Pacifica Radio, which owns WBAI and four other stations around the country, was said to be working with its other outlets to address WBAI’s shortfall.

Summer Reese, interim executive director, also stepped in to resolve a dispute at WPFW in Washington, D.C., over plans to move the station to offices in Silver Spring, Md., that would have been subleased from a subsidiary of Clear Channel (Current, April 29).

Some station volunteers and listeners had opposed the relocation plan and went to court to block the move. Reese announced April 30 that plans for the Silver Spring move had been dropped.

WPFW is moving to a temporary location within the District while continuing to look for a permanent home.

A shorter version of this news article was first reported in Current, May 13, 2013.
  • Bill Tutuki

    Well the only way Pacifica can survive is if they merge with either LinkTV or Free SpeechTV and reform their programming a bit.

    • Chris Albertson

      That WBAI needs to “reform their programming a bit” is putting it mildly. With a few exceptions, the station’s offerings have been stagnant for several years, and they have introduced run-of-the-mill music fare by “disc jockeys” who never would have made it past the front door when the station was a true Pacifica outlet. The dumbed-down programming has, not surprisingly, exchanged an audience of devout listeners in search of intellectual enlightenment for one that is nourished by pap and look-what-whitey-did-to-us rhetoric.

      Unless there is a drastic change in program content and attitude, New York City will soon lose this once-vital radio outlet.

      • Bill Tutuki

        But Look at Some NPR affiliates in some parts of the nation For example NPR affiliate KXJZ Sacramento they had to give up some of its classic jazz programming and move it to a web only feed and reform it into a News/Talk Format. It is clear that NPR’s News/Talk division and its affiliates are trying to prove that Talk Radio can work without the insanity of Sean Hannity, Rush and Beck. Look at KQED-FM San Francisco they follow the same mantra for their NPR News/Talk Format and they apply the same strategy for their PBS affiliate KQED9 in San Francisco.

        They are trying to show that Investigative journalism can still work without the Knee-Jerking from the Cable media.

      • Bill Tutuki

        But also look here PBS Was built on the mantra that it would be the Outlet for Educational Instructional, Telecourse and Cultural Programming back in the 1970′s-1990′s. Look for the past 15 years PBS and affiliates had to reform themselves as the venue for Investigative reporting.

        The Only way Pacifica can get out of this hole is if they sell KPFA-FM and WBAI-FM to Cumulus and Cumulus will take 94.1 FM Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley and convert it to commercial outlets. Also Pacifica Broadcasting would have to be a distributor to programming on Free Speech TV, LinkTV and low power LPFM’s not affiliated with NPR. Look at Berkeley they own KPFB-FM its an LPFM outlet for Pacifica and reform it to compete against KALX-FM (UC Berkeley Radio).

      • Bill Tutuki

        Another Problem with Pacifica is that they always bash NPR, PBS, PRI, APM, PRX and Commercial at Donor time. Out here in San Francisco KPFA always play this card. They seem to always have a conspiracy against NPR and PBS out here. But wait in Smaller markets the NPR News/Talk stations do air Pacifica Programming IE FSRN News and Democracy now in place of Local Talk and Newsmagazine shows. All Pacifica is doing is alienating their Smaller Affiliates.

        • Chris Albertson

          The same kind of ill-advised bashing is done by WBAI—it is
          pure jealousy and in keeping with their ongoing effort to cover up the incompetence that so glaringly comes through on the air and on the managerial level. WBAI’s GM, Berthold Reimers is in constant denial—he was supposed to come in and correct the mistakes made by his predecessor(s), but he only made the situation worse by consistently ignoring reality and refusing to take advice. The man has no broadcast experience—his resumé indicates financial planning as his background and forté, but his miserable performance at WBAI belies that.

          The station’s hosts/producers have among them some good people, but the stagnant opportunists fight to keep their “turf”, knowing that WBAI is the end of the line for them. They bully management and are allowed to rule despite the fact that the station has regressed over the years and the audience has left in droves.

          Now there is a faction that is bent on bringing to fruition a fantasy held by the previous GM, which is to turn WBAI into a black station (mission nearly completed), but, as they change its color, I’m afraid they have also lowered its intellectual level. WBAI today is a sorry remnant of what used to be, and I don’t think it has much longer to go.

          Selling WBAI, as you suggest, is not the answer—getting rid of the abusers within and restoring the station’s intellectual commitment, diversity, and open platform is the only hope, but it might be too late for that.

          • thatgirlinnewyork

            Thanks for your frank statements about the Pacifica and LSB-appointed lackey, Berthold Reimers. He’s worsened the financial situation to the point where he now insists that all fundraising come down to “emergency transmitter needs” and “damage from Superstorm Sandy,” but it’s his inept hand at finance and zero broadcast experience that make him the puppet of certain LSB members (themselves a troubled and money-wasting lot), who take zero responsibility in assisting Reimers in identifying funding sources.

            The station’s current woes combine Reimers’ depth of inexperience with outstanding sexual harassment suits (one almost brought against Reimers’ and PRB-appointed ex-program director, who was equally inexperienced at the role), outrageously expensive board election process (that can’t get out of its 20th century methodology and the forming of political parties within the ranks of those wanting to serve the LSB), and a heritage of infighting by volatile, out-of-step people with little better to do with their lives. Reimers refuses to do without a paid assistant and a receptionist, even though there are no phones now to answer, and no funds for this low-function assistant. This is leadership?

            They have run WBAI into the ground. But keep flying the “storm damage” flag, management!

          • Chris Albertson

            You have your finger on the pulse, girlinNY. I don’t know how connected to the station you are, but your picture is sharp and accurate. Reimers and his cronies are so inept and out of touch with reality that one could almost believe that their bungling is a deliberate attempt to sink the ship.

            The payroll is $600,000.00 a month! What are they getting for that money? A manager who can’t manage, a 5-6 PM host who basically fills the time with Googled downloads and is so wrapped up in himself that it borders on cannibalism; a morning host who grew up a privileged child, but sees herself as a voice for oppressed “black and brown” people; a Monday through Thursday talk show host from Guyana who is said to have been a supporter of Papa Doc; a “Public Affairs Director” who believes sterilized tap water can cure cancer (and just about anything else) and that there are “homeless guardian angels” who favor gay people, etc., etc. No, I am not making this up!

            There is no leadership, there is no integrity, Pacifica’s founding principles are not just ignored, they are deliberately countermanded. There have been coups at WBAI in the past and one of the factions you alluded to is currently attempting to turn WBAI into not just a black station, but one on a very low intellectual level. The audience has dwindled to the lowest number in WBAI’s history and it will keep going down for as long as these people are there.

          • Bill Tutuki

            Look at NPR News/Talk Affiliate KALW-FM San Francisco they did an episode for the Local Talk show “Your Call” (Hybrid between KQED FOrum and Democracy Now) about reforming the Progressive movement and they had a consultant thats pro progressive but criticized the tactics that Progressive Activists/ Lobbyists have done over the years.

            Your Call on NPR affiliate KALW is probably the only known Semi-Progressive Talk shows to have gained some ratings I know that KALW would sometimes fight against Rush and KKSF-AM and KSFO-AM in the Bay Area Markets. In Other Words Pacifica Broadcasting should have considered looking for NPR consultants when they needed to.

          • Chris Albertson

            Current WBAI management does not consult, nor will the GM (Reimers) even respond to advice. I don’t know what his game is, either he doesn’t care what happens to the station or he is so deluded that he cannot differentiate between rose colored fantasy and very grim reality.

          • Bill Tutuki

            Well KPFA its the same too. Didn’t NYPR took over a Pacifica Affiliate thats on an LPFM North of Westchester NY? and thats now a translator for WQXR. Warning if you say Liberal in San Francisco that would mean anybody that Listens to KPFA for News/Talk and anybody thats in the Green Party or Occupy Oakland Party.

            But Look KALW-FM (NPR News/Talk SFO) does a Better job attracting Independents in (Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco) While KQED- NPR News/Talk Focuses on Issues that Affect the Bay Area Suburbs and its presented better than KPFA.

            Also Please Explain to me the Differences between Air America’s death and Pacifica’s internal issues I am Interested. Air America and Pacifica claim to Attract the “LEFT WING”

          • thatgirlinnewyork

            He has zero experience in broadcast, to start with. I don’t know how his LSB supporters sold him on the job. This is a unique confluence of station ops, management of and communication with paid and non-paid labor (some union), FCC adherence, fundraising and a few other key things.

            On fundraising, Reimers and the LSB, whose mission does outline responsibility for financial health of the station, have failed. All responsibility is heaped on the producers/on-air talent alone, and is now a three-weeks-on/one-week-off proposition, and characterized as “emergency transmitter funding,” when everyone knows that payroll hasn’t been met, market-rate back rent is owed on the Wall Street station space in which they no longer reside. No capital campaign had ever been embarked, and producers only know that the bar is set ever-higher, never met.

            Staff motivation is at an all-time low, and Reimers’ solution has been to occupy an office miles away from their temporary broadcast facilities in Harlem. Even if he was there every day (let alone any day), he wouldn’t know how to manage operations, so it’s safe to say he’s completely out of his depth, and has only made a bad situation worse. He keeps a receptionist when there are no phones to answer, and when payroll couldn’t be met, never recommended any sacrifice to salaries for himself, his personal assistant (whose role is a mystery to all), or payment to the assistant’s brother, who fancies himself a webmaster. The word clusterf*ck comes to mind.

          • Chris Albertson

            You obviously have inside information. Would it be ok with you if I add your post to my WBAI-oriented blog?

          • thatgirlinnewyork

            I’m sorry that I don’t know this blog, Chris. Could you provide a link to it, please?

          • Chris Albertson

            I hope this goes through…

            http://wbai-nowthen.blogspot.com

  • thatgirlinnewyork

    Sunshine is the best disinfectant!

  • thatgirlinnewyork

    Paid staff layoffs for WBAI have just been announced. Sad day, but the word “inexperienced” and “squandered” come to mind most.

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