Pacifica clumsily asserts oversight at WBAI

UPDATE 2: On the April 6 edition of Wakeup Call, WBAI announcer Don Debarr gave an update on the station's situation, citing a weekend interview with Pacifica counsel Ricardo De Anda. According to Debarr, the attorney stated that the network's move to secure transmitter locations at the five Pacifica stations came in response to listener complaints of 'anti-semitic remarks' aired at another Pacifica station, although De Anda was unable to quote or specifically characterize the remarks. Debarr also reported a suspiciously unsourced suggestion that "a group within Pacifica is reportedly recruiting producers to fill what they call the morning grid with new programming across the board."

RTM comment: The Pacifica national board's decision to assert control over their transmitter locations predictably elicited shrill accusations of a coup. However, the board seems justified in viewing WBAI's financial crisis as a threat to the network's most valuable asset: its FM channel in New York City. We have faith in Tony Riddle's leadership at WBAI and hope that his superhuman powers of reason, diplomacy and unflappable calm will be enough to see the station and its unique staff through the immediate problems.

UPDATE 1: For context, be sure to read all statements in the comment thread below.

Both the Pacifica Network and New York Pacifica stalwart WBAI are in the midst of serious financial woes, making this news especially troubling. This message was distributed today by Justice and Unity, a listener/programer campaign to broaden the station's community accountability:

The following was circulated by WBAI's General Manager, Tony Riddle, late last night, to the WBAI staff and the Pacifica National Board and its Chair, Grace Aaron (who is based in Los Angeles). In the absence of a permanent Executive Director, Aaron doubles as Interim Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation, which holds the license for WBAI and four other stations. The opening sentence of Mr. Riddle's email is: "It has been brought to my attention that you have issued an order today to change the locks on the WBAI transmitter room in the Empire State Building tomorrow." We are urgently attempting to learn more about the situation.

This is extremely serious -- it allows the new national controllers of Pacifica to directly program the station from any location at any time. We remember vividly that during the 1999 Pacifica coup at sister station KPFA in Berkeley, programming was remotely piped in from Houston.

Also ominous is that this new step comes just three weeks after the Pacifica National Board rejected a motion by Nia Bediako, Justice & Unity's sole representative on that board, to publicly discuss Aaron's idea of putting WBAI into "internal receivership"--i.e., a National Office takeover of the station's managerial control and programming. Note that Nia's motion was to discuss the "receivership" idea itself, not legal advice about it, as Aaron claimed in urging it to be kept secret. Also, note that the other three National Board members from WBAI - listeners Carolyn Birden & Jamie Ross and staff member Kathy Davis - voted to maintain secrecy. (Birden later called receivership "one of several options being considered" and “one of several possible solutions to WBAI's problems.”)

We must fight back! Send an email to the Pacifica National Board at -- which reaches each board member individually, including Grace Aaron. Please send a cc to Demand that WBAI's autonomy and local control of programming be maintained and protected!

We will be back in touch soon with follow-up info on next steps in the fight-back. For updates, call the Justice & Unity Hotline at 212-591-2111. To join the Justice & Unity update list, email

In the meantime, the station is in the midst of a (previously planned) 3-day emergency fund drive (today, Fri. & Sat.), to help deal with its financial crisis. Please donate generously and volunteer to answer phones. To donate or to put your name on the list to get into the building, call 212-209-2950. You can also donate via PayPal at

WBAI Justice & Unity members of the Local Station Board:

Tibby Brooks
Omowale Clay
Lisa Davis
Sara Flounders
Vajra Kilgour
Ray Laforest
Father Lawrence Lucas
Bob Lederer
Berta Silva


To: Grace Aaron, IED Pacifica
Fr: Anthony Riddle, GM WBAI
Re: Order To Change Locks on WBAI Transmitter
Da: April 1, 2009

It has been brought to my attention that you have issued an order today to change the locks on the WBAI transmitter room in the Empire State Building tomorrow. I have several questions that deserve honest answers:

1) What is the purpose of this action?

2) Why was I, the General Manager, not told?

3) Why was our engineer, who is responsible for keeping us on the air, not involved or given access?

4) What is the purpose of making such a change without any notification?

5) Is there an intention to change control of WBAI’s air in any way?

Our listeners, supporters and staff deserve to know exactly the truth as to what is going on.

Furthermore, any changes in operation of this unit should be following a transparent and obvious process. If this action has followed such a process, then I ask that you lay it out plain for us all, now.

Thank you for your response.

Manager's Malfeasance at WBAI

By publicizing to a JUC-dominant WBAI staff list a disingenuous "memorandum" (written in an informational vacuum for its intended public readers) to Pacifica Executive Director, WBAI "station manager" Anthony Riddle has slyly invoked a predictable race-based rhetorical firestorm by the JUC, CEMOTAP, Bernard White, and his "Wake Up Call" sycophants.

The automatic, predictable personal attacks, Jew-baiting, and manipulation of black fears that took place this morning on WBAI airwaves has served to exacerbate cultural tensions, obscure the truth, and irrevocably harm the reputations of WBAI and Pacifica -- as well as those who have fought to reverse Riddle's do-nothing year which has added to the past SEVEN YEARS of audience and income loss under White's malfunctioning "program direction."

These consequences were knowable in advance by a "manager" who baited his staff loyalists into baiting the audience -- and proof of incompetence if these consequences were not anticipated by Riddle's provocative, de-contextualized semipublic memo (which on the face of it, may have itself violated administrative confidentiality).

The FCC licensee (i.e., the Pacifica Foundation, NOT the legally fictitious entity "WBAI") is required by law and federal regulations to "exercise control" of the broadcast, as well as maintain the security and integrity of the transmitter and associated facilities.

Riddle's self-serving and inflammatory behavior in this affair seems to be in prima facie contravention of these serious responsibilities.

Then there's Riddle's permission for (or dereliction in failing to halt) the JUC/CEMOTAP cadre's usurping of WBAI airwaves, with station "sponsorship" and on-air carts and other broadcast promotions of yet another dubious "tribute" to Bernard White this past weekend -- just as Riddle encouraged, promoted, headlined, and attended a similar unaudited JUCEMOTAP event in September, 2008, that purportedly raised $10,000 for White.

If the situation were not so tragic, it would be amusing to note how malinformed the JUCEMOTAP-ers were in promoting the most recent March 28th "Bernard-o-thon" as -- get this! -- an assessment of "President Obama's first 90 days [sic]" -- when March 28th was Obama's 67th day as President! Duhhh!!

This is typical of the intellectual decline at WBAI, based on JUC's self-interested race-based dominance under the White/Riddle regime.

Furthermore, Riddle's prior reported misrepresentations of "pledge income" and White's "half-time" status would suggest that Riddle has, through misinformation, impeded the ability of the Local Station Board, the Pacifica National Board, and the Executive Director to faithfully discharge their profound fiduciary responsibilities to the Foundation.

Both the local and national boards have been negligent in failing to remove the symbiotic nexus at WBAI of a malfunctioning "program director" and his compliant "station manager."

As a result, WBAI and Pacifica have now been reduced to virtual bankruptcy.

And today, in a cynical "Hail Mary" play, the White/Riddle regime and its JUC "soldiers" have once again resorted to race-baiting, personal attack, cultural calumny, hysteria and audience deception as tactics for squeezing fear funds from a dis-served and manipulated audience.

WBAI is the only entity in nature which would attempt to "heal" itself financially by auto-injecting into its broadcasts the poisons of fear, ignorance and racism that will emaciate the station's future credibility.

Even scorpions are not that stupid!

Why is this "management team" still in place?!

-Robert Knight

Red, White, Black, Yellow; Human

Red, White, Black, Yellow; Human

Here's some comments on action (repost)

Apr 02, 2009 11:16PM EST

Edwin Johnston;read=140424
Listserv repost re emergency meeting Sunday

dd104.00 -------------- --------------------[copy]----------------------------
Thursday, April 2, 2009 7:48 PM

This is Brian A (aka Sankofa). As many of you have heard, there is a coup d’etat underway at this moment against the current management of WBAI and by extension against all people who have looked to WBAI as an irreplaceable instrument of liberation and self-determination. Based on what we know now, this coup is being orchestrated by reactionary elements within the Pacifica National Board, and with the collusion of the white-led reactionary elements here in NY that have relentlessly attacked the station for the past several years.

This is serious. This is what we have feared and expected. White power does not concede anything without a fight, and we could not expect it to cede WBAI without a serious effort to oust or undermine Black authority.

We will resist this. We will not allow it to stand. We call on all Black listeners, staff, and volunteers to mobilize now for massive, non-violent resistance to this encroachment by white power and hegemony into our beloved radio station. We will rally behind Messrs. Riddle and White. We will rally and protest. We will use the airwaves against those who would control those airwaves. We will boycott. We will surround 120 Wall St.

We will act within the [white] law, but know that the scum who are orchestrating this attack will never exercise control over our radio station.

We are planning an emergency meeting for Black and POC staff, volunteers, listeners and activists. At this time, the likely date/time is Sunday, April 5 at 1:00 pm. We are working to procure a definite location and should have that by tomorrow afternoon. Likely location will be either in Harlem or the LES. More information to come. Stay strong and pay close attention!

Don't believe the JUC hype! WBAI has malfunctioning management.

Ho-o-o-l' on there, podnuh! Things at WBAI are not as they may seem, based solely on JUC propaganda.

The JUC itself (along with its ally CEMOTAP) has been one of the most horrible race-baiting injfluences in WBAI's history. They are using race fear to protect their broadcast sinecures and preserve their "patron," an incompetent "program director" by the name of Bernard White -- who has lost the station tens of thousands of listeners and millions of dollars through a race-based attempt to repel a multicultural listenership and turn WBAI into a "black" supremacist station.

Quite the opposite of the universal Pacifica mission.

Here's a more accurate assessment of this situation from someone actually in NYC:

Here is an MP3 file of the final 20 minutes of WBAI's "Wake Up Call," long a sanctuary for JUC/CEMOTAP partisans of "program director" Bernard White.

The audio clip is available at:

In this excerpt (2 April 2009, 8:40-9:00am EDT), Errol Maitland, Bernard White and Ester Armah make the following specious claims (among others), based on a disingenuous memo leaked by "station manager" Anthony Riddle:

* Pacifica is "capturing our antenna."

* Kathy Davis and Anthony Riddle are "missing."

* Carolyn Birden is "hiding under a rock."

* "[WBAI LSB Chair] Mitchel [Cohen], every organization that you have been involved in end [sic] in chaos."

* Cohen is "doing [the CIA's] job" and "ought to be collecting Judas [sic] money."

* "They are trying to make us pariahs in the eyes of the national board."

* "We've been forced [sic] to move to Wall Street by the national board."

* "We wanted to move into 'the community'."

* "They fired Lonnie Hicks, who was the chief financial officer of the 'station' [sic], and they did it in a backhanded and underhanded way."

Et cetera...

Pacifica responds to JUC Propaganda & WBAI Manager's Malfeasance

Statement from the Pacifica Interim Executive Director regarding WBAI

Thursday, April 2, 2009

We have received complaints about programming that may be threatening the financial and legal health of the Pacifica Foundation. Therefore, following legal advice, we are taking preparatory measures to secure our broadcast signals should we need to prevent legal liability as a last resort. These precautionary measures will be taken at all five stations under advice of Counsel. Pacifica is the license holder for all five stations and is ultimately responsible for everything broadcast over all of them.

No one on the National Board or at the National Office or at any of our Pacifica stations wishes to threaten any high quality, community-based programming at our stations that conforms to the Pacifica Mission.

The Pacifica Foundation is facing a severe financial crisis. Multi-year downtrending listenership at all of our stations has been eroding our membership and net income. The economic downtrends in society as a whole are also impacting us. Restructuring is occurring at most of our stations which has already reversed the decline at a station or two.

The National Board as well as Pacifica senior management understands the urgency of addressing the shortfalls at WBAI, which are particularly severe. WBAI is also saddled with extremely high overhead mainly due to leases for both the WBAI offices and transmitter entered into in better financial times.

According to James Ross, the Chair of the Pacifica National Finance Committee:

WBAI has operated at a deficit for years. This practice is not supportable and in fact is a threat to the Pacifica foundation:

-WBAI owes the foundation at least $800,000 in unpaid central service fees and billbacks. This debt has accumulated since 2006.

-Through the first five months of the current fiscal year, WBAI is operating at a deficit of at least $30,000 per month, despite layoffs last fall designed to cut costs and bring the station to financial stability.

-WBAI's on-air fundraising has declined in effectiveness at a rate of about 12 percent per year since 2003. Now the station's drives are close to a month long yet still fail to meet budgeted goals.

-WBAI is four months in arrears on its office rent (balance due: $128,072.34). It is also 2 months behind on the rent for the facility that houses the transmitter. This bill comes to approximately $35,000 per month, according to National Office Finance Staff. The total in unpaid rent at WBAI comes very close to $198,000.

Pacifica no longer has the reserves to underwrite WBAI's continuing deficits. Last year the foundation had to take out a line of credit, secured by another station's assets, to cover costs unpaid by WBAI. This line of credit has not been paid back, and these assets are still frozen. Further, non-payment of bills may lead to involuntary bankruptcy, which could be catastrophic for our foundation, given our extremely valuable assets, the station licenses.

Currently, we are at risk of being sued for breach of our lease agreements, which could have dire consequences. In the case of the Tower lease where our transmitter is located a continuing breach could result in a loss of our signal.

WBAI, however, is in the largest radio market in the U.S. With a signal that covers a population of 19 to 20 million people, improved programming will certainly boost our listenership, which will result in increased membership and listener support. This approach is advocated by the Pacifica National Board. As long as our listeners, staff and governance bodies work together to bring needed changes we see no major obstacle to a resurgent WBAI that is more vital than ever.

Some staff at the National Office, some Pacifica National Board Directors and the General Manager and some staff at KPFK have come forward to offer support and help. The GM of KPFA has also been sympathetic and offered support in this effort. In light of that, I have planned to come to New York with our ICFO, LaVarn Williams, along with several staff loaned to us from KPFK, to assess what is needed at the station. We also intend to roll up our sleeves, fix what needs fixing, wipe out any backlogs such as in mailing out premiums, repair equipment, enhance the website and give a boost to WBAI.

We assume that the vast majority of people associated with WBAI will not only agree with our efforts but also offer their help. In addition, your financial support would be much appreciated at this time.

Our success will ensure the financial integrity and continued existence of WBAI.

In Peace,

Grace Aaron

Chair of the Pacifica National Board
Interim Executive Director of
The Pacifica Foundation

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey