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March 14, 2009

Help WBAI Survive – Become a Member ASAP!
Stop the Proposed National Network Takeover

For nearly five decades, WBAI Radio (99.5 FM) has been a vital platform for the communities and movements of the oppressed that are shut out by corporate media. You can hear the voices of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Malcolm X, women fighting political brutality, and the music of Odetta and Nina Simone, just to cite a few examples. Now the station and its parent, the five-station Pacifica Network, are in the midst of a financial and political crisis. WBAI has rent and utility costs five times those of any other station. But more so than the other stations, WBAI has – for various reasons -- not been meeting its fundraising goals in several recent drives, leading to staff layoffs that have undermined the station’s functioning.

Recently a new majority on the Pacifica National Board has seized on these financial problems as an excuse to discuss cracking down on WBAI—or worse. The board’s four Houston members have called for WBAI to be sold outright or swapped for a smaller station. And Grace Aaron, the Los Angeles-based board chair, now also the acting Executive Director, has suggested putting WBAI into “internal receivership” (taking over the management of the station) and running the programming out of the Pacifica National Office in California. This would amount to a coup, the end of community control. Last week, the National Board rejected a motion to openly discuss this idea, thus continuing its secrecy in violation of its own bylaws.

The vote demonstrated the two camps in struggle: The motion for open discussion was brought by WBAI listener representative Nia Bediako of the WBAI Justice & Unity Campaign -- a multiethnic coalition of progressive community organizers and station staff -- that fights to maintain activist programming, particularly for communities of color. The other 3 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 possible solutions to WBAI's problems.”) These 3 are aligned with the so-called independent/ACE faction whose leading voice -- multimillionaire and former marketing executive Steve Brown -- has waged a 7-year campaign of racist defamation against progressive WBAI Program Director Bernard White, demanding his firing as well as the removal of other committed Black activist producers.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

With the country in a deepening financial crisis, WBAI more than ever needs the support of its generous listeners to remain free of corporate influence and control by outsiders. In addition, there will be elections to the WBAI Local Board this summer and only enrolled members may vote. For both reasons, the Justice and Unity Campaign (now a minority on the board) urgently calls for your support and action:

SUPPORT WBAI:

  • Become a WBAI member with voting rights by contributing at least $25 before June 15. Donate by PayPal online at www.wbai.org, or send your check or money order to: Pacifica Foundation-WBAI Radio, GPO, Box 30540, New York, NY 10117-2112. Give as generously as you can.
  • Or become a voting member by volunteering for 3 or more hours before June 15. Your work at key times can help WBAI realize thousands of additional dollars. Volunteers are key to our survival.
  • Encourage every member of your household to become a member.
  • Tell your friends about the station and its dynamic, community-based programming.
  • Contact Justice & Unity if you know of an inexpensive location to which WBAI could move.
  • Vote for the Justice & Unity Campaign slate in the upcoming election.

SPEAK OUT TO MAINTAIN COMMUNITY CONTROL of this precious resource:

  • Email the Pacifica National Board at pnb@pacifica.org and tell them you are dead set against any plan that removes local control from WBAI and its programming, and that any discussion of the proposal to do so MUST be held in public. Send a cc toinfo@justiceunity.org.
  • Come to the next meeting of the WBAI Local Station Board on Thurs., March 26, at 7 PM at a location to be announced (check the web at www.wbai.org), and let the board know what you think.

WBAI JUSTICE & UNITY CAMPAIGN
(212) 591-2111 * www.justiceunity.org (join our email list there) * info@justiceunity.org