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WBAI Launches Campaign To Save Its Transmitter Site

99.5 WBAI New York Emergency Fundraiser Empire State BuildingThe Pacifica Foundation has launched an emergency campaign to raise funds to keep 99.5 WBAI New York on the air.

Blaming its fiscal issues on escalating rent costs, the financial recession, and Hurricane Sandy, WBAI has had a series of issues in recent years. It recently departed its studios on Wall Street to co-locate with City College of New York’s 90.3 WHCR in Harlem. In 2009 the station owed $128,072 in back rent for the studios.

Last month NY1 reported that the station was having a hard time getting its insurance funds after damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Now the station is claiming it needs to quickly raise funds or it will lose it transmitter spot on the Empire State Building, effectively taking the station dark. WBAI is a Class B signal, operating with 4.3kW at 415 meters.

Issues regarding WBAI and its inability to pay its transmitter costs go back to last summer when a member of Pacifica’s Board of Directors floated a plan to swap the 99.5 signal for a lesser signal and needed cash.

The Press Release from WBAI about its fund raiser follows:

Transmitter Fund Launched To Keep Radical Radio Atop the Empire State Building:
WBAI-FM, Pacifica Radio Since 1960, Tries to Survive Hurricane Sandy Forced Move

NEW YORK…. The iconic non-profit public radio station WBAI 99.5 FM has launched an emergency campaign appeal to raise half a million dollars in March and stop the possible shutdown of its operations and the loss of its transmitter atop the Empire State Building.

The campaign titled “The Transmitter Fund” aims to raise the funds needed to bring current the transmitter tower rent, which fell drastically behind in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
If sufficient funds are not raised in time, the station will lose its transmitter and may never go back on the air in New York City again. You can donate immediately by going to “The Transmitter Fund“.

WBAI 99.5 FM was already struggling with escalating rent costs and, like most non-profits, with declining revenue as a result of the economic downturn of 2008.

Hurricane Sandy forced WBAI from its broadcast facilities in lower Manhattan. Confronted with this situation, the staff and volunteers came together as never before, moving the station out of its former home in just a matter of weeks.

WBAI 99.5 FM, part of the Pacifica network, is the only alternative listener supported, non-commercial public radio station in New York City. It takes no underwriting or commercials and is subject to no censorship or sponsorship pressure.

“WBAI has served its listeners since 1960 with all of the major progressive, socially conscious, culturally important and revolutionary voices of the last half century and today. Every political and cultural icon and social movement from Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Abbie Hoffman, William F. Buckley, Angela Davis, Michael Moore and Chris Hedges to Iran-Contra, anti-fracking and the Occupy Movement have been on our airwaves,” says Interim Executive Director Summer Reese.

“Saving this radio station, with its incredibly strong signal, is important not just to public radio listeners in the tri-state area, but to the integrity of a free society which requires a free press and alternatives to mainstream corporate media outlets. The future of WBAI is actually bright, so long as we are able to overcome the present crisis. We are actively negotiating the purchase of a building, which will give us a permanent home that we own and significantly reduce our fixed costs on an ongoing basis” says Reese, “but first we have to save our transmitter and stay on the air.”

Help Keep WBAI Broadcasting in New York – Please Donate Now!

The Pacifica Foundation operates noncommercial radio stations in New York, Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and syndicates content to over 100 affiliates. It invented listener-supported radio.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

4 Comments

  1. Profile photo of MattParker


    WBAI is the ultimate hobby station. It’s staff and board are the ultimate circular firing squad. It is a collection of well-intentioned but self-righteous and obstinate people who would rather be right than do radio. Their problems are of their own making. They are not the precursor to public radio; they are the precursor to public access cable.
    I don’t know that they invented listener-supported radio. Preachers were doing it long before 1960.


  2. Pacifica itself had a station in Berkeley (near San Francisco) as far back as 1949 or so,


  3. Note that the Pacifica press release used the words “radical radio”.

    That could turn off some people.

    My guess is that WBAI-99.5 will lose it’s lease and be sold to a commercial broadcaster.

  4. Profile photo of MattParker


    As I recall, Pacifica has stations in the Berkeley, LA, Houston, DC and New York. They also produce Democracy Now and other programs that are carried on public radio stations and on cable.

    New York and Berkeley are commercial licenses and could be sold to commercial broadcasters. The others are in the noncommercial band.

    The might be more effective forgetting radio and going online plus they could pick up some change selling off their stations. Much of their audience already listens online. They could also function as a public radio program producer like PRI, PRX and APM in competition with NPR.

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