Judge Orders Return Of WBAI To Local Control

99.5 WBAI New York Shut Down Pacifica FoundationManhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane ruled today that the Pacifica Foundation must return control of 99.5 WBAI New York to its local staff immediately.

Judge Crane based her decision on a pair of Pacifica board votes. The first, on October 12, was invalidated because four board members were barred from voting due to supposed conflicts of interests, which the judge disagreed with. The latter vote on October 20, approved the restoration of the WBAI staffers and programming.

WBAI Program Director Linda Perry states that the staffers will resume programming at midnight, although Pacifica plans to appeal the ruling.

Pacifica, which holds the WBAI license, had taken direct control of WBAI’s programming on October 7 due to ongoing and continued projections of further financial losses.

Update 10/21: United States District Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled today that the federal court lacks jurisdiction to rule on the matters between Pacifica and the WBAI employees and has sent the matter back to the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Judge Engelmayer also extended the Temporary Restraining Order keeping the current status quo until the earlier of Friday, October 25 or the state court modifies or terminates it.

Original Report 10/14: The Pacifica Board of Directors voted on Sunday evening to restore WBAI’s locally originating programming while demonstrating the unsustainable infighting of the organization. After a similar vote was held on Saturday in which votes of five board members were not counted and their phone lines were muted, the vote of twelve members of the Pacifica board voted that WBAI be “restored to its fully functional state as it was prior to Oct. 5, 2019”, “all funds, equipment, files, computer access, the ENDEC required for emergency broadcasting by the FCC, studio to transmitter link, website and email access, bank accounts and credit card access, and any other actions or materials needed to restore WBAI to its previous condition be restored or returned, as the case may be, immediately”, “all actions and plans for WBAI and our other stations be provided by an iED to the full PNB for review and approval, prior to their execution”, “financial reports be submitted to the full PNB by the iCFO as soon as possible after the relevant period close. The iCFO should devise a set of reports that includes monthly P&L statements, quarterly balance sheets and cash flow, cash flow projections by quarter if not by month, plus any additional analytical reports that the PNB and management would find helpful for planning purposes”, and “a plan be drawn up for reducing expenses by the PNB with the participation of the iCFO and presented to the PNB in writing before the next regular PNB meeting”.

Pacifica In Exile states that WBAI is expected to return to local control after the federal holiday on Tuesday October 15, 2019.

However the site also notes that “The perpetrators of the unauthorized shutdown failed to show up for the Sunday night meeting after only mustering nine votes in their Saturday night attempt to retroactively authorize their actions” and WBAI lawyer Arthur Schwartz tweets that Pacifica’s Interim Executive Director John Vernile says the vote was unlawful because WBAI elected Board members participated.

After two court rulings last week, another hearing is set for Friday, October 18 on the legality of the shutdown last Monday. Meanwhile the WBAI staff will hold a press conference/rally on the steps of New York City Hall on Tuesday, October 15 at 12pm.

Update 10/10: The First Department of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court has overturned much of the previous court ruling. The ruling allows the Pacifica Foundation to retain programming control of 99.5 WBAI New York with its “Pacifica Across America” network programming.

The ruling by Judge Peter H. Moulton throws out all but one condition of the Temporary Restraining Order issued on Monday evening as Pacifica is currently unable to terminate any employee of WBAI. We will update with more details as they come in.

Update 10/8 5:15pm: Despite a New York State court order to allow them back on the air issued late Monday, WBAI continues to carry the national Pacifica Across America network as Pacifica has taken the battle to federal court seeking to overturn the lower court’s ruling.

Other reports state that Pacifica dismantled the WBAI studios and offices yesterday taking certain equipment such as the station’s EAS receivers and claiming that rouge members of Pacifica’s national board “staged a coup” without approval and seized all of WBAI’s bank accounts and email servers.

More details to come as we await the potential federal court ruling later today.

Original Report 12:31am: Hours after the Pacifica Foundation terminated the staff of 99.5 WBAI New York and replaced the station’s programming with its “Pacifica Across America” network, the terminated staff have quickly been granted a Temporary Restraining Order to be allowed back on the air pending a hearing on Friday, October 18.

Between now and the court hearing Pacifica is prevented from seizing the property, offices and equipment of WBAI, terminating any employees on WBAI, preventing WBAI from broadcasting its regularly scheduled programming, and interfering in the orderly administration of the business and affairs of WBAI. The staff is contesting the move made by Pacifica as being against Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law, Section 1315 of the Not For Profit Corporation Law and Pacifica’s bylaws.

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  1. Steve Varholy says

    Because what they were doing was so successful in the first place…

    1. kangaroo 25 says

      I know right. They just need to sell the station to somebody else, like JVC Broadcasting Company that is out on Eastern Long Island or iHeartRadio or Connoisseur Media or Beasley Broadcast Group. WBAI has been doing extremely horrible for years and years and has never improved. Now they are so far in debt, they are having to go to court now. They need to just sell it because apparently nobody in the NYC Metro or surrounding areas wants to listen to it.

      1. Charles Everett says

        iHeartMedia cannot acquire WBAI without having to divest of one of its existing FMs first. JVC, Connoisseur, and Beasley want no part of New York City even though their suburban stations all count against the NYC market cap.
        Broadcasting is a regulated industry. It is NOT fantasy football.

        1. Nathan Obral says

          iHeart and Entercom are both at the cap. In an industry dominated by economy of scale, no one is going to swoop in to buy a full-power FM in market #1 and nothing else, unless you’re an EMF.

          And even then, WBAI won’t be sold. That’s contrary to the mission of Pacifica.

      2. Nathan Obral says

        Pacifica will never sell WBAI. Rebooting the station as a KPFA repeater is probably the best case scenario to save both entities, as the station’s staff failed the foundation in multiple ways… wipe it all and start anew.

  2. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    At the very least, Pacifica definitely doesn’t have control now over the station’s Twitter account.

  3. Nathan Obral says

    Lol Pacifica blew their last chance at saving itself in spectacular fashion. Now they’ll drown in debt they cannot repay, with an FM signal they cannot sell.

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