WBAI Lays Off Staff

99.5 WBAI Staff Layoffs Shutdown New York Emergency Fundraiser Empire State BuildingUpdate 8/9: In an on-air program discussing the state of WBAI, Pacifica Interim Executive Director Summer Reese announced that most staff members including the entire news department will be laid off as of Monday, August 12 as the station does not have the funds to meet payroll.

Among other notes mentioned by Reese on the program:

  • WBAI has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the past decade.
  • The station has to choose between paying back payroll or transmitter rent next week.
  • The station’s emergency transmitter fund will be used to meet unpaid payrolls after using another station’s money last week.
  • The Pacifica National Office is broke from paying WBAI and other stations.
  • Station GM Berthold Reimers, and interim development director, Andrea Katz, will remain.
  • Andrew Phillips, former WBAI Program Director and recently Interim GM of Pacifica’s KPFA Berkeley, CA will assume oversight of WBAI’s programming.
  • The station owes Democracy Now $2 Million.
  • Reese is committed to not selling off station licenses to refund the organization as long as possible.
  • WPFW Washington also does not have the funds to meet payroll.
  • Pacifica National Board’s bylaws need to be restructured to allow network’s survival.
  • WBAI registers a 0.1 share of the New York audience.

Original Report 6/20: The saga of Pacifica’s 99.5 WBAI New York has taken another twist as the station has begun issuing notice to its entire staff and management that they’ll be out of work come July 15.

The station has been having problems coming up with money to meet payroll and pay rent on its studios and Empire State Building transmitter site. The announcement comes a day after word that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is withholding funding to Pacifica’s five stations for insufficient accounting practices, misreported revenues and failure to comply with CPB rules on open meetings and financial transparency. One of the WBAI hosts claims that the layoffs have come about because “The Labor Department got wind that they were refusing to pay us.”

WBAI launched its Emergency Transmitter Fund in March attempting to raise $500,000. At this point it has only raised $378,226 according to the station’s website. In the monthly treasurer’s report, WBAI Treasurer R. Paul Martin wrote on June 12 that the station will likely not be able to meet upcoming payroll and due rent.

The General Manager has sent out an E-mail extending the Spring on-air fund raiser by four days on an emergency basis to raise more money. He says, and the CFO concurs WBAI does not have the money to make the June 15, and June 30, payrolls, nor the July 1, Empire State Building rent. The rest of the Pacifica
Foundation may not be able to cover WBAI’s expenses later this month and early next month.

In addition to WBAI, Pacifica owns 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 KPFB Berkeley/San Francisco, 90.7 KPFK Los Angeles, 90.1 KPFT Houston, and 89.3 WPFW Washington.

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