Pacifica Fires Executive Director

Summer Reese Pacifica Foundation Executive Director 99.5 WBAI New York 94.1 KPFA San Francisco 90.7 KPFK Los Angeles 89.3 WPFW Washington DC 90.1 KPFT HoustonMoments after submitting a press release praising the Pacifica Foundation for reaching the funds needed to pay the severance due to staffers laid off from 99.5 WBAI New York last August, Summer Reese was dismissed as Executive Director of the nonprofit group.

Reese served as Interim Executive Director for eighteen months and was granted the position permanently just last month. In an e-mail reporting the move, outgoing Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg stated that the firing came without any human resource or legal counsel present despite requests for it by some members of Pacifica’s National Board. Rosenberg states that Reese is obligated to $315,000 as part of a buy-out in her contract.

This is just the latest phase of turmoil facing Pacifca. WBAI has seen one Program Director quit and another be fired in the past six months due to issues with fundraising, while its General Manager Berthold Reimers was fired and then had the firing overturned. WBAI has taken proposals to lease out its signal, but failed to follow through the process. 89.3 WPFW Washington, D.C. saw its General Manager John Hughes also removed from his position.

From: Summer Reese, Executive Director

Pacifica Foundation Radio: Employees Laid-off At WBAI-FM To Receive Severance Pay

Pacifica Foundation Radio is pleased to announce the payment of severance obligations to employees laid off in August of 2013 due to financial difficulties at Pacifica’s flagship New York City station WBAI-FM (99.5 FM)

WBAI’s troubles after it was ejected from its headquarters in downtown New York City by Hurricane Sandy and relocated to Brooklyn, New York have been extensively covered in the New York City media including the Village Voice and the New York Times.

Despite a herculean fundraising campaign in the spring of 2013, the station was not able to recover from the loss of over a half a million dollars in income from the wrecked pledge drive in the winter of 2012 and several months of homelessness that ensued after the station could not return to its office and studio facilities. In July of 2013, it was forced to announce that the majority of its employees would have to be laid off due to the inability to pay them and the station would maintain with a skeleton-level crew.

Employee medical benefits have been retained for the past year, but the station has been unable to fully meet severance pay agreements for many employees who had been with WBAI for years, a painful situation for them, the station and the entire radio network.

Executive director Summer Reese comments “It is with a great sense of relief that I can announce finally today that all severance obligations have been met and I sincerely thank the current and former employees of WBAI and the SAG-AFTRA bargaining unit for their patience as we worked through this troubling situation”.

In this 65th anniversary year, the grandmother of public radio hopes to update its technological footprint with several digital content delivery initiatives, stabilize the NYC station which suffers from a wildly expensive radio tower site on the Empire State Building, and redefine community engagement and local broadcasting in an era of worldwide connections within seconds.

Pacifica’s 100+ employees and 2,000 volunteer unpaid staffers produce over 600 hours of audio content every week, from alternative public affairs discussions of depth and context to explorations of every musical genre imaginable, and community collectives that give voice to perspectives rarely heard on other media outlets. The Pacifica Archives, holds 60 years of unique historical content including interviews with countless political and cultural icons of the 20th century. Over 180 affiliated stations access Pacifica-produced radio content via the Audiport distribution system maintained by Pacifica.

Started in 1946 by conscientious objector Lew Hill, Pacifica’s storied history includes impounded program tapes for a 1954 in-air discussion of marijuana, broadcasting the Seymour Hersh revelations of the My Lai massacre, bombings by the Ku Klux Klan, going to jail rather than turning over the Patty Hearst tales to the FBI, and Supreme Court cases including the 1984 decision that noncommercial broadcasters have the constitutional right to editorialize, and the Seven Dirty Words ruling following George Carlin’s incendiary performances on WBAI.

65 years later, Pacifica stands at the forefront of dizzying changes to the media landcape. It brings two central assets to the challenges that lie ahead: a mission statement that has never been more relevant to an increasingly troubled world, and rich human resources in the 2000+ community participants who share their creative talents and their commitment to a better world.

Pacifica Foundation Radio operates noncommercial radio stations in New York, Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and syndicates content to over 180 affiliates. It invented listener-supported radio.

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  1. Denison says

    If it were up to me I’d get rid of wbai 99.5fm and put alternative on it. 101.5 cause they just talk to much. And at least one sports station. Do we really need two sports stations?

    1. Charles Everett says

      There are a whole bunch of legal issues here. You can’t just flip 99.5 willy-nilly.

      Besides, New Jersey 101.5 is not about to relocate to New York City.

      1. Denison says

        They did with wrxp when it turned to Wfan. Why not wbai? They think they are specail?

        1. Nathan Obral says

          The 101.9 facility was already a commercial station that was being sold off by a broadcasting firm that lost untold millions with the “FM News” concept. There was nothing to stop CBS from flipping it to a WFAN simulcast.

          The 99.5 facility is officially a non-commercial station, and any subsequent owner that wants to turn it into a commercial outlet has to go through the whole legal process. Not to mention that Pacifica is, well, the epitome of dysfunctional. Look at how they are structured… they have been killing themselves slowly through bureaucracy.

          Of course they think they are special and above anything else. Even if there was a unanimous agreement with selling off WBAI, they won’t find any agreement in how the sale should be administered.

          1. Joseph_Gallant says

            But 94.7 was once non-commercial (Religious via Family Radio), and now it’s a commercial country-music station (WNSH-FM; a/k/a Nash 94-7″).

            So it can happen.

        2. Lance Venta says

          You need willing parties. CBS bought 101.9 with the intent to place WFAN on FM. In that case Merlin Media was looking to sell and CBS was looking to buy. WBAI is run by the Pacifica Foundation, who have stated that despite their financial hardships, they have no intent on selling the station or changing the formatting of the station from what it has been since they took control in 1960.

          No operator currently running a station in the New York market sees a fit for Alternative in their station portfolio.

          1. K.M. Richards says

            Family Stations converted WFME to a commercial license on a Form 302-FM a year before the sale to Cumulus.

            So while it’s not impossible, as Joseph said, you have to have a owner that is not only willing to sell but is willing to relicense the station as commercial first.

            Pacifica is not that kind of willing owner.

  2. K.M. Richards says

    Denison, I’m afraid you have a lot to learn about the legalities of radio.

    Yesterday, I read a post of yours in the Community thread on Nash FM in which you proposed combining it with a station serving a different market in New Jersey.

    Today you want a New Jersey station to take over WBAI.

    You’ve also posted recently that the only reason there is no alternative rock station in NYC is because “all you got to do is just find a great dail” (whatever a “dail” is) and then you propose two stations, which happen to be under different ownership, merge and go alternative.

    I suggest you try reading the discussions for a while and educate yourself on how this business works before posting any more of your ideas. Your lack of background knowledge is, sadly, quite evident.

  3. Denison says

    Ummm, interesting if that’s what you think bud then more power to ya. Just remember nothing lasts forever and since people think I’m “bull$hiting” go ahead and say what you will. Anyways how is it that other east coast stations have one good alternative station minus nj. Like radio1045 in Philadelphia, WRRV in Ny.

    1. Lance Venta says

      Every market is different. Different owners, different stations in clusters, different demographics, etc..

      While WRFF Philadelphia is quite successful, there was a two year stretch from 2005 when Y100 flipped to 2007 that it was without the format. There are plenty of other large markets like Miami, Phoenix, and San Antonio without an Alternative station and quite a few like Cleveland, Raleigh, and Baltimore where the format exists on a low-powered translator as well as some like Chicago that just got the format back.

      If the current dynamics of the New York radio market change, it’s likely Alternative will be one of the first formats considered by many of the station owners. The format is in growth mode for the first time since the mid 90’s.

      Stating “If that’s what you think bud” to someone explaining why something you stated is legally impossible is probably the wrong way to go about things, There are people here who are trying to explain why your statements are false, not bullshitting as you put it.

  4. BC says

    why is it that every new york city discussion tends to take this sort of try state turn? I have some thoughts on this particular post, but I’d like to encourage those who like alternative to try WFUV, you actually get more than just Fitz and the Kongos. The album oriented alternative sound isn’t available everywhere on the east coast, so I think more should appreciate an open minded approach to the format says the guy who used to listen to active rock and mainstream alternative. and KM, as you will realize there are many disenfranchised people who aren’t able to creatively and strategically develop their own radio branding ideas so there’s a constant speculation. I have a friend who keeps saying amp is coming to an already successful hot ac station here in pittsburgh, so you get good and bad with open forum. Now, a paragraph later, on to pacifica. my station is an affiliate of some of their programming and for what its worth, they definitely have an interesting perspective to offer. My epiphany that just came to me as i was writing this is for Pacifica to do a similar deal that they have with WNJR “great station you should listen friday afternoons, plug :)” the time should be leased to college and community volunteers. The errors i already see in this is what college, and by what community standards. though as a local community activist, I see great benefit with a pairing of national content and local engagement with issues because it provides a well rounded perspective. Much like Npr however, the mold starts right on top, and thus because not efficiently dealt with, the mold spreads to other vital parts. So my simply complex solution is partnerships. look at what kcrw is doing? Obviously i’m suggesting slightly different arrangements in this situation, but Nathan did indeed hit the nail on the head.

    1. K.M. Richards says

      Speculation is one thing.

      Saying something that is so outside reality that it could never happen is another.

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