Almost one month to the day, and almost as unexpectedly as local New York broadcast programming ended on Oct. 7 listener supported WBAI-FM reclaimed control of the 99.5 frequency that was hijacked by an alleged “rogue” group representing Pacifica Network with unfamiliar features originating from the west coast presented to listeners as “Pacifica Across America.”
The return to normalcy was enabled by Supreme Judge Melissa Crane who ruled in favor of the local programmers and radio station that professes to represent 99 percent of America, a progressive-leaning listening audience and alternative, diverse programming. The decision reversed the abrupt takeover that silenced local producers who regularly addressed issues pertinent to tri-state residents.
With resumption of regular programming, program director, Linda Perry opened the phone lines and attempted to explain the ordeal staffers endured throughout the 30-day absence. Loyal listeners welcomed the restored format, opined on the absence of familiar programming and questioned the hows and wherefores of proceeding forward with fund-raising efforts.
To the music of a song titled “Back In The saddle Again” Perry invited Berthold Reimers, the general manager, to talk about deficit caused by the loss of revenue and plans to be implemented in order to rebuild trust with subscribers who supplement income and operation of the unique and revered media outlet.
“A rogue group from Pacifica, interim executive director (now suspended) John Vernile, two Pacifica national board members from our Houston station KPFT – Bill Crossier and Adrienne LaViolette and Moe Thomas, an engineer from WPFW, our sister station in DC came into our facility on Oct. 7 with two security guards and two locksmiths and shut down the station and ordered staff out,” Perry explained.
“The rogue group carried out a well orchestrated coup on day seven of our successful October fund drive,” she added. “They took over our 99.5 FM NY frequency, piped in light programming from California, took our stream, website domain, archives, bank accounts, mail, files and a key piece of equipment. They barred us from 4 Times Square where our transmitter is housed, changed our locks and closed down our email addresses to try and stop us from communicating with each other.”
“But we fought back. WBAI staff is resilient.”
Perry’s recount sounded more like one of the drama stories regularly read on Saturday mornings during Simon Loekle’s “As I Please” engaging, literary broadcast rather than the reality that unfolded at 388 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn.
Callers responded with assurances they would readily contribute to sustain local programming. Some admonished the “rogue” perpetrators and others demanded full disclosure from the parent Pacifica Network.
The following morning “Any Saturday” program host David Rothenberg tunefully signed on with his familiar anthem by Jimmy Durante singing “You’ve Got To Start Every Day With A song.”
Cued at 8 am for a two-hour presentation of potpourri of opinionated politics, theater, sports, television, film, prison reform updates and music, the cheerful interlude returned one of the most popular programs and one that has aired for three and a half decades at the middle of the radio dial.
As usual he chose a telling song to score the broadcast. The appropriate selection from his playlist featured a Dinah Washington classic entitled “What A Difference A Day Makes.
”Catch You On The Inside!