PRESS RELEASE: October 15, 2019. WBAI fights back against rogue faction of parent Pacifica National Board and its Executive Director to eliminate WBAI

WBAI Radio Staff, Producers and Listeners Coalition

WBAI Staff, Listeners, Elected Officials, & Community Groups Hold
Press Conference on Steps of City Hall – October 15 – 12 NOON

WBAI fights back against a plot by rogue faction of the parent Pacifica National Board and its Executive Director to eliminate the iconic New York station

For Immediate Release — Oct 15, 2019

On Tuesday, October 15, producers, staff and listeners of progressive, non-commercial WBAI Radio will hold a noon press conference on the steps of City Hall in response to last Monday’s sudden shut-down of the 60-year-old iconic NYC radio station by a faction of its parent organization – The Pacifica Foundation and their handpicked, recently installed Interim Executive Director (IED), John Vernile.

Speakers include WBAI attorney Arthur Schwartz and board members who will update the media on the manipulations of this rogue effort to destroy WBAI. In addition, State Assembly member Harvey Epstein will join other community voices emphasizing the importance of this independent community radio institution to New York City – and call for the restoration of this free-speech beacon to its rightful owners, the listeners.

Background: In the early morning hours of Mon., Oct. 7, WBAI was shut down without warning when Pacifica representatives — led by IED Vernile — and two security guards entered the station unannounced, demanded the staff leave, locked the doors and fired 12 paid staff and 168 radio producers. They then rerouted the transmitter so that only programming originating from the Pacifica headquarters in California would be aired — eliminating all local programming. There had been no advance vote by the Pacifica National Board, as mandated by its bylaws, to authorize this action — widely seen by many as a grab to sell WBAI’s valuable license.

By the next morning, lawyers and plaintiffs obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in state court, undoing the rogue faction’s unprecedented action. Station Management and Staff then reentered the station, finding it dismantled and rendered unable to return to normal broadcasting.  Two days later the TRO was vacated in state appellate court — with the exception of the firing of the 12 employees. Pacifica has now moved to have the case transferred to federal court, inaccurately claiming NY State courts lack jurisdiction.

In a dramatic turn of events over the weekend, this rogue faction took cunning steps during Board conference calls. On Friday, the faction muted the phones of 3 WBAI members of the National Board, then disenfranchised them, claiming they have “a conflict of interest” and so could neither participate in the WBAI discussion nor vote on any resulting motion. This led to a Saturday vote, with numerous members barred, to retroactively affirm WBAI’s shutdown/takeover. But on Sunday, a majority of the board (12 members) called an emergency meeting (boycotted by the anti-WBAI faction) and voted to rescind the shutdown and restore WBAI to full functioning under local control. The Board’s pro-takeover minority meanwhile has vowed to challenge the Sunday vote as “illegal.”

So while the legal battle continues, the movement of listeners, producers, and community advocates is growing in its call to save WBAI and free speech radio in New York City. In addition, a demonstration has been held in California to show support for WBAI, with another one scheduled outside Pacifica’s Berkeley station, KPFA, on Wednesday.

Here in New York, a mass meeting to update supporters and broaden the fight for full restoration of local control is scheduled for 6:30 pm this evening, Tuesday October 15, 2019 at The People’s Forum – 320 West 37th Street in Manhattan.


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