The Resistance: WBAI Fights Back Attempted "Coup" By Pacifica--Wins Restraining Order

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WBAI staffers, supporters, and activists strategize. Mimi Rosenberg has the floor. 
 
WBAI is under attack from a rogue faction of its own parent network. But staff, producers and listeners have formed a coalition and are fighting back against an attempted shutdown of the 60-year-old iconic New York radio station.
 
In the early morning hours of Monday, October 7, 2019, five people, including Pacifica Interim Executive Director John Vernile, accompanied by an engineer and two security people, entered the station and ordered all staff and producers to leave. Acting on the direction of rogue board members of the Pacifica network, they took control of the offices, its broadcasting facilities and its finances. They installed new locks and took WBAI programming off the air, substituting programming originating in California. More than a dozen paid staff were immediately laid off, and production of programs by the station's 168 producers was discontinued, as was WBAI's current Fall Fund Drive.
 
This act of sabotage prompted producers, staff and listeners to join together immediately to fight to restore the 60-year-old unique listener-sponsored station to the airwaves, under local control. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enabling WBAI staff to get back into the locked-down station was issued by Judge Frank Nervo on Monday night; plaintiffs named in the injunction included attorney-producers, Local Station Board members and State legislator Harvey Epstein.
 
After the TRO was granted, staff were able to reenter the station on October 8, only to discover that significant damage had been done to equipment necessary for the immediate restoration of local broadcasting. 
 
Pacifica issued a statement justifying the takeover with the claim that WBAI's ongoing financial difficulties made it necessary in order to save the entire network. In a memo to Pacifica National Board members, John Vernile claimed that “the accumulated debt and ongoing financial mismanagement threaten our larger Foundation and its current, vitally important work that serves hundreds of thousands of US residents and online listeners worldwide.” In fact, local producers believe that the takeover was prompted by a desire to change programming in the direction of less diverse and cutting-edge content. (Pacifica tomorrow morning will try to get a judge to remove the restraining order. The session is at 9:15 AM at the Appellate Court, 27 Madison Avenue, First Department. Supporters are urged to appear).
 
“Make no mistake about it - it's all about content – community voices,” said Arthur Schwartz, one of the attorney-producers who helped initiate the TRO motion. Earlier, he had noted, "Nothing in the Pacifica Bylaws allows such a takeover by its Executive Director, who acted without even debate or a vote by Pacifica's Board of Directors.”
 
According to Mimi Rosenberg, an attorney-producer who is also a plaintiff in the suit, "This has been in the works for a long time. The intent of the secret raid--or coup--was to wound the station irreparably by wrecking the fund drive, then drive the station to bankruptcy to sell it off so that the other stations in the network could feed off the monies from the sale of WBAI's license--which is potentially worth millions of dollars." 
 
The five stations of the Pacifica Radio Network--the only progressive radio network in the country--have been experiencing financial difficulties in recent years. —WBAI Staff, Producers and Listeners Coalition
 
 
 
 
 

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