In August I created a little radio story about iconic New York City radio station WBAI 99.5fm. I realized later that many people who now live north of the City in the areas served by WAMC on 90.3 (and the mighty network of WAMC affiliates) probably don’t know very much about the driving force WBAI was “back in the day” and how it was an integral part of community and counterculture. Few Pacifica programs have ever aired in the space North of Westchester County. The other night while clicking thru the TV stations, by chance, I happened upon “America Reframed” on World Channel, and a program about WBAI’s very legendary Bob Fass, who has been on the airwaves for a half-century.
From worldchannel.org ::: “Radio Unnameable is a visual and aural collage that pulls from Bob Fass’s immense archive of audio from his program, film, photographs, and video that has been sitting dormant until now. Revealing the underexposed world of independent radio, the film illustrates the intimate relationship Fass and, by extension, WBAI formed with their listeners that were strong enough to maintain the station’s role as one of the most successful listener-sponsored programs in the United States.”
From my story ::: “Over the last year, nothing has gone right: the station has been in a cash crunch – unable to meet payroll and falling behind on rent for its antenna. Superstorm Sandy dealt a crippling blow to its studios, compounded by the fact that the broadcast staff wasn’t allowed in temporary facilities after 6 p.m. during the days of crisis following the storm, when radio became every city dweller’s lifeline. There have been fights over programming. WBAI fund drives have been disasters. And the Brooklyn couple who hosted of the station’s self-help positive living program, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” committed suicide in June.
Today, in spite of its mighty signal, the station draws a tiny audience. ” And there is more troubling news from Pacifica:
“Free Speech Radio News,” a show that included freelance audio journalism from around the world and aired on Columbia-Greene County’s WGXC 90.7-FM at 6:30 p.m., and more lately, 6 p.m., will air its final show Fri., Sept. 27. The show ends because of a financial struggle. “Our major funder Pacifica has not been able to pay us and its past-due balance to FSRN is about $198,000,” the show’s board of directors said in a letter (printed in full below).