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Democracy Now! banned from
WBAI fundraiser 5-19-01

Concerned Friends of WBAI Demand
The Return of "Democracy Now!" and an End to the Purges

Talk about a "Wake Up Call"! At 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 18th, a screaming alarm clock was thrust in the faces of WBAI listeners when, instead of hearing the reassuring voice of Amy Goodman introducing her show "Democracy Now!" (DN!), they were subjected to increasingly desperate appeals for financial support for the "new" WBAI at the start of its critical Spring Fund Drive.

No, that wasn't "a nightmare'" it's our new reality, unless we choose to change it. Management has announced that "DN!" will be blacked out in New York for the duration of the three-week fund drive, though it will continue to be broadcast via satellite to other Pacifica stations (with varying degrees of censorship). This must be treated as a trial balloon for the permanent cancellation of Pacifica's most popular show.

What's going on here? Why would illegally-installed station manager Utrice Leid, presumably with the consent of her cohorts on the renegade Pacifica National Board, decide to silence the proven fundraising powerhouse that is "DN!" just when the station, in theory, needs it most? Is it worth throwing away the $20,000 the show can raise in a single morning just to prevent Amy's ritual salute to the "fired and the banned"? The resistance movement (i.e. the vast majority of WBAI listeners) evidently poses such a threat that Leid has decided to destroy the village in order to save it.

Did anyone believe Pacifica executive director Bessie Wash when, just a few short weeks ago on WBAI's (Non-)Report to the Listener, she declared that Amy was in charge of her show and that nothing would happen to "DN!"? If you did, now you know better. The writing was already on the wall. After more than a year of harassment and attempted censorship of Amy by Pacifica programming director Steve Yasko and other National Board members, the baton of discipline has been passed to Leid, who is wielding it with relish. She has reportedly upped her verbal abuse of Amy, treating her in a disgraceful manner in an effort to force her to quit.

Earlier this week, with just a half hour till airtime, Leid forced "DN!" to move its production to a secondary, inadequate studio from which the show's live feed could be more easily censored. So much for any professed concerns about broadcasting "professionalism."

What is behind the cancellation of "DN!" is far more than power-tripping managers. "DN!" is just the latest in a long, distinguished line of Leid's victims. After promising not to change any programming, she began her reign by squashing the extremely popular "Wake Up Call," with its many progressive, independently produced segments, and replacing it with scab radio devoid of any real grassroots or community involvement. "Building Bridges" has been cancelled, "Behind The News" has been gutted, and increasingly we hear a shift to the right. During the pledge drive, a morning show host told us that the Timothy McVeigh case proves the need for government informers. Guests and even hosts, such as Michael Levine -- WBAI's own ex-DEA agent -- argued for the death penalty unchallenged.

After canceling Wake Up Call, next up on the chopping block were "Building Bridges," the city's only labor perspectives show, and "Grandpa" Al Lewis, leading prisoners' rights advocate and a national treasure. So far in the "creeping coup," a total of 22 paid and unpaid staff members have been fired, banned, removed from their programs, or felt compelled to resign. And they all have something in common.

Just as has occurred to varying degrees at other stations in the network, what is happening at WBAI is nothing less than an all-out purge of progressive, leftist, and yes, radical voices from the airwaves of our beloved station. Only a few still remain. Leid herself is not bashful about it: she declares that WBAI is not to be "a station of the Left." What it is to be is not so clear, though it seems certain the present National Board majority would be happy with 'NPR lite'. We say: Enough Is Enough!

Concerned Friends of WBAI demands the return of "Democracy Now!" to New York's airwaves, an end to the purges, and the return of the fired and the banned. To enforce its demands, we support a total boycott of the current fund drive. We urge listeners to redouble their protests in the coming days.

Management says the fund drive is a referendum on how we, the listeners, think the station is doing. Let's tell them. Call the station and demand the return of "DN!" and all of the "Disappeared." Tell them you will support the boycott until the National Board's corporate hijackers resign and Pacifica is returned to the people. Call especially during the times when they most desperately need fundraising, the Morning Show and the noon-hour Gary Null program. Ask your friends, family, and co-workers to boycott the station.

We invite you to attend future meetings of Concerned Friends (June 7th, 6:30, location T.B.A.), and to join us at a demonstration next week to demand the return of "Democracy Now!" at a date and time to be announced. Call the WBAI Listener Action Hotline: (800) 825-0055 for details.

Frederick Douglas said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will." If we fight together, we can win.


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