WBAI has experienced a coup and a bloodbath over the Christmas
holidays. Executive Director Bessie Wash paid
a visit to WBAI, and at this moment Pacifica National controls the station
in the form of Talkback! producer Utrice Leid, who on her last show on
Thursday reiterated that "there was no crisis"
at WBAI, and that it was a "manufactured crisis".
How did this occur? Well Utrice, who has been
deploring "the lack of transparency"
at WBAI, had all the while been holding secret negotiations with Pacifica
National! And last Friday in a "midnight maneuver" the locks were changed
at the station and to all the offices, guards were brought in to ensure
no entry, and Program Director Bernard White, who has been with WBAI
for 20 years, was fired, along with Wakeup Call Producer Sharan Harper.
Then sometime after midnight, Utrice Leid announced
over the air on the Creative Unity show, her ascension to the position
of Interim General Manager, prematurely taking the place of GM Valerie
Van Isler, who had been notified that she was to be terminated as of
the end of the year. She then proceeded to enforce the gag rule by instructing
the producers of Creative Unity to not discuss these internal matters
any further on the air. And before the blood was dry the following
cart began to be played throughout the day, and the following
memos to WBAI Staff were released and read over the air.
Both Bernard White and Sharan Harper were notified
of their termination in memos delivered by messenger early Saturday
morning, and told that their offices had been locked and their possessions
would be sent to them, and not to enter the station under threat of
The station is currently in lockdown and heavily
guarded, with only producers and guests about to do their shows being
allowed entry. Producers attempting to prepare their shows for the upcoming
week were barred from entering the WBAI studios at the door. On Christmas
Day a Democracy Now! producer was refused admittance to the station
to prepare for tomorrow's show.
All of this, despite the fact that over the course
of the last few weeks in 3 separate meetings, staff have been almost
100% in favor of resistance, and in last Tuesday's meeting the vote
was overwhelmingly unanimous (save for two) to oppose Pacifica's termination
of Van Isler.
A demonstration of hundreds of listeners and producers
was held at noon on Saturday outside the station, while inside, a planned
teach-in on the crisis proceeded on the airwaves. One of the points
made at the demonstration was that the firings of Valerie, Bernard and
Sharan are totally illegal because they are protected by WBAI's union.
Since we're experiencing a takeover by Pacifica
National, in order to save our station, it's very important to stay
focused on who we're fighting and not get bogged down in personality
issues, but we must remember that Utrice Leid is now working for Pacifica
National, that she is the one who let them in the door, and that as
Interim General Manager, she will be at some point replaced with a person
of their choice, when she is no longer of use to them. Utrice herself
was quoted on air as saying "I work at the pleasure of Pacifica as well."
What you can do :