Latino programming at WBAI,
and a potential change, 3-3-06
Here are two documents regarding the proposed programming change on Sunday afternoon in the 2-4 pm blockfirst, Program Director Bernard White's announcement and explanation, and second, a response from the programmers whose shows now air in that slot and which would be displaced.
Program Director Bernard White's explanation of the program change
To: Ibrahim Gonzales (Radio Libre),
Mickey Melendez (Con Sabor Latino),
Fernando Alvaricci (Con Sabor Latino),
Today, Sunday, January 15th at approximately 1:30pm, a meeting was held to discuss a proposed program change to the Sunday schedule and the rationale for the change. Those present were Ibrahim Gonzales (Radio Libre), Mickey Melendez and Fernando Alvaricci (Con Sabor Latino), and Janet Coleman, Interim Arts Director. The discussion focused on planned program changes.
Rationale and necessity for change revolves around two specific points: The first point is the need to broaden, enhance and continue broadcasting quality programming around Latino issues and concerns locally, nationally and internationally. The second point is the need to increase revenue during the Sunday afternoon time slot while maintaining WBAI’s commitment to its mission.
Lingua Suelta is being positioned to do a weekly public affairs program during the time period of 2pm –4pm. Although there was some opposition to my pronouncement, after some discussion, I suggested and everyone concurred that a meeting be held with the producers of Lingua Suelta. The purpose of this meeting is to see if a working relationship can be developed. However, the focus of that time period will be public affairs programming. The program change will not come into effect until after the Winter Drive. All parties will be informed of the actual date.
Response from producers of Con Sabor Latino and Radio Libre
Mr. Bernard White:
This statement is to serve as a unified response to your proposed program change. It is issued on behalf of Con Sabor Latino and Radio Libre.
The issues this statement addresses center on the proposed intention to insert La Lengua Suelta, a public affairs program, in the 2-4pm Sunday slot currently shared alternating Sundays by, Con Sabor Latino (Nando Albericci & Mickey Melendez) and Radio Libre (Ibrahim Gonzalez). The two hours shared by Con Sabor Latino and Radio Libre are a blend of Arts, Culture and Public Affairs programming.
On the whole, we are perplexed by a number of emergent contradictions, between practical considerations and your rationale and necessity for change, that in your words:
…revolves around two specific points: The first point is the need to broaden, enhance and continue broadcasting quality programming around Latino issues and concerns locally, nationally and internationally. The second point is the need to increase revenue during the Sunday afternoon time slot while maintaining WBAI’s commitment to its mission.
While these two ideas are very necessary for the strengthening of WBAI’s programming and its connection to the Latino Community, we strongly disagree with the strategy, method and intended manner of implementation with respect to said proposal. What follows are five major points which Lengua Suelta, Radio Libre and Con Sabor Latino have met on and upon which the above mentioned, have come to a general consensus.
1. The producers of Con Sabor Latino, New World Gallery and Radio Libre are totally supportive of expanding Latino programming at the station. We would like to see the new proposed Latino Public Affairs program, La Lengua Suelta, have its own place within the WBAI programming grid, but not at the expense of the current Latino Arts, Cultural or Public Affairs programming.
2. The producers of La Lengua Suelta have expressed their desire to have a program of their own, they do not however, want to be used as a replacement for any of the current Latino programs at the station. Although we are very solid in our support for La Lengua Suelta we are equally concerned about how management intends to raise more money, with a team of programmers who: A) Have very little technical training, B) Are limited in doing live radio, and C) Have never raised money on the air.
This is a set up for failure and again the producers will be blamed for the any financial shortfall. We ask, what training mechanisms are being put in place to assist these young Brothers and Sisters, and how is this approach being taken with other programs slots throughout the program schedule that have had trouble raising money in recent years?
3. As for monetary considerations, WBAI has had less than favorable results as far as on-air fund raising goes. The station in effect, will disproportionately assess its financial failures or gains by concentrating its focus on Con Sabor Latino and Radio Libre. If Sunday programming is going to be evaluated on the basis of how much a program can raise during a fund drive, then it is only fair that all programs be evaluated on the same basis. This proposal lacks vision, as did the removal of Gary Null's program. Natural Living was removed without a strategic vision of replacement, resulting in a major loss of income for WBAI. How have other shows been put in place without a broader strategic goal in mind? Many original precepts of the Pacifica mission however, are more within the spirit of cultural pluralism and providing a voice for the voiceless and underserved communities.
4. Within the present demographic context of New York City, WBAI needs to evaluate the expanding Latino presence within its broadcast/webcast range. The station should effectively expand Latino programming in a manner that accurately reflects the growing needs of our listeners; while representing this community’s diversity in tandum with sensitivity for nuances of the contemporary Latino experience.
5. Arts programming at WBAI has been cut back considerably. Our Sunday shows are dedicated primarily to the presentation of arts and culture from a dynamic and historical perspective. The Sunday lineup is composed of producers who represent a wide range of involvement within the Latino Community. They have cultivated ties with community activists and progressives as well as with trend setters who advance music, arts and culture.
A number of WBAI listeners (Grassroots People, Elected Political Officials--Rosie Mendez, Jose Serrano, Jose Rivera to name a few) (Cultural institutions--Hostos Cultural Center, Caribbean Cultural Centre, Clemente Soto Velez) have commented and have raised questions surrounding the possible removal or phasing out of Con Sabor Latino and Radio Libre to make way for the installment of Lengua Suelta. This is roundly perceived as an ill-fated proposal, which disrespects the Latino Community and the rest of the listeners who tune in to WBAI for music, art, culture, and information on a Sunday.
The thought of replacing two Latino Arts shows with one Latino Public Affairs show is so appalling, that WBAI producers who in the past did not care to take a position of protest against the conduct at WBAI towards Latino Programming and the Latino community are now committed to establishing a coalition to expand Latino programming; they can no longer remain neutral.
This coalition would like to work with the station to make sure the programming is of the highest quality, something that is not easily judged by people who in spite of good intentions, do not know the culture intimately, nor understand the language. In addition when we participated in the reclaiming of the station it was clear that we insisted on a broader discussion of the Latino experience and how it can be weaved into every aspect of WBAI. How is our experience reflected in News, and in programs that are topical?
Where is the Latino experience in issues of human and gay rights, in housing in health, in education, in justice, in the arts etc? How does the composition of staff at WBAI reflect the demographic of the surrounding Latino Community? These were and continue to be fundamental conditions and considerations for our support for the reclaiming our station. We have not for one minute forgotten these commitments which were made in the heat of the struggle to "take back our station."
This coalition would also help train the new comers. Senior Producers such as Ibrahim Gonz·lez, Nando Albericci, Mickey Melendez, Chico Alvarez and Mario Murillo are already committed to presenting segments prepared by La Lengua Suelta on the air during their respective programs, while at the same time urging the station to find a distinct place for La Lengua Suelta within its programming grid. Any new Latino producer is more likely to develop and reach her/his potential expediently when helped by someone who truly cares about and understands the culture and character of their community.
In good faith, the producers of CSL, RL, LS, and NWG have combined efforts during the Winter 2006 Fund Drive in an attempt to maximize the amount of money raised on air for the station. We have also come together as a show of unity and support, for the expansion of Latino Programming at our station.
During a recent all staff meeting held in January 2006, IGM Indra Hardat, observed that the proportion of Public Affairs Programming to Arts Programming is 95% to 5% at WBAI. She went on to cite the monetary gains at stations where the arts enjoy a higher percentage of programming and went on to observe that the fulfillment rate on pledges are higher than that of WBAI. Nevertheless, we strongly support the introduction of La Lengua Suelta as a Latino Public Affairs program at WBAI, while robustly defending the expansion of Latino Arts Programming and Arts Programming in general at WBAI.
A number of Latino Producers at WBAI realize that business as usual at WBAI as far as Latino programming and the systematic diminishing of hours, has to stop. We are aware that in other Pacifica stations in cities where the Latino population is as significant as in NYC, the percentage of hours out the 168 in a week dedicated to Latino programming done by Latino producers for their respective communities, is not as disproportionate as the meager 4.2% now relegated by WBAI with respect to Latino Programs. None of the Latino producers as well as others understand and much less agree, as to how the proposed changes broaden or expand Latino programming. This is nothing more than the obvious and customary replacing of Latino producers and of Latino programs one over another, with no increase in time for Latino programming at WBAI.
Let us give everyone a clear picture of the inertness related to Latino programming in the last 11 years. In 1995 a 4-hour program (Con Sabor Latino) was turned into two 2-hour programs (New World Gallery and Ritmo Con Ache). In 2004 one two-hour program (Ritmo Con Ache) was turned into two 2-hour programs (Radio Libre and Con Sabor Latino on an alternating basis). The one-hour that Latino Journal had up until 2002 was given to La Voz Latina. Yet it is often showcased as a new program that expands Latino programming at BAI. This is just not true. This represents a zero net gain in the past 11 years and a cutback of programs and time prior to 1995.
Veteran programmers at the station have expressed concern about the failures of recent fund drives at the station to achieve the stated goals, and more significantly, how very little seems to have been done to address this very real financial shortfall. We embrace changes when they are well thought out, and are arrived at through consultation, collaboration, and solidarity. That our very successful drives in the past used to run no more than 17 days and now are extending upwards of 26 days reflects a much more systemic problem of crisis proportions that this micro-managed tinkering with 2-hours on a Sunday will not rectify, certainly not in the immediate future, and most likely not in the long run. It alienates a portion of the audience while not doing anything to address the real problems facing the station. If the changes were presented alongside other, more comprehensive changes in the schedule designed to address areas where low-fund raising levels have become an issue, perhaps they would be understandable. However, this comes across as simply arbitrary, a slight tinkering that again, follows no real strategic plan.
Marion Barry from the interim board of directors of the Pacifica Foundation wrote on a recent ad posted on wbai.net advertising the availability of a position for an executive national director:
The Pacifica Foundation operates five listener supported radio stations, WBAI in New York City, WPFW in Washington, D.C., KPFT in Houston, Texas, KPFK in Los Angeles and KPFA in Berkeley, California. The Foundation's mission is to promote cultural diversity and pluralistic community expression; to contribute to a lasting understanding between peoples of all nations, race, creed and colors; to promote freedom of the press, and to serve as a forum for various viewpoints while maintaining an independent funding base. Pacifica is committed to maintaining community based, free speech, commercial-free radio.
All things considered, there is a tremendous potential which can be reached through the combined efforts of Latino Programmers at WBAI for community outreach, increasing the interconnection between the station and the city’s unions, schools, universities, community and cultural institutions, political organizations and religious groups. Our listener base locally and globally can be expanded significantly, by establishing and supporting Latino Programming, that is stimulating, relevant and provocative, honoring the legacy of struggle handed down by our predecessors. In earnest, we do hope that we seize this juncture as an opportunity to develop these potentials in a spirit of cooperation toward our goals as a voice for our constituents that will speak to a local as well as a global community.
Finally we would like WBAI to consider a resolution that reflects equity and parity as it relates to other public, college and non-commercial stations’ programming specific to the Latino community. We propose that all three Arts programs (CSL, RL. NWG) be allocated three hours (minimal time allocated by most of the above-mentioned stations). We also recommend an end to the ghettoization (all on one day) of Latino Arts programming. We further recommend that La Lengua Suelta be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and that they are extended the courtesy of being offered a time slot that is agreeable to them.
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