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3-9-01 Mario Murillo resigns WBAI morning show

Compiled from various posts at:

- "Mario Murillo resigned from his weekly Friday morning slot in protest of Utrice Leid's attempt to force him to ban Amy Goodman from appearing during the 7 AM hour of his morning show."

- "...he's speaking his mind freely on the air. He's talking about the hardening positions and that despite his (unvoiced) opposition to the Xmas coup, he bided his time hoping that things would be able to be worked out. But now it's clear that is not happening.

He said Djabel Faye called him and told him that he was not to let Amy on during WUC, or any of the opposition.
There needs to be more consistency, he was told.
He will not accept being on the air with conditions.
He is speaking at length about his dilemma.
Sez, He has never once been told who he can or can't have on the air.
How can he teach about free media & journalism otherwise without being a hypocrite?
He says its selfish on his part give up his show, because otherwise, how could he sleep at night?"

Statements on Wake-Up Call, Friday, March 9th, 2001

Mario A. Murillo on why he's stepping down from Wake Up Call on WBAI:

As we close out today's morning show, I had to make an important announcement to all you listeners, loyal supporters of WBAI and committed benefactors of community radio.

The last few months here at WBAI have been very rocky, to say the leastSsome would say perhaps the most tumultuous days in the illustrious history of this glorious institution.

A lot of things have been said, a lot of people have been hurt, many people have been let go from the station and subsequently banned. It has been painful for just about everybody involved. One department head recently referred to it as a war, and to many it has been just that. WBAI is in a state of civil war.

Throughout this period I have tried to maintain a certain degree of clarity as to what is happening, both on the air and behind the scenes. I've only openly discussed the matter once on the air, that was on December 28th, the first Friday after the abrupt change in management took place before Christmas, and the firings that accompanied it. I've avoided personal attacks, I've avoided making any public denunciations about anybody, I've tried to hear people out and understand the many delicate issues clearly before making any rash judgments. In essence, for better of for worse, I've tried to keep the entire situation in perspective while continuing to do the kind of programming that I've been known to do here for over 13 years.

That's why I came to Pacifica in the first place. To do interesting radio, in an environment where diverse opinions were respected, where individual creativity and intelligence were nourished, where independence and free speech were seen as fundamental to any process of communication.

I can't say I was completely successful over these past ten weeks in everything I've attempted to do. In the current environment, I can't think of one person who has not faltered at least once, who has not made any mistakes.

I've been doing Wake-Up Call on Fridays now for almost two years. In fact I took over the slot after our late Program Director, Samori Marksman, asked me to do so. He wanted to have someone to stabilize the last day of the week, even though he, like myself, was convinced that the best formula for the morning would have been to have the same hosts five days a week. It didn't make sense to do otherwise. But since we were unable to do it for years, he asked me to take over the Friday slot because it was a bit unstable, in his opinion. So I gladly obliged.

I started on Friday mornings again a week after Samori passed away, on March 23rd, 1999. And we tried to keep it consistent with the Monday - Thursday show, albeit with a different anchor. Errol came in on Fridays, Sharan Harper helped me line up guests and set up segments, occasionally Bernard would pop in and co-host a segment, Janice K Bryant sometimes would pop in as well. And of course, at 7am, Amy Goodman would come in and co-host for about one hour, as she did Monday through Thursday.

It wasn't the perfect model. I still feel Wake-Up Call could've been a lot more if we had the resources to do it right. To make it the strong news and public affairs morning show that we had envisioned when we first embarked on it in 1993.

But while we tried to keep the consistency going, I maintained a level of autonomy. I didn't use the theme song "Sweet in the Morning", I tried to keep it faster-paced.

I focused a lot more attention on so-called Latino community issues than the other shows: this is not to say they didn't do so on the other days or that I didn't do other things, but it was a way to balance things out.

It was understood that Wake-Up Call was one show, although with two components, Monday-Thursday being one, Friday being the other. Again, for some this may have worked, for others maybe it didn't. But I tried to keep it going. I tried to do the best I could, working with the little resources we had, coming in every Friday morning at 5:30am to get the show on the air.

And this is the way that things went until December 22nd, which was a Friday, when Bernard and Sharan were fired and banned. People asked me what's going to happen to you, are you going to go as well? Etc. And for the most part I was not affected programmatically.

The show went on, in my view, successfully. While the other days fell into a state of chaos and rancor, I tried to do what I always did on Fridays. Some people accused me of not taking a stand on the firings and bannings, while others said I was taking sides with a particular camp because on that first Friday I allowed Bernard to come on the air while taking phone calls. But I continued doing the show, while seeing the station divide ever more intensely with each passing day.

Amy Goodman's role in the morning continued to be questioned. Her feeling that the firings and banning of personnel was unwarranted continued coming across on the air. She was dubbed a saboteur for constantly raising the issue with other fill-in hosts. And I was criticized for allowing her to do it on the air during my time without cutting her off abruptly.

My feeling was although I didn't agree with everything Amy was saying, I was not about to attack her or cut her off unceremoniously, because that is not how I deal with people, and I was and continue to be firmly convinced that the negativity that was being spewed was not in the things Amy was saying about the democratization of Pacifica, about her disapproval with the firings and bannings. My feeling was and continues to be that the negativity, the true "bloodletting", the process of alienation on the air that was taking place was caused by the constant on-air bickering, the fighting, the attempts to silence and stifle debate, a debate that needed to be had considering the public nature of this foundation. It was not caused by the comments on one person.

Again, I was convinced that a lot of the crisis that was getting worse as each day passed could have been handled differently, with less detrimental results for the station, had positions not hardened so much, so as to have created a mood of outright hostility on the air, and subsequent alienation of thousands of listeners. I was not going to take part in that, with the hope that things would settle down eventually and that cooler heads would prevail.

But positions continued to harden. The possibility of dialogue lessened each day. And now, as the morning line-up goes through yet another change, I am forced to reconsider what my role here at the station is.

The other day I was called at home by my direct supervisor here at the station in the department of public affairs programming. He informed me that I was NOT to have Amy Goodman on the air anymore on Friday mornings, that the line-up is changing and that they want to have some more consistency. And that Amy was not part of the plan.

I was also told that the initial idea was to make the morning show a Monday through Friday program, with the same line-up and hosts, something I had argued for years as public affairs director, but that "because of who I am" and because of my contributions to the show and the station over the years, I would be allowed to stay on on Friday, to continue doing what I've been doing. With the very clear condition being that I "don't put on Amy Goodman, nor anybody else who has been responsible for the nonsense of the past few months." These are almost exact words. I don't have it on tape, nor in writing, but I'm trying to be as accurate as possible.

Needless to say this put me in a predicament. Had I simply been told that they wanted to have a five day a week show and therefore I was being let go, I would've accepted it, reluctantly, but I couldn't argue against it because it has been my position all along. (No contradictions please!!!)

But I was given conditions, an ultimatum. I clearly had very limited choices: I either defy this arbitrary provision of my on-air status in the mornings and get immediately removed from the show (I was told that I would have to deal with the consequences). Or I continue on the air, protect my little three hour air-space, and tell Amy to bug off, not come on the air. I either go on the air in defiance, taking a stand against this blatant censorship of my program, or I give in to the dictates of the management and continue doing my program.

WE should point out that Amy has not been named, at least yet, as one of the banned. It's in writing that certain people are NOT permitted on the air: it includes Bernard, Sharan, Cherene, Janice, I think Mimi Rosenberg is another, and one or tow others. Amy is not on that list, at least not that I know of. But she has now been confined, according to what I was told this week, to democracy Now, so she is not banned, just quarantined.

Now mind you, in my 13 years here as a programmer and producer I've never once been told who I can or cannot have on the air. In my seventeen years doing radio I've never once been told who I can or cannot have on the air. I consider myself a radio journalist first and foremost, a rather responsible one at that, and I feel whenever I put people on the air, it's for a good reason, whether it's as a co-host or as a guest.

So I ask myself, considering Amy and I share many of the same journalistic values, the same approach to covering stories, to dealing with issues that are not covered anywhere else, why wouldn't I have her on the program that I am producing, that I am shaping, that I am hostingS.yes we have many differences, and I have as many criticisms of her as she, I'm sure, has of me and my approach, just as I have of others who I've shared the microphone with here at WBAI over the years. But I've always had the freedom to invite anybody I pleased to share that mic. Now I'm told it's a different ball game.

I'll also be very clear that Amy does NOT make or break the Friday edition of Wake-Up Call. To be perfectly frank, at times her late arrivals over the years were quite disturbing and could very often throw off the rhythm established in the first hour of the program.

But the fact of the matter is that we work well together. I've been working with her for years, and it's something that I look forward to, mainly because I think you, the listeners, enjoy it as well, and together we have something to offer. Last week I was pleased with the number of calls expressing this much.

So what does one do when you're given such an ultimatum. Go on as usual with Amy and get kicked off the air. Go on without Amy, accepting this new condition, and remain on the air on Friday mornings. It left me with a lot to think about over the last 48 hours, and I've come to the conclusion that I cannot accept these kinds of conditions on my programming.

If I were to accept it, it would mean that my program was forever compromised. The integrity of the show would always be at risk. Because when does one draw the line?

I've already lost a producer in Sharan Harper. Since her firing, I've been forced to produce the show all on my own, not so easy when one is juggling so many other commitments. Now a co-host in Amy Goodman. And there's the statement "and all those other people involved in the nonsense over the past few months." Pretty ambiguous if you ask me. And I tried to get clarity. I asked my direct supervisor to define those other individuals, who would be considered off limits from my program? Who would I be allowed to have on the air and who would I not be allowed to have on the air? Can you see where the problems will begin? You accept these conditions once, you might have to accept them again, and again, and again. Afterall, we are in a state of internal war!

So I've come to the conclusion that I cannot accept these conditions. I would not be able to look at my students in the eye when I talk to them about media democracy, about independence, about free speech, about journalism values, if I were to accept this preconditon in order to save my little air space here.

After giving it considerable thought, and with considerable regret, I'm forced to sign off from wake up call one last time. I know that I cannot be content with myself to continue under these circumstances. I oppose these arbitrary dictates supposedly in the interest of protecting the station.

If we are indeed supposedly at war, I refuse to be held hostage. Which is why I am resigning from the program, effective immediately. As much as I enjoy doing the morning show, as much time and energy I have put into it to make it entertaining, informative, somewhat amusing, or whatever else you may want to call it, I have to end it here.

Let me be clear. This is not about Amy Goodman. I could survive without her. This is NOT about being a martyr. If anything, it's a selfish move, to clear my own conscience. To be able to function here at WBAI without compromising my beliefs. Without being forced by anybody to take sides in order to protect "my ass."

I also want to state right here that I am not resigning from Pacifica or WBAI Radio. I'm here because I believe in WBAI. I could be anywhere else I want to be, I don't need WBAI for the money, for the ego, or for the space to have my voice heard. All of these personal needs I have satisfied elsewhere, and very comfortably, I may add.

I am here because I believe in the mission of community radio, of Pacifica, of Lew Hill. That's why I came here in the first place, and I will remain true to that mission.

As many of you know, I still produce Our Americas on Fridays and hope to continue producing the program every week. I leave this studio each Friday and immediately begin work on OA in the next room. I plan to do it today, and hope that my decision vis a vis the morning show does not affect my work or my role in Our Americas (the only program of its kind on the radio, which currently airs on over 25 stations nationwide and will soon be launching its own website).

For now, besides the seven dirty words restrictions that we are all aware of, I have not been given any constraints to work from in that program. And I believe there should be no reason for this to occur now.

Finally, I wanted to salute Samori Marksman one last time. I was planning to do a special on-air tribute to Samori on March 23rd, a Friday morning and the 2nd anniversary of his untimely death. Obviously, my decision today will not make that possible.

I am proud to have worked closely with him for so many years here at the station. Like him, I believe in the need for change, fundamental change, including here at the station. I also believe in the need for a vanguard to lead that change.

I am grateful to have been given an opportunity to have been part of the vanguard that turned this station around in the mid-1990s under his leadership, notwithstanding the constant attacks, the hostile meetings, the disinformation campaigns, the mean-spririted and divisive memos that were constantly being sent out by known and unknown sources.

It's never been easy here at WBAI, and there was always dissent, always challenges to the status quo. But we always tried to move the station forward through dialogue, through compromise, through consensus, however elusive. Even some of the most destructive individuals were allowed into that process, for better or for worse.

The fact of the matter is that we did move the station forward. Through producing strong radio, and never giving into pressures to sell out our principles of social justice, community empowerment and free speech. I still believe this can happen at WBAI, but first we have to step back from this atmosphere of war.

- Mario A. Murillo

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