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WBAI staff programming retreat minutes
1-10-04


Minutes Jan. 10, 2004 WBAI Program Retreat

Chair: Sandy Boyer + Bob Lederer (morning session) / Aniruddha Das (afternoon)

Notetaker: Steffie Brooks (web site and Joy of Resistance)

Meeting began at 10:30 am with about a dozen in attendance and adjourned at 5:00 pm with several dozen in attendance.

1. Housekeeping

A. Finances (Don):

Copies of 4-month projections are available. (Printed copies were available at the retreat)

We've made modest progress in fundraising which makes it possible to defer layoffs until February.

We've paid off ALL outstanding debts, including central services obligations and contribution toward paying down national debt (WBAI paid #125,000 in December).

Emergency fundraising efforts in November were pretty successful. We've reached a 75 percent fulfillment rate on October marathon pledges and a 64 percent rate for the Radiothon.

In January (marathon begins Jan. 19th), we're shooting for a minimum 80 percent fulfillment rate on a goal of 1.1 million dollars. Sister stations are doing better than 80 percent with KPFA doing best at 88 percent fulfillment rate. We are targeting premium efficiency for Jan. drive.

$284,000 is current bank balance. Rent on studio and transmitter are paid. $700,000 in pledges are still outstanding that we are trying to collect.

B. Web Site (Bob Lederer, web site/folio editor, Health Action):

Please keep the web site up to date with your program announcements. Sunday 9 pm is the deadline for getting announcements into the WBAI Newsletter. Write a 2-line version for the front page of the web site plus a longer version, if you wish, for the inside page. Mail me at ledererbob@usa.net

Also email me descriptions and graphics for premium packages.

The web site welcomes news on the topic of your show. This will be posted under "Commentaries" on the front page.

Plug the site in your show, not only for streaming purposes but for the content on the site.

The folio will come out again in the Spring but at a reduced size of four pages. Work on the folio is starting next week.

C. WBAI Elections Coverage (Bernard)

Almost all listener candidates have been on the air. I am in contact with Terry Bouricius, national elections supervisor, about scheduling air time about the elections in general, starting next week.

Additional time for candidates will be scheduled through the coming weeks despite interference with fundraising effort.

Discussion:

Susan Lee: What is the policy on hosts commenting on candidates or listener candidates speaking on air? Both these things have occurred in recent past.

Bernard: Doesn't know if this is accurate; unfamiliar with any infraction of election regulations.

Don: Regulations are posted at pacifica.org and wbai.org

D. Report from Listener Activist (Nick Padell (?))

Nick is filling in for someone else who couldn't make it. He is a union activist in his work life. Wants to talk about his experience with WBAI. Started listening during Gulf War I WBAI clarified his thinking on the war. A couple years later, during a labor struggle that he was involved in, Ken Nash and Mimi Rosenberg broadcast coverage of it and this changed his relationship to the station it became more immediate. During the Christmas Coup, he worked to reinstate the banned and fired. During a broadcast of City in Exile he heard a discussion of WBAI internal politics and when an iPNB meeting was broadcast the station stopped being just an information source. He applauds the courage of the producers who talk about WBAI on the air it makes him a more committed listener. The process of democratization is working for listeners.

No discussion.

2. Station Manager's Vision (Don Rojas, GM)

What we're not: music, news, talk, white, Black, Latino. We're a hybrid plus more. What's the "more"? The challenge of being so unique community radio, free-speech radio, peace & justice radio, progressive, non-commercial radio.

Our public image is that we're factional, rife with in-fighting.

(Laughter)

The most important tool to shape our image is our programming. We're more "public" than NPR because we are 90 percent listener-funded. NPR has morphed into corporate lite. The Liberal Talk Radio Network being launched soon in five major markets will also compete with us for influence. We can win that influence by being more assertively progressive on and off air. We must raise the intellectual quality, sound quality of our air. Quality affects the bottom line. Progressive radio must not just be alternative sound but alternative voices against the U.S. Empire.

We have overlooked class oppression/exploitation which is the central characteristic of empire. Should we seek a common denominator that stitches us together and emphasize it? We should reflect on the Pacifica Mission seeking a lasting understanding between all peoples. Finally, we should consider WBAI as an agent for social change.

DISCUSSION:

Barry Seidman (ETFF): WBAI needs to embody a unified Left based on rational thought. The relativism of post-modernism is bad. We need an ethics of compassion, love, and peace. ETFF fills a niche, speaking to a specific Community on the left.

Ken Gale (Eco-Logic): Nobody is here from Ops. We need to include a technical discussion, eg. What to do about too much dead air. "Divisiveness is not a synonym for Diversity."

Margareth Dominique (Haiti the Struggle Continues): Describes her involvement with WBAI. The Mission is inclusion, to include the voiceless, not only through programming but by going out into communities. Reach out to local businesses to sponsor us.

Aniruddha Das (Asia Pacific Forum): Applauds Don's talk. Agrees with the anti-imperialist critique, but also wants to differ. WBAI has multiple functions. There is also an important need for creative arts, literature, science (his special interest as a scientist). WBAI has two identities, a public square and an activist organization.

Steffie Brooks (Joy of Resistance): Sees WBAI as a public square, with jugglers, food courts, music, but in the service of public dialogue. Anti-imperialism is a unifying politics and a necessary one in the face of rising fascist threat, ecological meltdown. The Left suffers from factionalism and WBAI needs to maintain a critical distance from any Left organization or perspective to provide the space for the Left to resolve its differences instead of splitting apart. Recommends Sheila Hamanaka's proposal on programming has many good ideas. No more coups, no more splits, no more purges! Let's do the Mission dialogue.

Susan Lee (You and Your Money): The glory of WBAI is its diversity. Still remembers when women took over the Bob Fass show. Don't put everything under the rubric of anti-imperialism. There is no draw to, for instance, "gay anti-imperialism." We need to have people on the air who something worth sharing.

Sandy Boyer (Radio Free Eireann): Have a tendency to pigeon-hole ourselves by repeating the same thing. Need broader spectrum of opinion. Was happy to hear Dennis Kucinich on the air. Need to engage with Howard Dean's campaign. While supporting a democratic secular state in Palestine, sees need to engage with liberal Zionism. That doesn't compromise a left vision. Delighted with WUC segment that had dialogue between a student, a parent, and the Mayor's office.

Muntu Matsimela (Special Events): There's too much competition over air time ego-driven. How do we lead activist movements? We need programming flexibility.

Deena Kolbert (City Watch): Wants to add a new dimension to discussion, the need to further social change locally. NYC and environs have greatest needs right when we schedule our fund drives. April -- city budget; September elections.

Fran Luck (Joy of Resistance): In the past, couldn't identify her feminism with the station even though she could usually get on a show to talk about Lower East Side organizing efforts. WBAI is a live hub of organizing. Her main interest is movement-building. We need a core of political programming, but artfully done. JOR is using Consciousness Raising on the air to bring the personal to the political. WBAI is a quilt. Doesn't want too much uniformity.

Kat Aaron (Rise Up Radio): There are so few young people at WBAI; there's talk of forming a youth caucus. Production values must improve. Training needed for this reason. Likes peer program evaluation process, more active collaboration between shows, sharing of guests. Supports Aniruddha's promotion of music and culture, esp. to draw youth. Need for children's programming!

Ibrahim Gonzalez (In the Moment): Was brought to BAI by the diversity of programming. Remembers a live simulcast of an Eddie Palmieri concert in particular. WBAI was free-wheeling and brave. Programming can be more organic, more in the moment. We need to let go of resentments, make apologies if appropriate.

Roger Manning (wbai.org webmaster): Used to be in radio. Learned consistency. What kind of program to expect. Talk Back w/ 5 different hosts would work; consistent but also would have variety. Music strips, thematic strips could work. Too much patchwork programming is hard on listeners. Some programs have a tone that excludes you. Program hosts should speak to everyone. Prefers an informal sound; you can be subversively professional under that.

David Occhiuto (Eco-Logic): Reflects on beginning of Pacifica Foundation, recalling an interview with Matthew Lasar. Look at roots, the beginning of a culture that inspired Conscientious Objectors to the most popular war in U.S. history. Anarcho-pacifism. Recognized the circular nature of violence. Need to build supportive institutions that are also subordinate to people's ideas. Another element was a deep anti-authoritarianism that gets beyond ideological rigidity. And an aesthetic sensibility. At the time, radio was king and at the service or a corporate-imperial-fascist culture coming over the radio.

BREAK IN DISCUSSION; Move to hear Bernard White.

3. Program Director's Vision (Bernard White, PD)

Has been at WBAI for 24 years, in every department. Also a community activist. Also worked at a commercial station. And also has given seminars. Has raised more money for the station than probably any other producer. The PD inherits the schedule so it isn't a reflection on an individual PD. WBAI should be more than the vision of one individual. The Program Council is there to advise, but the PD must decide. Because the PD can be removed, is accountable.

Each Program Council has had very disparate and incongruous levels of understanding of how people listen to WBAI. PC training is needed.

There is pressure on the station right now. We're in a post-coup period. Lots of new people, some well-meaning and some not. Can't satisfy them all. Must comply with the mission.

Part of the mission is providing an outlet for the creative energies of the community. Has encouraged the Arts Director to do that (not to criticize). Has had difficulty getting that out of the Arts Department. Will continue to pressure the Arts Dept. to come into compliance. Also has been in contact with local production companies.

Exposing the causes of conflict is WBAI's forte. WBAI exposes and explores conflict better than any other media outlet in the area. There is now way to represent every nationality, but we try. All new producers will be given a renewable chance to produce.

Part of the mission is to provide information not otherwise readily available. Everyone should read Lew Hill's "Theory of Listener-Sponsored Radio." Producers don't understand the art of radio. But we still have to raise money. Have to look at how to maximize $$ on and off air. Only a handful of producers are involved in fund-raising.

Many things producers are asking for they should do it on their own program. There are only 168 hrs/week.

Asks women to rise. If you're here now, you've been brought in since the coup. The number of women at WBAI has doubled since the coup. Amy Goodman was trained at WBAI. You can't do things over night because of some notion people have.

D. Proposal from WOWBAI (Women of WBAI) Donna Gould

(I don't have a summary of Donna's presentation)

DISCUSSION CONTINUED

Mimi Rosenberg (Building Bridges): We need a more civil culture, more supportive as a healthy community. I don't know how to homogenize all the movements. I don't see the station as just being for the Left. Yet we recycle ourselves as activists. Are we the Messiahs of change? We need to reach into the communities. Train community correspondents. Begin to broadcast more community forums. Fresh events in new cultures. Neighborhood portraits. How do we compete with Spanish-language stations, the new Liberal Radio Network (which will have Greg Palast and Jim Hightower)?

Harriet Tanzman: Came to WBAI in mid-90's and worked on WUC w/Bernard and Amy. Immediately co-produced a whole day of Martin Luther King programming. More debates with the right wing. Agrees w/Ibrahim that we have to get over internal conflicts.

Bob Lederer: Likes many ideas. On the mission we err when we only go to the piece of paper. Lasar explains compromises are necessary to create an anti-war voice. Like 5 strands in the mission:
1) Anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist thought and activism
2) Creativity and humor
3) Intellectual discourse
4) Self-help
5) Open discussion (free form)

Need to focus on flexibility. Let go of your air time. Be able to turn on a dime. More cross-fertilization between producers, Pacifica stations, and affiliates. Focus on youth and women in training.

Condolences to Mimi, Robert, and Ursula on their recent losses.

Deena Kolbert (City Watch): Please fill out the survey on improving the station space. Can we stay at the station? How do we fix it up? If we move, what do we need by way of facilities?

5. Women of WBAI Proposal for Gender Equity

Manijeh Saba (WOWBAI): Women of WBAI has been working since last Jan. to develop consciousness of women, not as bodies but as difference experiences. Have done study of on-air participation by women. Presented it to Don and Bernard on July 3,2003. An 18-month time line was agreed to for reaching gender equity.

Donna Gould (WOWBAI): Goes over breakdown of current air time (male host only, female host only, blends)

Manijeh Saba (WOWBAI): Goes over plan for equity.

6. Vision for Public Affairs (Kathy Davis, Public Affairs Director):

Programming is already more integrated that you might think. Programs serve a constituency but also are part of public life. Integration of news and arts. Balance between serving our own purpose and serving listeners. All about BALANCE.

7. Vision for Arts (Janet Coleman, Arts Director):

My first most influential training in improv theatre was w/ David Sheppard (?? Janet, please check name). He looked all over Europe to find a model for working-class theatre. Started theatre at U. of Chicago using theatre games for children.

Arts Dept. should address greater arts community but also harness our own creative energies. Has held regular Arts meetings to get people comfortable with each other. Plans for radio theatre, including dramatization of "The Exonerated." Stuyvesant H.S. willing to work with WBAI on program for kids to improvise.

8. Vision for News (Jose Santiago, News Director):

Likes the idea of an editorial board to identify stories and sources. Thinks the "C". part of the mission about drama and the arts is important. We've lost a connection to the Latino community. We can use the performance space for Latino theatre.

The News Dept. serves the function of breaking stories that then appear on Public Affairs shows. It would be nice to hear some acknowledgment. Need to start planning for RNC. Credential people early.

Every reporter on staff except Jose and Andrea Sears are on the layoff list. How is headlines news being brought to you: we pay $25 per newscast. How about having an open line? (don't understand my notes here, don't remember what Jose said about an open line). The news department is stretched too thin. Needs discussion.

DISCUSSION CONTINUED

Steffie Brooks: Asks PD why breaking away from personality-drive strips to thematic strips wouldn't work.

Bernard White: Because it has been tried before and simply doesn't hold listeners/ doesn't work.

Fran Luck: My three main issues are integration of arts/news/public affairs, human relationships, gender equity.

Bob Lederer: Five substantive areas: cross-fertilization w/in and in and out of the station; conflict management/human relations; gender parity; how to aid activist movements, eg. RNC; training/improving production values; new structures with the new LSB? editorial board, program council, to organize social events.

Aniruddha Das (Chair) Let's decide what to discuss for the rest of our time.

Ayo Harrington (On the Count): Requests $$ report.

Deena Kolbert: Agrees $$ needs to be addressed, including a financial schedule. Is WBAI coordinating RNC coverage? We need to know now.

Susan Lee: Who is our audience? Who should be our audience? We have driven away/offended listenerts.

Muntu Matsimela: The discussion is drifting too much on the plate. Special events programming has met nothing but bottlenecks and stumbling blocks.

Harriet Tanzman: Deena spoke to it. We need a brief report on the marathon.

Marquez Osson (Haiti The Struggle Continues): Covention coverage: let's not have gavel to gavel coverage of the RNC

Aniruddha Das (Chair): We are discussing only what topics to put on the agenda right now.

Don Rojas: Let's get back on track.

Aniruddha Das (Chair): Relationship between politics and sound/arts could be topic.

Linda Zises (Women's Collective): Simon Loekle did news on his (arts) show. Have producers do their own headline news.

Peggy Dominique (Arts Magazine): Remember that good vs. bad radio is subjective. Some people think Rush Limbaugh is great radio.

BREAK IN MINUTES

Someone: Let's focus discussion on management vision statements.

David Occhiuto: Routinized headline updates are creating a cultural divide and introducing more regimentation into the day's broadcast.

Bob Lederer: Headlines an important service, but more input from producers and feedback is needed. That would the be role of the editorial board.

Muntu Matsimela: People turn away from station because they don't get the news. Non-repetitious headlines. Editorial board essential.

Ibrahim Gonzalez: Should consider recruiting new blood from journalism schools. Need more news of victories.

Deena Kolbert: A discussion on volunteerism is needed. There is not enough local news. Who is our audience?

Ken Gale: Everyone should incorporate news relevant to their show into the show.

Jose Santiago: News Dept. has found a skilled fund-raiser to support news department.

Bob Fass: I'm a big consumer of news, but

STOPPED NOTES HERE, DON'T REMEMBER TIME. REQUESTED SOMEONE ELSE TAKE NOTES.

Respectfully submitted,

Steffie Brooks


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