This report from the WBAI program director was distributed
at the WBAI Local Advisory Board meeting on 8-7-02
|Notes from the Program Director
|June 27, 2002
PROGRAM CHANGES: A RATIONALE
Over the course of the year 2001 a series of program changes were enacted by the previous WBAI
administration. That administration made program changes for a variety of different reasons none of
them based on an understanding of the logic of radio programming. They neither had a plan to
strengthen our broadcast day nor a desire to adhere to Pacifica's mission. Listener sponsored radio in
general and WBAI in particular periodically, successfully contorts that logic. However we cannot
completely escape the dictates of listener habits also known as the "market place." Because we are
non-commercial we have a lot more flexibility in our presentation of programs. For example, with
deregulation we could play an hour- long speech without interruption if we chose to. We could
punctuate that speech by creatively mixing appropriate music thereby turning an ordinary speech into
a magic radio moment. However, where appropriate, without impinging on the integrity of the speech
or the magic of the moment, I would like to bear the words, "you're listening to WBAI, N.Y." and
some identifying data on the speaker.
Following January 15, 2002, there was a great euphoria shared by most of our listeners and the returning staff.
An historic battle had been waged, a principled struggle had been fought and a people's victory had been won.
Those who were illegally removed from their paid positions were returned and all banishment decrees issued
during that period were reversed. Upon our return we almost immediately went into fundraising mode. As a
result of the return to decent programming and the good feeling shared by many, not by all, we had a record-
breaking fundraiser. In May we continued in our record breaking fundraising mode (a mode that had been
interrupted by the "Christmas Coup.") In each effort we attempted to regain and rebuild our diminished
audience. As a result of our loss in audience during the fiscal year 2000-2001 we are in tremendous debt. If
we are to climb out of this debt we must analyze our programming, identify our strengths, acknowledge our
weaknesses and then make intelligent program changes. We don't have the luxury of waiting a year or
involving ourselves in a slow evolutionary process that would take years to achieve. We must move swiftly if
we are going to keep the lights on, pay the landlord, meet payroll, eliminate our outstanding debt and fulfill
We are now in a climate of waning euphoria, newly emerging time demands,
coalescing feelings of entitlement and stark economic realities. This constitutes some
of the major influences in the new environment in which we presently exist. We
can't ignore it, we cant' wish it away, what we must do is develop successful
strategies to weather this new storm.
SAME MISSION / NEW DEMANDS:
Since I returned to the position of Program Director one of the questions that has arisen over and over again is,
"What is my programming philosophy? What are the principles that I draw upon to make programming
Here are some of those principles and how they were shaped and developed over my years of media
experience. Although I came to WBAI as a volunteer in 1980 I've been a listener since the early seventies. I
have seen dozens of producers as well as administrators come and go. I have seen WBAI go through good
times bad times and good times again.
When I came to WBAI on November 22,1980 1 spent everyday, for a year, learning everything I could learn
about the mechanical aspects of radio. I learned how to place tape on a tape recorder, where to place a
microphone so that you get a good sounding interview, how to edit tape, how to transfer tape from a cassette
to reel to reel or reel to cassette. These functions are what I refer to as the mechanical portion of the job. I
learned each function and learned it well However, I attempted to take my learning one step further. I set out
to learn the "art of radio." I learned how to organize sound and ideas so that they became indelibly etched into
the consciousness. I learned how to get people, based on the acquisition of new information to become
actively involved in the process of social change. So, whether I was doing a music program or a public affairs
program or a news program I did it based on these principles.
All of the projects I have worked on have been in strict compliance to Pacifica's Mission.
I recognize that it is a privilege, a wonderful privilege to be allowed access to the airwaves. I recognize that
producers are privileged custodians who have been given the opportunity to create art, to make a statement to
move people to a greater understanding of social phenomena and then on to positive social action. These are
the components that make up the engine that governs and shapes my actions as WBAI's Program Director. I
work well with all those who are willing to work in the best interest of the station, toward the fulfillment of
I believe that I understand WBAI and its listenership. That is why from day one I stated loudly and
categorically that the coup would eventually be defeated and
that the fired, banned and harassed would all be returned.
In collaboration with the Program Council we've made a variety of program changes. The purpose of these
changes is multi-fold.
- 1. Introduce new programmers to our airwaves:
- a) I have received dozens of excellent program proposals with interesting ideas for programs. Given the
necessity to continue increasing our goal of diversifying our broadcast day in terms of ethnicity as well as
gender we started a Pilot Project of new programs for the summer months. These new programs do not come
with a guarantee that they will be continued in the winter. However we can get an idea of listener response
and to help shape the better ones into even stronger programs. Each program will be evaluated on a monthly
basis and provided assistance on an ongoing basis.
- 2. Create unassigned blocks of time (TBA) for special projects:
- a) An attempt is being made to incorporate some flexibility into our schedule so that we can air special
projects in a more-timely manner. We can also use these spaces to resolve the inevitable program conflicts
that sometimes arise.
- 3. Attempt to deal with "dead zones"
- a) According to our Arbitron ratings we experience serious dead zones during our broadcast day. On
weekdays between 10am and 12noon, we experience a precipitous drop in our listenership following
WAKEUP CALL and DEMOCRACY NOW. At noon our listenership increases dramatically and then
plummets after Natural Living. In accordance with the natural listening curve we have an increase in
listenership during drive time. The changes that we have made are designed to deal with the drop off in
listenership during our broadcast day. According to this audience-measuring device many of our listeners who
continued to listen to radio between the 10am-noon hours shifted to news and information radio to satisfy their
b) The Arbitron ratings are not the only influences that impact on programming decisions. The data
assembled in the Arbitron reports parallel our experience during our fundraising efforts. Programs that appear
in the dead zones don't do as well as program that reflect a
large listenership. This correlation cannot be ignored. We must take all of this data into consideration when
we make our decisions.
- 4. Take the opportunity to provide special attention to those programs that are in need of support
- a. During this summer period we intend to provide both technical and programmatic assistance to those
programs that are in desperate need of assistance.
- 5. Increase revenue while staying true to the mission.
PROGRAM STATUS LIST - JULY 8TH, 2002
AIN'T THAT GOODNESS - People Victories
BURN BABY BURN - Lister Hewan-Lowe
CITY WATCH - Kolbert/DiFazio
CREATE YOUR HEALTH HOME - James Richardson
ECO-LOGIC - Ken Gale
EQUAL TIME FOR FREE THOUGHT - Dorothy Klien
FEMME RADIO - Women Issues
FIRST VOICES - T Veaux/ Amanda Holmes
FREE SPEECH RADIO - John McDonagh
GLOBAL BLACK EXPERIENCE (TALK) - Gary Byrd
GLOBAL BLACK EXPERIENCE (MUSIC) - Gary Byrd
GLOBAL MEDICINE SHOW - Dr. Kokayi
HAITIAN COLLECTIVE - Christian Leomine
JAZZ SOUL CENTRAL - Tony Ryan
JONAH VILLAGE - Domestic Violence
JOY OF RESISTANCE - Fran Luc
NOMMO RADIO - Anthony Sloan
ON THE COUNT - Eddie Ellis
OUT FM - Collective
PERSPECTIVE - Louis Reyes Riveria
TUESDAY ARTS MAGAZINE - Mark Laiosa
YOU AND YOUR MONEY - Susan Lee
YOUTH VOICES FOR PEACE -
HIATUS AS OF SPRING 2002
LATINO JOURNAL - No Schedule
OUT-FM - TBA Slot
CIRCLE OF RED NATIONS - Alternate w/ FIRST VOICES on a monthly basis
PERSON TO PERSON - Tony Short on Medical leave
NUFF SAID - Contributing to Tuesday Arts
CANCELLED: Programmers in this category no longer have a regular slot but may apply to
do special programs
BEHIND THE NEWS - Monday/Tuesday
LET THEM TALK