Partner with Manhattan Neighborhood Network TV to Rebuild WBAI

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WBAI Rising: Transforming Community Media (savewbai.org), composed of a wide range of station listeners and producers, strongly urges you to sign this petition and share it with friends and colleagues.

PACIFICA NATIONAL BOARD:

Open negotiations for a multi-media partnership with Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) via a time-limited Public Service Operating Agreement for WBAI. Such a negotiated agreement should encompass the needs of WBAI listener-subscribers, producers, and paid staff.

A partnership would secure WBAI financially and bring it into the 21st century technologically. Specifically, it would:

  • Have MNN cover all WBAI operating costs, including Empire State rent (they can pre-pay the cost of the lease’s remaining two years, immediately improving relations and giving WBAI some negotiating room with the landlord) and all staff salaries and benefits.
  • Allow WBAI to continue broadcasting at 99.5 FM
  • Continue much of the programming you value
  • Infuse money to prime-time shows to build production capacity
  • Add a television channel exclusively for WBAI
  • Allow sharing of WBAI’s TV programs with other public-access stations throughout the region and country
  • Provide trainings for WBAI producers in everything from social media promotions to making documentaries
  • House WBAI in its own state-of-the-art studio at one of MNN’s facilities and upgrade our failing transmitter, which has taken us off the air multiple times in the past few months
  • Dramatically reduce on-air fundraising days
  • Provide support for serious off-air fundraising for WBAI
  • Provide WBAI with a viable business model that could help leverage donations to pay off debts.

In short, such a partnership could modernize and expand WBAI’s media imprint, strengthen the programming, and once again turn WBAI into a fundraising powerhouse by restoring community and donor confidence.

Together, we can save this jewel of media and the progressive community!

Initial List of 32 WBAI Producer Signatories:

Milton Allimadi (Morning Show – Tues.)

Daulton Anderson (High Praize)

Peter Bochan (All Mixed Up)

Pam Brown (Morning Show – Tues.)

Naomi Brussel (Out-FM)

Eliza Butler (Radio Free Eireann)

Ron Daniels (Talk Back – Vantage Point)

Laura Flanders (Laura Flanders Show)

Margaret Gilpin (Cuba in Focus)

Don Grossinger (Morning Dew)

Katie Halper (The Katie Halper Show)

Mark Hannay (Health Action)

Kim Ives (Lanbi Call – Haiti Show)

Wuyi Jacobs (AfroBeat Radio)

Joyce Jones (Suga’ in My Bowl)

John Kane (Let’s Talk)

Dred-Scott Keyes (The Cutting Edge)

Vajra Kilgour (Housing Notebook)

Bob Lederer (Health Action)

Basir Mchawi (Education at the Crossroads)

Emma Missouri (Out-FM)

Mario Murillo (Former WBAI Interim Program Director and Morning Show Host)

Ken Nash (Building Bridges)

Sally O’Brien (Where We Live)

Marquez Osson (Lanbi Call – Haiti Show)

John Riley (Out-FM)

Mimi Rosenberg (Building Bridges)

Doc Shya (Morning Show - Westchester Report)

Rob Sims (On the Count)

Daniel Vila (La Voz Latina)

Hank Williams (Suga’ in My Bowl)

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BACKGROUND ON PROPOSED WBAI PARTNERSHIP WITH MANHATTAN NEIGHBORHOOD NETWORK 

WBAI Radio, renowned for its feisty noncommercial programming advancing peace and social justice as well as alternative culture, has a business model that is no longer effective. (Other stations in the Pacifica Network are also struggling.) For 6 years, annual deficits have run $500,000-plus. Paid staff has been slashed. Premium delivery is slow. The broadcast transmitter keeps failing and we have repeatedly been knocked off air. The station does not have a strong Internet presence and has virtually no video availability.

WBAI’s problems are largely driven by the huge rent charged by the Empire State Building for housing the transmitter, under a contract that runs for two more years. But at its root, the financial crisis stems from the overwhelming reliance on fund drives, during which (according to surveys of public radio stations) listenership can drop by half. WBAI now devotes 37% of all broadcast time (20 weeks/year) to fundraising. Listeners have little recovery time before the next drive, producing worse and worse outcomes. When off-air fundraising occurs, it’s generally small-scale. We do not generate sufficient funds to pay current operating costs, let alone older debts. At this point, WBAI can’t get the breathing space needed for renewal and improvement without outside support.

Due to partial payments of tower rent pursuant to a verbal agreement never made permanent or written, Empire State now has a $2 million judgment for which all of Pacifica’s stations are liable. Some Pacifica National Board members have called for destructive solutions like swapping WBAI’s powerful signal at 99.5 for much weaker ones costing half our listening range in exchange for millions in cash, shutting down our station and piping in out of state programming, or even having Pacifica file for bankruptcy and allowing federal appointees to decide our network’s fate.

But there’s an exciting proposal for rebuilding the station that’s been ignored by the Pacifica National Board. Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), an independent non-profit, public-access TV station with seven channels, amply financed by cable franchise fees, has offered to partner with WBAI. First submitted in 2013 and expanded last December, MNN’s proposal would rebuild the station and its listenership, pay all of its future operating bills, provide a WBAI TV cable channel reaching hundreds of thousands of area households and available online, and bring the station technologically into the 21st Century. WBAI’s iconic role as the voice of the voiceless and a platform for community cultural expression would remain. The partnership would be a Public Service Operating Agreement (PSOA) negotiated by both parties, for a fixed term, after which WBAI would return to direct operation by Pacifica.

MNN understands that multi-platform partnerships are the only way that independent community outlets can survive in the era of a fast-changing Internet and corporate media consolidation. They currently have a programming agreement with the progressive, nationally-distributed Free Speech TV. WBAI’s strong programming – simulcast on TV -- would enrich MNN’s offerings and help fulfill their mission to air diverse community voices.

For more information, go to the website of WBAI Rising: Transforming Community Media: savewbai.org



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