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City Council gets earful on strife at WBAI

David Hinckley's Radio Dial Column in NY Daily News Tuesday

The City Council waded into the WBAI case yesterday as its Civil Service and Labor Committee opened a hearing that chairwoman Lucy Cruz said can "promote civil discourse."

The management of WBAI and its parent, Pacific Foundation, are under fire from critics, who say acting station manager Utrice Leid and Pacifica executive director Bessie Wash have unfairly fired hosts and imposed censorship, undermining the station's traditional progressive mission.

The committee was considering Resolution 1723, which supports the critics and calls on Pacifica and WBAI to restore "democratic, legal management." Leid and Wash, however, say the present management is both, and their side of the discourse yesterday was curt.

Wash sent WBAI staffer Richard Antones to read a statement saying adoption of Resolution 1723 "would not only be unwise, but contrary to law." Leid sent Gregory Segarra, an assistant morning show producer, to read a statement saying "this resolution precludes any reasonable discourse." She blamed the appearance of crisis on a small faction given to lies.

Councilwoman Christine Quinn, who introduced Resolution 1723, called Wash's statement "incorrect and offensive." Quinn also expressed her disappointment that Leid did not attend in person.

Other persons at the hearing, which drew 75 to 100 people, charged WBAI and Pacifica management with diminishing one of the last public forums on radio - a progressive voice on issues and a place where groups that can be marginalized by other media can be heard.

Fired morning host Bernard White said of Leid, "We could not believe someone we held in such high esteem could be involved in something so diabolical."

The committee put off a vote on the measure.