by John Tarleton May 26,
WBAI listeners rallied outside the station yesterday afternoon in
support of "Democracy Now!" while leaders of the Campaign to Stop
the Corporate Takeover of Pacifica claimed success for their
fundraising boycott against the embattled Pacifica Network.
NEW YORK CITY--WBAI (99.5 FM) listeners rallied outside the
station yesterday afternoon in support of "Democracy Now!" while
leaders of the Campaign to Stop the Corporate Takeover of Pacifica
claimed success for their fundraising boycott against the embattled
Pacifica's five stations launched their spring fundraising drives
on May 16, and Juan Gonzalez, Campaign director and former co-host
of "Democracy Now!", said that fundraising has declined throughout
the network especially at WBAI, which he said is down as much as
$30,000-$40,000 per day.
"We're going to very soon make an appeal to the
(Pacifica)national board to come to its senses and realize that
they've lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the people so we
can begin to negotiate their exit," Gonzalez told the crowd of 100
The historically left-leaning Pacifica Network has been engulfed
in a protracted leadership struggle since the mid-'90s. That battle
spilled over into New York last December when the parent Pacifica
Foundation fired WBAI's station manager and subsequently banned or
fired 22 other programmers and producers. Most recently, interim
station manager Utrice Leid pre-empted "Democracy Now!" from WBAI
during its three-week fundraising drive.
"I've noticed a lot of difference in the past five months," said
Gabriella, a New York City Parks Department employee who has
listened to WBAI for 23 years. "There's no analysis to the news.
Now, they just read it." Gabriella gave $175 to WBAI last year. This
Fired station manager Valerie van Isler said that "Democracy
Now!" traditionally grossed $5,000-$10,000 per day during fund
drives, second only to the now dismantled morning news show "Wake Up
Call". She also said that Goodman went "the extra 10 miles" to raise
money for the network's other stations in Los Angeles, Washington,
D.C., Houston and Berkeley, California. 17.5% of funds raised by
local stations goes to the parent Pacifica Foundation.
"For Utrice Leid to ban "Democracy Now!" is completely irrational
given "Democracy Now!" has an extraordinary record of fundraising
over many, many years," van Isler said.
Leid was unavailable for comment.
Goodman, appearing in her trademark black pants and purple vest,
spoke briefly at the rally. Since the fund drive began, she has been
exiled to an auxiliary studio where she is unable to simultaneously
interview multiple guests on-air. "Democracy Now!" had also been
pre-empted from KPFK in Los Angeles until it was restored yesterday
after a barrage of listener phone calls.
"It is very frightening. We are seeing a political purge going on
at the station," Goodman said. "...We have to rebuild the Pacifica
Network to be run by journalists and artists not corporations that
build a drumbeat for war."
Goodman is known for covering controversial issues such as
sweatshops, police brutality and the death penalty that the
mainstream corporate media prefers to avoid. She was nearly killed
in November 1991 while covering an Indonesian Army massacre in Dili,
the capitol of East Timor. John Miller of the East Timor Action
Network (ETAN) credits Goodman's sustained coverage of East Timor
for helping to prod changes in U.S. policy that led to East Timorese
"As we celebrate East Timor becoming more democratic, we need to
work extra hard to bring democracy back to WBAI and Pacifica,"
Joel Meyers of "Workers and Oppressed Unite" suggested that
listeners should form a union and hold open, democratic elections to
choose members of WBAI's Local Advisory Board.
"It's the only way listeners can have permanent institutional
leverage over the station," said Meyers, who has listened to WBAI
since its inception in 1960. "This tragedy happened because of the
elementary powerlessness of the listeners."