New York's WBAI Shut Down

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    I learned a few hours ago that yesterday, New York City’s Pacifica affiliate, WBAI 99.5, announced that it is going dark due to financial hardship. I have been left wondering:

    • Will Pacifica for an LMA (or “partnership,” as people in the non-profit world prefer to call it) with another non-profit group or school?
    • Will Pacifica transfer the license to another non-profit or school in exchange for the debts that they have incurred on WBAI (such as back rent on its WBAI transmitter site)?
    • Will the WBAI license simply go back to the FCC?



    I think that I may have been fooled by people spreading drama and rumors. Yes, it is true that the Pacifica Foundation is in millions of dollars of debt. It is also true that no more programs are being produced at the New York studios. However, the 99.5 signal is still on in New York; it is just carrying syndicated programming.


    Yup, they laid off the local staff and are running live and recorded programming from their other 4 stations. Apparently been a LONG time coming- the other stations feel like they have been carrying WBAI for many years. Or as one wit said many years ago, “When you are looking for radio drama 24 hours a day, we’ve got it right here on WBAI.”

    The message that Pacifica is putting out is that they hope in the future to be able to stabilize their finances and again put at least some local programming back on the NYC outlet. We will see. Tower rents in Manhattan are brutal. Apparently when they were on Empire State the rent was over 40K per month. They are now on a shorter stick on Park Avenue, but still sounds like it is over 25K per month.

    • This reply was modified 9 months ago by Chico.

    I believe they still have an auxiliary antenna at Empire. They must still have to pay quite a bit for that!


    Whaddya want to bet that Emmanuel’s ages-old beg-a-thon joke of WBAI flipping to a commercial country format will eventually become reality?

    On the morning of October 7, 2019, staffers at WBAI in New York were locked out and all programming suspended. According to the Pacifica Foundation (parent of WBAI), this was done due to “serious and persistent financial losses at WBAI.” This necessitated the foundation laying off all the staff.

    But, as with most things, it’s not quite that simple. For one, the implication that WBAI is responsible for all of Pacifica’s financial woes is simply not true. There has long been hostility towards WBAI from other members of the network who believe that too much money is being spent on New York rents and that selling the station’s valuable license could benefit the rest of the network. However, many of the problems WBAI has faced in recent years came about as a direct result of Pacifica actions. For instance, WBAI’s recent financial crisis caused by being locked into an exhorbitant transmitter lease to the Empire State Building only happened because Pacifica signed that lease. There are numerous other examples, but the point is that it’s inaccurate and unfair to blame one station for problems that the entire network is responsible for. We also question the wisdom of suspending all programming at the beginning of a month-long fund drive.

    So for now, “Off The Hook” is off the air. Yes, we can always do a podcast, but we’re a radio show and half the magic is reaching those people who aren’t on the net while also talking to those who are. We intend to fight to preserve that. We hope you join us.

    UPDATE: As of Tuesday, October 8, an injunction has been granted that allows WBAI to resume operations. We now expect “Off The Hook” to air in its normal timeslot this Wednesday. Stay tuned for further updates.

    Press release:


    This vaguely reminds me of a bit of Pacifica drama that I heard reported on Coast To Coast AM circa 2000. It makes me think of a story I learned as a child about a boy who repeatedly called out about the presence of some kind of canine. I don’t think it was a chihuahua. Could it have been a pit bull? Perhaps, it was a Siberian huskie. I can’t remember.


    Border collie. It was the Story of the Little Boy Who Cried Border Collie.

    There was an internal political soap opera unfolding in late 2000 and ending in early 2002 which started with Amy Goodman getting a “get out the word to vote” call from Bill Clinton, which turned into an almost hour-long (IIRC) hard-hitting interview. At one point she got scolded by Mr President for taking an “hostile and combatative (sic)” tone, which she had anything but. KPFA (again, IIRC) decided to have its own little in-drama around the same time involving a lockout. Pacifica fired BAI’s general manager and Amy Goodman, and the integrity of the foundation’s administration was brought into serious question.

    Review (if you have them) or download the 2000 and 2001 archives of “Off the Hook” because they covered it in considerable depth beginning to end.

    FYI: I looked in the 2019 directory and the most recent broadcast was 25 September. That’s all, folks, looks like OFf the Hook’s finally been disconnected. After they milked everything they could out of the Kevin Mitnick thing and effectively ran out of material, TBH it really became unlistenable around 2008 or so.

    They did talk about the shitstorm on yesterday’s (WUSB) “Off the Wall”.


    So last week’s “show”, if it can be so classified (it was actually just a panel discussion recorded at a restaurant in Brooklyn), appears to be the last. Nothing posted for this week. I guess it’s just as well, Off the Hook has gotten pretty long in the tooth.

    Well, 31 years is a decent run. For a radio program that’s an eternity by today’s standards.

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