WBAI Pacifica Radio 99.5 FM Lays Off All New York Staffers Claiming $4 Million Debt–Sources

All employees at WBAI Pacifica’s New York City station were layed off this morning according to sources familiar with the matter.
The employees were informed of the dismissals by the station’s interim director. Pacifica, the West coast based foundation that’s the parent of WBAI and other stations said it was owed $4 million in back payments due from WBAI and cited the New York station’s inability to regularly meet payroll. 
The station will continue to provide programming via live feeds from Pacifica, the parent. 
WBAI’s financial woes “threatens the viability of the Pacifica Foundation” according to the memo by John Vernile, the interim executive director, as a result of the station’s “ongoing financial shortfalls and poor payroll planning…” WBAI is two months behind in payroll and rent, according to the memo.
Some WBAI ex-staffers confirmed that the terminations occurred today. Some of the ex-staffers believe that Pacifica has plans to sell the station’s license since it broadcasts in a lucrative New York market on an FM dial at 99.5. However others say that’s not an option since Pacifica is a not-for-profit foundation.
Pacifica couldn’t afford to continue subsidizing WBAI, the memo states. “Paramount, we have a legal obligation to have the resources available to pay our staff. Our financial condition makes it clear that it will be impossible to sustain this legal obligation without immediate action. The Pacifica handbook is clear that when payroll cannot be made that layoffs must be made immediately,” the memo adds.
In addition to missing payroll WBAI also couldn’t make employee health insurance payments, and payments to Pacifica Central services, according to the memo. “WBAI constantly requires the support of the other Pacifica units, PRA and our affiliates to maintain current operations. This is no longer possible, as our reserves are virtually exhausted,” reads the memo.
“So, with a sober understanding that the survival of Pacifica is at stake, we need to cease local staff operations at WBAI and operate the station via a remote Pacifica network feed as allowed by FCC regulations,” reads the memo.  “As soon as financially and logistically possible, a plan will be drawn up to address how we can rebuild the station into a vibrant local going operation.”
Mimi Rosenberg, the well known activist and producer at WBAI in an e-mail message to her colleagues wrote, “Make no mistake there has been a plotting and planning to take over WBAI for some time, and use it as the cash cow, for whatever it can now bring for its commercial license – whether  through  bankruptcy, swap, sale or the like to otherwise support the otherwise flagging resources of the Pacifica stations, who have no meaningful plan to sustain the stations financially.  The efforts to change the bylaws and the like recently were to facilitate a takeover and dispose of WBAI without going through the legally mandated process proposed under the existing bylaws.  Absolutely the staff needs to meet and the listeners need to meet and fight back and we need legal assistance.” She added, “It now rests with the staff and listeners and legal action as a full court press to save WBAI from the ‘coupesters.'” 
WBAI has been broadcasting for nearly 60 years and had a reputation for progressive reporting and shows through the years. Historically it was also shaken by power struggles between factions and this is certainly not the first time that it’s gone through crisis. 
(More To Come)

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