WBAI, a progressive radio channel, announced Friday that it will cut 19 of its 29 employees to cover operating expenses—which include $2 million owed to Amy Goodman’s show “Democracy Now!”—according to the New York Times.
At a board meeting last week members wrangled over the night’s agenda for the first 25 minutes, despite the radio station’s sizable layoffs only days before. Audience members sporadically jeered “fascist!” and shouted “Go back to the NSA!” before the board moved on to discuss financial matters.
WBAI’s greatest obstacle is paying their most popular broadcast, “Democracy Now!” which is hosted by Goodman. So far, “Democracy Now!” has refused to restructure the station’s debt.
Owned by the nonprofit organization Pacifica, WBAI depends on its 14,000 members to cover operating costs. Last year members contributed just $2.5 million.
The Times reported:
Berthold Reimers, WBAI’s general manager, reported that the station had $23,000 on hand and was scouring Craigslist and other sites to furnish new, cheaper studios in Brooklyn. An Ikea chair was bought for $40, he said. “That’s the cheapest we could possibly get.”
Former WBAI staff members complain that constant management turnover as the board instituted one “coup” after another made their jobs nearly impossible.
“For the last 10 years working at WBAI has been a nightmare,” said Jose Santiago, the news director for two decades. “I compare it to the nation facing Democrats and Republicans in Washington. Their priority is to stay in power and bash each other in the head, and nothing ever gets done.”
World War II “conscientious objectors” founded WBAI in 1946 as the first radio station depending solely on listeners’ donations.