WBAI 99.5FM, the reliably radical radio station, is no stranger to financial crisis. But Bob Hennelly, the former WNYC radio reporter who has been managing the program at WBAI for the past two months, says there may be no escape this time.
City Limits editors and reporters are frequent guests at the station. Some snicker at the poor production quality (much of WBAI is operated by volunteers) and some of the more extreme politics that airs on 99.5FM, but it's the only broadcast outlet that devotes virtually every moment of its air to discussing issues in the public interest.
On the air this morning, one WBAI host is offering to sing Valentine's Day songs to donors. But Hennelly—who was not even sure last night that they'd be on the air today—wants a more systemic fix. He is appealing to labor unions to support the station, and with it a voice for working people.
In an email to friends and colleagues, Hennelly wrote:
One of our biggest political problems is that the millions of people who are struggling so desperately in this economy, that is increasingly skewed to corporations and the rich, have no place to articulate their deteriorating circumstances. As a consequence, the corporate media can proclaim that we are in recovery without fear of contradiction, and that in turn, permits Congress to inflict more and more pain on the people through food stamp cuts and their refusal to extend unemployment benefits.
Without a broadcast platform families that are sliding into poverty, and those that are already there, are denied even a sense that they are not alone. They remain isolated. It was my hope that WBAI, and perhaps Pacifica as a whole, could provide that essential platform for them and their fellow Americans that still care.
What we need is financial support from unions, non-profits, faith based groups, progressive groups and individuals who care about having a community radio station in the New York region. We also need the national unions to step up for Pacifica as a whole.
We have had dozens of labor guests highlighting everything from the plight of the postal workers to the airport workers struggle. We have provided space for the faith based community committed to being relevant via social action. We have taken every opportunity to highlight the global youth unemployment crisis which is squandering a generation right now.
But at this point Pacifica-WBAI can only be redeemed by a massive cash infusion right now from national unions and the progressive community because all five stations in Berkeley, LA, Houston, and DC, and NYC are struggling to get by.