Contact: Concerned Friends of WBAI:
John Riley (917) 653-7267;
Pacifica Campaign, (646) 230-9588
U.S. CONGRESSMAN CENSORED AT WBAI
Rep. Major Owens (D. New York) to Make Statement on House Floor; Long-time WBAI Program Cancelled
New York: Congressman Major Owens (Brooklyn, 11th District) was interrupted without warning and pulled off the air today when he called in as a guest on Pacifica radio station WBAI (99.5 FM). Speaking on “Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report,” Owens was several minutes into a discussion on recent changes at the listener-sponsored station when WBAI’s interim general manager Utrice Leid came into the master control studio and seized the mic.
Leid then told listeners that the information broadcast by co-host Ken Nash and Congressman Owens was untrue. Later, Congressman Owens said he was "outraged, and caught without any explanation or apology." He said he was hoping to talk about independent media when the interim general manager took control. "I intend to make the statement I was going to make today on WBAI, on the floor of the House of Representatives and put it into the congressional record,” Owens stated.
Owens, who has been an outspoken critic of what is now dubbed the “Christmas Coup” at WBAI, said he was “amazed” by today’s on-air events. “It’s like something in a totalitarian country with the fuhrer intervening,” Owens added.
According to Nash, Leid came into the master studio unexpectedly. “She tried to talk to my guest without warning or invitation,” he said. “I reminded her that the producer is in charge of the program. I asked her to leave the studio. Leid then permanently cancelled the program.” “Building Bridges” is WBAI’s only labor show.
The 52-year-old listener-sponsored Pacifica radio network has been embroiled in censorship battles in recent years. The Washington Post has described Pacifica management’s actions as "cowardly radio" and "Soviet-style journalism,” while dozens of journalists from around the world struck the Pacifica Network News one year ago to protest rampant censorship.
The late-December, midnight take-over of WBAI by the parent foundation created a storm of controversy. Locks were changed, veteran staffers were fired and banned and security guards have been installed at the station. A gag rule has been imposed, and access to the station is restricted. Critics say the New York take-over represents Pacifica management’s continuing effort to alter the political content of the entire network.
This is Building Bridges' producer Ken Nash's first-hand account of the events at WBAI today. You can hear what the WBAI air sounded like in mp3
What Happened on “Building Bridges” Monday 3/5/01 On and Off the Air
BY Ken Nash
On the Monday, 3/5/01 program I read statement over the air in my opening remarks concerning the firing and banning of my Co-producer Mimi Rosenberg
(see below). I then asked my guest Congressman Major Owens who was on the telephone to comment on the situation at WBAI which he did in a general way talking about the value of free speech radio WBAI and the need for democratic reform of the governance structure of WBAI. As he was talking Interim Manager
Utrice Leid came into the Studio, and sat down in front of the mike across from me.
When Major Owens paused she started to talk. ( I had intended at this time to bring Larry Adams, President of Local, 300 of the National Postal Mailhandlers Union into the conversation).
I told Utrice that this was “Building Bridges” and that I was the Host of the show. I then realized that my mike was turned off and Utrice was still talking saying
“Major Owens” and “I’m here” . I was saying that this is Building Bridges , I’m the Host of the show and that at WBAI the Host of the show determines who is to be on the air and not the Station Manager. I said that I had not invited Utrice Leid and that she should leave. At this point I had moved to her mike which I assumed was live but the aircheck reveals that through most of it Michael Haskins had taken us off the air and was playing music. Utrice did say on mike that she was “here because I believe some lies have been said here” while I persisted that this was my show and she should leave. During much of this the mikes were turn off. I repeated that traditionally at WBAI the Host determines who is on the show and that she has plenty of air time to state her point of view. She said that I could stay and we could dialog and I responded that she was not welcome on my show and she should go. I said that if she wanted to dialog she should make some of her airtime available. At which point she said that “Building Bridges was cancelled”.
I gathered up my possessions including the aircheck and left the studio. Utrice Leid stayed on to make a statement and take listener calls.
Statement I read on “Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report”
– Monday, 3/5/01 (hear
Good afternoon and welcome to Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report
I'm Ken Nash
We've been off the air during this Marathon and therefore out of touch.
As many of you know
and as others don't My co-host Mimi Rosenberg was fired and banned from
the Station by the Interim Station Manager Utrice Leid on February 5th.
Ms Leid demanded an apology from Mimi for berating her a few hours after
Mimi learned about the firing of Bernard White and Sharan Harper. Ms Leid
also alleges that Mimi threatened her. This Mimi denies. This was during
the lockout of staff during what is commonly now
referred to as the xmas coup on dec. 23rd of last year.
Mimi , of course, refused to apologize Why should she?
Indeed, if there is any one who should apologize it is Interim Station Manager Utrice Leid For the firings for the bannings for the armed camp atmosphere that pervades wbai and for collusion with the enemies of WBAI and Pacifica, and I mean those people who are currently in control of the Pacifica Network
I am compelled to
talk about this situation not just because my Cohost was wrongfully fired
and banned from the station, not just because Mimi is a magnificent journalist
and social activist, not just because she has contributed to this station
and has helped build this stations for the the past 30 years on this and
other programs, as a members of the Local Advisory Board and in so
many different ways, but because this is a Labor and Community Report.
How can I report on the injustices throughout the city, the country and
the world and be expected to remain silent when my own co-host, Mimi Rosenberg
has been fired for no good reason except she opposed the will of Interim
station manager Utrice Leid.
Well, Ms. Leid may say that Mimi is no longer the Co-producer of Building Bridges:Your Community and Labor Report but that is not my view. I do not recognize the legitimacy of any of the firings and bannings and will fight on the air and off the air to restore a situation of normalcy to WBAI which has not been here since Dec 22, 2000
There is course a gag order in effect at the station. Producers are constantly censoring themselves from going too far in order to stay on the air. This is not the reason I came to WBAI. I came to talk about and bring to you news from the class war which the working class wages every day. But when we are told not to talk about the very struggle at WBAI which we would report on if they were elsewhere. When we are gagged and some of us are fired and banned. IF WE ARE ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE WE MUST BE ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE AT WBAI - PACIFICA RADIO.
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