Mario: Simply because there has never been
anybody in charge of Pacifica
that knows anything about broadcasting. They don't know about
broadcasting and they don't know about progressive politics. Maybe some
of them did - I would say 10 years ago there were some people in Pacifca
who at least did have some progressive politics and did have some
community radio spirit in them. But certainly over the last 5-6 years that
has died out, and some of you know about some of the battles I've had with
But they're not interested in cutting edge
radio. I mean you can look at their
track record: the town hall meetings in the early 90's - with big funding from
CPB - they were total disaters. The Julianne Malvaux show, the program
that they created thinking it was going to be a great national program - total
disaster. Peace Watch. Remember Peace Watch, that program that was
supposed to cover the Gulf War? It went on the air 3 days before the
ground war, 5 days before the war was over. That's how cutting edge
Pacifica National programming was.
And then they have the audacity to come in
here and threaten Democracy
Now! and threaten programmers who really have the spirit of building
audience at WBAI and at Pacifica in general. You look at Newt Gingrich
and the 1994 Congress - that's when it all started for this big turnaround,
Pacifica suddenly felt that they had to give in to those demands that were
being put out by the Republican Congress of '94. They cowered backwards -
they started moving backwards, saying we're going to fight back but we're
going to fight back by giving in to what they're saying - what Bob Dole was
saying on the floor of the Senate about KPFK, and what other folks were
saying about giving public money to communists and to anti-semitic and all
this other programming. So they cleaned up the system, they decided to try
to sanitize the programmng, and the leadership that was comfortable driving
around in BMWs and having these nice expense accounts and staying at
nice hotels - said hey, this looks good, this looks like a good plan, so let's do
it. And then they got sucked into this audiographics game that David
Giovannoni puts out.
I think those audiographics surveys have to
be looked at as tools: they're
valid, it's data. We used to use them with Samori, we all used to sit there
and look at them and analyze them. But it wasn't the gospel of what we
would base our programming and our mission about. So David Giovannoni -
some people say he's destroyed public radio as we know it - I mean, he's
putting out a service as far as I'm concerned, so to attack him - yeah sure,
he's got some negative things to say - but it's just a tool! The people who
use his tools are the ones who are more destructive. People who use those
and base that on their judgment calls on what they plan to do with the
system...those are the people we should be targetng more.
Samori knew that and he understood this and
he set out to address this.
Before he was Program Director, Samori Marksman put out this massive
memo which we worked with him on, about the way to build an audience -
that yes, professionalism was necessary, that yes, building strong
programming was necessary, that we have to improve the technical quality
of what we do on the air, that we have to bring in people who are very
talented, who are serious broadcasters to come on the air - Samori
understood that, that's something that we laid out! And he laid out clearly
back in '93 - '94, before he was even Program Director. And that's why we
brought Utrice Leid in, that's why Wakeup Call was created Monday
through Friday - to create this strip of professional radio - with Utrice Leid
on Talkback, and Wakeup Call with Bernard White and Amy Goodman -
that was the mission, to build audience. We're a listener-supported station,
how could we reject the idea of building an audience, if we're a listener
supported station? It doesn't make any sense, unless you want to start taking
corporate funding where you don't need to build that audience, and perhaps
that's the direction that Pacifica wants to take us.
That model that Samori put out that Bernard
was a part of, that I myself
played an integral part in, that Amy Goodman played a key part in, that
Utrice Leid played a part in, that Anthony Sloan and Matthew Finch, Michio
Kaku and all the many, many great people who have come here - Robert
Knight, Jose Santiago, Andrea Sears, all the many different people who
contributed to the station - were a part of that and there were a lot of
detractors, and it worked! From the end of the Gulf War, which was the
peak of our listening memberhsip base when we had about 14,000 members,
actually it was 12,000 but then with the Gulf War things shot up because
people were listening to us. It went back down, it decayed.
Then Samori came in and from the time he came
in until the time of his
death we had 18,000 plus, almost 19,000 paid subscribers to WBAI. And
according to audiographics surveys carried out by David Giovannoni our
listening audience was indeed expanding. The Morning Show audience was
growing, the Talkback audience was growing. But Samori recognized a lot
more needed to be done. We needed to push forward and unfortunately
Samori was taken away from us in an untimely fashion. But that was his
vision, that he recognized the importance of diversity, he recognized the
station's diversity, he didn't close people out. He tapped on the talents of
individuals - he knew where strengths were, he worked closely with people
to get the most out of them, he inspired us by demonstrating an inhuman -
you know, he was a bear, he was a man who did so much work - so he
inspired people by his unnatural and uncanny ability to work, to sweat, to
dirty his hands. And he also reached out to many communities - he didn't
close anybody out. He didn't think the station was for one group of people.
You never heard him say that. I even used to have disagreements with him
about some of the programs he wanted to put on the air, but he said no, we
have to do this because this community warrants the space on the air. And I
think White understands that mission. With all Bernard's weaknesses -
Bernard, are you listening? I mean you and I have gone to battle a lot of
things - with all your weaknesses I know you understand this mission,
because you were a part of it. You worked with it - myself, Amy, a handfull of
others - we were an integral part of this mission.
Which by the way, Utrice Leid was a part of,
and SAYS she wants to
continue. She SAYS she wants to move forward this mission And I like I
said, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I believe Utrice Leid
really wants to move this station forward, and I'm willing to recognize and I
do recognize this. But we have to move the organization with a number of
different steps - a number of steps to be taken.
And then finally, just to wrap up, because
I've already gone on longer than I
intended on this - these internal things have to be dealt with and we have to
deal with them very delicately - meetings have to be held, a direct dialog
between key factors, so-called factions - again I don't want to use that word
- but that has to be held. And there also has to be finally a movement - and
we have to support the movement - to change the National Board. That's
ultimately the big enemy as far as I'm concerned - not Utrice Leid, not
Bernard White, not Amy Goodman, not Democracy Now! The big threat to
the station - the big threat to Pacifica - the threat to Lew Hill's mission that
we've dedicated our lives to - it comes from the National Board.
Pacifica's too valuable an asset to let it
go, you know media democracy and
message pluralism is something that we have to fight for, it's not just
rhetoric, it's something we have to fight for. We have to fight it against
CBS/Viacom, we have to fight it against Fox News Corp. we have to fight it
against Time Warner, and we have to fight for media democracy right here
at Pacifica. And the movement to struggle against the National Board has to
be supported, has to be pushed, and this in no way affects the current
management here at WBAI. The current management at WBAI should
participate - hopefully will participate in that push, notwithstanding of
course, who's payng the bills.
And I think with that - I think you know, here
on Friday, the last Wakeup
Call of 2000, I think we have reason for concern, reason to be really
worried, angry, bitter - let's try not to be bitter though. I think we have more
reason to be optimistic, more reason to be pushing this project forward, to
defend what is rightfully ours and rightfully yours as listeners. And again, I
know you've heard a lot about this and I said earlier in today's program that
we'd look at other things besides Pacifica, but neverthless I just had to let it
out of my system. It's been creeping and eating inside me for the past week,
And I just felt it was time. There's been good times, but of course a lot of
troubling times over the last week and it's something as I said earlier, on
Saturday I felt like there was a death in the family, and talking to so many
people calling up and you know, this is the first time in 13 years that I felt
very uneasy about coming in here today.
Amy: But I want to say that I do think things
can be turned around. As I
said, I think you know, to say the least, a terrible mistake was made...
Mario: Big mistakes.
Amy: And right now the Executive Director of
Pacifica has defintiely put the
ball back in our court when she said on the air in an interview with Utrice
Leid, our new interim General Manager, that it is up to Utrice, whether she
wants to rehire Bernard White and Sharan Harper, who were fired last
Saturday morning, and I VERY much hope that Utrice does that.
Unfortunately I saw boxes in Bernard's office that people seem to be
packing up withh his things, but I don't think that has to happen. It's very
straightforward, Pacifica said it is up to WBAI's General Manager whether
she wants to rehire Bernard and Sharan, and it's as simple as that. I think
as you were saying, Mario, there has to be space for everyone here, that is
the strength of this station, and Bernard White - 20 year veteran, and
Sharan Harper, the producer of Wakeup Call, have a very special place
here, that the listeners I think have shown in the kind of support put out at
the meeting at the union hall - more than a thousand people last Wednesday
night - it was incredible, and I think we can move forward together. The call
just has to go out to reinstate Bernard White, and Sharan, it is totally up to
WBAI, and ...we can do it! And I do think that Valerie Van Isler should be
Mario: That was one of the main points I was
making earlier, that there
were major mistakes made, and it's intolerable, it's unacceptable and
unjustifiable what took place last week, vi-a-vis the firing of Bernard White
and Sharan Harper. And again I think that the station can move forward in a
relatively... you know, it's not going to be easy, it's going to take a long
time. We do have a special guest on the line right now, a close friend and no
stranger to WBAI's airwaves, Bernard White. Good morning Bernard.
Bernard: Good morning Mario.
Mario: Happy New Year.
Bernard: I...I suppose.
Mario. How are you man?
Bernard: I'm ok. I was listening very carefully
to what you were saying this
morning and as you said, we are friends, but we have had disagreements in
the past and I also have a disagreement with your analysis. And that
disagreement is that...you know, you can't... one of the major contradictions
in what you said is that...when you mentioned that Utrice is going to fight
Pacifica's encroachment on WBAI, I think that Utrice IS Pacifica's
encroachment on WBAI, that she has collaborated with Pacifica, and
opened the door for Pacifica at any point in the future to come in and snatch
out anybody on the staff. But you can't have it both ways. You can't
collaborate with Pacifica and then say that you're going to stop their
encroachment, because once you collaborate you become part and parcel of
their encroachment, and... you know, you in particular, you and I were with
Samori Marksman in San Francisco when we sat down with Pat Scott, and
Pat Scott said that she was going to help us "eliminate a problem at BAI",
that she was going to fire Valerie Van Isler for us. And I'm sure that you
remember when Samori Marksman said "No. No good. We're not going to
do that" The reason why Samori said that was because he understood, I
understood, and I thought that you understood, that once Pacifica does that
act, that then they can come back and do that at any time, and that we
rejected that at that time and I think that it's one of the things that we have
to reject now.
The firing of me and Sharan was not Pacifica's
call. Bessie Wash doesn't
know Sharan: if she came up and stood right in front of her, she wouldn't
know who she was. This was a mean-spirited action taken by Utrice Leid. It
was her call from the beginning, and one of the things she had to do was to
eliminate anybody who would be there in her face, opposing her around the
action that she took, so she decided to do that.
I've spoken to Utrice, I've spoken to Rosemari
Mealy, I've spoken to
Diabel Faye, I spoke to Habte Selassie, the real architects of this whole
move, on many occasions, about why we could not allow Pacifica to make
this kind of move. And Utrice has told me on EACH occasion that she didn't
care, that her ONLY GOAL was to get rid of Valerie Van Isler. Now
anybody who comes and says that they don't CARE about what happens to
the station because they're going to satisfy their own selfish desire for
revenge, is somebody that I can't see being in charge of WBAI.
It is just amazing to me that some people cannot
see that by the mere fact
that she is there placed in that position, she's a Pacifica appointee. And you
know, when we talked about Talkback - when we were developing those
plans, Utrice was not a part of that development. In fact she has been a part
of undermining many of the things that we've been trying to do to the
positive. You talk about my weaknesses - I imagine that we all have
weaknesses - but one of my weaknesses helped us pilot through a whole
minefield of indifference coming from Utrice Leid. You remember that she
boycotted several of the fundraisers that we had -boycotted in an attempt to
sabotage our efforts. And at the same time, we moved forward, got rid of
the deficit, to have a $70,000 surplus, and are increasing subscribership at
this very moment - a subscribership that you can bet is not on the incline
I think that you've been listening to what
she says as opposed to what she's
done. You need to take a look at what she's done in order to try and move
things forward. She's very gifted, very talented in the manner in which she
speaks, and how she is able to put things forward, but what has she done?
Check with the staff - those of us who worked around these fundraisers,
trying our best to get WBAI out of the hole, trying our best to increase our
subscribership, working around whatever opposition was there, to mantain
this radio station. Look what she's done!
You know, our listeners are not confused. Maybe
some of the staff is
confused, but our listeners are not confused. They understand exactly what
this is - that it is part and parcel of Pacifica's move to get inside of WBAI.
Utrice is just a tool for them. She's allowed herself to become a tool. They
can fire her at any moment. When you take a look at Bessie Wash coming
in there talking about all the things she's going to do for WBAI? She could
have done those the day before she said she was going to do them! She
could have done them last summer! But now she's going to do them?
[laughs] One of the things she hasn't talked about is that she wrote Valerie
Van Isler a letter, saying what a wonderful job she and the staff had done,
and offered her a ten thousand dollar raise. The next time she speaks to her
she's offering her a job in Washington D.C.! These people are liars! And
Utrice has joined them in the lies!
You know, one of the things she often says
when she gives presentations to
the public is that you have to be ruthless in your quest for power. That's
what's happened in this case. She's been relentless and ruthless in her
request for power. You know this whole this is not about me, it's not about
Sharan, it's about protection of this radio station, something that has been
severely violated by the collaboration of a cabal of individuals inside the
station who did not move in the best interests of the station, but moved in
their own best interests. Now they're all trying to get jobs that are available
as a result of these changes that are being made.
And I just go back to say once again that you
know, Samori's name has
been brought up quite a bit. I don't think that there's anybody there at the
radio station who has talked over the last 20 years, about WBAI with
Samori, more than I had. And I know that he would NOT be in favor of this
kind of move. When it came up and he was confronted by it he wasn't in
favor of it, and he wouldn't be in favor of it today!
Mario: Well that was the point I was making.
I mean I made that earlier,
Bernard White, I said - I know you paid close attention to what I was saying
- but I think you may have misheard the one point where I didn't say that
Utrice was defending the station from Pacifica's encroachment. I said if she
indeed wants to prove that she is defending BAI from the encroachment of
Pacifica as she has claimed on several occasions - which is why she claimed
she took the position - she can take the first steps towards achieving some
kind of - I guess you can say confienca - confidence in a staff that has
serious doubts about her ability and her willingness to do so - if she takes
that first step of restoring yourself and Sharan Harper - and lifting the ban
on the other colleagues.
Bernard: Yeah but see...
Mario: But I just wanted to make clear what
I said - I didn't say that she IS
defending the station from Pacifica's encroachment, I just wanted to clarify
that. She SAID that she has, and I said if she wants to take steps to
convince us, or at least make the first steps to move in that direction, that
would be the first thing I would recommend.
Bernard: OK, the first thing I would recommend
is that she resign. Because
she represents Pacifica's encroachment. She collaborated with people, she
came in under the cloak of darkness, and did something that she said the
staff wanted to do. If the staff wanted it she could have done it at 12 noon. It
cost about $5000 to come in there and change those locks. If it was
something that the staff approved, she could have done it during the day.
But the staff did NOT approve of this action, they stated it on several
occasions when we had meetings that they did not want this to happen. And
all along she was sitting in some of the meetings knowing that she was
already talking with Pacifica about this entire move. So how can the staff
really trust her?
John McDonagh: Bernard, if she was to hire
you back to do Wakeup Call
with Sharan, would you do it?
Bernard: I took a position before we found
out that Utrice was going to be
the one...I don't know if you were in that meeting when Armand asked her
directly: was she talking to Pacifica? Did she want to become the Station
Manager? And she said "No!"
I took a position that I was not going to collaborate
with Pacifica. To work
with Utrice Leid is to become part and parcel of collaborating with Pacifica.
I think Utrice has to get out of there, she made a serious error, she made a
selfish error, and she needs to own up to that and move out. Look what
she's done to this radio station! 1500 to 2000 people coming out on a cold
winter holiday night to protest! You think that's going to impact on our
ability to be solvent? You bet it is! I think the only thing that would
represent Pacifica leaving WBAI is if she went.
Mario: I think that's one thing that wasn't
calculated, certainly the
Bernard: Because she doesn't really understand
WBAI! She's only been
there a couple of years. You know how long it takes to really understand
some of the subtleties and nuances of a Pacifica radio station or of WBAI.
And she was unwilling to learn! She knows more than all of us! She knew
more than everybody else! And she wouldn't, she wouldn't - you know, when
you tried to talk to her about what was going on, she knew better! We need
people who don't know better, people who can understand, people who can
learn, not people who know everything already!
Mario: That ws the point I made earlier, that
it was one of Samori's
strengths that he worked with people, and he worked closely in building - I
hate to use the cliche of a team - but that's what he did. So when I do hear
people refer to his mission loosely, it's very disturbing,
Bernard: Right, she's been anti-team since
she's been there. But we had
other work to do, so we did that other work. And you know - you know the
accomplishments that have been made. And there were moves to straighten
out some of the other things. I had gotten Valerie Van Isler to bring in a
consultant so we could develop systems in how we relate back and forth to
each other in how we do the work. And that consultant was there working
with Valerie when when all of this took place. Rosemari Mealy knew that!
You have to deal with things one step at a
time: first we become solvent,
and strong so that we can point to our accomplishments. Then we wind up
trying to work at you know - deal with all the personalities and the system
differences that we have, and we were about to take that step. And Utrice
knew that, Rosemari Mealy knew that, but they didn't care about it! They
had another agenda, and now we're living inside of their agenda. I told them
exactly what would happen if they collaborated with Pacifica, and they did it
anyway and we're in the moment that I already explained to them we would
be in, if that collaboration went forward. Now there are people there
intimidating the staff - you know, just imagine walking through WBAI and
there are people there, supposedly Utrice's bodyguards - well if they're her
body guards, when she takes her body out of there, take her guards with
Mario: Well I said this morning, Bernard, the
first person I confronted when
I was trying to get in the door was some person I'd never seen in my life
before, asking me who I was! And I said to him, well who are you? What are
you doing here? And he was like well sorry, nothing personal... Nothing
personal? But I've been working here for 13 years! You know, why are you
coming here and asking me who I am? And that is a problem. The other day
was the same thing - I'll just let this be known that on Tuesday during our
staff meeting - a very heated, contentious staff meeting, one of the ugliest
I've been to in my time here at BAI, there were a lot of people
uncomfortable with the fact that a couple of these folks were milling about
right outside the room, listening in on what was going on, and there was a
request to have them removed or at least move out of the way, and I went
up to one of them and I kindly said "Look, given the situation, you know the
situation is heated, do you mind just stepping aside? And he was direct and
confrontational, asking me if I was deaf! Are you deaf? Are you deaf? As if
he wanted to get into some fisticuffs or something! And I said, well if you're
here to be protecting the physical integrity of the station, as is being
claimed, you're not doing a very effective job of it. And if I was somebody
else, you know if I had another temperament, and sometimes I do, it might
have gotten ugly. So I agree with that, especially considering the fact that
several key members of the station who have been here for years and who
are no strangers to the station, are not allowed in, and meanwhile we have
these folks here! That's another issue that has to be dealt with - the calling
back of some of these folks.
Bernard: I mean look at the staff meeting,
I wasn't there but several times
it came up that people were saying "well you're worse than Valerie!" And
who thought [laughs] that anybody would ever hear someone say that! Did
she get a consensus from the staff that they wanted people to protect the
place? Did she talk to the staff? I mean perhaps staff members might - if
they agreed with her that there was a need for that perhaps they would have
personed the doors, you know, to talk to people about not coming in. But
she comes in this manner and she cannot now trust anybody. She can't trust
the staff! And that's going to be borne out in days to come because she
knows that the overwhelming majority of the staff said that they did not
want this to happen. I know that there are people there - we always live on
the edge at WBAI, we don't make a lot of money - so there are a lot of
people who cannot speak out because they have families to raise, but the
unpaid producers as well as the community are not in that position, and
they're going to speak out. And this is just a terrible thing that has
happened. And like I said, the only way I can see us rebuilding the trust in
our community is if Pacifica's agent, Pacifica's operative - Utrice Leid - gets
out of there, and apologises to everybody for the damage that she's done to
this radio station, that most of the people around that table that you're
sitting at, built.
Mario: I know. It was constructed by many,
not by one person. But there's
an illusion that it can be constructed by one person. At least that's what I
heard last week.
Well Bernard, I want to thank you - in every
sense of that term, thank you -
not only for sharing your thoughts this morning, but also just the role that
you've played. I've learned a lot from you, no doubt about it, I've been
inspired by a lot of your work, and your role here at the station and in the
community. And again, as far as I'm concerned, you have to be here.
Notwithtanding what you just said about not collaborating with Pacifica, you
have to be here. You have to be inside, not outside.
Bernard: Well thank you Mario, and you have
a good year. And Happy
New Year to the rest if you - around the table.
Amy: Thank you Bernard, and I hope we're doing
Wakeup Call next week
together, the whole team. I hope Janice K. Bryant is unbanned - we still
don't know what she was banned for - I hope Sharan Harper is back
producing the program, and of course I hope you're back at the helm.
Bernard: Was she banned by Pacifica?
Mario: I don't think so.
Amy: No. The bannings are being done by Utrice
Leid. And we don't even
know how many people are being banned: people only find out when they try
to enter the premises, and they're told they're banned. This is - you know,
really frightening. And when we ask, "What is the criteria for someone
being banned?" nothing is ever laid out. "They know what they did" is the
response. And I call them and I say "What did you do?" And they don't
know what they did!
Bernard: Well it's just like Bessie Wash saying
I was removed "for cause".
And then telling Utrice Leid that she could hire me back! Well what
happened to the cause? If there was a cause to remove me, what happened
to it? How come Utrice can hire me back? You know they're both playing
games with us! So many untruths were told in that encounter [on the air]
that they both had. Bessie Wash said nobody called her? Well I DID call
her! Because there were some people who wanted to meet with her. And I
made THREE phone calls to her and she returned NONE of my phone calls.
So you know, she was just telling some blatant untruths while she was there.
I didn't know that she was in New York, but I did have her number and I
was trying to call her because there were some people who were interested
in talking to her. Some people like Gil Noble, some people like Harry
Belafonte, some people like Susan Sarandon. So she lied!
Mario: That's called a problem with the spinal
cord. A serious deficieny in
spinal tissue. And that's always been a problem with Pacifica. Again
Bernard, I just say that you need to be inside. And the next level of struggle
has to be conducted with you inside, not outside, and I feel strongly about
Bernard: Well thank you, Mario.