WBAI workers may face layoffs at storied station

WBAI broadcasts from the top of the Empire State Building, but workers wonder for how long. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Employees at a historic New York City broadcaster believe more than half a century on the air may soon end in radio silence.

About 80 percent of the staff at the progressive station WBAI, which sends out its programming from atop the Empire State Building, recently received layoff notices that could take effect as soon as July 15, according to a union representing some of the workers.

Hard fiscal times have befallen the listener-supported station, which was an integral voice for the left beginning in the 1950s and pioneered many unique takes on the medium, such as reading entire novels or broadcasting otherwise censored programs on the air.

Negotiations between the union and the station’s parent company, Pacifica Foundation, were set to take place this week, according to Jose Santiago, news director at WBAI and shop steward for the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

“We hope the talks are really about exploring ways to improve the station’s finances and not just Pacifica going through the motions before kicking us to the street,” he said. “Our dedicated workers and the communities we serve deserve better than that.”

Pacifica could not be reached for comment by press time.

A majority of workers at the station have signed a petition calling for an end to pay disruptions and have placed some of the blame for the outlet’s monetary troubles on accounting practices at Pacifica.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 8:18 pm, July 3, 2013
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Reader feedback

Nathan B. Forrest from Jackson Hts. says:
Great news the commies are getting fired.
July 8, 2013, 3:18 pm
Matt from Boston says:
Actually I find Off the Wall to be quite entertaining and informative as I have listened to it for a number of years now.

One does not have to agree with ALL the content in order to appreciate programming. Content about internet security and privacy I would hear about on WBAI I would then see hit the mainstream news MONTHS later.

I might not agree with plenty of shows on it but I believe debate and discourse is important to our country as it makes the sides stronger and more accountable to their people
July 8, 2013, 7:36 pm
daddy warbucks from Bronx says:
" progressive station" says it all ....bye (don't let the door hit you in the ass)
July 8, 2013, 7:53 pm
bILLY bOY from Jersey says:
Keep fighting if you can. We know that Pacifica "re-invented" itself a few years back.
I'm a 60 who has listened periodically over the last few decades.
Astonishing that 2 of the 3 comments here on the potential closing delight in the fact that "commies" and "progressives" will be affected.
They truly have drunk the koolaid instead of giving any thought to educating themselves
July 8, 2013, 8:55 pm
ANTHONY from NJ says:
Never heard of this station. But progressive anything sucks in the free market rating talk unless you are NPR or PBS the you get goverment help.
July 12, 2013, 8:49 pm
thatgirlinnewyork from hollis says:
The community potential and financial health of WBAI depends upon giving the General Manager and his erstwhile assistant the boot, for starters. Then dissolve the money-sucking cronyism of the LSB, who installed them both.
Aug. 6, 2013, 12:58 pm

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