During a recent stint at 4 World Financial Center for some PR work, I had the privilege of running into WBAI 99.5 FM’s interim development director Andrea Katz a few times, and over the course of two months, we built an extremely close friendship. It was then, while preparing to move from this specific location, that the station would find a new home at some Times Square building in the following months to come, due to some financial/ leasing problems and, well, not enough college kids / listeners tuning in to listen to the once prominent station–which, if you may not know, is also the home to radio shows from the likes of Chuck D. The previous company I was associated with were about to merge with WBAI for a possible collaboration to assist the latter in this category with hopes in boosting up their listener-ship in the process, but for whatever reasons, the union turned sour. Low and behold, not only is the station continuing to have the same nagging issues (with a staff cut as well), but along with that, their leasing woes are also still up for talk. And a result of this, the progressive station may finally be resolving this particular issue by leasing itself to another operator. As a part of the deal, which is classified within the radio world as a lease-management arrangement (LMA), it would put all programming in the hands of the leasing entity. Well, in any event, all I can do is wish them the best of luck…
Per NY Daily News:
Steve Brown, a member of WBAI’s local station board, revealed Monday that the Pacifica National Board (PNB), the governing body of WBAI and four other Pacifica stations, has started the process of seeking LMA bidders.
“Although WBAI might not be sold (yet),” said Brown, “it seems almost certain to be leased.”
He circulated a memo from PNB member Cerene Roberts saying that the national board met Oct. 3 to ask that its executive director draw up a “Request for Proposals” – that is, a call for bids.
The board met again Oct. 10 to order that the request be published.
There is a Nov. 6 deadline for responses.
WBAI, which has been financially precarious for almost the whole six decades it has broadcast in New York, has recently slid to the edge of insolvency, laying off staffers and warning that it cannot pay its bills.
Some members of the PNB have reportedly advocated selling WBAI, which would relieve Pacifica of that ongoing debt crisis and provide capital for the other Pacifica stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Washington.
The station’s listenership has also dwindled the last few years. Despite having a 50,000-watt signal in the middle of the FM dial, WBAI draws an audience closer to that of college stations.
The most prominent show on the station is Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now.”
That big signal and dial position could make WBAI attractive to potential buyers, or leasers.
The LMA is often used in radio to transfer programming control while a station is going through the sometimes-lengthy process of getting approval for a sale.
Some new programmers, however, are content with leasing rather than owning. When Disney took over WQEW (1560 AM) for Radio Disney, it did so with a long-term LMA.
The biggest fear among WBAI staffers and supporters is that the loss of WBAI would remove a progressive voice from a radio market whose dominant talk voices are conservative.
Brown said “at least one, and possibly several candidates” have offered to take over the station, though he declined to name them.
He also noted that PNB bylaws require WBAI to have a local station board, which could potentially complicate LMA implementation.
Source: New York News – NY Daily News