New York's Leftist WBAI Radio Struggling to Stay on Air

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 06:53 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The oldest surviving left-wing, listener-supported, radio station in New York City, WBAI, is a facing financial crisis, Capital reported.

The station has operated on-and-off since 1941 and has been New York City's epicenter of left-wing radio activism. It has laid off many of its employees and is trying to operate using volunteer on-air talent and producers, according to Capital.

Meeting WBAI's annual $2.5 million operating budget has become increasingly difficult. The station which broadcasts on 99.5 FM is owned by the California-based Pacifica Radio Foundation. As a matter of ideological principle, WBAI does not broadcast commercials or accept corporate support or underwriting.

Station managers have told listeners — 134,600 people tune in on an average week — that the station's days could be numbered "given the existing circumstances at Pacifica and WBAI," according to Capital.

The station boasts 14,000 subscribers. Donations are tax-deductible.

WBAI's interim program director Bob Hennelly has emphasized, since he came on board in December, local rather than national-oriented programming, showcasing, he said, volunteer producers who "open the mike and talk to any sentient being in the signal area, in respectful conversation."

The selection of programs includes Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! There is a monthly update on Cuba and weekly programs aimed at Muslim, Native American, and Haitian New Yorkers.
 
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