sowny.net | The Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum


You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

October 7, 2019 12:46 pm  #1


Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

It’s rare that a radio station suddenly goes silent with almost no warning. It’s even less likely that it will happen in New York City, the #1 market in the world.
 
And while this isn’t about local radio, I found it surprising to learn of the sudden demise of WBAI, a legendary community FM station staffed largely by volunteers. It was once the centre of the 60s counter-culture in the days of the Vietnam War and has played a huge role in social issues ever since. It's been on the air since 1941.

Money woes are to blame for the sign off, which came as a shock to both employees and listeners alike.
 
The station was run by the non-profit Pacifica Foundation and its other outlets around the country remain on the air. The WBAI website is also still streaming programming, but the local station at 99.5 is gone.

More here

 

October 7, 2019 2:11 pm  #2


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

I'm hearing that all local programming is suspended but they're carrying a national Pacifica feed. Time should tell what happens. CIUT and CKLN both went through crazy stuff and one ended up staying on air and the other losing its licence. Can only hope things get resolved properly.
 

 

October 7, 2019 2:33 pm  #3


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

If they don't end up returning, can you imagine how much the 99.5 frequency in the middle of the FM dial is worth in a place like spectrum-starved New York City? Ironically, if it was possible to sell it, that would take care of all their financial problems for a long time to come!

     Thread Starter
 

October 7, 2019 2:53 pm  #4


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

To sell their presence in NYC, they'd be crazy... you don't liquidate your capital like that in your biggest market.

Last edited by Saul (October 7, 2019 2:54 pm)

 

October 7, 2019 3:24 pm  #5


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

Saul wrote:

To sell their presence in NYC, they'd be crazy... you don't liquidate your capital like that in your biggest market.

Cumulus did.


 
 

October 7, 2019 4:06 pm  #6


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

From the New York Times:

"The station’s most valuable asset may be its license to operate a coveted spot on the dial, at 99.5 FM, but Mr. Vernile said Pacifica was determined not to sell that prime piece of radio real estate. Pacifica, he said, wants to “rebuild” WBAI at some point, although he did not offer a clear target date."

It's also neat to consider it was WBAI that played George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On TV, " prompting an FCC indecency ruling and a legal challenge that wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Layoffs and Canceled Shows at WBAI-FM, a New York Radio Original 

     Thread Starter
 

October 8, 2019 8:03 am  #7


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

I am curious how WBAI  was able to obtain the 99.5 frequency in New York City. I had always thought that educational and fringe formatted stations were relegated to the 88-92 portion of the FM dial in the U.S.

 

October 8, 2019 10:56 am  #8


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

This story just keeps getting stranger.

Despite a court ruling that bans the owners from stopping programming or firing anyone, the place is still on autopilot.

"...staff members arrived at the Brooklyn offices on Monday night following the ruling and broke the locks on the doors. They found their computers disconnected and papers haphazardly scattered."

And it can't possibly be true that one of the things that triggered some of this was a producer at the extreme left-leaning station going on air and saying "Stop Trump?" According to the article below, that's part of it.

Judge Rules WBAI Can Return To Air, But Owners Refuse To Comply

     Thread Starter
 

October 8, 2019 11:08 am  #9


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

Extreme left-leaning?

I suspect it's a more complex miasma of spiteful tribalism, batshit insanity and ol' fashioned incompetence (as was the case with CKLN's decline and fall).

 

October 8, 2019 12:00 pm  #10


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

mace wrote:

I am curious how WBAI  was able to obtain the 99.5 frequency in New York City. I had always thought that educational and fringe formatted stations were relegated to the 88-92 portion of the FM dial in the U.S.

It started off as a commercial station. Its owner donated it to the non-profit Pacifica Foundation around 1960. Also, remember, back in the 1950s and early 1960s all of FM was generally considered fringe as most people couldn't receive it (much like UHF before 1962 when TVs were first mandated to carry it). The FM band didn't become a valuable commodity until the late 1960s or 1970s. 

 

October 8, 2019 12:39 pm  #11


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

mace wrote:

I am curious how WBAI  was able to obtain the 99.5 frequency in New York City. I had always thought that educational and fringe formatted stations were relegated to the 88-92 portion of the FM dial in the U.S.

The 88-92 portion of the band is reserved for them, but the rest of the band is open to them


 
 

October 8, 2019 2:16 pm  #12


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

It used to be that way in Canada and I'm not even sure if it still applies 100% down south. But with such scarce space on the FM band and so many stations wanting to get a foothold into this market, almost anything goes.

Hence, The Jewel at 88.5, which otherwise would have been a community or non-commercial outlet, or CHIN at 91.9. There's also CJMB, aka Extra FM, the MyFM all sports format at 90.5 in Peterborough.

I'm sure there are other examples. 

     Thread Starter
 

October 8, 2019 3:55 pm  #13


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

I don't know if it's every been policy in Canada, or if we just kind of followed along....mostly. 88.5's been commercial for 25 years.
Others include 90.3 Calgary, 91.7 Edmonton, 88.5 and 89.9 Ottawa, 91.9 Montreal, and 89.9 Halifax.

We also have never made any attemp to keep CBC or Campus stations below 92.

 

Last edited by RadioAaron (October 8, 2019 3:56 pm)


 
 

October 9, 2019 10:00 am  #14


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

WDET at 101.9 in Detroit was originally owned by the United Auto Workers union that donated the station to wayne State University in 1952. WFBE in Flint (Flint Board of Education) signed on in 1953 at 95.1, at a time when Flint had four FM allocations and none were in the non-commercial 88-92 band. The Board sold WFBE in 1997 and it's now country but w the same call letters, branded as B-95 (their logo mascot since day one has been a bee).

Another (new) exception in Ontario is the 91.7 repeater of CIBU in Wingham, licensed to Bluewater, that can be heard on tropo days here, over WUOM Ann Arbor.

Last edited by TomSanders (October 9, 2019 10:06 am)

 

October 20, 2019 8:52 am  #15


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

I came across an article that explains how this non-profit station came to be in the prime position of 99.5 FM - and it's an almost unbelievable story 

According to the piece, WBAI started life as a commercial station - hence its spot on the dial -  but was bought by an eccentric millionaire in 1955. Why? He liked classical music and couldn't find any on the radio and was so put out, he purchased the station just so they would play the music he liked.

Talk about the best laid plans - the place became such a success that its commercial load increased, which irritated the owner - who hated spots! So he literally gave the thing away to the current owner, the Pacifica Foundation, which turned it into the entity it's remained all these years later. 

What a bizarre story!  And the description of how he had to convince the Foundation's president he was on the level is something you can only imagine. 

Anyway, both sides in this sordid saga are back before the courts on Monday, vying for control of the place. This has all the makings of a great movie if someone were willing to bankroll such a thing.

All we need now is an ending. 

The Possibly Pending Death of a Legendary Radio Station

     Thread Starter
 

November 7, 2019 11:46 am  #16


Re: Legendary New York City Radio Station Suddenly Shuts Down

And they're back, thanks to a friendly judge. 

NYC-based radio station WBAI goes back on the air

     Thread Starter