WBAI-FM’s Local Station Board has passed a sweeping resolution calling on the New York City based listener sponsored station to cut down on its fund drives and build up its audience. The resolution, passed on Wednesday, asks WBAI management to produce “concrete plans” to drop on-air fundraising days by 40 percent over the next three years. It also asks the Pacifica Foundation owned signal to include in its report a plan for expanding WBAI’s membership “quickly by 35 percent.”
The resolution says that WBAI should keep a paying subscriber base “of around 23,000 to be sustainable.” Based on that figure and the percentage, ‘BAI presumably has a little more than 17,000 subscribers at present (please post below if you have a different number).
The statement also protests what it sees as an excessive amount of fundraising time, asserting WBAI is planning more than 120 days of on-air fundraising “for this coming year.”
WBAI’s on-air fundraising is based on repetitive recorded half-hour and hour-long pitches for premiums. The LSB is concerned that so much valuable air-time is being spent on pitching premiums, such that the station is in danger of becoming another version of the home shopping network. The WBAI LSB requests that management include in its report at the next meeting a timetable for implementing changes to that way of fundraising, and an articulation of its plans for taking us down a different path.
According to Mitchel Cohen, Chair of WBAI’s LSB, the final vote after amendments was 12 in favor of the resolution, and three opposed.
Lots of people have expressed concern for some time about what they view as WBAI’s lengthy marathon periods and excessive reliance on premiums. I briefly tuned in today, and, sure enough, heard a pitch for a pre-recorded documentary being sold as a premium. It’s possible that with the plethora of free or nearly free music and public affairs content available on-line, marathon premiums are a far less effective means of bringing in subscribers than they’ve been in years past.
But weaning ‘BAI out of this practice won’t be easy. I asked Cohen how the Local Station Board plans to help.
“Management is requested to present reports on all four areas (and more) directly answering them, at the next meeting,” he replied in e-mail. “Then they will be open for discussion and debate.”
“We are also moving into selecting a pool of candidates for Program Director. We have quite a few applications that a committee is reviewing. We might ask each of the candidates in addition to the current iPD to report on how they would address these concerns.”
Motion to Limit On-Air Fundraising Drives on WBAI, increasing membership and improving programming
1) The WBAI Local Station Board is very concerned that WBAI management is now planning 120+ days of on-air fundraising for this coming year, to meet the station’s budget. We do not believe that this expansion in on-air fundraising days is the direction we want to go in. WBAI management is requested to present a report of concrete plans to reduce on-air fundraising days by at least 40 percent over the next three years, broken down year by year.
2) Additionally, WBAI must maintain a paying membership of around 23,000 to be sustainable, given our existing expenses and NOT including moving expenses or payment of outstanding debts. This means that WBAI needs to expand membership quickly by 35 percent in accordance with the Pacifica Mission. The LSB requests that management include in its report at the next meeting concrete plans for increasing membership to achieve this minimum goal.
3) WBAI’s on-air fundraising is based on repetitive recorded half-hour and hour-long pitches for premiums. The LSB is concerned that so much valuable air-time is being spent on pitching premiums, such that the station is in danger of becoming another version of the home shopping network. The WBAI LSB requests that management include in its report at the next meeting a timetable for implementing changes to that way of fundraising, and an articulation of its plans for taking us down a different path.
4) The WBAI LSB also requests of management a report articulating its vision with regard to programming that will lead to increased listenership and make WBAI more relevant politically, culturally, and artistically.
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