PACIFICA’S WBAI RADIO STATION IN NEW YORK, SILENCED BY SANDY, IS BACK ON THE AIR

Station broadcasts during storm from evacuated Wall Street building until power is cut

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 2, 2012

Contact: Summer Reese
Chair and Interim Executive Director,
Pacifica Foundation
E-mail: summer@pacifica.org
Tel: (510) 849-2590

(New York City) The Nixon administration couldn’t do it. Neither could the Clinton or Bush administrations. But earlier this week, hurricane Sandy turned off the mics at WBAI, the historic Pacifica Foundation New York radio station that has been a listener-sponsored gadfly afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted since 1960.

WBAI’s General Manager, Berthold Reimers, reported that after the NYC transit system was shut down Sunday evening, a crew of seven WBAI producers and volunteers camped out at the station at its headquarters at 120 Wall Street so that they could continue round-the-clock live coverage of Hurricane Sandy, as Wall Street flooded 10 stories below them.

By Monday evening (October 29) the waters outside rose to the second floor of the 34-story building. Con Ed shut off the power — and along with it, the ability to broadcast from that location. Announcer Michael G. Haskins was able to continue broadcasting for several hours from a remote location, using equipment that had been purchased a year ago for that purpose.

The WBAI crew, meanwhile, was trapped on the tenth floor in the station’s studios at the intersection of Wall Street and South Street, in the heart of New York’s mandatory evacuation zone. They were not able to safely exit the building until Tuesday morning, after the waters finally receded. At the same time, in the early hours of Tuesday, WBAI’s broadcast was interrupted altogether when Verizon, the carrier of the signal to the antenna, lost its connection at the Empire State Building and WBAI went silent.

Finally, WBAI, came back on the air late Tuesday night with archival recordings. By Wednesday afternoon, Program Director Chris Hatzis and Michael G. Haskins were able to go on the air and announce that the station was again broadcasting live, for the time being from the studios of Gary Null’s Progressive Radio Network on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“All day Sunday and Monday, WBAI ran interviews with New Yorkers, and focused on questions that, at the time, were going unasked by the corporate media,” Reimers said. “Are the nuclear power plants at Indian Point in jeopardy, and should they be shut down immediately? Why did New York City shut off electricity, water and elevators more than 24 hours before the storm hit to the tens of thousands of poor and working class people living in public housing? What effect did global climate change have on this storm, and on future ones?”

WBAI is one of the few media sources to cover the global ecological crisis and climate change, as well as anti-war protests and the economic crises in depth. The station covered the protests against the Vietnam War in the 60s, the Gulf War in the 90s, and the endless ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 and on. WBAI covered the events of 9/11 live, and stayed at the mic round-the-clock reporting from downtown Manhattan.

Summer Reese, the interim Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation, said: “Our emphasis at Pacifica has always been to serve the public. What happened in New York and New Jersey is a catastrophe of historic proportions. For us to be silenced and unable to report during critical hours of that crisis, as happened this week, is unfortunate, to say the least.”

Reese reported that “WBAI’s engineers are working to restore WBAI to its studio and full programming as soon as possible.”

We at WBAI and Pacifica are very grateful to Gary Null for making this extraordinary and collaborative effort.

Thanks also to Program Director Chris Hatzis, Producer Esther Armah, News Reporter Rebecca Myles, Engineers Ken Gale and Tony Ryan, Technical Engineer Graceon Challenger, and several volunteers who camped out at 120 Wall St. to keep broadcasting through the storm, and who were trapped when the electricity was turned off.

WBAI broadcasts at 99.5 FM in New York City. Its license is owned by the progressive Pacifica Foundation which, headquartered in Berkeley CA and founded in 1949, pioneered listener-sponsored broadcasting in the United States. Pacifica networks with over 160 affiliated radio stations, and, in addition to WBAI, it holds the licenses for 4 other major non-commercial U.S. stations: KPFK-FM in Los Angeles/Santa Barbara, WPFW-FM in Washington D.C, KPFT-FM in Houston, Texas and KPFA-FM in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • I grew up on KPFA. We lived in Monterey, and an electrical engineer friend of my dad’s rigged up an antenna to receive it. We never had TV. Even now I can hear Phil Elwood’s voice, talking about music, and I remember the live broadcasting about the repressive Vietnam-like atmosphere in Berkeley during People’s Park. I would not have lived the troublemaker’s life I’ve lived if I hadn’t been “brainwashed” at an early age by Pacific Radio. I’m glad WBAI is back.

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