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1998 Letter to Samori re Folio, Listeners' Forum, "lies," open discussion needed, financial report not 


Samori Marksman 
WBAI Program Director 
505 8th Avenue NY, NY 10018

Dear Samori,

I spoke to you on the phone January 5th to voice my concern about the demise of the Folio and to urge you to attend the Listeners' Forum that was to be held that evening at PS. 41. I want to express my gratitude for your attendance at the Forum and for your efforts to reestablish the Folio. I realize it must be somewhat galling to work years for low (or no) pay on behalf of WBAI and then, as you were that evening, to be shouted at and accused of selling out. I think there were very few people in that audience who shared that point of view and doubt that any meeting of BAI listeners could take place without every possible thought being uttered. I think your appearance was welcomed and added a depth that the meeting would have lacked had you not been there.

This all being said, I must repeat my dismay at hearing (at almost every discussion of the "troubles" at BAI over the past year) you saying that certain individuals involved in these controversies are "liars" - yet never coming forth with any concrete examples of the lies or who, exactly, might have spread them. I believe I would probably object to this much less if I could write you off as just one more partisan in this war of sorts... but I have considerable respect for you and expect better. I must add, that as a supporter of BAI, whenever I hear you repeat this charge I feel "used" - since by never backing up the claim, you seem to imply that we in the audience should sheepishly accept it at face value. Added to this is my belief that it is an extremely divisive remark, and, bottom line: a lousy tactic.

But, to the main issues that concern me: I continue to sense that management (that is - those who make final decisions) shows little desire to make listeners part "of the process" of ensuring the health and vitality of the station. Many listeners have stated their feeling that they are only turned to for their financial input. I was happy to hear you say that it was a mistake to let Report to the Listener fall into disuse and that you believe it should be on monthly, and for 90 minutes. I am somewhat skeptical that this will actually happen. It took Monroe, one of BAI's more eccentric broadcasters, to remind us that, back in the old days, Report to the Listener aired every two weeks. Has the need for dialogue with the audience decreased over time? I don't think so.

With the departure of Helen Caldicott and the opening of a Monday night spot, I would strongly urge that at least once a month this slot be used for the Report to the Listener. As I have said in the past (many times), having the Report on a weekday at 10 AM hardly shows a worker friendly attitude. The concept of moving it around all the time also, it seems to me, demonstrates a disregard for the average listener. Others, more cynical, might say the purpose in this should be quite obvious.

Many listeners feel that the need for some open form of discussion is underlined by the ongoing use of the gag rule (which we are told was instituted to end carping between broadcasters) to silence inquiry into Pacifica and BAI policy. I noted with satisfaction in your Jan.- Feb. Folio article, the candid delineation of the structure between BAI and Pacifica that poses such a challenge to using locally raised money for BAI projects. I also appreciated the piece by Nan Rubin, especially her coverage of the new location. Would that this kind of detailed report could have been made in the Folio months ago (perhaps, along with the airing of concerns voiced by others).

You may remember a listener who spoke at the Forum and said she had worked with nonprofit organizations. She found Pacifica to be quite secretive, noting that there is no offering of an annual report to us, the defacto shareholders, and claimed that we might find more democracy as investors in a Fortune 500 corporation. Her demand that we be told where the money is being spent and urging that we "follow the money" brought the evening's most rousing audience response. If an annual report is not already online I hope that you might urge Pacifica to correct this. I can think of no legitimate reason why they might refuse.

This kind of cavalier, "to hell with the subscribers" attitude (if that is what it is) presented by Pacifica I found echoed in the reception I got from Valerie Van Isler when I spoke to her on the phone a few minutes before talking to you. I inquired of the fate of the Folio and stated that I had not been notified of its demise, and that others had said the same thing. I explained that I was a long-time supporter of the station and that, for the first time as a protest, I was considering allowing my subscription to lapse. She informed me that 25,000 copies of the letter had gone out (I thought BAI only had about 18,000 subscribers) stating that the Folio was too expensive to produce. I asked if she would fax me a copy of the letter. She responded that she would check on me (?). I have not received the letter. If I was served this kind of reply from some neighborhood business you can imagine what alteration there might be in my shopping habits. Admittedly, I am somewhat personally offended, but more importantly, I am left to wonder at how listener concerns are treated. Unfortunately, it does not surprise me.

I hope that the commitment to the Folio is genuine and not a ruse to get through the marathon. By the way, I have bought gift subscriptions to BAI for friends in the past. If the Folio ceases publication just how would a gift subscription benefit anyone. The whole point of my gesture was that by having the Folio appear in their mailbox (monthly, at that time) they might be prompted to actually listen and get involved. As far as I can see, there would be absolutely no point in giving any gift subscriptions. I could say a lot more about the Folio, but for brevity's sake let me just say that it is an important link between the station and listener and, when it had ads, an important vehicle for building community. (Does anyone at Pacifica use this phrase anymore?)

For the record, I have renewed my membership, made a recent additional donation, and put in some morning stints as a phone-answering volunteer. Perhaps, like many drawn to BAI, I am a masochist (but not a sheep, damnit!). In between phone calls, a fellow volunteer wondered why the question of participation by the unpaid staff in the union was not left up to the paid staff to decide. It seems a rather simple, straight-forward question. Most of us out here grow weary of reminding management of the incongruity (given the "progressive" nature of Pacifica) of their meddling in this matter. Pacifica is making every last one of its supporters look foolish and we don't like it.

In closing, I once again call upon you, BAI management and Pacifica to support (and encourage) an open and healing discourse on all of these matters.

Best wishes, 
Frank Fitzgerald

Valerie Van Isler 
Pat Scott 
Mario Morillo 
To whom it might concern


I received no reply from Samori Marksman, Valerie Van Isler, Pat Scott or Mario Morillo

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