New York City’s Pacifica radio station WBAI, where Democracy Now! has broadcast for the past 17 years, has laid off two-thirds of its staff, including the entire news department, following a series of crippling financial problems. Summer Reese, the interim head of Pacifica, told The New York Times the layoffs include 19 out of 29 employees. WBAI lost its studios on Wall Street during Superstorm Sandy and has struggled to pay rent on its transmitter, which sits atop the Empire State Building. Summer Reese announced the layoffs in an on-air address to listeners following union talks on Friday.
Summer Reese: “With a very heavy heart and very great difficulty, we will be laying off virtually everyone whose voice you recognize on the air who is a paid programmer. This includes the vast majority of paid programming in the daytime. It will include the news broadcast, which I know from a great deal of feedback from the listening public is very important to the New York City audience. We do not have the ability to continue payroll at this station without making these layoffs.”
WBAI is one of five stations in the nationwide Pacifica network. Donated to Pacifica by philanthropist Louis Schweitzer, WBAI went on the air in 1960. Andrew Phillips, former general manager of Pacifica’s Berkeley, California, station KPFA, is taking over as interim program director of WBAI.