All five Pacifica radio stations will suspend their regular programming from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Thursday to broadcast a daylong fundraiser benefiting New York City’s WBAI-FM.
The station, located on Wall Street in lower Manhattan, was already in dire financial straits before Hurricane Sandy hit Oct. 29. A preemption notice distributed to programmers of Pacifica's WPFW in Washington, D.C., described WBAI's studio and operations as " heavily and negatively" impacted by the storm.
In preparation for the hurricane, a crew of WBAI producers camped out in the station to attempt to broadcast through the storm. WBAI was ultimately knocked off the air due to flooding in the building and the loss of electrical power. The crew was trapped on the 10th floor of 120 Wall Street for a day because conditions were too unsafe for them to leave, and WBAI didn't resume broadcasts until Oct. 31, according to a statement attributed to Summer Reese, interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation. In a Nov. 9 account for The Villager, WBAI contributor Paul DeRienzo recounted the station's efforts to stay on the air in the storm's aftermath.
WBAI's debts and high operating costs — attributed to rent at its studio and transmitter locations — contributed to a financial crisis at the Pacifica Foundation this summer. During a July board meeting of Pacifica Foundation directors in Berkeley, Calif., a measure requiring WBAI to move into a cheaper location within 60 days was introduced but not voted on.
The decision to hold the on-air pledge event, which will follow two days of fundraising for the Pacifica Radio Archives, was made Nov. 12 during a networkwide management conference call. Fundraising goals for the Pacifica campaign, and the storm recovery costs for WBAI, haven't been announced. Officials at WBAI and Pacifica could not be reached for comment.