Pacifica lays off WBAI staff, changes programming in move to end financial losses

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The Pacifica Foundation said in a press release Monday that it has laid off staff at WBAI, its station in New York City, citing financial problems at the station.

The nearly 60-year-old station will air “Pacifica Across America” programming, a mix of national programs such as Democracy Now!, programming from affiliate members, independent producers and Pacifica’s four other stations, according to the network.

Pacifica’s release said the move was necessary because of “serious and persistent financial losses” at WBAI. 

“WBAI has had to repeatedly call on other Pacifica stations to help fund its payroll and other operating expenses,” said Jan Goodman, a member of Pacifica’s board, in the release. “We can no longer keep taking money for essential services from our stations in LA, SF Bay, Houston and DC communities to cover WBAI’s continued shortfalls. This practice is endangering the entire Foundation.”

A judge ruled against Pacifica last year in a lawsuit over unpaid rent for WBAI’s transmitter. As part of a settlement, Pacifica paid more than $3 million to ESRT and was released from its contract with the building, according to Pacifica’s most recent audited financial report. The Foundation took out a loan of more than $3.2 million to pay the debts, the audit said.

The audit showed WBAI had a deficit of more than $600,000 in fiscal year 2017 and negative net assets of more than $7 million. The station had the largest deficit and least net assets of any of Pacifica’s stations that year. 

Pacifica will create a plan “to address how we can rebuild” the station “as soon as financially and logistically possible,” Pacifica Board Vice Chair Sabrina Jacobs said in the release.

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