UPDATE: The $10,000 of funding which WBAI’s general manager initially reported as being from Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, is actually $15,000 from Goldman Sachs Gives, according to Pacifica management. It’s unclear if any strings were attached, as Pacifica’s managers have given conflicting accounts about its origins.
One of KPFA’s sister stations, WBAI in New York, has accepted corporate underwriting from Wall Street financial corporation Merrill Lynch with the approval of Pacifica management, according to a local station board representative. During its 62-year history, Pacifica Radio has prided itself on not taking corporate underwriting, relying instead primarily on the donations of listeners.
At the meeting of WBAI’s finance committee, general manager Berthold Reimers admitted that the station had taken $10,000 from the corporate and investment banking division of Bank of America to underwrite programming on hydro-fracking, an environmentally destructive form of natural gas drilling. According to WBAI staff representative Bob Lederer, interviewed by the KPFA Weekend News, Reimers was asked whether Pacifica management had approved the corporate sponsorship, and Reimers replied that it had. | LISTEN TO AUDIO of KPFA Weekend News report
At the March 19th meeting of KPFA’s Local Station Board, KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips suggested KPFA needs to move away from the listener-sponsorship model that has sustained it for 62 years, and said he was not opposed to business sponsorships. “I am not against sponsorship at KPFA, or WBAI for that matter,” he stated. “There are a lot of great businesses that deserve help, that we should be part of or could be part of us. And that could go a long way toward solving our problem. It’s a sticky one, isn’t it? But it should be in the mix. It’s not good enough to say: no sponsorship. Because despite [KPFA and Pacifica founder] Lew Hill’s genius, that was what — 60 years ago? A lot’s changed.”
Former Pacifica national affairs correspondent Larry Bensky, also interviewed for the news story, said accepting “any corporate underwriting, much less corporate underwriting from one of the major financial institutions of this country which are so implicated in the wealth gap and the speculation that has led to the destruction of so many peoples’ savings. The acceptance of any corporate money is antithetical to everything Pacifica was founded for and so many of us have worked for over the years.”
If you would like to contact Phillips about this issue, please write to him via KPFA’s contact page.