WBAI New York Shuts Down


In the end the listener-supported left leaning station just could not sustain itself. WBAI is owned by Pacifica Foundation which has been plagued by financial troubles for years. The entire WBAI staff has been fired. Pacifica cited “serious and persistent financial losses.” The station could no longer even meet payroll or cover expenses. Programming from The Pacifica Across America Network is now airing.


  1. All the liberals and “lefties” on the Upper East Side and WBAI couldn’t support itself? All the gays on West 72nd Street and downtown around Christopher Street and WBAI couldn’t support itself? ‘BAI reveled in programming for the political left and for the LGBT crowd. One would think that plenty of contributions would come in from those listeners. WBAI was always very controversial. Around 1968, the station aired a viciously anti-Semitic poem by a black militant and was promptly knocked off the air by an alleged member of the JDL who broke into the transmitter room on the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building and placed a pipe bomb inside the outer doors of the transmitter cabinet. WBAI was off the air for about a month until it could get a new transmitter. My co-workers at WABC-TV, where I once worked at the transmitter site on the 85th floor of Empire, told me of many occasions when they had to evacuate their site because someone phoned in a bomb threat to WBAI, whose transmitter was two floors down.
    In the 1970s, Ray D’Ariano (later a personality on the now-defunct WNBC-AM) made an album called “Are You On Something?” One cut was called “New York Radio Suite” and parodied some of the Big Apple’s prominent stations, including, of course, WBAI. The WBAI part was called “Listener Supported Radio” and featured an announcer who sounded as if he were stoned, saying, “This is WBAY, Listener Sponsored Radio…and we need money, man. Some of you out there are fat, lazy, disgusting people…you take, but you don’t contribute. I haven’t been paid in five years. Think of the quality programming you’re getting. It’s like, no commercials, and here’s what you do. Just send me $40…if you’re a student, send me $70; rip it off from your old man or old lady…and I’ll send you a folio…..” (The WBAI program guide published in those days was called The Folio.)
    In more recent times, there was much friction between the local staff and the higher-ups at Pacifica. At one time, Pacifica locked the local WBAI staff out of the studios and turned the transmitter off. A group of staffers then went to the transmitter site at Empire, hooked up an audio mixer, and began a “rebel” broadcast from there. Love it or hate it, WBAI was always a very interesting station that dared to be different. But now, the only question is: How long before EMF swallows up that station to complement WPLJ?

  2. WBAI New York…. Immortalized for the world through its inclusion on The Clash’s 1980 triple album, “Sandinista” during the spoken intro to a fantastic song, “Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)” which shares Joe Strummer’s experiences across NYC…

    “OK. Ahhh, we’re back again. And, of course you’re listening to WBAI, New York and this programme is Labrish. My name is Habte Selassie and we are speaking with Baba…maybe, Ras Baboo.
    Try and give a message, hello?
    Go ahead man.
    Yeah, I’d just like to say um, let’s have some music now, huh?
    OK, OK, thank you
    You’re right…”


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