Friday, August 11, 2017


There is yet another twist in the legal battle between the Empire State Building and Pacifica’s WBAI.  According to a report from Tom Taylor’s NOW newsletter [link], Pacifica filed a Minor Change request with the FCC to move WBAI’s transmitter off of Empire State. WBAI wants permission to move its transmitter to the 48-story Conde Nast building at 4 Times Square.

4 Times Square
The request was authored pro bono by engineering consultant Don Mussell, a long time Pacifica supporter. 4 Times Square has a large “antenna farm” on the top of the building that New York City TV and FM stations use as a backup to main transmitters on Empire State and the new World Trade Center.

The reason Pacifica is seeking the new transmitter site is that the station has not been paying its rent for space atop Empire State since 2014. 

The owner of Empire State has filed a lawsuit demanding payment of $2.1 million from Pacifica. On Friday, June 30th, Empire State filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in New York State Supreme Court against Pacifica. The Motion demands immediate payment. 

Of course, if Pacifica is forced to liquidate WBAI, the new transmitter site will become a moot issue. The Court’s decision on the Motion could come soon. Observers feel that Pacifica will likely lose the Court case and may be forced to sell some of its assets, including the FCC license for WBAI. This could sink Pacifica’s entire national organization.


According to an Arbitron ratings report from Spring 2007, WBAI had over 200,000 estimated weekly listeners. It has been a long time since WBAI has subscribed to the Nielsen Audio ratings. Unofficial estimates say WBAI now has few than 10,000 weekly listeners.


Legislators in Alaska have approved measures to make drastic cuts in appropriations for the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. The university responded by cutting 56% of the funds for KUAC FM and TV.

As of September 1, 2017, KUAC will terminate it's membership with the Alaska Public Radio Network, or APRN. Service will also be discontinued at many of KUAC’s translator stations in remote interior areas of the state.

KEN SAYS: Public media is an important lifeline in rural Alaska. Many areas are off-the-grid for online services. Public broadcasting once had bipartisan support in Alaska.  Republican Senator Ted Stevens was a leading supporter of CPB.

1 comment:

  1. IIRC Pacifica cannot be legally *forced* to sell their stations. The licenses are not fungible assets as they are legally the property of the US government and can be revoked at any time.

    While it might (and almost certainly WOULD) make sense for Pacifica to sell/trade WBAI for WQXR and stay on the air in NYC while raising some much-needed cash...if their staff was operationally capable of executing such a move, they would've done it already.

    I think it's inevitable that eventually they will be drowning in creditors to the point where they can no longer keep their signals on the air. After 12 months of dead air, the FCC will delete the license and that'll be the end of WBAI. In light of the WRAX situation, I suspect the FCC will not accept any chicanery in regards to minimum efforts to keep the WBAI license "alive" by being psuedo on-air for one day a year.