Monday, February 5, 2018


Whenever a business or organization is on the ropes you can count on want-to-be heroes showing up to save the day. This scenario is now playing out in and around WBAI, New York. A new suitor, promising a miracle cure, is making an aggressive push to take over WBAI.

That organization is the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), a company that operates cable TV public access channels. MNN has offered Pacifica’s National Board of Directors a “sweet heart” Public Service Operating Agreement  (PSOA), a nonprofit version of a Local Management Agreement.

MNN has been recruiting WBAI employees and volunteers to be on “their team” for a takeover.  MNN says it will be holding a community meeting on Saturday, February 10th [link] from 3pm-6pm at MNN’s Firehouse Studio at 175 E. 104th Street in Manhattan to make their case. Also MNN has produced a short infomercial that supporters have been airing on WBAI.

MNN describes what they envision being in the PSOA in a letter to the Pacifica Board and its supporters within WBAI:

• MNN will house and operate WBAI at MNN’s facilities. Pacifica keeps the FCC license. No term for the PSOA is mentioned.

• MNN will assume all costs including staff salaries and rent for WBAI’s transmission site atop the Empire State Building.

• MNN will be responsible for all fundraising, programming, hiring and firing decisions and promotion of WBAI.

• MNN says an advantage to Pacifica is that the PSOA will “stop the financial bleeding” at WBAI. However, Pacifica will still be on the hook for all of the debts (estimated to be $8-million) incurred prior to the PSOA. Other advantages MNN says they offer include: Simulcasting WBAI on a cable channel, simulcasting some MNN programming on WBAI and providing WBAI producers training.


I have no idea if Pacifica’s Interim Executive Director is considering MNN’s offer and I hope they won’t. I am not dissing MNN – they seem to be doing fine work with the cable access TV channels – they simply are in a different business.

MNN is almost totally subsidized by cable franchise fees that subscribers pay to their local cable company. According to MNN’s IRS 990 for 2015 (the most recent available) in 2015 had total revenue of $9,070,891. Franchise fees made up $9,038,502 – 99.6% - of MNN’s revenue. MNN apparently has no income or experience in fundraising.

Dan Coughlin

Also, Dan Coughlin, the CEO and President of MNN, has a history with Pacifica. He was Executive Director of Pacifica of the Pacifica Foundation from 2002 – 2005. 

Though his stated reason for leaving the job was to spend more time with his family, news articles from the time paint Coughlin as a secretive man who allegedly paid bonuses to himself and friendly associates at WBAI.

Coughlin was hired at MNN in 2006.  According to 2015 IRS information, he was paid around $400,000 in salary and benefits that year.


In 2017 my wife and I moved from a 2,000 square foot single-family house to a 1,000 square foot apartment. We did a good job of downsizing but we still have more stuff we need to part with.

One example is the custom audio cable shown on the left. I had it built for me in 1995 when I had an old-school production room. 

Here are the basic stats:

LENGTH: 20 feet

INPUT & OUTPUT: 20 channels

PLUGS: XLR, RCA, 1” Telco

WEIGHT: Around 18 pounds

This custom snake cable was built by Doug Thompson, a fine engineer from Minnesota Public Radio. It is in like-new condition. My cost was around $870. I am even including the patch-bay.

I haven’t used it since I went digital in the 2000s.  I’ve tried to sell it locally but there has been no interest. 

So here is my pitch: If you want the cable and agree to pay for the shipping it is yours. Please contact me via text at 612-819-8456 or email  Thank you, Ken.


  1. Here are some other fun facts about Dan Coughlin. He was an ally of Amy Goodman’s when he was a reporter for Pacifica’s national news (Pacifica Radio News). Along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into a professional public relations campaign (The Pacifica Campaign) against the then Pacifica board during the lawsuits of 1999-2002, run by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Coughlin was part of the news department who went on strike to support Goodman in the ginned up attack on the board.

    When the board was finally forced out, Coughlin was appointed ED by Goodman. Coughlin signed off on Goodman’s contract-of-a-lifetime which gave her for free all of Pacifica’s intellectual property to Democracy Now!, a show created by WBAI. Although she now claims she created the show she did not and was not its original host. Since 2002, Pacifica has been in the position of renting back the radio show it created and paying its former employee, Goodman, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, among other goodies in that contract. Coughlin then oversaw the creation of Free Speech Radio News, now defunct, which was another privatization of Pacifica’s former news department and became another separate organization getting funded by Pacifica – more money being drained away from Pacifica and into other organizations – both connected to Coughlin.

    Pacifica has gotten legal advice that the license holder almost never gets its station back after a PSOA. Who might benefit from a PSOA between MNN and WBAI? Methinks, not Pacifica.

  2. One very, very important thing to remember here is that a non-commercial licensee cannot lease their airwaves out at a profit. They are limited, by FCC rules, to "recouping operating expenses." For most stations that tends to be around $75,000 - $100,000/yr although in WBAI's case it might be a lot more considering wages, rents (tower/studio), etc all tend to be a lot more expensive in NYC.

    And AFAIK, WBAI *is* licensed non-commercial. They may operate in the commercial (non-reserved) band, but any AM or FM station can elect to license themselves non-commercial. It's a simple form to file with the FCC. OTOH, they could switch it back whenever, too. The only rule is that stations broadcasting on 88.1-91.9FM cannot be commercial. The rest can switch back and forth pretty much at will.

    Speaking more broadly, while I don't think a PSOA automatically means Pacifica will "lose" the license to's more relevant to ask the hard question: do any of the involved parties really benefit from this? Pacifica has deep-seated, structural management problems. A PSOA literally does nothing to address those, and instead just creates a situation where both parties have reason to feel, and act, like they're the one who's in charge. That inherently creates an environment where a power struggle is highly likely, even under the best of circumstance. With Pacifica's history, I suspect the infighting will quickly rise to physical violence...either against people or property.