Tuesday, June 5, 2018


As scheduled, Pacifica’s WBAI successfully moved its transmission site from the Empire State Building to 4 Times Square last Thursday (5/31).   

The move was part of a settlement brokered by Pacifica’s interim Executive Director, Tom Livingston, with the building's owner.

4 Times Square, which used to be called the Conde Nast Building, is located on Broadway between West 42nd and 43rd Streets. WBAI will have a dependable transmission point.   

The rent is reasonable, by NYC standards, the building appears to be well managed and half a dozen other NYC FM stations broadcast from this site.

With the move from the Empire State Building, WBIA will loose a bit of its coverage area.  The transmission point atop the 52-floor 4 Times Square is around 430-feet lower than what WBAI had atop the Empire State Building.  But, WBAI can raise it transmitting power from 4,300-watts to 10,000-watts.

One thing to remember about Manhattan is that it is a skyscraper jungle with lots of steel that is hard for broadcast signals to penetrate. Reception reports from listeners are beginning to show up on New York radio bulletin boards.  According to one post, a person in Plainfield, New Jersey, about 20 miles by line-of-site, is no longer receiving WBAI.


Interim Executive Director Tom Livingston sent an email to Pacifica folks describing getting the new site on the air. 

His message appeared on a couple of Pacifica-oriented discussion sites.

Here is a slightly abridged version of Tom's experience:

Dear Leadership Team -

At about 6 pm tonight [Thursday 5/31] we began broadcasting from 4 Times Square. A lot of people did a lot of critical work to make this happen, starting with the PNB and the decision on the loans. [Reference to a $3 million  “bridge loan approved by Pacifica’s National Board of Directors.]

New WBAI Projected Coverage
Our on the ground tech team included Tony Ryan from WBAI, Jake Glanz, our transmitter engineer who used to get paid by WBAI and Jon Almeleh.

As of about this time yesterday it looked like we could well have been going dark for as much as two weeks. 

We won't get our new transmitter for a week or two because of what became the short timeline.

We thought we had a foolproof backup. KPFT sent a surplus transmitter that we could use as a backup. It was shipped via FedEx to the contractor.

Yesterday the contractor called up to say they couldn't find the transmitter! We know it was delivered. 

4 Times Square with the Empire State
Building in the background
Our solution (after checking with other NYC broadcasters to borrow a backup to no avail) was to borrow the WPFW backup transmitter. 

I drove from Baltimore this morning, met Jerry Paris at the WPFW transmitter site.

 The traffic coming into DC was terrible - reminded me why I'm glad I've moved to Baltimore!. 

When we got to the site, on the campus of American University, a crew had dug a trench across the driveway to the transmitter site. We had to carry the two heavy pieces up the stairs through a campus building to my car. 

Traffic up 95 was light (if you've ever been on 95 you understand "light" is a relative term), and I delivered the transmitter to the team there about 3:30 (traffic was pretty bad in Manhattan too. there was no way to turn left off of 42nd), and they had us on the air within a few hours.

As I write this, they are gathering the things we want to keep from the Empire State Building, and I'm back in Baltimore celebrating with a drink and a (cooked) frozen pizza. 

If we'd gone over by an hour, our expectation was that ESRT would charge us double rent ($130k). [Lawyer] said not to bother even asking if they'd let us keep broadcasting for a few days from there.  If we'd gone off the air for the two weeks until the new transmitter was delivered and installed it would have caused immeasurable damage. 


KEN SAYS: Great work Tom and all. I’ve always know that Tom Livingston is a solid “radio person” and supervising this project proves it.  There is no other feeling quite like lighting up a 10,000-watt FM transmitter and having it work. We hope this is another step in the creation of the new Pacifica Radio.


Last Friday we featured the just-announced search for Pacifica’s new permanent Executive Director. 

Apparently the search is on a fast track because the deadline to apply is June 15th.

Hiring a new Executive Director is an important of the effort to remake Pacifica Radio.  According to what we’ve seen and read, Pacifica is now turning the corner. But it still has a long way to go before it is solvent.

In the past we have called Pacifica “the nation’s most dysfunctional and embarrassing media organization” because that is what it was for at least two decades. Now there is a chance for a new day and new way for this uniquely American broadcaster. This can be a new chapter for the curagious organization that literally invented listener-supported public radio.

On Friday we discussed both the positives and negatives of the job.  Whoever is chosen to be the new ED needs to go into the job with their eyes wide open. Thanks to Tom Livingston and the Pacifica National Board, there is new momentum and desire for Pacifica to succeed.

If I was at a different point in my life and career, I’d apply for the gig myself. 

This is an opportunity for someone to make a difference.  For the good of noncommercial public radio, the good of radio broadcasting in general and the good of our democracy when we need it the most, please consider applying today. 

More information is available on Livingston Associates website [link].

No comments:

Post a Comment