Wednesday, October 9, 2019


John Vernile

An already confusing situation regarding the future of the Pacifica Foundation became even more confusing this week.   
On Monday (10/7) interim Executive Director John Vernile, locked out the staff at WBAI in New York and then told them they were fired as of that moment.

Then, on Tuesday (10/8), a group volunteers and former staff filed suit against the Foundation. 

By the end of Tuesday, Judge Frank Nervo of the Supreme Court of New York issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the Foundation’s plans.

Nervo said in the temporary restraining order:
“The Supreme Court of the State of New York has issued a stay and temporary restraining order enjoining the Pacifica Foundation from seizing any property or equipment from WBAI; terminating any station employees; preventing WBAI from broadcasting it's regularly scheduled programming; or interfering with WBAI’s business."

A hearing about whether the temporary restraining order should be made permanent is scheduled for October 18, 2019.

The action by the New York court raised many questions such as who will pay for WBAI’s additional days of broadcasting. Also unanswered are questions regarding the Pacifica Foundation’s right to determine policy at a station that is 100% owned by the Foundation.

On Monday, Vernile informed the 22 members of the Pacifica National Board in a memo [link] why he was taking action regarding WBAI:

“Immediate action must be taken to address a dire financial crisis that seriously threatens the viability of the Pacifica Foundation. As a result of the ongoing financial shortfalls the Foundation lacks the financial reserves to pay staff salaries, health care, needed legal and engineering services, required insurance for our loan and legally required audit services.”

“Our financial condition makes it clear that it will be impossible to sustain this legal obligation without immediate action. Under its current management…WBAI is exposing the Foundation to insolvency. WBAI constantly requires the support of the other Pacifica units…to maintain current operations. This is no longer possible, as our reserves are virtually exhausted.”

“So, with a sober understanding that the survival of Pacifica is at stake, we need to cease local staff operations at WBAI and operate the station via a remote Pacifica network feed as allowed by FCC regulations.”


It is highly unlikely that Judge Nervo’s restraining order will be made permanent for one important reason: The Pacifica Foundation owns the FCC license for WBAI. 

Interim Executive Director Vernile acted properly. when he did because WBAI’s liabilities expose the entire foundation to insolvency.

Enforcing Pacifica’s arcane by-laws and settling internal disputes should be heard in civil court. The WBAI folks who filed the restraining petition don’t have "ownership standing." None of the petitioners are officers of the Pacifica Foundation.

Pacifica could have prevented this situation by creating separate 501c3 organizations in each state where the five stations operate. This move would have provided “cover” for the other stations and Pacifica as a nationally. But, they never took that step and WBAI’s debts potentially will sink the entire ship.

The Pacifica Foundation saved WBAI from oblivion in 2018 by agreeing to sign a reported $3.6 million loan agreement with the FJC Foundation [link]. The terms of the agreement are clear that if Pacifica defaults on the loan, FJC can seize the entire assets of the organization and/or force Pacifica to sell all or some of its station licenses.

We praise interim Executive Director John Vernile for taking action regarding WBAI. People who believe in Pacifica’s original mission should support Vernile. He is the “adult in the room.”

If we were in charge of Pacifica, we would go much further than Vernile. We would have all five stations end their current programming and simulcast a national program feed from one location.



  1. Ken says: “The WBAI folks who filed the restraining petition don’t have "ownership standing."”

    Not true. There are two Directors on the filing. All 22 Directors on the Pacifica National Board are owners on the FCC ownership filing. It will be argued whether Vernile can act without a vote of the board, which he did not have and over half the board was not even informed of his plans.

    Ken says: “Pacifica could have prevented this situation by creating separate 501c3 organizations in each state where the five stations operate.”

    Ken has apparently drunk some of the Kool-Aid that is behind this – that of breaking up the network with individual 501(c)(3)s owned by… those who have been wanting to get their station away from Pacifica, mostly KPFA, for a couple of decades. However, none of the stations could have survived on their own. All the stations have “borrowed” from the others in past years. WBAI used to be the cash cow, lending money to KPFA in previous hard times. WBAI has been under attack since the early 2000s. There’s plenty of blame to go around for WBAI’s problems as well as the whole network’s. Some more background here: KPFK and Pacfica: Update 2019

    Ken says: “If we were in charge of Pacifica, we would go much further than Vernile. We would have all five stations end their current programming and simulcast a national program feed from one location.”

    What listeners repeatedly want is more local programming, not less. The successful NPR stations have plenty of local programming along with the NPR feeds. There’s no easy fix for Pacifica at this point – and I would argue there’s no will for it either. Even if there is some spots of sincerity, there’s too much incompetence all over the network and in governance. I believe this is an asset grab.

    - Kim Kaufman

  2. Then Pacifica would be no different than your Christian and/or other faith organisation running a national format.

    K-Love and sister Air1, Way FM, Bible Broadcasting Network, Bott Radio Network, Family Life Network, Family Life Radio, Family Radio who is moving away from the teachings of the late Harold Camping...born in Boulder, Colorado before his parents moved to Cally, Christian Satellite Network or CSN, AFR or American Family Radio and for the Catholics Relevant Radio.

    The list goes on but these are big ones in Faith Media.

  3. if you look at, where they are talking how many ballots need to be returned for elections to meet quorum, you'll see that the 5 pacifica stations have less than 46,000 subscribers (I'm not including staff) . In five major urban areas, that Nielsen says has a potential listening audience of over 50 million. (and that doesn't include adjacent markets that the station are heard in or they have translators in) I think that works out to .00092% of potential listeners subscribing...