Brooklyn freeform radio station WBAI shuts down abruptly after 60+ years
Brooklyn freeform radio station WBAI abruptly shut down operations on Monday, after more than 60 years broadcasting. The news was announced by Pacifica Foundation, the Berkley-based nonprofit that has owned the station since 1960. “Due to ongoing and continued projections of further financial losses at WBAI, local station operations are being discontinued as of October 7, 2019,” the company said in a statement. “We realize this news will come as a deep and painful shock, but we can no longer jeopardize the survival of the entire network. We are grateful for all your efforts over the years to help WBAI and its listeners. We deeply appreciate the loyalty you have shown to the station and the Pacifica radio network.”
The statement does go on to leave a little hope for the station: “We will relaunch WBAI once we are able to create a sustainable financial structure for the station. We will be airing a network source called Pacifica Across America until then.”
“Your peace and justice community radio station,” WBAI was a leading voice in NYC’s counterculture movement of the ’60s: Bob Dylan was a frequent live guest, the station was the first to play Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” and they continued that left-leaning path into the ’70s and ’80s. The station has been in financial struggles most of this decade and, as Gothamist points out, laid off most of its staff in 2013. In 2018, WBAI controversially hired host Leonard Lopate who had been fired from WNYC over “inappropriate conduct.” WBAI’s Jay Smooth, host of hip hop show The Underground Railroad, quit in protest.