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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 6, 2001
12:55 AM
CONTACT:  Concerned Friends of WBAI / Pacifica Campaign
Concerned Friends of WBAI: John Riley (917) 653-7267
Pacifica Campaign, (646) 230-9588
U.S. Congressman Censored at WBAI
Rep. Major Owens (D. New York) to Make Statement on House Floor;
Long-time WBAI Program Cancelled
 
NEW YORK - March 6 - Congressman Major Owens (Brooklyn, 11th District) was interrupted without warning and pulled off the air today when he called in as a guest on Pacifica radio station WBAI (99.5 FM). Speaking on “Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report,” Owens was several minutes into a discussion on recent changes at the listener-sponsored station when WBAI’s interim general manager Utrice Leid came into the master control studio and seized the mic.

Leid then told listeners that the information broadcast by co-host Ken Nash and Congressman Owens was untrue. Later, Congressman Owens said he was "outraged, and caught without any explanation or apology." He said he was hoping to talk about independent media when the interim general manager took control. "I intend to make the statement I was going to make today on WBAI, on the floor of the House of Representatives and put it into the congressional record,” Owens stated.

Owens, who has been an outspoken critic of what is now dubbed the “Christmas Coup” at WBAI, said he was “amazed” by today’s on-air events. “It’s like something in a totalitarian country with the fuhrer intervening,” Owens added.

According to Nash, Leid came into the master studio unexpectedly. “She tried to talk to my guest without warning or invitation,” he said. “I reminded her that the producer is in charge of the program. I asked her to leave the studio. Leid then permanently cancelled the program.” “Building Bridges” is WBAI’s only labor show.

The 52-year-old listener-sponsored Pacifica radio network has been embroiled in censorship battles in recent years. The Washington Post has described Pacifica management’s actions as "cowardly radio" and "Soviet-style journalism,” while dozens of journalists from around the world struck the Pacifica Network News one year ago to protest rampant censorship.

The late-December, midnight take-over of WBAI by the parent foundation created a storm of controversy. Locks were changed, veteran staffers were fired and banned and security guards have been installed at the station. A gag rule has been imposed, and access to the station is restricted. Critics say the New York take- over represents Pacifica management’s continuing effort to alter the political content of the entire network.

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