- 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
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.