Progressive talk outlet WBAI New York is finally back in the hands of its local staff after Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane ruled in their favor. “I think it’s time to get WBAI back on the air and back to fundraising,” Crane said.
WBAI returned to local broadcasting early Thursday, Nov. 7, one month to the day after Pacifica Corporation took over operations of the station, firing the staff, padlocking the Brooklyn office doors and implementing a feed of Pacifica Across America on the 99.5 signal.
That same day local staff filed a suit, saying the takeover was in violation of the Foundation’s bylaws, and a temporary injunction was issued.
Pacifica Foundation remained in control of WBAI even after the injunction was issued and the Pacifica Board of Directors voted against interim Executive Director John Vernile’s decision to take over the station.
In making her ruling, Crane upheld the Board’s vote and said an earlier vote, the results of which supported Vernile’s decision, was not valid because three of the four members blocked from voting did not have a conflict of interest. “There simply was no conflict to prevent non-staff directors from voting,” Crane said, according to the New York Post. That vote, she said, “was conducted in violation of the bylaws. Therefore, that vote must be set aside.”
WBAI host and producer Mimi Rosenberg told the Post, “I’m extremely happy that this important, precious, local, community broadcast venue will go back on the air.”
The WBAI website, which had been taken over by Pacifica Foundation, is also back under local control. The stream took some time to get back to a local feed but is now broadcasting local WBAI programming.
A lawyer for the Pacifica Foundations said they plan to appeal the judge’s decision.