Behind the News censored 3-28-01
This is from Deepa Fernandes, Producer of Behind the News. They have been pulled without warning. Behind the News is on tape. Deepa and many of her guests have made statements in opposition to the bannings, firings and gagging occurring at WBAI.
The Wednesday team's Behind the News has been pulled WITHOUT telling any of the producers. Diabel is on the air right now and the studio lines (for Michael G) are off the hook.
I called and finally at 5:20pm Fred asked Utrice who "shrugged her shoulders". She then said i would have to speak to Diabel about it. I demanded to speak with her and she said she was in a meeting.
Yet another example of outright censorship.
2 memos to Utrice Leid:
TO: UTRICE LEID, Interim Station Manager, WBAI
As you know, the show that I produce at WBAI every Wednesday at 5pm, Behind The News, was not aired today. It is now 6.10pm. I called the station at 5.05pm when I heard that Diabel Faye was on the air instead of my program, and Fred asked you why I was not on the air. He said you "shrugged your shoulders" and you said "talk to Daibel". I demanded to speak with you as you are the interim General Manager and obviously privy to such weighty decisions as what goes on the air. You refused to speak with me. So I did as you instructed and called Diabel after the show. Below is a transcript of our conversation:
DEEPA: Why was I not on the air today?
Daibel then hangs up the telephone. I call him back, he answers, I begin to speak and he hangs up. I call right back, he hears my voice and without speaking hangs up. I call back again and he hears my voice and... I did this seven times and was hung up on seven times. SEVEN TIMES.
Utrice, it is now 6.30pm. I have unsuccessfully tried to call you but your mail box at extension 2820 is full.
I was not given any notice that we were not going to be on the air. The last two times this has happened (and for the record the only times this has ever happened to my BTN program has been during your time as Interim GM) Diabel Faye had at least called my house and left a message a few hours before the broadcast was pulled - although the reason was baffling and unprofessional, at least he had the decency to call. Today neither he nor you would even speak to me.
For a station that is currently trying to validate it's new management and prove it's professionalism, this act of pulling a regular show is utterly unprofessional. On today's show we covered three important issues: We looked at South Africa and had an exclusive interview with a government representative from the South African ministry of Communication. Another piece was with the award winning Indian author who has just published a new novel that won the regional Commonwealth Literature Prize. The author, Amitav Ghosh, declined the award because of the inherent colonialism attached to a "Commonwealth Literature Prize". And then there was the East Timorese man who opened our show by telling of the torture his family experienced at the hands of an Indonesian General who is today standing trial in Washington DC for these crimes. What do I tell these guests?
Without anyone in management at WBAI talking to me, I can only assume that the pulling of a regular show must be for content reasons. Is this really the image you want the new BAI to have?
And what do I tell my fellow producers Biju Mathew and Mary McGrail, not to mention the fantastic Brooklyn College interns, Fernando Romero and Willie Perdomo who help edit Wednesday's BTN? Should I tell them all to call Diabel?
I also must bring up here the fact that my air-check from last Wednesday, March 21 has mysteriously gone missing. Michael G Haskins placed my air-check in his mail slot at 6.30pm on Tuesday evening, March 27, for me to retrieve. At 7pm when I entered the station (after pounding on the door for 15 minutes and then you letting me in and telling me I was a part of the "security concern" so you could not tell me the security code to enter the radio station I work at) my air-check WAS NOT in Michael G's mail slot. As interim GM I believe it is your job to make sure this 'missing air-check' phenomenon is addressed.
In case the decision has been made, as Diabel seemed to tell me it had, that I am no longer the producer of Wednesday's BTN, let me just tell you a little about next week's line up. In the next 6 days, two utterly inspiring and courageous human rights activists and leaders will be in NY city - Rigoberta Menchu (Guatemalan Indian who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggles to free her people) and Xanana Gusmao (East Timorese resistance leader of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the most likely person to become the leader of the new free East Timor). Both these people have committed to interviews with me for WBAI, for Behind the News, and also to be aired around the country on Our America's. Do I go ahead and do the interviews? No doubt our listeners would want to hear their voices.
Finally, as a woman of color I demand to know why women's voices are disappearing from the airwaves of WBAI. If you look at the program line up for Wednesday, besides Democracy Now!, Behind the News is the only other local program produced and hosted by a woman. Surely the 'new BAI' should be working to maintain the few women producers left on the air.
TO: UTRICE LEID,
FROM: Deepa Fernandes,
When the program I produce every Wednesday was pulled this week, I was dismayed and disappointed. When I was later hung up on repeatedly by both yourself and Diabel Faye as I sought an answer to why my program had been pulled, I was extremely frustrated. Right now I am down right angry. Your behavior towards the 8 middle school children visiting WBAI this afternoon as a part of their Radio Reporters program was inexcusable.
Utrice, you demanded to know "under what auspices" I was bringing eight young children of color into WBAI? This was after you grilled them personally as to what they were doing in the station. I am their radio teacher, and even I was terrified by the manner in which you accusingly questioned these 10-13 year olds. Is it any wonder these usually articulate and bubbly kids were completely non-responsive?
Let me tell you "under what auspices" I bring eight children of color into WBAI. (And maybe this will explain why it is I apparently "broke station policy" by not seeking permission first.) As I tried to explain to you, these children were my guests. Yes, they are my students, but they were also my guests. The two are not mutually exclusive. If you have listened to my programming on WBAI you would know that I frequently air the voices and work of young people. And never once in the time I have worked at WBAI have I ever had to "get permission" to bring guests in to the station. Furthermore, these young folks are part of the reason WBAI exists. They are from communities that support the very existence of our station. You now tell me I have to clear every guest I bring in to the station. Does this apply to every producer, or only those who have young, low-income children of color as guests?
You insinuated that my teaching radio to young children from Harlem was never cleared with station management. This is completely untrue. This project was dreamed up last year, before you were in position of management at WBAI. The project was born from a collaborative project between Public Affairs Director Rosemari Mealy and myself when we joined with Crossroads Middle School from Harlem - the same school that today's guests attend - and Affeni Shakur to produce a beautiful program of the poetry of Tupac Shakur. Rosemari Mealy was one of the key dreamers and supporters of this program called Radio Rootz. Deposed station manager Valerie Van Isler was also an enthusiastic supporter of a program that facilitates the teaching of radio to the most misrepresented and under-represented people (youth of color) in all other forms of media. If management changes, it is not up to me to get new clearance for an existing program.
Furthermore, it is extremely unsettling that you, interim station manager, could so coldly declare to 10 year old Diane Lopez, when she courageously told you she was going to produce a radio piece to air on WBAI, that "well that is news to me." These kids need every bit of encouragement they can get to think their voices and opinions are valuable. Even if this was news to you, a more appropriate response to a 10 year old would hopefully have been more encouraging. Every other producer the kids encountered at the station (during their brief visit), Mario Murillo, Jose Santiago, Chris Abrams, Brother Shine, Marjorie Moore and Mathew Finch all welcomed the children to the station with a smile. None of these producers knew the children were coming either.
Let me end by telling you what one of the children, Carlton Taylor, asked me we were leaving the station. (And after they watched you summons me to your office like a naughty child gets summonsed by the principal). Carlton put his arm around me when I came out of your office and asked, "Are you alright? Was she mean to you? She sure hated the fact that we were in the station. I'm sorry if we got you fired." What do you say to that? The one thing I have learned about kids, Utrice, is that they tell it exactly like it is.
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