“Fundamental Differences” About Public Radio, Says WYPR

April 16, 2008 at 12:03 am 13 comments

WYPR Board Chairperson Barbara Bozzuto in unscheduled comments about an hour into WYPR’s April 15 board meeting said the real reason WYPR eliminated The Marc Steiner Show is over “fundamental differences over the future direction of the station.”

WYPR Board Chairperson Barbara Bozzuto and President Tony Brandon at the helm of the meeting.

Ms. Bozzuto confirmed what Marc Steiner said from the get-go: His firing was not about him, but about a future vision for public radio.

Bozzuto then declared about the firing, “It will not be undone.”

Her comments elicited boos, then a growing chorus of boos and cat-calls from the 53-person strong public audience. The outraged chorus grew and she got up and called the meeting into a closed executive session.

People stand up and protest as the WYPR board adjourns to a private room off to the front left.

So many things were striking about this meeting. I could blog from Baltimore right to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in Washington D.C.

It is striking how WYPR’s management lied, then lied, then lied. They first claimed they canceled The Marc Steiner Show because of ratings. Then they said the show was too local. It is known that WYPR wants to reposition itself as statewide. Then they said the firing resulted from some undisclosed and unspeakable issue (which they did not bring up at this April 15 public meeting). Ms. Bozzuto did not mention any of this. In fact, she spoke with such clarity and force it seemed she never once considered these issues. She said very strongly that she hoped everyone could come together and that Marc Steiner had to go because “fundamental differences over the future direction of the station.”

Could Marc Steiner sue them over defamation of character? They would understand that language. They apparently created a PR campaign to defame his show, his talent, and finally his character because they did not want to discuss “fundamental differences over the future direction of the station.”

It is striking that Ms. Bozzuto felt the need to declare “It will not be undone” before the board even made a pretense of discussion.

It is striking WYPR’s Bozzuto and Brandon spoke for most of the April 15 board meeting. It seems they run the board. Brandon runs the daily management of the station.

WYPR, where’s the oversight?

WYPR’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) had just recommended WYPR bring Marc Steiner back based on “overwhelming public support.” CAB also called for ethnic and class diversity on the WYPR board, especially including African-Americans; for an “audit” of WYPR’s governance structure; and for inquiry about how to best structure CAB itself.

Five members of the CAB deliver their report. They are not asked any questions by the board.

Ms. Bozzuto ushered them off stage. She at first said the board could not comment on these fresh recommendations. This would have given the WYPR board an opportunity to move on without discussing thorny issues. However she decided to make a speech and said: no, never, it is 100 percent impossible that Marc Steiner will come back to WYPR.

WYPR former members, members, and the public continue discussing after WYPR’s board walks out.

Most of these seats were filled during the meeting. The last few members of the public remain and talk while the WYPR board continues their meeting elsewhere. More to come tomorrow evening….

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All Eyes on WYPR April 15 Board Meeting WYPR Board Meeting Reflections

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stu Goldstone  |  April 16, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Coverage of today’s meeting in the Baltimore Sun:

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/bal-wypr0415,0,3433189.story

    Reply
  • 2. Helen  |  April 16, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you to those people who were there representing those of us who couldn’t make it.

    Barbara Bozzuto really amazes me. She just keeps digging deeper and deeper and deeper. She must be a fool or the most deluded person in the entire world. How easy it would be for the station to turn this around and begin to make peace with listeners! But instead they continue to alienate and enrage listeners again and again by this kind of behavior. UGH!

    Reply
  • 3. Rhonda Stolle  |  April 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I was also amazed by all of the private security and the police officer at the BOD meeting. I can’t think that the Church of the Redeemer feels the need for that kind of security on a daily basis, so I can only assume that the WYPR board brought them in. Since there has never been any indication of potential violence by even the most ardent protesters, I can only assume this was an intimidation tactic.

    Reply
  • 4. greg  |  April 16, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves for the way you behaved yesterday!
    I didn’t think Steiner was treated fairly, but I would never carry on in the manner I observed yesterday. No one wins with this kind of hostility. Simmer down, and move on. Your passions would be put to much better use if channeled toward some reasonable cause.
    Allow Marc Steiner the dignity he deserves and stop fueling this fire – you’re not helping him to get another job this way!

    Reply
  • 5. Maria Allwine  |  April 16, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    The outcome is not surprising, nor is The Sun’s biased reporting. No mention was made of Ralph Moore’s courageous, cogent and valid statement that with a 68% African American majority city, the executive board of WYPR looks like 1962 (all white, moneyed and business community representatives). The makeup of the Board does not reflect the community the radio station claims to serve – it’s not an insult (as Barbara Bozzutto stated)- it’s merely the truth. The makeup of the board must change.

    The point needs to be made that Tony Brandon, Barbara Bozzutto and the executive board have given 3 different reasons for firing Steiner, ratings, show focus and personality issues, all of which have been publicly debunked and which they themselves no longer use as even they know they are lies. Today’s reason for firing Steiner was stated as “philosophical differences”, which is finally – more than 2 months after the firing – closer to the truth. Why should anyone believe Tony Brandon’s assertion about the money raised during the pledge drive when he can’t even get his story straight on why he fired Marc Steiner and denied us the best show on any public radio station around?

    The executive board must be reconstituted so that it reflects the community, the station’s finances must be opened to public scrutiny and the Marc Steiner Show must be brought back to WYPR.

    The community has spoken and the executive board and station management have turned their backs on the community. This will not stand. No matter how they spin it, how they re-brand themselves or how much they lie, WYPR is going to be YOUR PUBLIC RADIO station again.

    Reply
  • 6. Maria Allwine  |  April 16, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    What I want to know is who called the police officer? The board or the church? He was from the SWAT team!! Someone needs to explain to me why our tax dollars were spent on a public radio station meeting at a church!!

    Tony Brandon and the executive board are so out of touch with the rest of the world that they were stupid enough to have a police presence at a community meeting.

    And these are the people running the station!!! Folks, it’s money and the good old boy network – definitely not brains – that gets these people where they are. Not to mention that they fired a Peabdody Award winner when they fired Marc Steiner. Memo to Brandon and Board – that was a really stupid business decision.

    They need to go back to running their own businesses- or whatever they do – and leave the public radio station to the community and the people who actually care about serving their community – and have the brains to do an infinitely better job.

    Reply
  • 7. angela  |  April 16, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Sure, I’m for taking control of the station. Now where will we get $6million to do it? Hm……………..

    Reply
  • 8. angela  |  April 16, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Maria, you want to take back WYPR and take back BGE, have you got the money to do it?

    Reply
  • 9. Sarah  |  April 16, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Could someone post the sheet of recommendations from the CAB that were given out by Doreen Bolger after the CAB report? It would be really nice to have them prominently displayed somewhere online.
    Also, I am positive that it was WYPR Board and Management who requested a police officer at the meeting. Several times I saw management people talking to him and to the security officer who was there.

    Reply
  • 10. Norma, Baltimore  |  April 17, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Agree with Greg. Protest and confrontation was too much and interferred with the meeting. Tactics were counter-productive.

    The speaker from NPR gave an excellent explanation of how Public Radio, and all radio is rapidly changing. New media, competing avenues of how people (especially younger) use time and obtain information. Her talk was precisely what we (and the WYPR Board) really needs to hear.

    Her prescription was that Public Radio needs to change and adapt to a new model and way of doing things. That Public Radio HAS TO BE MORE COLLABORATIVE AND COOPERATIVE. Would love to hear more on this.

    So sorry we could not continue with the meeting of the WYPR board to proceed with the discussion and agenda items.

    Disappointed that some people could not be together in a room on a sunny afternoon and behave in a respectful and civil tone.

    Reply
  • 11. Rhonda Stolle  |  April 17, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Norma, I would have to respectfully disagree with you and Greg. It think that people were reasonably respectful considering the situation. The audience sat (more or less) quietly though most of the meeting, only errupting into vocal disapproval after Bozzutto read her preprepared statement basically saying “tough sh*t if you’re unhappy”. Even her reaction to the CAB was incredibly condescending in my opinion, and boiled down to “Thanks for your efforts, now sit down, shut up, and you need to learn your place.” Peaceful LEGAL protest is the only way we have to make a statement in the face of the intransigence of the board of directors.

    As an aside, I also had someone tell me that we had to leave the church because the church staff was supposed to have a meeting in that space, even though it was only about 4:30 and the space was supposedly booked until 5:00.

    Reply
  • 12. WYPR Board Meeting Reflections « Save WYPR  |  April 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    […] A fuller account of the meeting can be found on this blog’s April 15 post. (Click here). […]

    Reply
  • 13. WYPR Closes May 21 Board Meeting « Save WYPR  |  May 8, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    […] board chair Barbara Bozzuto already said at the April 15 WYPR board meeting WYPR will not even consider the CAB recommendation to bring back Marc […]

    Reply

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