Vote No on Pacifica’s Undemocratic Bylaws Revision
by Michael Novick
If you are a member of KPFK (or another Pacifica station) you should already have received a link to the ballot for a referendum on new Bylaws for the 70 year old foundation and radio network. If you believe you are a member and haven’t received an email or postcard with instructions, or an actual paper ballot, contact email@example.com ASAP!
Are you surprised that, at a moment when democracy, human rights and racial and economic justice are under attack in this country, an effort is underway to blame democratic governance at Pacifica for all the financial challenges facing the foundation and our five radio stations? In fact, the same financial problems existed under the old, self-perpetuating board that used to run Pacifica. Actually, Pacifica enjoyed a revival when the democratic model of governance was first implemented, and can do so again.
The existing Bylaws provide a path forward through democratic dialogue. We need to identify a strategic planning process for each station, to involve management, paid and unpaid staff and governance in identifying unmet audience needs and under-served communities, marshaling station strengths and implementing step by step priorities to improve programming and fundraising, and increase financial transparency and fiscal responsibility. We can apply the talents, energies and skill sets we currently have, or seek out those we need, to bring Pacifica effectively into the 21st century media environment.
But instead, the playbook of disaster capitalism is being applied by some who would foment fear of impending financial crisis at Pacifica over loans and unpaid taxes at KPFA in Berkeley, and use it to drive members toward reactionary system change at the listener-sponsored, non-commercial radio stations.
The proposed Bylaws revision would turn the clock back two decades, to a time when a self-perpetuating, unaccountable national board nearly drove Pacifica into bankruptcy, with plans to sanitize and control its content and sell off precious assets. It runs contrary to everything the Pacifica mission stands for, and its commitment to peace, justice, free speech, progressive cultural expression, and critical thought. Staffers at KPFK and KPFA who think this new board will shield them have forgotten that it was the old, undemocratic and unaccountable national board that fired KPFA GM Nicole Sawaya, and went after Larry Bensky and even Amy Goodman. Do you really want those bad old days back again?
In response to the threat, at most stations, people across the lines of previous factional disputes and difference have united to urge a “No” vote, and in the process are creating a practical and collegial effort to work together for the common good. This is laying the groundwork for a Bylaws convention, provided for in the existing Bylaws, to refresh Pacifica’s governance and address needed changes in its business model through a process of democratic discussion and representation, seeking consensus, as opposed to scrapping everything in favor of a document written by a few and turning power over to a single grouping picked by its authors.
The proposed Bylaws revision, under the guise of streamlining and professionalizing Pacifica, would:
- Make it easier to sell off station signals, buildings, the Pacifica Radio Archives or other assets by lowering how many votes it would take and the percentage of the membership needed to approve such a sale; as few as 1251 voters could OK such a move by the new Board created under the Bylaws revision.
- Eliminate elected representative Local Station Boards entirely and allow members to elect only a single director to the National Board, who would be part of a permanent toothless minority subservient to a majority of self-appointed at-large directors.
- Make it harder for you to become a member of KPFK by doubling the donation required, and the number of volunteer hours needed is raised by five times. This would reduce the effective value of a volunteer hour to $3 and change, when workers are struggling for a $15 living wage. It would mean fewer members at a time when our membership is already dwindling.
- Endanger free speech and local community-based programs that meet local needs because the people pushing this proposal (Bill Crosier from Texas and a bunch of folks from KPFA) are some of the same people who illegally showed up at Pacifica station WBAI in NY with armed guards, fired the entire staff and replaced local shows with canned, centralized programming from the west coast–until they were stopped by a NY judge. They are hostile to democratic governance because they want to control the political and cultural content that we can hear on our airwaves.
- Prevent paid or unpaid workers at our stations from having a say by prohibiting staff members from serving on the Board. The bylaws also eliminate local representation on national board committees, such as on governance, finance, or programming.
- Take power away from the listeners and staff who have built and sustained Pacifica by giving a hand-picked group of six “at-large” outside directors the power to hire management, set programming policy and even make further changes in the Bylaws on their own say-so, without oversight or review. No elected station director can serve as chair or treasurer, even after they would be added to the board. And if you as members of [station] or Pacifica vote to remove a station or at-large director, the Board gets to pick the replacement.
- Cut Pacifica’s 200+ affiliate stations out of representation by eliminating the two national board seats reserved for representatives of affiliate stations such as college, community and low power FM stations that carry Pacifica programming.
If you value free speech on KPFK’s airwaves, if you oppose selling off our precious stations or other assets, if you want a say in the future of Pacifica as a voice for peace, justice, equity and cultural awareness,
VOTE NO! on the proposed Bylaws revision. You can learn more at httpss://pacificafightback.org or on facebook/Pacifica Fightback for Democracy
Michael Novick is a listener member of the KPFK Local Station Board which voted 21-3 last month to oppose the Bylaws revision, and was previously its chair, treasurer and a director on the Pacifica National Board. He’s a member of United Teachers Los Angeles, and edits Turning The Tide: Journal of Inter-communal Solidarity from Anti-Racist Action-LA. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org