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Joe Kaye's presentation: constituency model verses subscriber models

This presentation was made at the 7-22-02 closed meeting of the "Unitiy Caucus" - a group formed to develop a constiuency/inclusion model (see governance proposal page) for determing governance boards at WBAI/Pacifica. Below are a few responses.



Joe Kaye
July 2002

What's wrong with the subscriber model? The fundamental assumption of that model is that people have to earn the right to a voice in People's Radio, that there should be some kind of membership requirement gained by a minimum payment of $25 -- which I call a poll tax -- or in lieu of payment, a labor requirement of three hours, which I call workfare. This is backwards, in my opinion. The obligation should be for Pacifica and WBAI to find means of encouraging people's participation to make it as easy as possible for them to be part of the decision-making process.

Instead of opening up the process, instead of striving for the greatest degree of accountability to the broadest masses of the City, a system is devised which involves only a tiny fraction even of the listening audience. WBAI has 200,000 listeners, 17,000 subscribers, and 3,000 probable voters, based on the West Coast experience. That is 1 1/2 percent of the listening audience. And this model is called by Eve Moser, spokesperson for the subscriber model "direct democracy"! Because of the small size of the electorate, the election results are more amenable to manipulation, praticularly by a caucus able to spend a great deal of time on electioneering.

There are some supporters of this model who outright oppose any special measures to ensure representation of people of color. One is struck in following the discussion in WBAI Internet exchanges how much one hears echoes of the ideological triumph of the Reagan Revolution with all its talk of reverse racism, etc.

But there is another group supporting subscriber elections which do want to ensure a strong presence of peoples of color. And so they resort to various affirmative action methods -- quotas, special outreach efforts, etc. What these people fail to see, however, is that real representation of peoples of color involves more than electing candidates of color. As Lani Guinier says, "It is the status of the candidate as the chosen representative of a particular racial group, not the race of the candidate, that is important."

We have the example of KPFA where the election results failed to meet the required quota of peoples of color. The results had to be changed by knocking out the white candidate with the higher vote in favor of the candidate of color with the lower vote. That may seem like proof of the effectiveness of affirmative action, but what it really illustrates is the failure of an election model that requires such correction.

There is something fundamentally wrong with an electorate that produces a dominantly white result.

The subscriber and KPFA model provides for the right of recall, which we all agree is a fundamental democratic right. But the KPFA model allows for recall to be initiated by only 15 percent of the previous election turnout. In terms of WBAI projections, that means that 450 subscribers could get the recall started, out of 200,000 listeners. Under these conditions a well-organized caucus could use recall as a tool to intimidate local board members.

But there is another problem. We believe that representatives should be accountable to their constituency or community and that others outside that constituency or community should not have the right to recall them. This would be a violation of that principle of self-determination which is at the heart of the constituency model.

In many circumstances proportional representation would be a democratic advance over the present winner-take-all electoral system that governs this country. But in the context of local board elections, under the subscriber model it reduces an already extremely narrow voter base still further to elect a candidate. Carolyn Birden, a leading champion of the subscriber model estimates that 5 percent of those voting could elect 1 of 20 candidates to the local board. Again, based on the West Coast experience that means that about 150 votes could elect a Local Board member out of 200,000 listeners.


What we are trying to do in our constituency model is to truly open up the process, to stimulate the participation of large numbers of people who are now shut out, to move closer to real direct democracy.

The mission of Pacifica is about promoting social justice. The constituency model prioritizes those communities under attack, the marginalized, thoe who are the primary victims of social injustice. We do this not only because these communities and constituencies are traditionally underrepresented but because they are the key communities, have the most to gain and the least to lose in the movement for social justice.

Because we identify these communities for special empowerment we are accused of trying to avoid elections and instead engage in a selection process. We are accused of arbitrariness, of trying to empower merely some friendly organizations, rather than the communities they serve. This is patently absurd. We will be approaching organizations with a track record of struggle, not to get them board seats, but to help us mobilize those very constituencies and communities which the Pacifica mission requires we help empower.

We are accused of playing identity politics. Simply to quote Lani Guinier once again -- not because she is the supreme authority but because she has specialized in the question of how one can organize democratic elections in a virulently racist society: "In a society as deeply cleaved by issues of racial identity as ours...a system of representation that fails to provide group representation loses legitimacy." And further, "In order to achieve political equality and political fairness, an electoral system should give voters the direct opportunity to initiate and terminate their own representational relationships. It is not enough that some voters choose for everyone...."

We are accused of not being inclusive enough. It is pointed out that we have left out some groups. Supporters of the subscriber model want purity from us while their own model as far as inclusiveness, is utterly polluted. We do not claim to be all-inclusive but simmply sufficiently inclusive to assure the protection of the Pacifica mission and the promotion of the rights of millions of New Yorkers who exemplify that mission.

Finally, there are those who think we are trying to exclude European-Americans from the process. A brief perusal, of our empowerment model will show that there is no such exclusion. But beyond that, I hope the day will come when

European-Americans will see that the empowerment and leadership of peoples of color, as well as that of other marginalized and exploited communities, is the greatest hope for real democracy for everyone!


From: butt19
Date: Tue Jul 23, 2002 2:25 am
Subject: Open note to Joe Kaye - WBAI "Unity Caucus"


Your presentation at this evening's (invitation only, but no-one turned away)Unity Caucus meeting refered to as, "Rationale For Inclusion Approach vs. Subscriber Model in Elections" horribly manipulated and distorted facts in order to support your argument and was highly inflamatory.

Roger M. [editor of this site, wbai.net]


From: Robert Johnson
Date: Sat Jul 27, 2002 4:32 am
Subject: Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models

Presumably, the new voters of various constituencies will become listeners once their input to station governance is guaranteed with the hopeful effect that programming will then better address their lives.

But why wait for the other shoe to drop from voters established even if they don't listen? In the long haul, the horse (programming) that pulls the cart (listeners) is what gets constituencies involved as voting listeners and subscribers. The thing itself (radio) becomes operative instead of an artificial construct for inclusion that needs modification with time and location.

I think truly progressive radio creates constituencies around issues rather than around shared outward attributes. Communities, some as a matter of life and death, are in desperate need of progressive representation,. But in this commercial-media shaped world, educated listeners can better choose progressive-radio representatives than can voters from a listening vacuum.

I whole-heartedly support outreach for progressive candidates from marginalized groups. White middle- and working-classes, as well as middle- and working-classes of all colors, need the life-experience expertise and leadership of progressives from marginalized groups. But listeners, cross-culture and issue-oriented, are the best candidates to choose representatives.

In other words, I think gathering voters rather than listeners is backward logic.

--Robert Johnson


From: dailyvigiler
Date: Sat Jul 27, 2002 3:10 am
Subject: Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models


As I pointed out at the last Unity Caucus meeting, Joe's premise is based on a false dichotomy -- Inclusion Models are fully compatible with Subscriber Models.

There is a Subscriber-Based Inclusion Model (in 2 variants) which I have proposed and posted on this list. I will be posting a more detailed version of the second variant within a few days.

The KPFA model, and Carol Spooner's draft are also Inclusionary Subscriber Models -- requiring 50% people of color and 50% women.

(I have criticized Carol's model for giving staff 1/3 of Local Board seats and for not applying her proposal that 1/3 of the Local Board be elected in the first election)

For now, there is one major contradiction in Joe's logic that I would like to comment on -- his assertion that the option of volunteer work for the station for the right to vote is "workfare."

I will leave aside for now a discussion of his use of a pejorative to describe revered activities that anyone interested in the future of Pacifica would embrace, except to note that the Spooner model (and my model as well) provide for waivers for those who can't volunteer or contribute.

Joe suggests as an alternative to requiring voters to volunteer, that

"The obligation should be for Pacifica and WBAI to find means of encouraging people's participation to make it as easy as possible for them to be part of the decision-making process."

I submit that encouraging people's participation in the station is nothing less than encouraging them to volunteer for the station.

Those who participate in activities to support the station qualify as volunteers for the station and would be entitled to vote under the subscriber model.

So as far as who is entitled to vote, there is no conflict between Joe's vision and the subscriber model.

Paul Surovell


From: aintmyrtle
Date: Sat Jul 27, 2002 1:58 pm
Subject: Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models

This proposal provides part of the answer ... to the outreach problems we have had at KPFA in recruiting candidates. I think what's on the radio is what determines who our listeners are, and who the voters will be and, without corrective action, who our candidates will be ... and almost all of the radical public affairs programming at KPFA produced by people of color was eliminated under the Pat Scott regime beginning around 1994-1995 (at KPFA). So, we have had great difficulty recruiting people of color to run as candidates because KPFA was no longer "relevant" to the issues of their communities.

This creates a "chicken and egg" problem ... we are changing our programming, bringing more people of color into public affairs programming. But, it is an uphill struggle because it means displacing entrenched mostly white public affairs programmers ... or it means replacing music programming (predominantly produced by people of color) with public affairs programming -- which creates resistance from people of color.

I digress.

I believe that every effort, renewed effort, strenuous effort, continuous effort, must be made at all levels to bring oppressed peoples' voices and experience into our programming and into our leadership and decision-making processes at all levels.

Getting there, I believe, requires using what some people regard as "artificial" means -- diversity criteria, or "quotas" if you will - - to insure election of diverse boards. Those boards, then, can have a real impact on policies that guide programming decisions (if the local boards have actual governing authority, which I believe they must). They can make policies that determine the make-up of program councils, require radio training programs & reach into oppressed communities to bring in trainees, they can identify issues and communities that need to be addressed in programming.

What I do not understand about this proposal is how it "guarantees" that oppressed people will be elected? Is it by distributing ballots to groups/organizations of oppressed people who do not currently support or even know about WBAI and its mission? Is it by granting certain community groups the power to appoint members to the board? Is it by voting by constituencies, i.e., only people of color could vote for the seats designated for people of color? (And, conversely, only white people could vote for the remainder of the seats?)

Our experience at KPFA over the past 2 years has been that people of color were elected in rough proportion to their numbers in the candidate pool ... so we must have more candidates of color to elect people of color without implementation of diversity criteria.

I think this proposal is a great inspiration to energize candidate search committees and help people organize to get them elected.

However, I cannot agree that persons of any color who do not contribute or volunteer to keep these radio stations alive and on the air -- always a hard thing to do against great odds, we operate on a shoestring -- should have a vote on how they are governed (unless there is a hardship waiver).

While WBAI (and KPFA and all our stations) do exist in the hope of reaching great masses of listeners and affecting their lives ... those who embrace our mission need to help support it to the extent they can through work or $$$, or we will lose it.

Pacifica is not a "public" entity, in the sense that it is not a governmental entity supported by tax money (except about 15% CPB money, which tries to assert neoliberal influence on the content of programming and is problematic) ... and so the analogy that everyone should have a vote in how it is run is a false analogy.

--Carol [Spooner]


From: tap6@m...
Date: Sat Jul 27, 2002 9:44 pm
Subject: Re: [WBAIBylaws] Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models

Hi Fred and All,

I think Joe was quite succinct.

Let me offer a "meat and potatoes" vision that may make the "Unity" case more palpable and less attackable to those who think the constituency model is not quite there yet. All the below suggestions are "verifiable" and if the constituency did not fulfill their obligations, they would be thrown off the board and another take their place.

1. The constituency organization has to be established in zip codes that are in the poorest 10%.

2. To be established means to be able to provide space for meetings at least once a week for at least 50 people. For example, a store front would be ideal, but space provided by a church, etc. would be OK.

3. A public meeting would be compulsory at least 1 time a month with a speaker who would illuminate a community problem or concern. For example, someone to explain new welfare rules, a housing court person, a drug program person, a police rep person, education opportunites, etc. These meetings would be announced on air.

4. The people who attended these meetings would be given WBAI cards and would be members. They would not have to pay for these meetings. The meetings would be free to WBAI members.

5. Some meetings would be broadcast on WBAI live. This would give direct access to radio by the people themselves. The poor are just as smart and articulate as any other group, thank you very much. Not as educated though.

This idea can be expanded and also extended to other classes but i don't want to digress.

Would someone be kind enough to sent this email to Anthony Mackall and Mimi for me, since i don't have their email addresses. Peace, bill m.


From: Carolyn Birden
Date: Sat Aug 3, 2002 11:00 am
Subject: Re: [WBAIBylaws] Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models

At 7:55 AM -0400 8/3/02, Raylaforest quoted Paul Surovell as writing:

>So as far as who is entitled to vote, there is no conflict between > > Joe's vision and the subscriber model.

This "no conflict" is not ture: the CM/Joe Kaye/appointed seats model says that one does not have to be a listener-member of the station to be represented by one of the representatives chosen for governing board seats. The subscriber model not only requires that station board members be voted in, but that they be voted in by listener-supporters. This is a fundamental conflict, and it is playing with words to say that "there is no conflict" between the two models.

Joe's model leads to representation of people who may not even have heard of the station, much less subscribed to it, by virtue of their membership in a class of people whom the station ought to serve. The difference is that traditionally people have assumed that the voiceless, if you will, are served by programming, and that listener-members support the station with time or money: Joe Kaye's model wants them to be "represented" on the governing board without going through the process of signing up as listener-members supporting the station financially or practically.

I apologize for posting these carat-laden copies of Joe Kaye's dicta at the end fo this post, but it is important for people to realize that the Constituency Model is designed to dilute the vote of the listener-subscribers and to put in place people who were not elected by them but who will be representative of a small portion of the listening audience, those selected by people whom I am labeling power brokers. I



From: jross252
Date: Wed Jul 31, 2002 11:54 pm
Subject: Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models

It bothers me the way this math is being used. If there are 200,000 listeners, 20,000 subscribers, 3000 voters, 3000/200,000 = 1.5% of listeners with all the power, according to Joe. The rest, 197,000, are shut out of power by the dictatorial 3000.

This is silly. Many of the 180,000 non-subscribing listeners must have the means to subscribe, but choose not to, so forget them. Their actions show they are not interested in Pacifica. Also, the 17,000 non-voting members have the right to vote if they want. Perhaps at a crisis point some of them will use that right. At least they have it if they need it.

One thing I like about a democratic system is that the people who really care enough will inform themselves and vote. The others, who don't pay attention, or don't care or whatever, choose not to use this right. Their choice. If by their actions they show their desire not to participate, they should not be seen as shut out of power.

The point is the denominator in Joe's equation should not be 200,000, but 3000 + the number of people who would like be members and vote but can't due to financial constraints.



From: Carolyn Birden
Date: Thu Aug 1, 2002 12:53 am
Subject: [WBAIBylaws] Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models

Voodoo statistics. It comes from the same mindset that made "How to Lie With Statistics" one of the bestselling math books of all time. cmb


From: dailyvigiler
Date: Thu Aug 1, 2002 12:20 am
Subject: Re: Joe Kaye: Inclusion vs. Subscription Models


Some other numbers to consider:

1,500 -- the most people to turn out for a demonstration against the coup in the WBAI signal area (the April demo)

6,000 -- the approximate number of WBAI subscribers who boycotted the fund drives during the coup.

12,000 -- the approximate number of WBAI subscribers who did not boycott during the coup.

30 -- the number of staff who were fired and banned

150 -- the number of staff who were not fired and banned

Paul Surovell

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