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The Focus - part 2

From: John Sheridan
Date: Wed Mar 28, 2001 10:18am
Subject: Democratization

R. Paul,

I realize the situation in NY is very different than at KPFA, or the other member stations. Even so, I believe that we must attempt to move beyond the personalities and all the jockeying to simultaneously discuss substantive, structural issues of future governance. If we do not, and the crisis, including the lawsuits, has any sort of quick resolution (such as a general likelihood that lawsuits don't go to trial but instead settle), we will be stuck in the type of situation you say stank in November. This would be an intolerable and tragic waste of the mobilization of the listeners, many of whom are now and have been spending enormous amounts of time and energy trying to save the network. They deserve leadership on the issue of democratization from the staffs of the stations, who hold key roles in the struggle.

If one knows better that merely rolling back the clock a couple of years is totally inadequate, it is part of one's duty to the greater community listening to the stations to work to raise consciousness, promote the discussion of models of democratic participation (e.g. Proportional Representation, a form of which was used in the KPFA LAB elections) and look for ways to legitimize - by elections - any future development of the movement to save the network. Otherwise we truly risk annointing a few people who will then go back to eventually ruling by fiat or by a wink and a nod, as has often been done. Out the window will go the entirely logical demands for accountability, transparency and more direct participation by the listeners who are the true stakeholders of Pacifica.

There was suspicion by some staff at KPFA of elections to the KPFA LAB, but early on listener-activists made it a part of our organizing. The KPFA LAB then created at the behest of Listeners an active committee to develop elections to the LAB. This gave the impetus, which was grassroots-driven, an entre and legitimacy which made future organizing easier and was very necessary to a successful election. Clearly it's going to be harder at WBAI with the civil war within the station, or at KPFK which is Schubb-verted or KPFT or WPFW. That shouldn't deter the debate and development of models.

I am calling for such leadership from staff - who are now actively engaged in seeking autonomy from the PNB, or redress, or the sacking of the PNB and who want to enlist the aid of listeners and others to achieve that end. To say the listeners aren't sophisticated enough to appreciate the need for more involvement in the network they pay for seems to vastly underestimate the great potential for democratic participation. The a prior conclusion it can't be done means of course that it won't, and no leadership will be forthcoming from those quarters. I hope the great activism created by the grotesque usurpation of the PNB will demand such leadership and partnership - or I hope they remember it if it's not offered, and we defeat Pacifica.

I disagree that listener-elected reps to station Program Councils, something even less discussed than LAB elections, is a bad idea. It works well at KPFA now. The reps are elected via the KPFA LAB and serve under its auspices. Our current rep, Rachel Jackson, is not in awe of the producers at KPFA, though such is always a possibility. No system is perfect, but we must find the most integrated way to bind the stations to those they serve, and not just come to the listeners 3 times a year for money. We are past that stage, it seems to me.

Democracy is a way to keep things from falling apart. It was the lack of it that helped get us in this mess in the first place.

-- John

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