Regarding the Berkeley interim Pacifica
national board meeting and broadcast
From: Gregory Wonderwheel
Date: Thu Jun 27, 2002 12:20 pm
Subject: IPNB meeting better than "good radio"
Last weekend's meeting of the Interim Pacifica National Board of Directors in Berkeley was well worth the effort to drive an hour to get there. I hope that people listening in also were rewarded. I heard a fellow call in to the Living Room show hosted by Kris Welch and say he thought it was great to hear and better than any advertisement. This made me think again about why we appreciate having the board meetings broadcast.
There are some, as Board Chair Leslie Cagan intimated at the meeting, who would say broadcasting Board meetings is not "good radio." But more important than being "good," in what ever sense it may mean in that context, is being "alive" or "real" radio. One need only Imagine if CBS, ABC or NBC broadcast their Board meetings to understand the significance of Pacifica doing so. It truly sets us apart as a network that we can broadcast something so real in the life of the organization that produces the media. It makes communication the real goal, not just entertainment or propaganda or sales. Truly remarkable!
As a cynic, I get my fill at Pacifica. My dictionary says the word cynic comes from the Greek meaning like a hound dog. I guess its all that howling. The word has two almost diametrically opposed meanings. First it indicates the school of philosophy that holds the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence. Second it means a faultfinding captious critic, especially one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest. To my mind, virtue doesn't seem to go with faultfinding.
But of course, the two meanings are often combined in emotional reaction. When one believes in the virtue of independence and witnesses the practicalities of politics giving up independence at every turn for compromise, it seems apparent that some forms of self-interest have a much greater sway over people than the virtue of self-control and independence. Or is one of the virtues of "self control" the control to compromise one's independence?
These are deep waters, but one may ask what's this got to do with Pacifica? Well the Board meeting started off with a "key note address" from the Chair, Leslie ("don't call me madam") Cagan, sounding very maternal and scolding the Pacifica children for "back biting" and bickering. Then during public comment through out the meeting there were some great statements as well as some loud and raucous interruptions.
It is clear that there is some polarizing going on in the Pacifica group dynamic. While everyone on the outside facing the old board could feel united and support the interruptive behavior of some, now that the new board is sitting that same behavior is seen as divisive and self-defeating. Well that behavior may be very self defeating but it is no less valid now than it was before. It arises from the same source, feeling unheard.
The big difference in how it is received now is that the Board is perceived by most, and certainly by its own members, as being the "good" side which doesn't deserve being attacked. The Interim Directors see themselves as being about the business of fixing the foundation. Any criticism toward them is seen as an attack by disgruntled crazy listeners. Especially if the criticism is not in the most polite terms. The Board becomes polarized with the community and starts sympathizing with the likes of Mary Francis Berry in having to deal the "public" comment. The worst part is that all listeners may become tarred in the minds of the Directors with the impoliteness of the shouting listeners at the meeting. Then they fear giving any authority or power to the listeners.
I hope both Directors and the rowdy listeners (including me) will learn to deal with each other better. Personally my expectations appear to be unrealistically high and I have a very difficult time letting them go. There has been and is progress being made even though the Board is not showing much in the way of creative vision to date. The choice for executive director was conservative and "safe" for the Directors rather than clearly setting a direction. Perhaps this does make sense in the interim climate, but it isn't what many of the activists want. And indeed the announcement was made without any reference to direction. Also after being announced as the new Executive Director, Coughlin continued to remain sitting in the audience or going in and out. This was very bizarre from my point of view. The Executive Director is the one officer of a non-profit who must sit with the Board of Directors through out the meeting: so the Board knows he is hearing what is going on and will implement their decisions and so he will be available for questions. The new ED's behavior of going in and out of the meeting, talking on the phone, and remaining in the audience when present is totally inappropriate to me. There was no public comment on this by any of the Directors.
We are also still waiting for the promised financial transparency. After six months the Board still doesn't have accurate financial data upon which to know what has been spent. Severance packages and the Democracy Now! contract were signed without board approval and the DN! contract only ratified after the fact. These examples show that the new Board doesn't easily understand its fiduciary duty and role in the organization.
I now believe that we won't see much in the way of changes in Pacifica until after a new Board is seated that is not interim, and then it will probably take another two years. The question now is whether the Interim Board will adopt bylaws that reflect listener aspirations or whether the Board will react negatively to the handful of rowdy listeners at meetings and say "no way are we letting these people vote for directors." It remains incumbent on listeners to work with the bylaws committees and the LABs to create and sustain the momentum for listener democracy in Pacifica. Certainly since most community radio stations have listener elections there is no basic reason for Pacifica not to finally catch up rather than remaining "the first which became last."
BIG THANKS to Jim Bennet for not prostletizing , cya-ing or otherwise editorialising OVER the proceedings a la bernad or Bensky.
I am very grateful.
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