wbai.net Pacifica/WBAI history   events   links   archive   bylaws etc   gov. proposals
PNB   LSB   elections   contact info   opinion   search

Towards a Democratic Pacifica - Framing the Debate


After a very long struggle to democratize the entire process at Pacifica and its local stations, the Listeners Movement has won a tremendous victory, with elections to the WBAI Station Board (formerly known as the LAB) to be held by the end of the year! Now we have to ensure that the elections are run democratically, and that Listeners take part in defining the mission of the Station Boards and in writing new bylaws for the running of WBAI as well as the Pacifica National Board. The basic elements of the Pacifica Mission as provided in the articles of incorporation are:
• operate a self-sustaining radio station for educational purposes
• provide an outlet for the creative skills and energy of the community
• teach radio, engage in activities that spread understanding between nations, and individuals of all races, creeds and colors
• disseminate information on conflicts between such groups, and study the origins of antagonisms
• disseminate public information from alternative news sources that provide accurate comprehensive news

Elections of Station Board members in 12 months and Pacifica National Board members in 15 months and the establishment of democratic processes within the stations are basic to this new democratic decision-making. We recognize that elections alone do not guarantee a progressive outcome and no structure, however, elegant or clever, substitutes for the political and ideological development of its members. Nevertheless, democratic rather than authoritarian structures and the free flow of ideas can help to mobilize and educate listeners to more effectively defend Pacifica and define a progressive and radical program content.

Here in the WBAI listening area we have already started working on democratizing decision-making. Last year the Elections Committee of Concerned Friends of WBAI worked on draft guidelines for Station Board elections. The Exploratory Committee of the WBAI Local Advisory Board is working to revise the Station Board bylaws and to develop the proposed structure for the election of station board members at WBAI. We have presented programs on how the election procedures at KPFA worked so successfully in their first two elections of Station Board representatives.

To facilitate continued discussion and debate on the election process we have outlined below the fundamental issues and many other important questions for consideration. You can read more about the different proposals in response by going to www.wbai.net. Your comments are more than welcome; they are vitalif we are going to reinvent our radio station and network on the basis of grassroots democracy.


The purpose of this section is to involve listeners in developing a conceptual basis to assess and evaluate the many ideas and proposals being put forth for a democratic Pacifica. As we shape our responses to the fundamental issues of membership, voting, and the election of station boards and the Pacifica National Board, there are four essential questions that must be considered:

1. How do we sustain the mission of Pacifica in a structure that protects against a hostile takeover from without and the accumulation of power by elite groups from within?

2. How do we foster participation by people of color, women, gay, lesbian transgender, disabled, youth, seniors and working class people historically excluded or underrepresented in corporate media? Along with this how do we strengthen the Pacifica mission to make explicit the network's role as a forum for anti-racist and anti-sexist progressive and radical thought?

3. How do we provide for local station autonomy while ensuring against the balkanization of the Pacifica network? Or alternatively, how do we provide for local autonomy while sustaining an effective national organization?

4. How do we balance the interests of listeners, producers and staff to ensure fair representation at the local and national levels?


• Who has the right to be a member of the Pacifica Foundation and vote in elections? The two primary models being considered are the Subscription Model (membership and voting requires only payment of a fee) and the Participation Model (membership and voting requires payment of a fee and participation in defined listener functions or activities). Which model shall we use, or shall we use a model that combines features of both? If so, which features? (An additional fundamental issue to be taken up later is whether membership and voting rules should be the same for all station areas. If not, we must consider how the Pacifica Foundation will be structured to ensure fair representation of all listening areas)


• Shall we use the KPFA model which allows for preference voting and proportional representation. or some other method?

• And, should method of choosing Station Boards be standardized across the network?


• Shall election of Pacifica National Board members be by direct vote of the listeners (locally and/or nationally) or by vote of Station Board representatives?


1. What is the purpose of a station board?
2. What should a station board do?
3. What should be the relationship of a station board to the station?
4. to the listeners?
5. to the Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors?

6. What should be the activities of station board members?
7. What responsibilities would they have?
8. What would be their obligations?
9. Financial disclosure? What facts about support, membership or finances should a candidate for the Station Board be required to make public?
10. Terms of office: 2 years? 1 year? No term limits?

11. What should be the composition of the station board?
12. How many total?
13. How many of staff?
14. How many of listeners?
15. How many elected BY listeners?
16. How many elected BY staff?
17. Are there other constituencies that should elect members to the Board?
18. Should present members of the LAB be grandfathered into the new SB?
19. If so, in what proportion to new members?
20. Should ALL members of the Station Board be elected?
21. Should ANY be appointed? If so, by whom?

22. All listeners?
23. All who purchased "memberships"?
24. What about those who could not afford full memberships?
25. If you have lived in the signal area for how long?
26. If you donated at least (how much money?) or (how many?) volunteer hours to any of the following:
  a. any Pacifica station (maybe they moved here recently)?
  b. any of the 3 lawsuits against Pacifica?
  c. Pacifica Listeners Union?
  d. Pacifica Campaign?
  e. Concerned Friends of WBAI?
  f. Committee for a Democratic Pacifica-NY?
  g. Elections Committee?
  h. Other?
  i. Voter registration--How? When? How receive ballot?

27. Anyone?
28. Those nominated by the Station Board?
29. Those nominated by specific organizations?
30. Should slate voting be allowed or only individuals?
31. By petitioning Listeners?
   a. Who is eligible to sign?
   b. How many signatures needed?
32. Should candidates be required to answer questions posed by the Elections Committee and publicized in an official brochure?

33. What issues should the listeners' hours (3 a week) cover on WBAI?
34. When would the three best times be for the listeners' hours to broadcast each week?
35. How much air time should each candidate have during the Station Board campaign period?

36. How should the General Manager of the station be chosen?
37. Should members have the right to bring ballot initiatives or referenda before the whole body?
38. Should members have the right to recall elected Station and National Board members who fail to uphold the Pacifica mission?

39. Should there be a Program Council?
40. If so, what are its duties vis-a-vis the Station Board?
41. Should listeners have representatives on the Program Council?
42. What will be the relationship of the Program Council to the Program Director?

43. Campaign period (How many weeks?)
44. Calendar of all campaign events.
45. What activity would result in disqualification?
46. Voting method (Hanging chads?; Proportional Representation? Majority rule?)
47. Verification of ballots (dates)
48. Announcement of election results - where and when?
49. Who should carry out the election?
50. How will we find out about the candidates?
51. What if we don't like the Station Board that gets elected?
52. How often will elections happen?
53. What if there is a problem with the procedures themselves? (Arbitration panel?)

Please find these and other questions posted on www.wbai.net. You can answer them there, read other responses, and download material to distribute to your neighbors and friends.

This outline is written by Howard Brandstein and Mitchel Cohen with assistance from Carolyn Birden, Eve Moser, Rob Dickey, Andrea Fishman, Patty Hefley, Sonia Rosen, Larry Romsted, Stephen Brown, Steve Salchow, Bryan Williams, Bert Reimers, Steffie Brooks, Annette Averette and others on the Elections Committee of Concerned Friends of WBAI. It is intended as a guide to facilitate discussion about the democratization of Pacifica. Much of this has been culled from documents provided by the Elections Committee of Concerned Friends of WBAI, who you can write to at:

P.O. Box 250816
New York, NY 10025
Subscribe: WBAIelections-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

top of page | governance proposals | bylaws etc | home