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Proposal for stucturing program councils

(Submitted to the interim Pacifica National Board on September 3, 2002, originally submitted to the KPFK Bylaws Subcommittee, June 9, 2002)
by Jonathan Markowitz

Programming Councils: The Heart and Soul of Pacifica's Governance"... a proposal for an accountable structure for the governance of programming, to be incorporated into Pacifica's new bylaws.


I propose a dynamic governance concept of structural "checks and balances" that would address the needs and concerns of the station communities regarding programming by facilitating an unprecedented degree of involvement by the listening communities in determining the station's programming.

The primary component of this concept would be the creation of a station Programming Council process, whose core members would be the elected Station Board whom would have the specific power to intercede on behalf of listeners regarding programming decisions by the station management.

Through the holding of monthly public Programming Council meetings designated for community input, review and critique of current and proposed programming, a viable and flexible instrument of process will be created to provide a regular forum at which members of the community at large would have opportunity to address or "counsel" the Station Board in regard to concerns over present or proposed programming.

In addition, the Programming Council process would function, when needed, as an unofficial body in which the first stage of dispute or conflict resolution concerning programming problems could take place.

The Programming Council's decisions should reflect the communities' needs and wishes as determined through inclusive and fair Council processes. In this sense a democratic process would be facilitated for all to participate in or witness, thereby providing a mandate for specific action by the Programming Council's Station Board members regarding decisions over station programming.

The qualitative effect of an ongoing public "council" process would cross over into all aspects concerning the progressive communities that Pacifica stations serve. In doing so, such councils or gatherings, if held at different meeting halls throughout the signal area, would function as community town hall meetings at which the people who constitute the Pacifica family can become more integrated politically, socially and culturally in a way is not possible through any other process. By live-broadcasting such meetings, the community would have the ability to "come together" in a vibrant process through the signal's "voice". In order to function effectively, Programming Council meetings would need to be held on a monthly basis (in addition to monthly Station Board meetings) and if needed could be held more often to solve or mediate a programming crisis or other Pacifica related problem. To insure the accountability of the Programming Council process, listeners who are qualified to vote would have the power to call special elections to replace Station Board members whose programming decisions or recommendations are not representing the concerns or needs of the community.

Similarly, listeners who are qualified to vote should have the power to remove a station general manager directly if the situation warrants it. Of course, in order to insure that Pacifica's mission is being served and to protect the station licenses, the Pacifica National Board, through the establishment of a Pacifica National Programming Council, made up of 2/3 of the PNB, would also have the power to remove a station General Manager who may be making programming changes that are antithetical to the mission, or who may not be taking quick action to rectify a technical problem such as prolonged signal degradation or loss, or remove a programmer who is in violation of FCC law. Such determinations by the National Programming Council would be conducted in as public of a way as possible utilizing the signal to once again make such processes accountable to the listeners. Additionally, Pacifica programs that are produced on a national basis would be reviewed by the National Programming Council to insure national programming does not veer away from the Mission.

Hence you have a basic governance system pertaining to programming that includes the necessary checks and balances to insure the relevance of that programming to the community and to Pacifica's mission.


Author's note: In order to ensure diversity regarding ethnicity and gender, I firmly support a proportional representative or affirmative action process applied to the station board or programming council election results.

Unlike proposed "constituency" models, which merely empower an elite body with additional authority to designate and appoint who will be represented and by whom, in the following structure below, board candidates who represent the disenfranchised or oppressed in our society will have a more than equal opportunity to engage with voters through campaign process, vigorously supported by the utilization of the station signal.

In spite of the good intentions of some of its supporters, simply put, the "constituency" model is on a structural level nothing more than an APPOINTMENT model with all the automatically included tendencies to cronyism; and merely echoes the structure that's been in place at Pacifica for the last 53 years. The appointment model has resulted in a politically motivated entrenchment of the worst of the programming legacy of Pacifica's Strategic Five Year plan by the cronied circles of appointed power that still rule the majority of Pacifica's boards and still hold programming staff positions at the stations.

By mandating that open campaign processes be a 'must-carry' for broadcast by the station for such things as candidate debates, as well as programming councils & meetings, town hall meetings and the like, a democratic process will be created simply by utilizing the signal, thereby facilitating dialogue throughout the communities regarding candidate qualifications, etc. J.M.

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