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DAILY REPORTS and Documents | iPNB Berkeley meeting info

Presented at the iPNB meeting in Berkeley June 21 - 23, 2002

David L. Moore
June 2002
University of Montana
PacificaNow! Conference/
San Francisco
Interim Pacifica National Board Meeting/

NOTE: This proposal was endorsed by the By-Laws caucus at the June 18-21 Pacifica Now! Conference in San Francisco, and presented as a resolution of the Conference to the interim Pacifica National Board at their open meeting on Friday, June 21, 2002, in Berkeley.

Ethics Proposal for the Revised By-Laws
Draft language: "Local boards and the national board will establish periodic qualitative review of Pacifica operations and productions at every level of the network to maintain accountability to Pacifica's mission of contributing to understanding among individuals and societies."

As part of the governance structure, those with democratic authority on the local and national levels should have the responsibility to maintain and promote a code of ethics within Pacifica. Ultimately, in the democratic process, everyone in the network bears that responsibility. A governance structure for qualitative, ethical review of Pacifica affairs can be built into the backbone of the network to foster a forum for dialogue while promoting individual free speech. Building a culture of open, honest, and respectful communication among differences within the network is a necessary step toward the mission "that shall contribute to lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds, and colors." (Article II, Subsection (a) 1971)

The by-laws need not spell out the operations procedures in detail for such a code, nor for the training and promoting a culture of consultation. Yet the by-laws do need to provide for a governance structure to establish and be accountable to such a code, since development of an alternative culture takes grass roots leadership, and this is the democratic design for Pacifica.

Everyone in the network is aware of a need for improved communications at meetings, among staff, and occasionally on the air. The erosion and near loss of Pacifica's mission was due partly to the failure of communication between pacifist dialogue and dissent. The point of communicative ethics is not merely to maintain civility, nor to be "nice," but to maintain efficiency and fairness in allowing multiple and diverse viewpoints to reach common decisions. Communication is not only information but interaction as well. Precisely because the medium is the message, Pacifica's unique media principles will develop in the political sphere to the degree that Pacifica's own broadcast productions, community outreach, and internal communications imagine and demonstrate those principles in peaceful action.

Toward a Code of Communication and Trust
A Pacifica Code of Ethics needs four different Pacifica perspectives, all governed by the first, the mission. In varying degrees, each perspective addresses both the standard limitations on free speech (the seven banned obscenities; personal attacks; incitements to violence; etc.) plus ethical communication unique to Pacifica. Here is a brief description of those four areas for development of a code:

1. Pacifica's Mission: Other statements can be usefully engaged, but here is one version: "To promote cultural diversity and pluralistic community expression; Contribute to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; Promote freedom of the press and serve as a forum for various viewpoints; Maintain an independent funding base." Pacifica workers can fairly be measured against such values.
2. Organizational ethics: Originally, Pacifica attempted to break the Wobblies' divide between labor and management, and now the democratic structures currently being built may promote communication as well as power sharing. Specific relations between the administration, the workers, and the community of listeners must be mapped in terms not only of communication patterns but also of fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities for this public trust.
3. Journalistic ethics: Various national associations of journalists and broadcasters have articulated codes of ethics for their members, generally around the principles of truth, fairness, and objectivity in communicating the news. Pacifica should codify its mission for understanding and resolving the causes of human conflict in balance with such codes of truth-telling. This area relates especially to Pacifica's mission as a forum for dialogue toward building social understanding.
4. Activist ethics: This area relates especially to Pacifica's mission as a voice for the voiceless, as a forum for dissent as well as dialogue. The activist presence in Pacifica is the closest the network comes to an "open mike" format, and is the most direct arena for Pacifica's commitment to freedom of speech without censorship. This is where the individual choices for communication take precedence, inside a larger structure of programmatic and ethical review.

The Process Quantifying Quality
If Pacifica's principles of non-violent communication require radical cultural change on the individual level, how can Pacifica as an institution foster those principles in a non-violent way within its own community? The issue is first and last administrative: who makes decisions as to whether fairness continues in broadcast discussions and in network and station politics?

We can explore the institutionalization of Pacifica's principles of dialogue and dissent in the hiring, staffing, and management at every level of the organization, including broadcasters, volunteers, local staff, LAB and program council members and their election campaigns, station managers, national board members, etc. How might review boards maintain the balance of dissent and dialogue in managing the stations?

We can consider the pros and cons of a Pacifica code of ethical communication and of generating a Pacifica culture radically different from the oppositional paradigms of contemporary politics. There must be room for satire, for humor, for challenging insight, for cultural differences, for contrary questioning, for idiosyncrasy, etc. More than that, those individual and diverse qualities are the lifeblood of the network. The anarchist principle of the individual responsibility of the broadcaster is one of Lew Hill's founding rationales for the original management structures of Pacifica, where staff and management were the same pool of people, so that policy is tied to practice.

To avoid limiting freedom of speech, to avoid arbitrarily legislating a morality of communication, and to avoid personal vendettas in the name of a code of ethics, the burden of maintaining such Pacifica principles of non-violent communication should remain an administrative mandate balanced by review boards, falling first on station managers and programming directors, but under the oversight of the LABs, program councils, or specific committees for this ethical review. As a net rather than a tightrope, a Pacifica code of ethics would work by a combination of administrative procedures such as periodic employee and volunteer job reviews, plus on-going community efforts to build a Pacifica culture of non-violent communication.

The Need
A Pacifica mission and a democratic structure are not enough to ensure that the network will avoid being co-opted again by dominant American cultural values of conformity and private profit rather than community and social justice. There is a careful and committed rebuilding process now going on, with a two-part strategy for both theory and practice, both clearly rearticulating Pacifica's mission for the 21st century and building democratic structures for governance of the network. That rebuilding is essential but not sufficient for the revitalization of Pacifica. We need to weave the mission into the structure.

The danger of misdirection remains because adversarial politics and their ultimate logic, violence, can drive democratic processes. Democracy can be diverted by demagoguery or covertly corrupt leadership. Perhaps any structure can be corrupted and any vow to uphold a mission (or a constitution) can be broken either consciously or unconsciously, willfully or unwittingly. Raising consciousness or understanding is primary and is central to Pacifica's mission but the challenge is to build that consciousness into Pacifica as well. That consciousness could be approached structurally by instituting Pacifica ethics into review boards.

The Paradox
The problem is both quantitative, an issue of structuring representational numbers into position of power, and qualitative, an issue of values or ethics. This qualitative level of the issue must of course be addressed by choices at the individual level, but it can also be approached socially by A) promoting a Pacifica culture of consultation and respectful dialogue and B) by designing qualitative review into the structures of Pacifica. Thus a code of ethics.

In spite of this danger of losing sight of Pacifica values, the hopeful paradox is that we can build steps which will repeatedly ensure the revalidation of those values. The challenge is to both recognize these dangers and to launch a system for dealing with them.

Before And After Beginning To Work For Pacifica
It might be useful to remember how basically simple such a code of ethics can remain. For instance, some of the more general points selected from the iPNB's hiring criteria for the current Executive Director search might serve as a useful model for a Pacifica code:

  1. Familiarity with Pacifica: mission, history, challenges we face
  2. Vision for Pacifica in the future
  3. Management experience and style of management
  4. Experience in multi-cultural settings and working with diverse constituencies
  5. Fund raising and budget management skills/experience
  6. Work in radio or other media outlets, especially independent and alternative

Clearly, these are relevant criteria for Pacifica workers at every level, whether management or labor, staff or volunteer, and the challenge is simply to set up a system for regularly reviewing workers by these same criteria after they come on board.

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