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KPFA Affirms Authority of It's Program Council

[ A second opinion lower on this page ]


To: WBAIBylaws@yahoogroups.com
From: Mike Lubin
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 07:50:43 -0000
Subject: KPFA empowers its Program Council

Despite heavy staff opposition, and threatening noises from top-down, pro-management, anti-board, anti-democracy Executive Director Dan Coughlin, the KPFA station board Sunday passed a motion empowering its mostly-elected Program Council to make programming decisions. The General Manager now has the right to overturn PC decisions only if they pose a legal risk, contradict a union contract or disciplinary provision, or if the GM believes they would cause grave financial harm to the station. But even then, the PC can appeal to the LSB, which can set aside the GM's decision and reinstate the PC's decision.

The motion was originally proposed at last week's special meeting by Carol Spooner and Steve Conley, the only two LSB members also on the Program Council, but the motion was still on the table when that meeting ended. It was amended last week to require PC consultation with Associate Station KFCF in Fresno. Another amendment passed last week was rescinded before the motion's final passage. It would have imposed a minority veto within the PC.

On Sunday, the meeting began at 12:00, and proceeded directly to this motion right after housekeeping and public comments. But it wasn't until 5:00 p.m. that Carol and Steve's motion finally passed, 13-10, with Riva Enteen not voting because she's chair (though she stated her support last week) and Annie Hallett not present (she left today just when the real debate was starting, but had already come out against the motion).

Actually, the most critical vote was at 4:25, when we finally voted to cap debate after 25 more minutes. The vote was 16-8, with Riva having to cast the decisive vote in favor to make the two-thirds. Those opposed were Bonnie Simmons, Mary Berg, Max Pringle, William Walker, and Lisa Rothman from the staff, and Mark Hernandez, Sarv Randhawa, and Willie Ratcliff from the listeners. Marnie Tattersall and Willie Thompson, who had previously voted against calling the question on the main motion (except I think Marnie once), and who voted against the motion in the final vote, broke ranks to call the question.

For a full list of KPFA board members, please go to

I have my own opinions about how various people conducted themselves, but I'm not going to fling mud here. It was pretty much a hardball political dogfight from start to finish, on both sides.

Those proposing motions were (at least) the following: Howard Beeman, Lisa, Mary, Mark, and Sarv. My memory's a little blurry right now -- there may have been others. Howard's amendment -- to rescind the minority veto language -- was the only one that passed. Then, there were a bunch of amendments proposed by staff and Sarv. Mark waited very patiently through all this before finally gaining recognition from the chair to present his two thoughtful, though in my opinion flawed, proposals -- one of which was supposed to go to committee, the other of which was a proposed substitute for the main motion. But both were voted down -- though interestingly Fadi Saba, though otherwise siding with (and finally voting for) the main motion, voted to replace it with Mark's lengthy substitute. Other than that, the 13 member board majority favoring the motion (not counting the chair) acted as a disciplined block, voting together to rescind Sarv's amendment, rejecting all amendments, repeatedly trying to call the question and force a vote, and finally passing the motion.

Some of the proposed amendments smacked of stalling to me, since it became obviously pretty early on that the majority wanted to pass the main motion as it was (once the minority veto langauge had been stricken). Exhaustion finally prevailed, we got the 25-minute limit, I think Mark may have made a final proposal right after that, there were a few closing comments by board members, and then the final vote, by roll call. Jane Jackson and Miguel Molina, who had originally resolved to leave no later than 3:30 and 4:00, respectively, stayed loyally (if not patiently) till this vote, then left immediately. Miguel was the only staff member who supported the motion.

We then got a surprising amount of routine business and housekeeping resolved in the final hour of the meeting, notably the issue of current Program Council membership, before finally adjourning around 6:15. As usual, the meeting, scheduled for three hours, took precisely six hours. As usual, we didn't deal with a large part of the agenda -- most importantly, Carol and Steve's second motion, specifically concerning the time switch that would move put the Morning Show on from 8-10 (instead of 7-9) and Democracy Now! on at 7-8 (instead of 6-7 and 9-10) in order to allow DN! to reach a wider audience. We also heard no reports from committees, though we did discuss their work a little at the end. Interim GM Jim Bennett wasn't there to present his scheduled report. We failed to approve minutes from either of two station board meetings (I believe we originally approved one, but it was rescinded following a complaint by Jane). We did very briefly convene as delegates at the very beginning and approve the minutes of the delegates' meeting of February 18.

We also did not get to the issue of scheduling LSB meetings at different locations. We did, however, approve the dates for the next two meetings: a special meeting on May 8, and a regular meeting on May 22. Carol expressed her opinion that we need to get used to meeting twice a month to get through all we have on our plate, and I daresay she is right. The special meeting will deal with the morning changes motion among other urgent, long-postponed orders of business. And we decided to start our meetings at 11:00 a.m. from now on. (Which means they'll probably end at 5:00 p.m.!)

--Michael Lubin, KFPA LSB

Here's the language we passed:

Resolved that:
Whereas, it is the duty of the KPFA LSB: "To work with station management to ensure that station programming fulfills the purposes of the Foundation and is responsive to the diverse needs of the listeners (demographic) and communities (geographic) served by the station, and that station policies and procedures for making programming decisions and for program evaluation are working in a fair, collaborative and respectful manner to provide quality programming." Bylaws, Article Seven, Section 3.G.

Therefore, the KPFA LSB adopts and approves the programming decision-making policy and procedure agreed upon by the KPFA management and Program Council at their retreat on November 18, 2003, specifically:

We affirm the power of the Program Council to make programming decisions by majority vote, and to affirm the composition of the program council to include as voting members, management (programming and development), department heads (music, drama and literature, training, news, and future public affairs), unpaid staff (4 plus 2 alternates), and Local Advisory Board, which elects 3, and appoints 3 community representatives, and in timely consultation with KFCF and other Associate Station management, which shall have access to the Program Council, access to all relevant information and input on any programming proposals that impact KFCF or other Associate Stations and their listeners.

Further, the LSB adopts the following policy: The General Manager may override a programming decision made by the Program Council in the following cases: (1) legal issues that pose a threat to the broadcast license, (2) personnel issues where the programming decision conflicts with a disciplinary action taken by the GM, (3) violations of the KPFA union contract, and (4) where the GM believes the decision would cause serious financial harm to the station.

If the General Manager overrides a programming decision made by the Program Council, the Program Council may appeal to the LSB to override the General Manager.


Another view:

From: Mark Hernandez
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 06:20:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: KPFA empowers its Program Council

Unfortunately, in his zeal to strut and crow, Michael fails to point out several things...

1) The LSB has no authority to direct the GM to do anything. The LSB only has the power to _review_ management and, *IF* the ED agrees, fire the GM.

2) The LSB can review and approve the budget; however, because of the nature of public radio, if the LSB tries to do anything, the station can simply operate on a 'proposed budget', likely with the backing of the CFO, and ignore the LSB. This would be done in the name of "protecting the license".

3) It violates the requirement that the LSB work _collaboratively_ with the GM on developing policy, as it bypasses both the GM and the LSB, and allows the PC to make policy on its own, with no accountability.

Moreover, Michael's editorializing is written to make it appear that any person who opposed the motion was anti-democratic by innuendo and guilt by association.

My opposition to the motion was based on the above failings I saw designed into the motion, deliberately or not.

As well, I made four efforts at trying to develop a compromise proposal that would get staff to 'buy into' the process; all attempts to even discuss such a compromise were rejected or ignored.

Interesting to note is that it was that alternate proposal that got staff to break ranks and actually vote for a change, whereas none of the staff voted for the prevailing proposal.

Of note also is that the proposal that passed maintains the Program Council as a tool of management, whereas the alternative proposal placed the Program Council under the authority of the LSB.

The question comes then whether the intent of the proposal was to actually empower the Program Council (which it does not), or if the intent of the proposal was to get staff and management to bend knee and swear fealty to the LSB...even though staff is _supposed_ to be a part of the LSB and PNB governance process, and despite the fact that the Program Council is still a tool of station management, with no accountability to anyone else.

Mark Hernandez - LSB member, KPFA

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