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Pacifica's New Bylaws: A Victory for All of Us

by Mitchel Cohen Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003 at 6:46 PM
mitchelcohen@mindspring.com (718) 449-0037

The third (of five) radio station advisory boards voted Saturday for an historic set of bylaws for the Pacifica radio network. This was the last hurdle required under a Settlement Agreement to get the anti-war network back on track, and ends a period of vicious acrimony within the Pacifica community, which has important reprecussions for all Independent media in the United States.

The overwhelming majority of listeners-members-donors at the 5 Pacifica radio stations and the many affilited or associated stations have FINALLY won the right to democratically determine who will represent us on the various governing bodies of the network.

You'd never know this HUGE victory for all of us -- and I do mean ALL of us -- has occurred, judging by the frenzied posts to IndyMedia lists across the country written by a few people who opposed approval of these bylaws.

The nitty gritty of it all is this: The fight has NOTHING to do with affirmative action, although a few people have tried to frame it that way to play off of the fears of those who are not informed about what the bylaws actually say. The fight is actually about:

a) Listener-members' rights to democratically elect the Local Station Board representatives, which had previously been a self-selecting group;

b) Accountability: The right of listener-members and staff, through their representatives, to influence the selection of the general manager and select the program director at their station, require regular reports to and from the listeners, develop coherent outreach plans into diverse communities, and seat representatives of affiliated stations and associates on the national board (among many other terrific improvements).

c) Transparency: Opening up of the financial records of each station to the Board. There have been reports of much chicanery with listener donations, for instance, at WBAI in New York, with no financial oversight from the Local Advisory Board. Some well-known names at the station may well be involved in misappropriation of funds (to put it genteely). But no one could determine exactly what was going on because the books suddenly disappeared. NOW there will be investigations into whether a few individuals lined their pockets with our contributions, and new procedures instituted to guarantee the proper use of listener donations.

d) Beating back the campaign of COINTELPRO-type disinformation and lies on behalf of the Democratic Leadership Council, which was (and remains) interested in taking over Pacifica and obliterating its leftist and antiwar political perspective. (Remember Bill Clinton's election eve frustration in pitching for Al Gore during a routine phone call to the station 3 years ago, only to bump heads with Amy Goodman who seized the glorious moment to challenge his policies?)

The new bylaws are boring to read, like all such corporate documents. But unlike those other corporate bylaws, Pacifica's new bylaws enfranchise listener-members, giving them control for the first time at Pacifica (let alone any other corporation). It is this vast sweep of democracy's broom that some of those who have entrenched themselves at WBAI, or opportunists at KPFK, for example, most fear.

Viva Democracy! Viva IndyMedia! Viva KPFK and Pacifica!

Mitchel Cohen
The Greens/Green Party USA
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