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Resolution nears for Pacifica Foundation

By Judith Scherr, Daily Planet staff
Tuesday November 20, 2001

The fight that’s raged between those who want a more democratic rule at the Pacifica Foundation and the majority of Pacifica Board of Directors inched closer to a positive end during the weekend, when the board adopted a plan to transition to a more representative governance. 

Attending the Washington, D.C. meeting were five “dissident” board members – including the Bay Area’s Pete Bramson and Tomas Moran – and five members of the majority board. The board members known as “dissident” are those working to democratize the Pacifica Foundation, which holds the license to the five listener-sponsored radio stations. 

According to Moran, the plan, agreed to by all who attended, is as follows: 

• All current board members would resign. 

• Five members would be appointed by the majority board members. 

• Five members would be appointed by “dissident” board members. 

• Five would be appointed by the heads of the Local Advisory Boards. Within six months, these would be replaced by representatives of LABS elected at each radio station.  

Will this work? 

That won’t be known until all the board members resign and others take their places, Moran said in a telephone interview Monday. There are no guarantees.  

“The only guarantee is to do it,” to actually reconstitute the board, Moran said. 

Then that “transitional” board will tackle what Moran calls the “hot issues.”  

One is reinstituting the program “Democracy Now!,” which is no longer broadcast throughout the five-station network. Another will be formalizing the station’s relationship with the broadcast journalists who struck Pacifica Network News when its news director was removed from his post last year. They have reconstituted themselves into Free Speech Radio News. 

Another on the list of “hot issues” are the WBAI-New York staff that was either fired from the station or, in the case of volunteers, banned since January. 

Additionally “all charges on listeners (resulting from demonstrations) need to be dropped,” Moran said. 

Another of the transitional board’s tasks will be to settle three lawsuits which were consolidated into one – one by listeners, another by members of four local advisory boards, and a third by “dissident” members of the national board. 

The suits went to mediation two weeks ago, but all the issues were not resolved at the time. Outstanding are reportedly issues of liability and how much money insurance companies will pay. 

All of “hot issues” must be agreed on by the national board in a 2/3 vote. 

Commenting on the new plan by phone from Los Angeles on Monday, Board Chair Bob Farrell, a member of the majority faction, said he was “elated.” 

“People seemed to be in sync,” he said, noting that decisions were made during the weekend by consensus, with different members of the board chairing at different times. “We stepped away from an organization structure that was traditionally authoritarian to something that is more collaborative.” 

Farrell further lauded Moran’s ability to grasp the issues and lay them out in a comprehensive way, bringing the board together. 

He also called KPFA “the core of Pacifica” and lauded “the Berkeley model,” in which the Local Advisory Board has begun hold listener-sponsor elections to fill its seats.  

The transitional board is to take over in two-to-three weeks, as soon as all the former members resign and the new appointments are made. In about six months, when the LAB representatives are chosen from elected bodies, the newly constituted board will re-write the bylaws. 

While the board treasurer has said that the network, with a budget of about $12 million each year, is $2-3 million in debt, Moran said he still hasn’t seen these figures in writing. Among the most heated complaints of the “dissident” board members, has been the lack of sound financial information. 

While the debt is a concern, Moran said the situation can be turned around. “If we truly achieve a transition, our listeners and supporters will come through to rebuild the foundation,” he said. 

The animosity that has built up between Pacifica management and the listener-sponsors all over the country is another hurdle. To remedy the situation “will take some real leadership,” Moran said.