Response to Pete Dolack Articles on WBAI and Pacifica

Recently, CounterPunch published two articles by Pete Dolack on WBAI Pacifica.

Oct 18: ‘The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun

Nov 8: ‘Pacifica’s WBAI Back on the Air but Fight for Non-Corporate Radio Continues

In the Oct 18 article, Mr. Dolack wrote, “So what is the takeover really about? Although there is a widespread belief that the real intention is to sell off the station’s license, despite the denials of the coup mongers, speculation is all that can be done for now. And perhaps there are other reasons.”

The reason Pacifica National Office intervened at WBAI was because the station was not able to make payroll, and there was no further money to give to the station. The reason for this is the lack of competent financial oversight and planning for many years at the very top of our governance structure.

In response to the Oct 18 article, on 11/4/19, I pointed out to Mr. Dolack that the current Bylaws preclude sale of any station without a membership vote.

On 11/4/19, Mr. Dolack replied. “You are quite correct that the members must vote on it, according to the bylaws. But the “sell WBAI” faction is also attempting to change the bylaws, eliminate democratically elected LSBs and PNB, and replace them with an appointed national board. My understanding is that a lawsuit has been filed in California court (presumably Alameda County) to impose these changes.”

On 11/5/19, I wrote to Mr. Dolack that, “You can download the proposed Bylaws and the supporting documents at a website that was used to get petition signatures for the new Bylaws.”

(The proposed Bylaws also preclude sale of any station without a membership vote.)

However, in the Nov 10 article Mr. Dolack repeated the claims he made on Oct 18: “To eliminate the irritant of democracy, a grouping based at the two California stations, KPFA in Berkeley and KPFK in Los Angeles, want to eliminate the local station boards and appoint a new National Board with no democratic input. In other words, a self-selecting board that would be free to impose watered-down, weak-tea liberal programming, most likely from a central source. A self-selecting board with no accountability would also be free to sell off WBAI.”

Anyone who follows Pacifica knows that there actually was a coup in 1999. In response, the current Bylaws were drafted by a committee, which called for Local Board of Delegates elected by the members, and a National Board of Directors, elected by the Delegates. However, the National and Local Boards have divided into factions which do not work together. The business of the Foundation is secondary to the battle between the factions. The result has been the lack of fiscal oversight which has led to the current financial crisis at Pacifica and a critical one at WBAI.

Words like ‘coup’, ‘corporate takeover’, ‘union busting’, ‘anti-democratic’ are not new to the battle at WBAI. They are the rhetoric used in the factional battles over the years.

After 16 years’ experience with the factional and dysfunctional board, a group of people, undertook to write a new set of bylaws which tried to avoid the perils of self-selected board which resulted in the 1999 crisis, as well as the shortcomings of the current elected board which resulted in the current financial crisis.

The proposed Bylaws call for 5 elected Directors, who are elected by each stations’ listeners and staff members, and 6 term-limited at-large Directors, who are selected by the board as a whole for their experience and expertise.

The proposed Bylaws preclude the sale of assets without the vote of the members as do the current Bylaws, and also precludes changing the board makeup of elected and at-large Directors without a vote of the members.

Mr. Dolack’s allegation that “lawsuit has been filed in California court (presumably Alameda County) to impose these changes” is not correct. A Petition was filed to require Pacifica to allow its members to vote on the new Bylaws, which the Pacifica Board was refusing to do. The Court granted the Petition, and the vote of the members should take place in December.

Voting to change the governance structure is not quite as dramatic as ‘The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup’, but it is an important step to take to ensure the future of a financially healthy non-corporate Pacifica.

To be fully informed, people can read the provisions of the proposed Bylaws and supporting documentations at: https://form.jotformpro.com/42244096312953

The real danger to Pacifica is not a ‘corporate coup’. The real danger is a financial failure which is what the current governance structure has brought about.

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Akio Tanaka is a Delegate of the KPFA Local Station Board, and was the Secretary of the Pacifica National Board in 2017.

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