Last week The Village Voice posted a good piece on WBAI which identified overgovernance as a primary source of Pacifica radio’s woes. It credited me as someone who helped craft Pacifica’s by-laws, but I obtained a correction. I’m also cited as suggesting that around 2,200 people “are directly involved in the voting process” at Pacifica. For the life of me I can’t remember how that figure emerged during the course of my conversation with The Voice‘s Tessa Stuart, but I’m probably to blame for thinking out loud in front of a reporter.
Interview static aside, at this point a simple quantitative question arises. How large is Pacifica governance? That is, how many people are involved in it? It is hard to tell, but my rough guesstimate is around 7,200 people. Here is how I get that figure (bylaws here):
1. Pacifica has five radio stations. Each has a 24 “delegate” Local Station Board. The members this body are elected (when Pacifica has the money) by Pacifica station subscribers and staff. They appoint four members each to the Pacifica National Board of Directors, which governs the station owning Pacifica foundation; non-national board appointed LSB members also sit on Pacifica-wide governance subcommittees.
So 24 x 5 = 120 so far.
2. The Pacifica National Board has 22 and a maximum of 23 members (four LSB representatives from each station, plus two “affiliate representatives,” plus an appointed “at large director”).
So if you add those affiliate and at large people: 120 + 3 = 123.
BUT, don’t forget that:
3. The Local Station Boards can also appoint non-LSB members to LSB subcommittees. I don’t know how many non-board members are on those subcommittees. But from my inquiries I get the impression that the LSBs run subcommittees with perhaps three or so non LSB people on them at any given time: thus we can add three people from each Local Station Board to the guesstimate.
3 x 5 = 15. 123 + 15 = 138.
AND, remember that:
4. Each Pacifica station also has a “community advisory board” in addition to its LSB. Their board membership numbers vary: WPFW’s was 12 in May. I can’t tell the size of WBAI’s or KPFK’s. But KPFA’s was seven in July. So let’s be cautious and put the number at around eight for each station.
So 8 x 5 = 40. 40 + 138 = 178.
5. Then add to that Pacifica National Office management staff (around five people) and the board elections team – the latter is usually about six people. And the five general managers of the five stations, who often appear at board meetings.
178 + 16 = 194.
6. Last but not least, the voters themselves. How many of them are there? Well, the last election supervisor Terry Boricius issued a report on the 2012 election and he kept track of how many people submitted legitimate votes that were counted (see page 2). The total number of “valid ballots” for the four stations that made 10 percent quorum (KPFK didn’t) was:
KPFA subscribers/staff = 3,266/118 + KPFT subscribers/staff = 789/56 + WBAI subscribers/staff = 1,635/74 + WPFW = subscribers/staff 1,065/49 = 7,052.
7,052 + 194 = 7246
So let’s just say that over 7,200 people are involved in Pacifica governance to varying degrees. To be fair, the degrees vary considerably. But even if you eliminate everybody from this exercise except national board members and LSB delegates, we are talking about a non-profit governed by around 120 individuals, most of whom are elected. They aren’t brought in by anybody to build a consensus based, like-minded body of governors. They invited themselves and often disagree with each other pretty intensely.
Feel free to offer corrections or further observations to this guesstimate. Bottom line: Pacifica can’t possibly proactively navigate today’s complicated media landscape with this many players involved in its decision-making process.