A leftist NYC radio station is facing a serious problem: too much government. The Times reports on the financial crisis facing WBAI, “radio for the 99 percent” that only reaches “0.1 percent of the New York radio audience.” Struggling with massive losses for years now, the station has just laid off 19 out of its 29 staff members, and it’s fate now largely rests with its owner, the nonprofit Pacifica Foundation. Unfortunately, both Pacifica and WBAI have something of a democracy problem:
Critics have long said that its top-heavy governance, with large local boards and frequent, expensive elections, have put the organization in a constant state of gridlock, and that unless Pacifica reforms it will simply govern itself to death […]
Those same problems were on display at a public WBAI board meeting last week in an arts space in Lower Manhattan. Despite the layoffs just days before, the first 25 minutes were devoted to a procedural debate about the night’s agenda, with frequent mentions of Robert’s Rules of Order. Occasional shouts of “fascist!” and “go back to the N.S.A.!” rang out from listeners in attendance. […]
Former WBAI staff members complain that constant management turnover as the board instituted one “coup” after another made their jobs nearly impossible.
Ironically, Pacifica’s most popular show is called “Democracy now!” It looks like the organization got what it asked for, and the result is a headlong rush towards financial disaster. We at Via Meadia enjoy a little media diversity, so we wish the Pacifica the best in its efforts to turn its fortunes around. But it looks like this bastion of leftist thinking will need to learn a key lesson that is already familiar to much of the world: When it comes to governance, less is often more.
[On air sign courtesy of Shutterstock]