CAB Minutes: February 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WNYC Radio Offices

The meeting ran from approximately 7:15PM to 8:20PM.

The meeting was chaired by CAB chairperson Basya Mandel. Yseult Tyler was present as station liaison. Other CAB members present included:
Renee Cherow-O'Leary
John DeWitt
Leslie Ehrlich
Fred Friedland
Tiffany Hall
Shavonne Johnson
Gaye Leslie
Allison Meserve
Rachel Porter
Gaby Schroeder
Gary Schulze
Ken Stewart
Monica Strauss

Basya welcomes the attending and defines the role of the CAB, reads the meeting agenda and opens things up for questions:

Guest #1: When I went online to know where you are meeting, and it was very difficult to find. I eventually heard from Noah, who told me where it was. Why was it so hard to find! I am also not so keen on some recent changes! I don't know why there are four hours of The Takeaway on the AM. On the FM, it's all morning news. But that's on FM. I have three radios. Why, in the afternoon, All Things Considered is for hours! And they took away Terry Gross, and now it's at eight. I'm complaining, that's why I am here. It's pretty much repeating itself. Diane Rehms sounds like she's 100.

John: She's very popular in D.C., she's sort of like a Brian Lehrer in D.C. but with a slightly more national focus.

Guest #1: It's a little strange by the time that we hear "here at 9 o'clock," it's a little strange.

John: I think that what you're saying is that, part of this is that, since WNYC now has WQXR, they don't want to confuse the news and the talk. In a way, they don't have enough locally produced programming to fill the hours of both AM and FM. So there is a lot of duplication. My guess is--without knowing this from the station--is that they are probably struggling with having enough variety to fill both signals with talk.

Guest #1: I got that, but I still don't get why it has to be four straight hours of some shows. And I think that To the Point is better then On Point. Thank you for listening.

Gaby: The signal is really weak. All three stations. Especially since QXR came on board, everything is much weaker. Always with a shhhhh sound in the background.

John: It is weaker. WQXR is running on a 600 watt signal, so that has always been a problem.

Gaby: But the WNYC AM and FM signals have deteriorated.

Gaye: I find the same thing, but fortunately I can kill the shhhhh noise a little, with an equalizer button on the radio, by turning down the treble tones and giving a little more bass.

Basya: Moving on to the Calendar review. Things in the Greene Space have made the schedule different. March 18th stands for the arts forum. April 29th stands as the education forum, and May 27th stands as the Science forum. I spoke to the station about a few of the points that we wanted confirmation on. In regards to the website: we had discussed the possibility of having a Facebook link attached to the main page. And I'm in discussion--there seems to be a legal problem. I'm going to read a letter from Ivan Zimmerman, the stations general counsel.

I'm pleased to learn the Community Advisory Board is embarking on new ways to publicize its meetings and interest the community in its work. I understand these ways maybe include enhanced uses of social media. As you know the CAB is an independent advisory board, and we take the importance of maintaining that independence very seriously. And he asks that we be vigilant in maintaining that independence. So, we still don't have a clear answer.

Ken: I don't understand what he said...

Basya: Ivan Zimmerman is the station's legal council. Any publicity that the CAB wants the station to do, he has to OK. And, it seems right now that he might not OK a posting of a link on the WNYC site to an independent page.

Rachel: I would dispute that he has the necessity of okay-ing every single link. The station has links to other sites all the time. I'm sure that he doesn't ok each and every link. I think they are throwing up a wall there. If they aren't going to do anything, it's a big waste of our time. The Greene Space downstairs was packed! Wouldn't it be nice if this was packed like that? It won't happen if we can't get even get a link to anything. We need to be aggressive, to get the link together.

John: I have friends at a lot of institutions around the country, and the all have CABs. I can check to see if the community advisory boards are allowed to link. I think the issue that he is raising is a question of independence from the station. I don't think that's a problem.

Basya: We haven't gotten a no yet. We should set up the Facebook page, and then give them the link. And then it won't be a hypothetical.

Gaye: What about having our own homepage?

Leslie: Yes, I think that Facebook provides a template that makes creating a page easy and creating a network of followers easy.

John: Facebook is not accessible at all for people who are blind or low vision. If we do it, we might be obligated, morally if not legally, to make it accessible to the whole audience. It is difficult for a blind person to use.

Basya: In lieu of Facebook, what is accessible. An internet site costs money

John: We should be darned sure we make it blind accessible. There is a similar problem with the station's page, but I'll save it.

Ken: Facebook only involves a portion of the public. I am not sure I know what it's doing, but I would be concerned if it becomes the primary communication channel. We want all listeners and all board members to have equal access to the entire process. One of the reasons that I am always talking about the phone system and the menus. The internet itself will reach a higher portion of the public then a Facebook page. What do we envision the Facebook page in general doing?

Leslie: Let's take all the issues that you raised later, when that comes up in the schedule.

Basya: Posting our scheduled meetings on the events page is another issue that has been raised in every meeting. We still haven't gotten a yes from the station, but we might be able get a side bar posting on the page. As far as the telephone message, and getting our own place there, the answer to that is no. Listener Service has received a lot of complaints that it is already too complex and difficult to navigate. But I will call Yseult in to explain that a little later.

Next issue is recruitment--we will begin recruitment in March. Once WNYC is through with the drive, they will begin to announce the promotions and the opportunity.

Ken: Are there term limits? For us here in the room?

Basya and Ken: Term limits, 3 year terms, two three-year terms. If you are completing a term, and you don't want to serve another term, you have to let people know.

John: And it is not specified in the bylaws. It doesn't say you have to apply for the second three years.

Gaby: If you wish to resign, then you have to give notice to the chair. If you have completed two three-year terms, then you have to take at least year off before you are re-appointed.

Basya: We are still working on getting a complete email list. Once you email them we should be able to email them about getting feedback. In terms of email lists, Gaby thank you for putting together the updated CAB list. Moving on to the updates of the committees! The Science committee should wait for Fred.

Renee: The Education segment is a little up in the air with the change in the date: Beth Fertig, Claudio Sanchez, and Kaari Pitkin, who works with the youth and Radio Rookies.

Gaye: Did you have any luck with the VIP people.

Renee: Well we now have a firm date, so that's good.

Basya: For the ARTS?

Tiffany: Yeah, we are moving along. There are three confirmed people for the panel. Emmanuel Eisenberg. We are moving forward in finalizing the agenda.

Renee: If there are only a few members of the public for a panel...what are our expectations for this panel? Can we record this? We will have wonderful speakers for these panels, and I really feel very strongly that we should record it, or put it on a site, or to stream it? Can it be accessible in some way? We are bringing people in and taking their time, and their work is important to be heard. Can we raise that as well?

John: I agree that that is important. Michelle, you sent us a report from the board meeting. It was all about how do you define WNYC's mission and role. The term Radio itself is sort of problematic. Even in my own business, we are more and more web based. It isn't just radio waves. It's also online, and social media, and podcasts. The whole audio news culture is changing. I can't get WQXR during the day. So I listen to classical music in Portland. The whole face of communication is in the process of evolution. In the sense that we can encourage the station to look at it in a broad way is good.

Renee: I think that, for the public, there's not much specificity about what we do, and it would make it more alive.

Gaye: I have a technical question. Are we tied to the size of the transmitter for ever? Is that all we are allowed to have? Can we have a more powerful transmitter?

John: You want a transmitter to be at the highest point, which for us is the Empire State, and that reaches the farthest. What I think is going to happen is that the use of the cell phone and BlackBerries, the iPhone. I could listen on my iPhone. I think we are going to find a conversation of technologies over the next five years. It may be coming through a PDA.

Gaye: That would be fine for people who have the income to buy all these gadgets, but I do not.

John: Technology is evolving very quickly.

Gaye: that is going to leave a lot of people on the outside.

Guest #1: I don't have a cell phone.

Gaby: I think what Gaye really wants is that we evolve to other platforms, that they keep the traditional radio as the center point.

Gaye: I am discriminated against. I saved up a long time to get my current set up. Then they invented HD radio. No one offered me any money to go out and buy an HD radio, and you can't convert them, so I have to go without. I don't think that's right.

Basya: There are two issues that I wanted Yseult to address--one, the phone, and two, Renee could you raise your issue again?

Renee: If we bring in panels, we would want their words to go out to the listener ship. I think it shows our work, and gives them a sense of what we do, and if they can't come to the panel, how else will they know what happened here?

Yseult: I agree with you. The resistance that I was met with when we raised this before was that it was another staff person. It takes a few other people, and the staff commitment.

Renee and others: Even audio would be great.

Yseult: Audio is a different thing. It would take some bandwidth, but it's not as much a staffing issues. I will raise it again with Noreen, and it is something that you guys would like to have. It might be the kind of thing that a volunteer would do.

Leslie: To frame it a slightly different way: we've been very focused on the fact that people don't show up at the meeting. That might be silly. Well, maybe we should be thinking of other ways to get people to connect to the CAB. If you frame it in that context, then we need to provide people who can't show up for the meeting ways to connect to us, then this would help.

Monica: Tonight's meeting downstairs is being broadcast. And if more people know about us being here, the more they might come.

Gaby: Would it be something that you can listen to on the website? In other words it wouldn't take up all kinds of space, but there are many ways to make it available. We don't need the same treatment as the Brian Lehrer Show, but can it be a podcast? Can it be downloaded?

Yseult: Let's talk about it! There are many opportunities--what if we have web chats?

Leslie: back to the subject of the website, in ten minutes.

Ken: There was discussion just now about getting people here, maximizing public attendance? There was not something on the radio about where the meeting was. And I was joking to John that I hope there aren't people standing outside the Greene Space and thinking that's where we were going to be tonight. Maybe if the announcement gave people a location to check in?

Yseult: There is a very limited amount of bandwidth that people have over the air.

Ken: So you have to be very selective about it. I'll be glad to help with the wording of it! We need to keep in mind what the listener is hearing. And we agreed previously that we were going to document how many announcements there were and when they occurred. Do we have that?

John: The announcements on WNYC said to come to the station.

Yseult: the other reality is that we have people at every door with specific instructions for everyone. Every door has a person who can re-direct people.

Ken: thank you.

Basya: In the mean time, lets move on to old and new business.

Ken: In terms of old and new business, thank you, I'm glad we finally got that on the meeting list. In terms of a meeting, more then old and new business being identified, I would move that we start the meeting with introduction of board members, and typically in a business meeting, there is the approval of an Agenda. So I would propose that would be our structure.

Basya: In the past we have never approved...

Ken: I disagree. But even if we haven't done it before, can't we approve our behavior?

Basya: In the future, we will run through the agenda and we will approve the agenda before each meeting, although I do think that sending out the agenda before hand and soliciting feedback.

Ken: sure, do as much of that as possible.

John: This is not a parliamentary organization, so to run it along these lines of rules and regulations, unless consensus doesn't work, I think the lack of formality is fine.

Ken: I agree.

Basya: Any new business?

Leslie: I went and emailed a bunch of friends and listeners about this meeting, and about the CAB board and asking for comments. I got some feedback that that basically broke down into two things: One is a lot of commentary about music on both WNYC and WQXR, by listeners of both stations. I do think that there is a lot of heat and light among our listeners on the topic of classical music. We should continue to give the public a chance to say what they think. The second, at a more muted level, was about news coverage. First of all it was very difficult to find supporters for The Takeaway. Secondly, I had a small minority of people who don't distinguish well between WNYC and NPR who say that it's very left leaning and that we should have some other voices on to provide some balance. That second thing is less well formed, but I think it should be a topic for future meetings.

Ken: I would say that your behavior is exemplary, and that I hope that every board member reaches out, actively contacting people.

Gaye: Can I just point out, that The Takeaway has picked up on some of the Brian Lehrer Show idea, their new slogan is "wake up and take part," and they are doing all these projects.

John: I think that The Takeaway just doesn't have enough listeners yet, and that they will find their stride. I also think that this is not the WNYC CAB, its also the WQXR CAB.

Joyce: We do have a lot of music people on the board.

Leslie: At the end of the last meeting, we decided that, around this perennial topic of getting more people to come to the meeting, and around our frustrations with the WNYC page, that it was time think about starting a Facebook page. We got met over the phone.

To summarize briefly what to talk about: background, we know. It's often outdated. Public meetings are not usually that well attended, even though the station has increased the publicity about the meeting. We noticed that, when we mentioned that we worked as a part of the CAB, that people did have feedback, and strong feelings. What we don't have is access to systematic data, so what do we do? First, we set out to prove that we speak for a larger group then just us. Secondly, to have a place where work and meetings are portrayed in a timely and accurate manner. Thirdly, to provide a way for people to interact with us without having to actively show up at a meeting. But, yes, we would like more people to show up at the meetings!

So we decided that we should put up the Facebook page. The value of Facebook--given that we have very limited resources--is that it has the virtue of providing the technical infrastructure to form a group and let people join a group. And it lets you notify followers about new information. What we would put on the page: an accurate membership, accurate information about upcoming meetings, meeting minutes. If we could record the meetings, we could post those too. To your point Gaye, editing them is an expensive process, so maybe a straight post is a good start. Then maybe we can get a volunteer to edit them. Once you have a presence--each of us, as much as we are comfortable, should spread the word. As you have a presence, we can publicize meetings. Twitter is also an option. And it can be amazing. Lastly there are some free survey tools to allow us to post surveys, to gather some feedback. In a nutshell, what we said was: Lets put up a page, publicize it, put up a survey, and use it to gather some momentum. Anything to add?

Gaye: I have a question: what is Facebook? Explain it to me please? Do people my age actually use this? I don't use any of these things.

John: It's just a progression of sharing information, from print, to radio, to this. It's the idea of opening up more avenues to communicate to people.

Gaby: Ultimately, we would like a link from the WNYC page, so what kind of disclaimer would we like to post?

Gaye: Isn't part of the problem that the station has been reluctant to put links to other things?

Basya: If this is our Facebook page, I think it becomes apparent that we are different, separate.

Leslie: What is the station's current view on letting us use their logo and information? Lets ask Ivan.

Yseult: I can check about that.

Basya: Maybe designing our own logo is too much to bite off, but with a disclaimer, we can establish our independence.

Gary: Maybe we should appoint a lawyer, as a liaison to Ivan, who can talk in lawyer terms. Can we appoint someone?

Monica: I think that we shouldn't give up the logo, and that we should avoid two lawyers talking if possible.

Renee: I understand that we need to be an independent voice, but we are in a feedback loop here--the role of the board is to feed back to the station. We do exist in relation to the station, we do have a feedback loop. Otherwise, we become some other thing.

Leslie: I would frame it around: we want people to find the page. The best way to do that would be through a link from the station. I would trade the logo for the link.

Leslie: I don't want to do a bunch of work for no real reason. If there is something more then a vague ominous letter about the page, I would like to hear it.

John: Yseult, when you started your blog about WQXR, it had a lot of responses, but now they have really started to die down, correct?

Yseult: yeah, it died down a lot after the first 8,000 comments.

John: The fundamental issue is how do we get more people who are listeners to this station, or people who are not listing to the station but could be, to know that there is an advisory board?

Shavonne: Facebook as of today has over 100,000,000 members, and it is expanding rapidly. If every one of us has a page, and can recruit people, and become a fan, we could easily have 10,000 members.

John: I sense that the WNYC management doesn't want to be involved with the CAB. I have a theory-- WBAI has a very contentious CAB, and I wonder if, given too much publicity, the CAB might become contentious.

Yseult: I don't know that to be a fear, but I am not always in every meeting of WNYC management. But I can ask them. I think it would be good to try and get the things that you want to have. If we find resistance, then we can drill into the resistance that is there.

Ken: We are officially advising the Board of Trustees, not the management. Management is entitled to tell us to talk to the trustees.

Gary: I don't think the public knows the difference between the Board of Trustees and us.

Gaby: Well, Facebook is a good idea, because we need some control of our image, and what we are about. We want the link, but I think we need to be able to control how we are experienced, or exposed, to the public.

Gaye: Who will make the page?

Shavonne: The people on the Facebook committee will set that up.

Leslie: and John, if you could direct me to some pages on Facebook that ARE accessible, that would help.

John: There are a lot of them, and they're good.

Leslie: To make life easier, I'll email you. The Lighthouse might have some information available as well.

Basya: before we open this up to the public again, do we have any more Facebook questions? Do we need to start a new page, or can we use the old one? I can send you a link to that page.

Yseult: So, Ken, what's the specific question you had about the phones?

Ken: We already went through that? There should be some choice for information about the CAB on the phone tree?

Yseult: the reason we haven't done that is because we've been getting a lot of complaints about the complexity of the menu as it is, and that they can't find the info that they need. It's not a resistance based on the CAB, its more feedback from listeners like you.

Ken: I think that can be translated too: It's not a useful tool yet! It's a work in progress!

Gaye: I kind of bombarded WNYC for a few weeks about the fact that I had to wait for two minutes on the phone while people went on and on about WQXR. But now that menu has been changed, but there are some things that have yet to change: call forwarding from the old phone number.

Yseult: It's a rule for the city.

Gaye: It's FREE!

Yseult: They are city-owned phone numbers, and they eventually were unwilling to allow us to have anything more to do with them.

Fred: Yseult, How do I compliment people? Who is responsible for reprising the historical broadcasts that I love? I would like to thank that person!

Yseult: Probably Andy Lanset.

Ken: One quick piece of New Business. The November document I got was a transcript. The previous document was a summary. Both are OK, but we need to distinguish between these things. I think we might want summaries for our own personal consumption.

Basya: I think we went over this, and we all agreed that John was going to summarize the transcript, which has not happened yet, but it will. Any comments or questions from the public?

John: I think that Sara Fishko's series on the Jazz loft of the 50's and 60's is an astounding piece of work.

Guest #2: My name is Will Galison, I have a very basic question, that I have not been able to find the answer to yet: does WNYC have a charter? Brooke Gladstone throughout the last fund drive, said: we are particularly proud of the WNYC charter, which obliges us to serve the public interest. I called up, to see what else the charter had to say, called Listener Services, who said "I'll send you the charter." They sent a mission statement which says: "to put joy in the hearts of the people." I don't think that says that WNYC has to serve in the public interest. So either Brooke Gladstone has a charter that no one else has heard of, or she was lying to get money for the radio station. Fundraising fraud. I called Brooke Gladstone's office. I called Listener Services, then found that I was banned from speaking to most of the people there.

Basya: So your question is: does WNYC have a charter? And if it does, you would like to see a copy?

Will Galison: doesn't anyone know?

Ken: I think that Brooke Gladstone was using charter in quotation marks.

Will Galison: That wouldn't fly in court. It's still fraud if there is no charter that says what you say it says. She uses the word charter over and over, and I have it recorded. She, or someone at the station, should have the grace to say she was mistaken, that there is no charter. But I can't believe that there is no FCC Charter, and the reason why I am interested in it, when I spoke to the Senate rules committee, because I was interested in getting hearings announced about judicial corruption, and I spoke to the guy in charge of the Senate rules committee, I asked him what are the rules about informing the public? Can you have a public hearing without inviting the public?

And he said "of course not, has to be ten days in advance of the hearing to announce it." They didn't announce the hearings about Judge Jonathan Lippman until three hours before the hearing. So, who is supposed to announce these hearings? He said: Public Radio. I would imagine that is supposed to be in the charter. I believe that if there is a Charter, it probably obliges WNYC to serve the public interest.

Basya: I think that your point is well taken.

Will Galison: so, just for the record, no one knows if WNYC has a charter or not?

John: Will, let me try and answer that question. Clearly, I don't know what is in WNYC's license. There was no assessment of community needs when WNYC went on the air. That didn't occur until the FCC made those rules in the 1930s. I have owned 2 stations, and in the '70s it was very hard to get a license. In the 1990's, the FCC did away with so much, that I now don't know what kind of documentation is required to prove that you are going to be a radio station broadcasting in the public interest. The answer is that I don't know. But there is a license. And that license is viewable--you can go look at the license renewal package and see what it contains.

Will Galison: Well, no one has directed me towards that, there's nothing on the Internet. (ed. note-- the license and incorporating documents are always available here: )

John: I understand. But some documentation does exist about what WNYC is licensed to do.

Will Galison: I understand. Thank you very much. If I might just say, I think it would behoove the people on the committee to know what the station's self-imposed charter is so that they can enforce it in case they stray! Denying global warming, or advocating Kentucky Fried Chicken--well wait a minute, the charter says you can't do this!

Basya: Your point is well taken. We should know what the charter says.

Will Galison: I would like to say one more thing. There were two senate hearings, and a third one scheduled, about judicial corruption. They were over filled. More then 300 people on a Thursday afternoon. Run by Sen. Sampson, the leader of the Senate. I called WNYC, I wrote them emails, I put the announcement on the web page, and then it was taken off the web page, and I have been banned from the Facebook page. To me that is extremely outside the image and the spirit of the station. I would like to know why William Galison been banned, simply because he is advocating that they announce public Senate hearings about Judicial Corruption. WNYC has programs about corruption Pakistan, and not New York State.

Fred: I propose a motion to adjourn.

Meeting is adjourned.