CAB MINUTES: February 2012
Minutes, WNYC Community Advisory Board Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Society for Ethical Culture, New York
Present from Community Advisory Board (CAB): Ms. Tiffany Hall (Chair), Joyce Lannert (Vice Chair), Members: Dan Barnett, Renée Cherow-O’Leary, Elinor Fuchs, Alfred Friedland, Shavonne Johnson, Beth Knobel, Allison Meserve, Judith Moldover, Steve Rapkin, MJ Robinson, Ken Stewart, David Tereshchuk
From NYPR Board of Trustees (BoT): Ellen Polaner, David Caplan
From NYPR: Erica Edwards, Community Ambassador
Absent: Matt Bancroft (Vice Chair), Michael Bauman, John De Witt, Leslie Ehrlich, Lisa Labrado, Michelle K. Reed.
Ms. Hall brought the meeting to order at 7:03 pm by reading a statement about the role of the CAB.
The meeting was then opened up for public comment: One listener said WQXR is coming in well on the digital stream on his Internet “Squeeze box radio,” but WNYC is coming in badly there. He also complained about signal quality of the stations on terrestial radio in New Jersey. Listener said WQXR using a 128k signal while WNYC is broadcasting via Internet using much lower fidelity. Mr. Stewart addressed the technological questions about the bandwith. Ms. Hall said she would be happy to pass along the complaint to the station to see if there is a plan to increase quality. Mr. Caplan from the BoT said the station is working to improve terrestrial quality in New Jersey with “repeaters,” which are being installed there and in various areas in the listening area.
Another listener wondered if the station isn’t spreading itself too thin. He complained that some topics were covered well during Occupy Wall Street but others covered only by WBAI or Democracy Now. He complained there’s a lot of corporate sponsorship now on NYPR, which looks a lot like advertising. Mr. Caplan asked if he thought that might affect the programming. Listener said yes, much as he likes the station. He wondered if salaries for management might be taking the station away from what public radio is meant to be.
This listener asked why we are meeting here at the Ethical Culture Society and not at the station. Ms. Hall explained that there was a new security system in the building where WNYC is located, 160 Varick Street. The member said he had had terrible trouble getting upstairs at the HQ during the January CAB meeting, and could not get in to attend due to security issues. He was upset that the security people at the desk at WNYC’s building had no phone numbers for WNYC people upstairs. Ms. Hall apologized for any problems listeners had in gaining access to the CAB meeting and said that future meetings would be held where there should be no security issues.
Another listener who’s teaching in college said she finds so many students are oblivious to the ways of radio, and ignorant of civil discourse. She asked if there is a strategy at NYPR for reaching out to students. Ms. Hall said that both stations have been doing outreach to schools to reach children. Several CAB members shared thoughts. Ms. Edwards of WNYC also spoke of ambassador initiatives.
Public comment finished at 7:20.
Schedule: CAB meetings will be at the Ethical Culture Society, 2 West 64th Street, on Thursday, March 15th from 7-9 pm and on Thursday, April 19th from 7-9. pm On Thursday, May 17th, the CAB will meet in the Greene Space at 160 Varick Street, in the building with NYPR, from 7-9 pm. The June meeting will be on the third Thursday, place as yet to be determined.
Phone tree: Ms. Hall said the stations have approved the CAB being added to the WNYC phone tree so that listeners who call the station can hear about the CAB. They will give Ms. Hall parameters and then we can decide what information to put on there such as information on meetings and membership.
Chris Bannon, WNYC’s Director of Programming, who is also handling the new NJ stations, was supposed to come today but he had a conflict; he’ll come next month.
The CAB then discussed the report of the strategy committee that had originally been presented at the January meeting. Ms. Hall reminded those gathered that the point of the report is to define a new structure for how the CAB is to work in the years to come. Ms. Hall said she wants to make sure everyone on the board supports the new structure fully, as it will mean more a bit more work from each member.
The first part of this part of the meeting involved discussing the role of the CAB as an advisor, which was the recommendation of the Strategy Committee. Dr. Fuchs gave a short explanation to the members of the public present about the process the CAB has been doing to redefine its role, reaching out to other CABs to see how they work and structure their work. She spoke of being very impressed by the work of WAMU in Washington which has been very successful in addressing community issues and working in collaboration with the station.
Ms. Hall asked for comments and suggestions about the new proposed model. Ms. Lannert spoke about the whether the station leadership would get involved so that the proposed “Interface” meetings. The proposed Interface meetings would be a discussion between the community and the station management and trustees, to discussion issues that we will develop with the stations’ needs in minds. Several members discussed ideas for how these meetings could work.
Several members voiced approval of the idea of Interface, but several said the name Interface needs to change. Others also said it was important to find out if the station is willing to be engaged in this way. Ms. Hall agreed, saying we need to agree on a proposal first and then approach the station to see if they will agree to join with us in this work.
The CAB also discussed the forums the CAB used to do, and how they would differ from the new Interface meetings. The consensus was that the new Interface meetings would focus more on giving advice to the station, rather than discussing a topic of general interest. The new Interface meetings would also involve a larger number of station personnel present, and more discussion with them. Our task now, said many members, is to get the station management to agree to be present, as they did not attend past forums.
Dr. Cherow-O’Leary (head of the Research Committee) presented some potential Interface ideas that were submitted to her by CAB members since the last meeting. They included some ideas about the arts like community arts groups as an engine of economic growth, and ideas about regional planning in New York (including housing, transport, clean water, energy issues), and the future of NY. She asks for everyone to send more ideas.
Ms. Polaner said she’s like to see more information on how other stations and their CABs work and pass that on to the station management—maybe our station will be swayed to change our relationship by hearing the research our CAB did on other CABs. She asked for some written materials on how other CABS work, and so can we work toward greater cooperation. Ms. Hall said she would send some of the CAB’s research.
Members discussed the pros and cons of the new organization and the efficacy of Interface meetings. Ms. Moldover asked for next steps. Ms. Hall said the next step is to discuss with Brenda Williams-Butts, the Director of Community Engagement, and other contacts at the station with what we would like to do and see if they are ready to do so.
One listener asked how under the new plan we’d deal with things like the question he brought up about the role of money in public radio. Would WNYC leadership get on the air once a month or so to answer questions live on the air? Mr. Caplan said this is a great idea and could be done on, say, the Brian Lehrer show. He promised to bring the idea to station management. He also asked if the CAB isn’t spending too much time on its administration this year. Ms. Hall responded by explaining that this year’s CAB work has been dedicated to restructuring the work of the CAB, updating the bylaws, and making sure the CAB can actively serve the community while and see the station be receptive, and that such work takes time but will pay off in the future. Ms. Polaner suggested that the CAB prioritize a few issues that will be exciting to the community, and prioritize what is important in building a collaboration with the station. She and Mr. Caplan suggested we move the CAB meetings around again to other boroughs, as was done in past years with great success. Ms. Hall said the CAB would discuss doing so.
One listener complained that there’s no way to mechanism for having station managers meet with members of the public, which would be useful. Another suggested we develop a hashtag to start gathering information from the community. Ms. Meserve said that in fact there’s lots of ways to give feedback to the station, but we need to think about how the station can best get community input. She discussed the work of WAMU’s CAB and why it seems to be successful. She said there’s a tradeoff between being close to the community or to station management. Another listener said that he wrote to the station with some ideas and no one ever responded. He said it sometimes feels like the station only wants money from listeners and has no accountability to them.
Ms. Hall said she has gotten nothing but positive feedback from the station about our ideas for change. She said she will now talk with Brenda Williams-Butts and others at the station to see if they are open to more cooperation.
Ms. Lannert talked about the note she sent to all about issues that have come up in review of the bylaws, and the bylaws committee focused on those for now.
She went through the bylaws and noted issues that need to be addressed:
- The mission statements need to come from both stations, not just WNYC, and maybe there needs to be a mission statement from the CAB there as well.
- Criteria for recruiting and elections. Ivan Zimmerman, the stations’ general counsel, said these are missing and we should have them. They are referenced in procedures but they don’t exist. We need to be clear about some things, like whether a member can serve six years, take a break, and come back. The part about diversity also needs updating.
- The rules about CAB members being dismissed for missing more than two meetings have not been followed, and there is a conflict with a rule that CAB members must attend 75 percent of meetings.
- Another issue: the officers. This year we wanted two vice chairs, but that was not addressed in bylaws, so that needs to be added. We also need to decide whether to add a Secretary. We also need to update the election process, as we are working on it.
- Also we want the requirement for the station to publicize CAB meetings to be more specific.
- Also the rules about quorum are low—it should be one more than half.
- There are also conflicts in bylaws about telephone participation, which the bylaw says you can have once a year, but says it doesn’t count in quorum. So that needs to be resolved.
- And now only the BoT can make amendments, but we want the CAB to be able to make amendments that the BoT could approve.
This is all food for thought, says Ms. Lannert, so she asks CAB members to go through the memo about changes that need to be made to the bylaws before the next meeting.
One listener said the bylaws don’t say there need to be minutes, or where they need to be posted—but they should be posted and quickly. Ms. Hall said the station does want them posted and quickly, and said the CAB would ask the station to do so.
Ms. Meserve said that we should maybe have more idea of what the community says to the station. We do have a mailbox email@example.com, which Ms. Hall says she checks weekly.
Ms. Hall adjouned the meeting at 9:01 pm.
Next meeting: Thursday 3/15 at 7 pm at the Ethical Culture Society, 2 West 64 St.
Minutes prepared by Beth Knobel.