THE BOARD HAS GONE MAD
|Here is an article from the San Francisco Bay Guardian - "Battle of the Network Stars"|
|David G. Miles Jr.
web page http://www.cora.org
Oct. 28, 2002
The purpose of this letter is to document the bylaw violations that have taken place in regards to my experiences as a member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Community Television Corporation.
I came to know about public access television in 1980. A man known as "Dangerous George" noticed me with my volunteer group, the Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol. He saw that we were a positive group of young volunteers succeeding in providing a safe, fun situation in Golden Gate Park on Sundays when thousands of skaters, bicyclists and other park users enjoyed the closed roadway. At his request, I brought some of the Skate Patrol members down to the Dangerous George Show at what was then Channel 25, where we were interviewed and shown live on cable TV.
I was very impress with the whole experience. In the next few years I would go into numerous TV studios doing interviews and public service announcements as a part of promoting Bay Area skating. We would also do remote live news and taped segments for all the major news programs and several local TV shows.
I purchased my first video camera in 1984 and a better one in 1988. I was introduced to computer video editing in 1994. I put together several clips of "old school" skating Everyone who saw it wanted copies of the clips. That's when I thought I could produce a public access show. I went to Channel 25 and found that it was now Channel 53. I applied for a show, followed the guidelines and received a timeslot at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday evenings.
For nearly 7 years, I produced my show, "Skatin' Place". The show featured inline skate competitions, races and skate demos. Political issues involving Golden Gate Park and its relationship between park users and park institutions were often explored on the show. The Midnight Rollers Friday Night Skate, which is now a worldwide event and the Skate Against Hate & Violence from S.F. to L.A. were fascinating subjects. Skatin' Place won several awards including 2 Cable Access Awards and was nomination for a Bay Area Cable Excellence Award. Eventually we moved our timeslot to 8:30 on Monday nights and in 1999 we began broadcasting live from the studio on the second Monday of every month.
Around 1998, I had heard of a group of producers that were trying to organize and make things better at the station. I didn't know the details, but the SFCTC wanted to be the organization to run the channel. I didn't see anything wrong with this, but when I attended the first producers' meeting, I found that there were some producers who felt that Zane Blaney and the SFCTC was not to be trusted and should not be allowed to run the public access channel in San Francisco. I approached Mr. Blaney about some of the issues and decided to disregard the negatives and give him and the CTC the benefit of the doubt. I then worked to convince the producers to drop their animosity towards the CTC and to join in with them at the Telecommunications Commission meeting so that the CTC could get the contract to run the channel.
Evidently, Zane Blaney and Ellison Horne was impressed with my leadership skills. They approached me about becoming a member of the SFCTC Board of Directors. I would be the producer representative on the Board. In our discussion, I told them both that I would not be a "yes" man but I would do my best to do the right thing and work for the best interest of the channel. In March or 1999, I was elected to a three year term on the Board and became a member of the Program Committee, which makes up the Policies and Procedures for the access channel.
In the beginning things were running smoothly. I had never served on a board before. I didn't understand a lot of the details, but I managed to keep up with most subjects and much like the other board members, I trusted the expertise and experience of Mr. Blaney and his staff to guide the board members to make the right decisions.
Over time I began to notice that this process was not necessarily a good one. When we were discussing the move and buildout of the new facility, Mr. Blaney simply told the board members what the issues were and how we as a board should act. If there were any questions or suggestions that differed from what was proposed, Mr. Blaney or a member of his staff would steer the discussion back to what was originally proposed. The clearest example of this is the fact that we were all told of the impending deficit we were to be facing in the future before we made the move into the new facility. Why didn't we explore finding a suitable location in a city-owned building where the rent could be $1.00 per year as opposed to the $12,000.00 per month (I believe) at the Market St. Location? I thought that anyone with common sense should see something wrong with this line of thinking, but just like the rest of them, I stayed in line and didn't rock the boat.
I also felt there were questions that should have been asked about how the contracts with the companies doing work for the SFCTC were handled. I did not observe the kind of competitive biding practiced where the bids were presented to the Board and the Board would make a decision. We as Board members were "presented" what the staff would tell us was the best contractor based on their expertise. It may had made it easier to get the contract process moving, but I believe it's fairness is still to be questioned .
I believe the real trouble started with the introduction of "Overarching Philosophies". Upon it's creation, the Program Committee was to create new Policies and Procedures for the access channel. The overarching philosophies were the guidelines we were to use to develop the policies and procedures for the channel. They were presented to us as "guidelines", but the test of time has proven that this was to be the policies put forth by the Board. This is where the concept of the "lottery" was introduced. It is also the point where I as a Board Member began to ask questions about the procedures we as a Board were operating under and why these changes were so necessary.
For months and months the Program Committee wrangled with these overarching philosophies in regards to the development of the Policies and Procedures of the channel. Some of the meetings were contentious. I felt that the new policies regarding program time slots and local vs imported programming could virtually destroy access experience for most of the producers currently on the channel. There would be the implementation of a "lottery" to determine when a show comes on the air. Every 6 months a lottery is held that could give that show a new time or day on the schedule. This means that weekly shows will change timeslots every 6 months. It means that creating and maintaining an audience for your show will become impossible. It also means that we could have programming from New York, Los Angeles and other cities dominate the channel thus locking out local San Francisco producers.
As a Board member, I fought these proposals. Many producers felt this was a method to get rid of the long-term producers on the channel who question the motives of the SFCTC Board.
On or about May 9, 2001, the Board felt it necessary to hold a special meeting inviting the producers on the channel and the general public to explain their actions. I sat on that panel as a member of the Program Committee and witnessed the unanimous opposition to the lottery and other issues being proposed. I felt that the bottom line for those in attendance was trust. As we were ending out comments as members of the Board, I ended the discussion by urging the attendees to trust the Board in out sincere efforts to do the right thing for them and for the channel.
I believe it is the actions taken by the Board that has fueled a continual uproar at Channel 29 that continues to rage to this day. Some of these actions clearly violate the SFCTC Bylaws. Violations of the SFCTC Bylaws have not seemed to have any meaning as attempts to rectify them have went nowhere.
Through the spring, summer and fall the program committee wrestled with the issues. My sister died in July, We all experienced Sept. 11 and I skated from SF to LA in the Skate Against Hate and Violence in Oct. On Nov. 20, 2001, The Program Committee met to begin finalizing some of the policies including time slot selection, local vs imported programming and more. The agenda was sent out on Nov. 19 via E-mail. We had made progress, but we didn't finish in the time allotted. The committee voted to adjourn and agreed to continue the discussion at a special Program Committee meeting to be held on Dec. 4, 2001 where we would finalize these issues and bring them up at the next full Board meeting for a vote.
In between these two meetings was a full Board meeting on Nov. 27, 2001. Two of the Board members who both sit on the Program Committee, Bill Fiori and Ray Balbaron were absent. John Higgins, the SFCTC Vice President and the head of the Program Committee decided on his own to bring the issue to a vote dispite the proper procedures that were taken at Program Committee meeting on Nov. 20. I protested this action of prematurely bringing this issue to a vote and challenged the legality of this action, but the Board members ignored my pleas and voted 9 to 1. to accept Mr. Higgins' version of the proposed policies. I was the only dessenting vote.
I truly feel that this was an improper vote that was being manipulated by John Higgins, SFCTC Board Vice President with the blessing of Zane Blaney, SFCTC CEO, Ellison Horne, SFCTC President along with the regular staff attendants Jan Levine, Tom Barkett and Aaron Vink. The proposal did not include a motion put forth by long term Board Member Bill Fiori that was voted on and passed by the Program Committee in or about Sept., 2001. This motion granted producers with 5 years or more on the channel a 1 year amnesty from the time slot selection process. I believe these actions prove that there really are no rules in the SFCTC.
After this "hijacking of the process" I sent out an e-mail message to the producers who were on the SFProducers e-mail list to explain to them my opinions of the situation. I made an anaology that compared the Board to the Taliban. It follows
Dear Access Producers,
It is my opinion that the actions taken by this board has made it painfully clear that local San Francisco producers' issues are now the least inportant priority to the SFCTC. That is not so hard to understand when you look at how some of the producers have presented their interests. Nevertheless, I feel access producers interest MUST be represented and NOT from a position of weakness.
This is "shit or get off the pot" time. I want to have a meeting of access
producers before the Christmas holiday. I want to go into 2002 with a clear understanding
of where we are as a group. I want you to have a clear understanding of what the actions
taken by the board mean to us as producers.
This message was sent specifically to access producers on their list serve, but SFCTC staff sent the message and many others to board members. I feel this was meant to inflame them and set the stage for a diciplinary hearing that was held on Feb. 5, 2002.
On Feb 5, An Executive session meeting of the SFCTC Board was held. The meeting was videotaped by myself and by Tom Barkett of SFCTC staff. New Board member Lisa Lowery was appointed parlimentarian. She didn't quite understand Roberts Rules of Order, so she was given a book to conduct THIS meeting.
Things moved slowly but cordial up until Mr. Higgins, who had laid the ground rules for how the meeting would be run, who moderated the meeting and who chose the parlimtarian, allowed himself to close part of the meeting. The SFCTC Bylaws clearly states I have a right to an open meeting if I am the subject of that meeting. In protest to this action, I closed my books, got my things and left the meeting.
According to Article lX Sec. 3 under "Exceptions" pt. 1 of the bylaws of the
SFCTC, I had a right to have an open meeting. I also believe that the intent of SEC. 3 was
violated as it involves setting up a meeting to be held at a later date. I believe that
proper notice was not followed as prescribed in Article lX Sec. 3. There has never been an
explaination on the reason for the meeting, the public announcement of the meeting along
with the vote taken by the members of the Board to create the meeting. In other words,
what were the charges?
The Board may hold a meeting closed to the public for one or more of the
or charges brought against the officer or employee. where consideration of matters
affecting privacy will be involved, provided that if the individual concerned requests
an open meeting, an open meeting shall be held;
3. to consult with the Board's attorney on questions and issues pertaining
Around Sept 5, 2002 when I arrived back in San Francisco after the Burning Man Celebration in the Black Rock Desert, I got a letter from the CTC telling me that I was no longer a Board member.