Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Localized Broadcasting Cooperatives, III

The Garden of Democracy

By John Taylor; 2010 June 23, Nur 18, 167 BE

A quick, reliable stream of information will always be needed by decision makers in defining the situation, in arriving at decisions and getting feedback on the effects of actions. The more democratic a society becomes, the more local these decisions must be, and the more dependent localities will be on reliable information. As technology advances, this dependence will become greater, and the more power and wealth will center around the use of information. As a result, the cosmopolitan order will have to be very sensitive to the flow of information. Its leadership will have to take the matter firmly in hand, doing all that is necessary to keep power diffuse and localized.

The potential influence of the arts and news media today is diffuse because of financial dependence upon outside interests. Vast sums of money are bled out of localities, which become passive consumers of data, cultural deserts. Money spent for news and entertainment goes into large, national arts centers, such as Hollywood and Bollywood, and into media empires centered in New York and London. This over-centralization came about because companies and institutions are, by definition, narrow and limited in their objects. When they gain power, they are liable to manipulation, monopoly and corruption.

Another result of this over-centralization is that we are used to art, literature and print media that at best play a peripheral role in decision making and at worst obstruct or distract from it. However, a hillside community consciously places the creative impetus of literature and the arts at the center.

Role in Decision Support

The great distinction of the Localized Broadcasting Cooperative is not just that it is local and diffuse, but rather that it plays an intimate role in the decision making process itself. Journalists will learn early in their apprenticeship a set of established procedures to aid the many individuals and groups in the neighbourhood to decide where to seek out knowledge, what conclusions to draw from it, what data to foster and broadcast and what should be -- if not suppressed, then at least ignored. Once a consensus is reached among citizens and their institutions, the LBC publicizes active goals and plans, and marks for later discussion alternatives that did not make it past the post.

As a locally-owned, worker-owned cooperative, the LBC has very close ties to the community, yet it is designed to be distant enough to act as an impartial mediator among the many institutions working side by side in the neighbourhood. The constitution of the LBC assures that knowledge will be a tool wielded by the community as a whole, and that other interests are subordinate to their interests. Only the entirety of citizens can decide whether to maximize profit from information, or whether other revenue streams are to be preferred while leaving the LBC as a not-for-profit utility.

Ownership, Staffing and Management

According to the hillside constitution, local residents are majority, controlling owners of the LBC cooperative. Their investment in the LBC consists of preferred, voting shares that reap most of the LBC's dividends. That way, there is nobody, no matter how politically unengaged, who does not have an interest in this entity.

This assures that the Localized Broadcasting Cooperative will always remain a community trust, neither a private nor an entirely publicly owned corporation, although organizations can and indeed must buy a limited number of its shares. Groups are permanently relegated to minority, non-voting shares, since only individuals vote in a cosmopolitan world order. Local institutions of all kinds do own a minimum number of shares in the LBC cooperative, but not so many as to give them undue influence over that of individuals. Groups cannot vote or be represented in shareholder meetings, and their shares reap few dividends. This keeps the institutional stake disinterested, assuring that they do not depend overly much upon that revenue stream.

All residents must be stakeholders in the LBC as a condition of permanent residence. This ownership is lifelong, since newborns automatically receive a bank account and are allocated a minimum number of LBC shares, which increase as the child grows older. A residents stake is only partly liquid, and a minimum amount of stock must be transferred from a former residence into whatever community he or she chooses to move to.

Each local worker has an inalienable right to vote for the managers of the LBC, as well as a collective veto over certain of their policy decisions. Along with such rights, however, come obligations. They need to participate in some way in the LBC, either directly or by proxy; failing that, everybody should at least support the cooperative press and arts through funding, attendance or other accommodation. Among knowledge workers -- that is, artists, writers, teachers, scientists -- direct participation in the LBC is expected. As in Ancient Athens, where every citizen was expected to fill certain public posts and the next citizen to serve was chosen by lot, many jobs for the LBC are continually rotated among knowledge workers, the choice either appointed, elected or chosen by lottery from among their peers.


No comments: