In large part, WORT‘s current structure emerged from the mid-1990s, when the station was emerging from a serious internal conflict. That structure included the staff collective; a Board of Directors with representatives from listener-sponsors, volunteers, and staff; and an overall emphasis on democratic governance of the station, largely through committees that included broad representation.
One of the most important of those committees, if not the most important, is the Programming Committee (PC). It defines and shapes what the sound of the station will be. It is charged with deciding what new programs (and programmers) to bring into the station, as well as evaluating the programming that’s already on the air. Where most radio stations—even community radio stations—have a Program Director, WORT has a Programming Committee instead.
Recognizing the importance of broad representation on the Programming Committee, the folks who put together the original charter included a fairly specific system of how many seats were available and who could fill them. That system remains in place today. The PC can include 6-8 members, and the seats break down as follows:
- 1 music volunteer
- 1 news/public affairs volunteer
- 1 listener-sponsor
- 1 Board member, who has the additional duty of interfacing between PC and Board
- the Music Director
- the News & Public Affairs Facilitator
- 2 at-large members who can be volunteers of any type or listener-sponsors
The PC charter remained unchanged for nearly a decade. Then in 2004, the Committee faced some controversy over a few decisions it was considering. The incident highlighted the need for the PC to clarify its processes for decision-making. So we engaged in a significant charter revision, developed a list of criteria we use in considering program changes, and developed a flow chart to help us guide program change processes. The documents that the PC operates under are:
- The Committee’s charter
- A flowchart of decision-making
- Criteria the committee uses to make decisions
Since 2004, the PC has made efforts to improve our program review process. Some progress has been made, and the PC has a programmer self-assessment tool that it developed for programmers to use. Evaluations using this tool have been ongoing in the music and news/public affairs departments since 2009. In 2012, the PC established new criteria for program reviews and set a two-year renewable term for all programs.
Since late 2009, the PC has been having conversations about the overall station schedule, with an eye toward improving our service to listeners and the community and increasing the number of people who tune in (and keeping them tuned in). As of September 2012, we are engaged in conversations with WORT staff, volunteers, Board, and others about what these changes might look like and where the station might go.