BFI Member Governors R.I.P.

Too many crooks

It would seem that we should mourn our representation on the BFI Board of Governors: the Members’ Representative is no more. The minutes of a series of meetings by the Board in 2015 have just been placed on the BFI Webpages. {My thanks to Mark Newell who bought this to my attention and provided other information]. This is the only notice that the Board has deemed to make. There is no notice as of yet on the BFI Webpages: and there are no Press Releases or Photo-ops as when a celebrity joins the Board. In fact I sent at least five emails to the Board office after no notice appeared in January [as promised] informing members about the status of a representative, but received no response.

Member Governor Election 2015

3.3 The results of the recent Member Governor election were outlined and discussed by the Board. The Board was informed that Peter Kosminsky had topped the poll, but a disappointing 5.1% of the electorate had participated. In accordance with the rules governing the Election (that require 10% of the electorate to participate) the election was therefore null and void, and as the turnout was so low, the Board regrettably determined that they should not again exercise their right to appoint the winning candidate regardless. It was acknowledged that Peter’s contribution to the Board over the last four years had been extremely significant and the Chair expressed his gratitude for Peter’s considerable efforts during his term.

3.4 Three elections had taken place since 2012 and on each occasion the turnout had been well below the 10% figure required for the election to be valid. It was noted that the cost of running an election was significant. In light of these two factors, the board questioned whether elections for a Member Governor should still take place. The Board acknowledged the value of reserving a Board place for a BFI member. As an alternative to an election, it was proposed that as the Member Governor position becomes vacant, members should be invited to nominate candidates who might meet specified skills requirements. A short list would then be drawn up and candidates interviewed by the Nominations and Appointments Committee. The Committee would then make a recommendation to the Board. The Board considered that this would allow for the reinvigoration of the valuable Member Governor position and resolved to approve the process going forward. As the position was now vacant the new process would be implemented as soon as possible.

There are quite a few problems with this record and proposal. The 10% rule, which was only introduced by the Board in recent years, is an anachronism. The only other organisations in British Society which have a percentage requirements imposed on their membership are the Trade Unions: this speaks volumes about the existing Board interests and values. None of the Board Members have been elected, even by one vote. In fact, only one member of the Board appears to have been involved in elections at all: and that member lost on both occasions. It would seem that the Board intend to lay down specified skills in the future for nominees. The only relevant requirements at the moment would seem to be representation of ordinary workers and representation of the regions. Judging by the profiles all of the Board members are involved in management or direction, work in London, and, as far as I can tell, not one of them lives north of the Watford Gap. And this applied to the last regional representative on the Board as well. As for the Board vetting such nominations according to their own criteria, which presumably will not be available to members, what is the point of an election in this manner. Its actual purpose is much more likely to be vet possible candidates so that no-one is elected who might rock the cosy and secretive clique.

I used secretive advisedly, because if you check the minutes available on the BFI Webpages you can see that there are an increasing numbers of items that are marked ‘Part of this minute has been removed due to reasons of confidentiality’. So it is difficult to even check what the Board is doing in certain areas.

The election of members representatives goes back to the 1972 and was introduced because of the vocal criticism of the Board and the BFI management at the time. At that time the line was that ‘a hundred member’ would be considered sufficient to justify a candidate’s election. Clearly, an active representative is a thorn in the side of the Board and the management. My personal view is that the covert purpose all along has been to neuter elected representation. First we lost one of the two representatives, now both are gone. That does, of course, parallel similar movements across British society, especially in the public sector. Presumably the Board would wish to be like the wholly unelected and unaccountable Trustees at the Science Museum Group. The result of that sort of control is exemplified in the expropriation of the Royal Society Photographic collection from The Bradford National Media Museum to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. As has been pointed out, Londoners could go to an Exhibition or a Museum every day of the year and not visit all that is on offer in the metropolis. The Science Museum management used similar tactic to the BFI Board to achieve this. In their case reducing access to the collection and then claiming not enough people visited the collection!

Our Yankee cousins still treasure the founding cry of their great revolution, ‘no taxation without representation!’ The situation at the BFI is less dramatic, but the like is applicable. The people who pay for the organisation should have some control on how it spends their money.

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