This year, the bfi has made an unprecedented change to the procedure for election of one of the two member governors of the Institute. When David Thompson steps down on expiry of his term of appointment, the bfi has ruled that the replacement member governor must reside outside London and the South East and further that at least 10% of bfi Members must vote in the election for an appointment to be valid.
In the recent past, we understand only about 8% of members have voted in such elections. Given that this time round the majority of bfi members (most of whom live in London and the South East) have been disenfranchised it seems more than likely that, under the new rules – which have not been the subject of consultation with members – there may be no candidate with a mandate deemed valid by the bfi – still less by all the membership.
Member governors date from the 1970s when, in response to widespread disquiet by bfi members at bfi management policies, a majority of members attending the bfi AGM voted not to approve the remuneration and reappointment of the bfi’s auditors. This was, and remains, effectively the only democratic sanction which members are able to exercise. The bfi Members’ Action Group, which had organised the AGM protest vote, subsequently agreed that it would support a motion to remunerate and reappoint the auditors if two member governors – each of whom would be elected by and answerable to the whole bfi membership – were appointed. This year’s changes are an unprecedented and unilateral break with the long standing precedent and agreement dating from the 1970s.
The bfi management’s changes to the election procedure are not ones to inspire membership participation and identification with the bfi. Rather they suggest an intensification of the top down, non-consultative and industry-not-user oriented policies of authoritarian management.