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TK's MORNING BUZZ -- LIVE DAILY FROM THE VSDA SHOW IN LAS VEGAS! <BR> Day 1 -- In Search of an Open Board Vote on Universal's Distribution Shakeup

6 Jan, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

LAS VEGAS--Good morning, all! I arrived here in Las Vegas yesterday for home entertainment's big one-two punch: The VSDA convention and the Consumer Electronics Show, held concurrently for the first time ever, and with a VSDA board meeting this morning to boot!

I'll be filing daily dispatches from Las Vegas each morning through Tuesday. Today, as CES opens with Bill Gates' much-hyped presentation of Microsoft's X-Box videogame console, the VSDA show is still a day off. And yet the trade association's board is already holed up in meetings, discussing, among other things, whether to support distributor contentions that Universal's distribution shakeup is bad for retailers (the NAVD board reportedly asked its VSDA counterpart to take up the matter) and whether to make public how board members vote.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm going to once again publicly urge board members to open the vote. For too long, the VSDA board has operated in secrecy, making a farce out of the election process. We've got retailers campaigning for board seats making all kinds of promises and issuing all sorts of position papers and statements. And yet once elected, there's no way of holding them accountable, because the VSDA won't tell us how anyone voted.

Each year, the matter is brought before the board by one or more members who actually believe their constituents have the right to know how their elected representatives vote. And each year, the matter is either tabled before it can come to a vote or defeated.

This year, I'm hopeful (and yet not overly optimistic) that things will be different. Hopefully honest and forthright board members like Kay Adams, a vocal proponent of open board votes, will prevail. At the very least, let members know how elected directors vote. I also like a proposal espoused by veteran VSDA activist Ken Dorrance, who suggests opening board meetings to VSDA members.

I can understand the arguments put forth by the pro-secrecy faction, but I don't agree with them. They say publishing board votes might give members the wrong idea, because they don't get the full story. Well, then it's up to directors to tell us why they voted as they did. I know Video Store Magazine and Hive4media would gladly give them space to explain themselves.

The pro-secrecy faction also argues that in close votes, knowing the final tally might weaken the force of the resolution. I say, it would force us all to take a closer look at both sides of the issue and reach our own conclusions, as many of us did in the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Gore-Bush battle. That decision was reached by a very divided court, many of us don't agree with it, and yet the ruling still stands.

In a nutshell, I believe the right to know supercedes these and other concerns. I also believe that the longer the VSDA board keeps its votes secret, the less anyone cares about the board or the VSDA, regardless of how they vote. If they keep shutting the door in our faces, sooner or later we're just going to walk away.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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