Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Efforts to Have WOUB Carry Democracy Now!

ATHENS FREE PRESS - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our group, Athens Free Press, was formed a year ago in May of 2007, and includes, so far, members from Athens, Meigs, and Belmont Counties.

The principal goal of AFP is to persuade WOUB officials to add the program Democracy Now to its radio or television schedule. We have thus far been unsuccessful. Democracy Now is an award-winning program that is carried by over 700 radio or television stations and has been adding one or two stations a week. One can also get the program via the Internet at www.democracynow.org; however, many people in SE Ohio do not have Internet services or only have dial-up service. We are convinced that the addition of DN to WOUB’s weekly radio or television programming schedule would increase access to this outstanding program. Such access would also enhance and add diversity to WOUB’s coverage and analysis of events and issues that are important to the citizens of Southeast Ohio.

Over the past year, members of Athens Free Press met twice with WOUB officials and separately with the Dean of the College of Communications. We wrote letters to explain our position to members of the local community. We held an open forum at the Athens Public Library. We presented our case at Advisory Council meetings. We e-mailed information directly to members of the Advisory Council. One of our members obtained relevant information from WOUB via “information requests.”

From the responses and information we have received, the opposition to our proposal stems from WOUB officials and staff, some members of the WOUB Community Advisory Council, and one person in Athens who has registered her/his opposition directly to WOUB. WOUB officials reject our proposal because, for example, they contend that DN does not measure up to their professional standards, that it is partisan, and that AFP is not representative of their audiences. We have responded in detail to all of their objections.

On our side, there are a considerable number of people who support our proposal, including 306 persons who have signed our petition in the Athens area in recent months, and 143 persons who signed the petition at events in or near Belmont County, for a total of 449 signatures. We have 30 persons on our AFP e-mail list. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT AS WELL. PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION.

Further information about Democracy Now and and Athens Free Press can be obtained by requesting information from Bob Sheak at www.sheak@ohio.edu or by visiting our website/blog at http://athensfreepress.blogspot.com.

Today, we plan to give Carolyn Bailey Lewis, Director and General Manager of WOUB, copies of the signatures we have collected on our petition.

Response to letter: "Demand for 'Democracy Now'..."

Dear Folks,

The following letter from Don Canterbury (Stone Castle Road, Athens) appears in the Athens News. His arguments are not new - or easily rebuttable - because they are based on impressions or assertions that lack evidence. See our responses in bold type in the body of the letter.

Bob Sheak

"Demand for ‘Democracy Now’ not as great as its local supporters pretend" (May 19, 2008)

To the Editor:

In response to Michael Barr’s letter on May 12 regarding the hypocrisy of WOUB officials:

I volunteer regularly for WOUB. I’ve read the letters to the editor about WOUB and “Democracy Now.”

The letters make it seem like a huge number of people want the show to air. I can tell you that the number of people I’ve encountered (both people that I know and people I have encountered during pledge drives and other events at WOUB) wanting that show to run is very small. - He is saying that not many people he encounters in these situations say the "want the show."

My reaction is that not many - or any - people in these situations know about DN even think to discuss it. This says nothing about the substance of DN's programs, an award-winning show that is now carried by over 700 stations. The signatures we have collected on our petition represent a few hundred people who have signed on specifically in favor of having WOUB include DN in their radio or television programming. That may not be many, but its not insignificant either.

The biggest thing that is hard for me to understand is that the show is available at democracynow.org at any time. Why is it so important for WOUB to air the show when it is available for anyone who is interested in listening to it?

He misses the point here. Many people in this area have no internet service, or only dial-up service, making web access to audio and video impractical, and who is he to decide that DN should be relegated to second class delivery options? (but thanks for the plug for the democracynow.org Web site)

I believe that it is a small group of people that want their political opinions to be showcased to make others believe the same way they do. I think that is wrong. I listen to a lot of news programs and make my own decisions. I don’t need any certain program to tell me how to think.

His statements here are based on impressions and assertions without evidence. He asserts that we are a small group. He asserts that we want others to believe the same way we do. Our position has been that DN would enhance and diversify the programming available on WOUB. At present, many of the perspectives on the news that DN offers are essentially censored from the broadcast news options in this area. We are not asking to censor other perspectives, or tell anyone how to think. What we are asking is to end the censorship and give the public access to more diversity from which to form opinions. DN would broaden the information on the issues for the writer and others, not tell him how to think. By the way, just this weekend on "Bob Edwards Weekend," which is distributed on NPR by Public Radio International, Edwards spent a half hour talking to Amy Goodman, the host of DN. Edwards is well known in public media circles and apparently thinks highly enough of Amy and DN to invite her for an extended discussion of DN and Amy's recent book, which builds on interviews from DN. By the way, Bill Moyers, another major media figure, is also a big booster of DN. Moyers hosts his own program on PBS every Friday Night. He was a guest on DN on the May 7th program.

WOUB is carried through a huge part of southeastern Ohio and parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.

I think they have a great mix of programs that show the different sides of every story. I don’t want anything to be taken off the air to make room for Democracy Now.

This is his opinion with no supporting evidence. We have documented that guests and hosts of NPR and PBS were wrong in their support of Colin Powell's Iraq address to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 promoting the invasion of Iraq. The coverage of Haiti, Israel-Palestine, and a host of other issues that are covered by NPR and PBS reflect a narrow range of viewpoints. To advance the issue raised by he writer of the letter would require a close examination of how DN covers specific issues or topics compared to NPR and/or PBS.

As far as all the fuss about the naming of the newsroom, the guy (Roger Ailes) went to OU and worked for WOUB as a student.

Would it be right to not take money from someone because he has political beliefs that you don’t agree with? I don’t think so. I think he’s been successful in the business and wants to provide money to help out students.

Roger Ailes gave WOUB a $500,000 gift for a newsroom in the RTV building which has been named after him. Ailes is the principal force behind Fox News, a station that is renown for a donor notorious for news right-wing, pro-Bush and pro-Republican stances. Accepting a gift is one thing.

Naming a the newsroom after the a donor notorious for right-wing biased news donor raises serious questions about what influence this may have on WOUB's independence. is something that is worrisome. It doesn't reflect What does it mean for an educational program a desire to build a program for students that is in the tradition of journalists who pursue the facts of stories from diverse sources, even when the facts conflict with positions of held by government officials or by the interests of large economic interests.

I find it hard to believe that anybody would have a problem with that. I think if you do, then you’re biased in your beliefs. Anyone who thinks that money for the newsroom is tied in with the decision to not run “Democracy Now” is wrong. When I work pledge drives, we don’t ask someone’s political affiliations. The money raised has nothing to do with politics; it has to do with supporting a good radio station.

WOUB officials have expressed the opinion, with no supporting evidence, that carrying Democracy Now would hurt fundraising. We have offered evidence to the contrary, that in fact carrying DN may well enhance fundraising among listeners. Inevitably, this raises the question as to whether the fundraising that WOUB is concerned about is not from ordinary listeners, but from the likes of Roger Ailes. Our position is that WOUB's programming would be enhanced and diversified in good ways by the inclusion of DN. And citizens in Southeast Ohio would then be in a better, more informed, position to judge the truthfulness of what those in power tell us.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Interview with Marshall Thompson (video)

Thompson recently completed "A Soldier's Peace," a documentary about his 500-mile walk to protest the Iraq war.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Amy Goodman, on Bob Edwards Show, 5/16/08

Bob Edwards Show interviews Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!

"Amy Goodman anchors the foremost progressive daily news program in the country, 'Democracy Now!' Goodman along with her brother, investigative reporter David Goodman, recently wrote a new book which tells the stories of courageous citizens who have challenged government policies. It's called 'Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.'"

download/listen: podcast

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Speaking up at WOUB's public advisory meeting, 2/19/08

The following videos are from the Feb. 19, 2008 WOUB Public Advisory Council meeting are used with permission of Ohio University, and were produced by WOUB. The first set of videos were taken during the 10 minute period set aside for "public comment" near the end of the meeting.

Bob Sheak, member of Athens Free Press, speaking on behalf of Democracy Now

Jack Wright, member of Athens Free Press, speaking on behalf of Democracy Now

Jan Griesinger, member of the Athens, Ohio community, speaking on behalf of Democracy Now

Chuck Overby, member of the Athens, Ohio community, speaking on behalf of Democracy Now

John Morgan, member of Athens Free Press, speaking on behalf of Democracy Now

Bob Stewart, member of Athens Free Press, speaking on behalf of Democracy Now

These videos are of the responses by the attending members of WOUB's Public Advisory Council:

George Bain, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Kathy Devecka, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Bob Gallagher, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Milena Miller, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Jeff Wilson, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Sandra Sleight-Brennan, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Jim Fuller, member of WOUB's Public Advisory Council

Fred Harner, chair of WOUB's Public Advisory Council, adjourning the meeting and then asking the public to leave the premises

According to several members of the council, the discussion about our request continued after we were dismissed from the meeting, effectively eliminating our opportunity to respond to WOUB managers' statements about our efforts.

Membership of the WOUB Public Advisory Council:

Mr. Fred Charles Harner, Chair, Athens
Ms. Milena Miller, Vice Chair, Athens
Ms. Kathy Devecka, Secretary, Athens
Dr. George Bain, Legislative Affairs Chair, Athens
Ms. Brandi Baker (student), Athens
Mr. Matthew Barnes (student), Athens
Mr. Tom Brennaman (alumnus), Cincinnati
Ms. Maggi Channell, Athens
Dr. Bill Dingus, South Point
Mr. James Fuller, Nominating Chair, Athens
Mr. Robert Gallagher, Chillicothe
Mr. Robert Guentter, Jr., Zanesville
Ms. Monica Sue Jones, Zanesville
Mr. Brooks Jarosz (student), Athens
Mr. Gary Little, Athens
Ms. Diane McVey, Development Chair, Athens
Mrs. Caroline Putnam, Marietta
Ms. Nicole Salem (student) Athens
Mr. David Scheffler, Columbus
Ms. Sandra Sleight-Brennan, Athens
Mr. Aaron Thomas, Athens
Ms. Janice Tucker-McCloud, New Concord
Mr. Jeff Wilson, Athens

Ex-officio: Dr. Gregory J. Shepherd, Dean, Scripps College of Communication; Dr. Carolyn Bailey Lewis, Director and General Manager

WOUB Council Liaison: Ms. Sue Damron, Administrative Coordinator, WOUB 740-593-4952 or damronw@ohio.edu

The next meeting is May 21, 2008 in Ironton [read more]

Monday, May 12, 2008

Plunkett cartoon captured the hypocrisy of WOUB officials

To the Editor [of the Athens News]:

Kudos to Sandy Plunkett for a terrific political cartoon in the May 1 Athens NEWS distilling the hypocrisy of WOUB’s refusal to carry “Democracy Now” while OU shamelessly gushes over Fox News President Roger Ailes’ gift of media equipment to his alma mater.

In dismissing the outpouring of regional requests for WOUB to carry DN, officials have publicly said very little except (as the cartoon depicts) suggesting that the requested show is “biased.”

Yet OU has fawningly kowtowed to what journalists generally acknowledge is the most slanted large news organization in the nation. Incredibly, they’ve actually christened the upgraded studio in the name of the right-wing FOX honcho.

Internal documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that communications among OU and WOUB officials cited a total of one WOUB viewer threatening to withhold support if “Democracy Now” hits the local airwaves. The show in question does play on PBS/NPR affiliates elsewhere and reportedly results in more, not fewer, contributions to these public stations.

With the recent opening of several digital channels broadcast by WOUB, there’s plenty of airtime available for the inclusion of the award-winning “Democracy Now” program.

Yes, there is bias contained in this continuing controversy. And it’s clearly on the side of WOUB/OU management. It’s past time that changes.

Michael Barr
Gilham Road

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Moyers, on Democracy Now! ... Again

The following is an excerpt from a May 7, 2008 interview with Bill Moyers on Democracy Now! [full program]

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of broadcasting and media, you’re broadcasting on PBS. Do you think it has become, well, let’s say, to put it mildly, risk-averse? Go back forty years to the Carnegie Commission and the founding of public broadcasting. You were there in the White House. You were the press secretary for Lyndon Johnson. You came in in ’63, when he came in after Kennedy’s assassination?

BILL MOYERS: Yes. The first two years, I was his general assistant and the fellow who was coordinating his domestic policy. I actually helped put together the task force that led to the creation of public broadcasting in—Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. I had left in January of ’67. But my first job, before he insisted—after three times I had said no—he insisted I become the press secretary, was dealing with issues like the environment, civil rights, public broadcasting and all of that. So, yes, I was present at the creation.

And I have to say that public broadcasting today is not the adventuresome, the risk-taking exercise in diversity and pluralism and democracy that we had hoped it would be. It lacks the financial independence to take the risks that you can only take when you have nothing to lose, because 70 percent of public broadcasting’s funding comes from Congress. That makes it political in the eyes of many people, even though that influence is marginal. You know, I’ve advocated for years publicly that Democracy Now! should be on public broadcasting.

AMY GOODMAN: And it is on a number of PBS stations.

BILL MOYERS: A number of stations, but it’s not fed through the system. It’s not a system-wide—it should be. And there should be other reasonable voices with different philosophies than yours and mine on the air. But it is hamstrung by financial penury, and it’s embedded in a system that is altogether too political, and so it doesn’t take the risks that we ought to be taking. We ought to be the forum for the country.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Kenneth Tomlinson, the man who made you his target, possibly drove you off PBS for a while, giving $5 million to the Wall Street Journal Report that aired on PBS, $5 million? Now it goes to FOX, so PBS becomes the incubator for programs in the commercial media.

BILL MOYERS: Well, I address that story in two of the speeches I delivered that are published in Moyers on Democracy. They didn’t drive me off the air. PBS took—stood behind me. Pat Mitchell, the then-president of PBS, was under enormous pressure. I wasn’t even aware of how much pressure until I left.

The main reason I left—I had been doing this weekly broadcast, I was seventy years old, I was tired, I needed a rest. But the main reason I left is that I could not oppose—I knew what Kenneth Tomlinson and the—who was Karl Rove’s man at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—I knew what they were doing. I had friends still working at CPB. One of them called me and said, you know, Tomlinson has said his job is to get rid of Moyers. Well, I wasn’t going to let that happen, but I finally realized that the only way I could deal with Kenneth Tomlinson and the rightwing effort to intimidate public broadcasting was to leave the air for awhile, because I couldn’t use my broadcast, I couldn’t use the camera to oppose him, because it would appear to be self-serving. So I left.

I retired at the age of seventy, went out and made a series of speeches. Most of them are in that book. Two of them dealt directly with Tomlinson. And I worked with friends of public broadcasting in Washington to tell the story of what was happening.

As a result of that and other things, the integrity of—the inspector general at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting looked into Tomlinson’s activities and decided they were violating the rules and the regulations. He had to leave the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He was not reappointed. And then he had to also leave the Board of Governors of the overseas broadcasting, the United States overseas broadcasting, because he had engaged in many of the same questionable activities there that he had done at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When that was over and I had felt that I had had my say without abusing my position at public broadcasting, I came back with a weekly series.

But this is not the first time, Amy. You know that starting with Richard Nixon and Patrick Buchanan, when Buchanan was Nixon’s director of communications, they tried to undo public broadcasting. Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole tried to undo public broadcasting. George W. Bush wants to defund even the modest amount of money we get from Congress. There’s been a consistent fight, because the conservatives don’t want an alternative view of reality. We’re not going to propagate their propaganda. They don’t like it when there’s any kind of opposition or any—someone who doesn’t cooperate with them, they don’t like. So they have been consistently, from 1970 forward, trying to undo public broadcasting. And that’s one of the reasons public broadcasting hasn’t soared as the independent source of journalism, analysis and debate that it should be.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Democracy Now...

by Sandy Plunkett [published in the Athens News, May 1, 2008]

"A Soldier's Peace" film screening (podcasts added)

OU grad student Marshall Thompson's award winning film, "A Soldier's Peace," was shown Friday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Scripps Hall 111. Thompson was on hand for the showing, as well as a discussion about the film following the showing.

Introduction to film, with Bill Reader (JSchool) >> mp3 podcast

Discussion following film with Tanya Paperny (Campus Progress) and Marshall Thompson (film producer/director) >> mp3 podcast