Tuesday, May 20, 2008

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.