Thursday, February 19, 2009

Letter of Offer to WOUB

[editor's note: the following letter was sent Feb. 15, 2009]

Hello Carolyn [Lewis], all of you WOUB Community Advisory Council [WOUB-CAC] members, and a few others with an interest in this matter,

I am sorry that this "forwarded email" to you is so lengthy, but I have much to share with you in the interest of enhancing the quality of our WOUB TV and Radio.

Thank you Carolyn for your reply to my December 28th email to you asking why you at WOUB have decided not to carry "Democracy Now" on WOUB. Thank you also for the copy of your letter to Bob Stewart dated July 27, 2007 -- in which you explain your rationale for denying "Democracy Now" a slot in WOUB's programming schedules. Your July 27th letter to Stewart also introduced me to him, and as a consequence, we have had a nice visit. Thank you for connecting us.

I am sorry that it has taken me so long to get back to you on this matter, Carolyn. Even though I am an emeritus professor, I somehow seem to find too much on my plate with not enough time in which to consume it in a timely manner. Thus my tardiness.

I recently spoke with one of the members of your WOUB -CAC, my friend and colleague, George Bain, about Ruth's and my December 22, 2008 $1,000 contribution offer to WOUB. George said that he had not seen our offer. I assume that perhaps because of the tight time constraints [2008 tax deductableness etc.] that my offer imposed on you -- you were not able to share it with your entire WOUB -CAC group. The offer is still open for the 2009 and 2010 calendar years, and now with no rush I take this opportunity to share Ruth's and my offer with you and the entire WOUB -CAC for your group's reconsideration of it. Furthermore, we might be interested in exploring with you-all the possibility of extending this offer or something related -- beyond the two years mentioned above and through to the ends of our lives -- and perhaps even beyond, via our three great daughters, Solveig, Kim and Heidi.

All three of our daughters are Phi Beta Kappa graduates of Ohio University [in the days before grade inflation] who earned post graduate degrees from -- Duke Law School, JD -- the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, MD -- and a Boston University graduate degree in counseling.


Thus, Carolyn and you members of the WOUB -CAC, this email is a "second try" at getting WOUB to host some "Democracy Now" content as an expression of beautiful "diversity" on our local publicly owned "air waves" -- WOUB TV and Radio. Please see below for additional reflections on "diversity" in ideas and ideals -- my University of Wisconsin-Madison "Sifting and Winnowing" experience.

First let me say that Ruth and I find much with which to be happy about the materials presented on WOUB radio and TV -- and with the helpfulness of WOUB people when we need help. For example, the new digital format for our WOUB TV enables us to have much better reception. One of your people, Terry Douds, was thoughtfully very helpful to me in getting my "converter box" properly connected. In fact our connection with our roof-top antenna is so much better that we can now clearly receive the West Virginia PBS TV signal 33-1-2 and 3.

This is especially helpful to me in that the West Virginia PBS signal also carries the "captions" for those of us with hearing difficulties. I hope that you at WOUB can soon find a way to get those "captions" back on your TV digital signal. My hearing problem is related to my 83 years of being -- but also to my earlier years of military combat pilot service to this nation of ours [two wars WW-II and Korea] when I logged many hours of pilot time in noisy, 105 to 110 decibel, military flying machines.

Furthermore, now with digital TV upon us, we look forward to having WOUB revise its monthly "Centerpiece" brochure [print version] so as to provide all of its patrons with the new information as to what is available and when on which of the new channels for each day's 24 hours. I suspect that perhaps several of your patrons are insufficiently "Internet Wise" to ask them to seek this important information via the Internet.

Ruth and I appreciate and like much of the current content on WOUB TV such as -- The Masterpiece Classic series, Worldfocus, Bill Moyers Journal, the NOW program etc, and recent specific programs such as, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial" and the "Assassination of Lincoln" etc. etc.-- and on WOUB Radio -- the BBC, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation; Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show etc. etc.

I do, however, find it a bit sadly tedious to have to endure, each year these days, two or three months of your "TV fund-raising stuff" that turns PBS into something like that "vast wasteland of nothingness" [commercial radio and TV] as noted by that great 1960s FCC chairperson Newton N. Minow.

Of course I realize that you are not completely in control of these 'fund-raising" matters. It is "we the people" who have allowed our government to behave in ways that destroy "community" with its lust for so-called "free markets" "deregulation" and "privatization" of everything. In my opinion "community" is that which we humans must do collectively in order to enable a humane, just, creative, and dignified life for all of us as sisters and brothers on our beautiful Planet Earth. It is "we the people" who need to restore that beautiful "diversity" to PBS across its spectrum without having to lose months each year to "content diluting" fund raising and to grasping for "corporate advertisers."

"We the people" are smart enough to understand that when PBS's Lehrer evening News Show is sponsored by a huge oil conglomerate -- we will most likely not see anything on Lehrer's news that might seriously offend their interests. My forty years of professional engineering "Green Technology by Design" activity [including time in the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment on these matters] enables me to understand how important it is that "oil conglomerate" and US automobile company interests and their "public relations" [PR] -- be challenged from time to time.


In reading your July 27, 2007 letter to Bob Stewart explaining why you refuse to host some "Democracy Now" on WOUB TV and Radio -- I find that I disagree with most of your "practical and philosophical" arguments, Carolyn.

In addition to the content of my December 22, 2008 email to you Carolyn -- here with this "forwarded email" to your entire WOUB-CAC and to several others who have had some involvement in this matter -- I burden you all with one additional "attachment" -- the University of Wisconsin's "Sifting and Winnowing" idea and ideal. I do this to help you understand a bit more of my reasons and passion for seeking more beautiful "diversity" for WOUB-TV and Radio by having "Democracy Now" appear on "our air waves." I am a great believer in the importance of "diversity" in all its wonderful dimensions ranging from racial to intellectual. "Democracy Now" on WOUB's programming schedule will enhance viewers' ability to "sift and winnow" in their search for truth -- something absolutely essential in a democracy. By adding some "Democracy Now," WOUB will be -- "ever encouraging that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

I look forward to a creative and positive response from you, Carolyn, and also from any of the rest of you who are receiving this email from me -- as you might see fit.

Chuck Overby, Emeritus Engineering Professor


Hello Carolyn,

My wife and I would like to make a nice pledge in support of WOUB, AM and FM radio and TV -- before the end of December 2008. Because time is short for you to respond to my proposal [you may also not even be here at the moment] -- I send a copy of this proposal to Jeannie Jeffers, your Director of Development.

We would like to make a $500 tax deductible gift for the 2008 calendar year, and another of the same magnitude for the 2009 year, in December 2009. There is, however, a condition connected with this offer -- namely that you arrange to have the Amy Goodman "Democracy Now" programs [AM and FM radio and TV] available on a regular basis on WOUB, beginning as soon as possible in 2009.

Let me explain my rationale for this offer.

In my 83 years of being on Planet Earth, I have come to understand how very important it is in a democracy [one in which one might wish to live] -- for us as citizens of that democracy to be exposed to as wide a spectrum of views on the important matters that Impact our lives now and in the future. This is important so that we can do some "sifting and winnowing" from among this diversity of ideas and views -- and thus more rationally and intelligently come to our own unique understanding of matters and issues that impact our lives. It is only through such a "sifting and winnowing" process that we have any hope of approaching "truth."

Also in my 83 years that includes five years of active duty in two of America's wars [World War II and Korea (combat pilot in Korea)] -- I have come to the conclusion that, especially in these days of concentration of America's "private media" power in fewer and fewer hands -- it is most urgent that we use our wonderful "Public Radio and Television" gifts to enhance the "diversity" of information available to U.S. citizens -- and thus become a small blessed David in our battle with the Goliaths -- our poorly regulated "private media." Unless we do this, I fear that we will continue to lose that beautiful essence of democracy in America.

Let me now relate my broad concerns to a very specific personal experience that I recently had in the Minneapolis St. Paul area. This experience helped to motivate me to write this proposal to you at WOUB. I presented a paper at our Veterans for Peace [VFP] Annual Convention the end of August 2008 in Minneapolis. My paper dealt with one of my long term professional engineering themes and passions -- "Green Technology by Design As Means To Help Prevent Oil And Other Kinds of Resource Wars, And To Help Prevent Global Warming."

The Republican National Convention took place in St. Paul immediately following our VFP Convention. The evening of Friday, August 29th our VFP Convention was introduced to Ms. Amy Goodman who was in the Minneapolis-St Paul area with her independent media group "Democracy Now" -- to cover the Republican Convention.

Ms. Goodman and other "independent" television and media people tried to report on some "pre-emptive" police strikes and in general were accosted by droves of St. Paul and Minneapolis police, and perhaps also by some Federal governmental security persons -- who sought to drive them away from the public streets around the Republican National Convention. Aside from a small bit of local reporting on these matters, most of America was not allowed to know that these kinds of things were happening outside the Republican National Convention Hall. These events constitute a concrete and specific illustration of my above general commentary on the failure of the "private media" giants to inform the people of America on matters related to this political convention. These "private media" giants failed America in this instance -- and unfortunately so did PBS.

Ms. Goodman, an independent journalist and TV program producer, and other independent media people who were simply non-violently trying to video the activities outside the convention hall, were harassed. I believe that she and possibly some of the other independents were arrested -- believe it or not, for trying to share these matters with American citizens.

Because of a leg and back physical disability I was unable to join the multitudes of street demonstrators. Thus, I watched the convention on TV -- mostly the PBS Lehrer group's coverage -- but with some switching from time to time to the "private media" giants' channels. I was appalled at the coverage of the Convention -- including that by Lehrer's group. From what we were shown by the media, including PBS -- one would have thought that there were no protests what-so-ever connected with the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul Minnesota. The American people were denied the opportunity to see what was actually happening -- thus limiting their ability to do their own "sifting and winnowing" in search for the truth and reality in St. Paul.

In all of this "controlled media" convention coverage there was one brief moment of excitement when a courageous PBS video camera person turned the PBS camera on a creative protester who somehow managed to sneak into the convention hall with some large poster signs that he briefly unfurled before burly men dragged him out of TV's eye. This protestor unfurled two banners -- one said, referring to the Iraq war, "You cannot win an invasion" -- and the other said "McCain votes against veterans." As a veteran of two of America's wars I know the truth of both of these statements.

I hope that that courageous PBS video camera person did not get fired for violating Lehrer's control by showing an infinitesimal few seconds of courageous protest inside the convention hall. PBS's TV convention coverage mimicked that of the "private media" giants in failing to inform American citizens about what was happening outside the Republican Convention hall.

Thus, Carolyn and Jeannie -- I conclude that we in the Southern Ohio WOUB viewing area much need to see and hear on a regular basis the "Democracy Now" material on WOUB TV and radio [AM and FM].-- so that we might better do our own "sifting and winnowing," and thus insure that we continue to have democracy in American .

I look forward to your thoughtful and prompt acceptance of our proposal. Of course I will need to learn of the specific details as to when and how often we will have this opportunity to view and hear Democracy Now -- before I write my checks to WOUB. I understand that the "Democracy Now" materials come to WOUB with minimal, if any, costs.

For Peace, Justice, and Media Diversity in America --
Chuck Overby, Emeritus Engineering Professor

The University of Wisconsin’s Sifting and Winnowing Statement on Academic Freedom

“Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great State University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

The above words were taken from a late 19th century University of Wisconsin Board of Trustees meeting in support of the right of economics professor Richard Ely to explore controversial ideas with his students. One of his most controversial ideas was simply his view that ordinary workers perhaps ought to have the right to collectively form unions in order to achieve some minimum semblance of “balance of power” in relation to the corporate giants who unabashedly ruled the state at that time. This corporate (robber baron) power-structure strongly sought to have professor Ely fired for polluting the minds of youth. The Wisconsin Board of Trustees courageously resisted this pressure and refused to remove Ely.

As a tribute to academic freedom, these 36 words of wisdom are displayed as a large bronze plaque, called the “Sifting and Winnowing” plaque and mounted on the wall of Bascom Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus standing on the top of the highest hill on the campus, housing the university’s president and administration.

--- on having my brain washed and polluted by these wonderful ideas and ideals, as a graduate student and instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1957-1965

chuck overby
a two US war veteran [WW-II and Korea]
combat pilot in Korea