DvG2: KDRP Takes on Clear Channel

It’s springtime in the Texas Hill Country. Bluebonnets are blooming and new-borne critters are rustling through the underbrush. Over in Austin, the South by Southwest festivities are drawing down and the students are coming back from Spring Break. But out in the little community of Dripping Springs, a battle is brewing, a battle over the airwaves themselves.

And it truly does look like a David vs Goliath rematch—a small nonprofit radio station taking on one of the true giants in broadcasting, Clear Channel Communications. According to its website, Clear Channel today reaches over 110 million listeners on over 850 stations nationwide, five of those being in the Austin area itself. They also syndicate 90 programs and services to more than 5,000 station affiliations, as well as owning and operating more that 140 stations in Australia and New Zealand. All in all, last year they boasted of nearly 6 billion dollars in revenue. So with numbers like that the San Antonio-based corporation seems the very epitome of a giant, and as with most giants it’s used to getting its way.

And, for better or worse, KDRP fits into the role of the over-matched underdog all too well. On their website the Mission Statement says, in part:

 The Principle Broadcasting Foundation will primarily offer community, family and spiritual educational programming, community events such as High School Sporting Events from the various surrounding areas will often be broadcast in addition to public awareness programs regarding community issues. Also offered will be music programming, Public Service Announcements, News and Feature Programs that are responsive to the needs and interest of the local community.

And it is the music programming that is drawing a wider audience to the station, mainly due to some savvy decisions by General Manager Ryan Schuh and Operations Manager Denver O’Neal. Last year they added two radio legends to their on-air talent pool—Sammy Allred and Larry Monroe. Both had long careers on larger stations in Austin but had parted ways with their former employers. KDRP realized that both still had loyal followings and returned them to the airwaves last year, Sammy in a familiar early-morning slot and Larry back on in the evenings. And recently the station announced its newest show and host—“290 Radio,” hosted by singer/songwriter Paula Nelson. With its signal reaching through the Hill Country, maybe proud papa Willie can tune her in whenever he’s in town. Or he can always pick it up streaming worldwide.

So, to look at these two entities from afar, it would be hard to imagine that they would ever come into conflict; their goals are just too disparate. Clear Channel is obviously out for maximum profit and clout in the broadcasting world, and KDRP is a nonprofit low-power station set up to broadcast small town community events and Texas-flavored music. Their two paths should never cross. But a battle is in fact brewing and now KDRP is lawyering up.

And the basis for that battle has been building for some time now, going back at least until June of 2011. Much of that was covered at the time, both by our site, here, and by Austin NBC affiliate KXAN reporter Jim Swift, here. In a nutshell, the problem is one that gets down to the very heart of any broadcaster, the sanctity of their signal. Starting in June 2011 KDRP began hearing reports from listeners about strange content coming in, something besides the small-town chat shows and church news they were expecting. Instead it was sports talk radio, along with ads for what many considered unsuitable products—such as adult-oriented businesses and breast augmentation clinics. With these ads sometimes coming in during actual church sermons, it was pretty disturbing for any parishioners tuning in from home.

Most of the background on just how that came to be was covered in depth in the previous articles, but in brief, it turns out that local station KVET, a Clear Channel affliate, had secured antennae space on a tower actually owned by a major religious broadcaster, Educational Media Foundation. And then through some fairly intricate moves between the giants, the EMF tower was moved closer to KDRP’s tower, resulting in two stations now broadcasting on the 103.1 frequency with only 15 miles separating their towers. Now anyone trying to listen to KDRP on their assigned frequency may well get KVET instead. Or, even more frustrating, they will get “drift” between the two and basically keep switching back and forth unexpectedly.

Of course, there is a government agency specifically set up to prevent and handle such disputes, the Federal Communications Commission. But, as with many national agencies, the rules and regulations there can best be described as byzantine. And there is always the suspicion that politics and financial clout is what carries the day at FCC, something that wouldn’t bode well for a tiny entity such as KDRP. Things certainly haven’t gotten off to an auspicious start with the agency. According to a letter recently published on the KDRP website, they first contacted the FCC and the owners of KVET about the alleged interference and were instructed to obtain letters of concern from the public. Those letters were then sent to the FCC, who ordered KVET to investigate. In reply, KVET argued that the letters were mainly written by KDRP underwriters, volunteers, sponsors and other fans and therefore were not legitimate complaints. That seems to be a pretty specious argument, and as the KDRP letter goes on to state :

Apparently the FCC will only accept complaints from passive listeners or complete strangers to KDRP. If so, this raises a question: How would anyone know they are receiving interference to the 103.1 signal if they are not already a fan of KDRP?

How indeed. . . . If the actual listeners being affected are not considered valid complainants, then it is hard to see how any station anywhere could ever make a case for signal interference. Casual or first-time listeners would have no idea that anything was wrong, or know who to file a complaint with if they did. Seems like a bit of pretzel logic, and since KVET refuses to acknowledge the interference or return phone calls, things seem to be heading for litigation.

Of course the FCC could well step in and actually do something to enforce their own guidelines—the guidelines on signal interference are pretty clear. But federal agencies are notoriously slow weighing in on local matters, or at  least they usually are. And that’s where this story takes an unexpected twist. This whole issue first came about when Clear Channel was able to move that transmission tower closer to Austin from another location, and that requires an OK from the FCC. And the usual processing time for such a ruling is generally six to nine months. In this case the FCC expedited the process and approved it in just eight days. This is being viewed by many as a sign that Clear Channel has the inside track at the FCC, and with all of their money and political connections the suspicion doesn’t seem far-fetched.

So now the little station in Dripping Springs is preparing to do battle as the David against the Goliath of Clear Channel, and they’re doing their best to get the word out. As an opening salvo they held a “Free the Airwaves” benefit concert in Austin the same weekend as the SXSW Music Festival. People came to the beautiful oak garden at Hill’s Cafe for a lengthy show that featured such acts as the above-mentioned Paula Nelson as well as Clay McClinton, George Devore and a surprise visit from Waylon Jenning’s son, Shooter, who performed a spirited set. There was also a silent auction and speeches from station personnel and from the attorney who is going to be heading the legal maneuvers to return KDRP’s signal back to its rightful owners and listeners.

There are a lot of changes going on in the radio world right now, and it’s difficult to determine just where this will all end. The FCC is already working on frequency allotments for further LP-FM stations such as KDRP, and there is always concern there about market saturation and diversity with conglomerates such as Clear Channel. As those new frequencies get assigned and the new generation of small stations come on line, there will doubtless be further conflicts between small community stations and the media giants. So perhaps the bellwether for the future may be the fate of this tiny little station out in the Hill Country. The David taking on the Goliath on his own turf, right there at the FCC. As of now it’s impossible to say how David will do in “DvG2,” or how long it might take to resolve. But for the listeners out in the Hill Country tuning in to 103.1, the only mystery for them lies in just what they might hear.

 —Rev Jim




The Days the Music Died

Following is an exchange one of our correspondents, author Gwen Fortune, had with “DT” about the state of music in general and NPR in particular:

Thanks, I know NPR affiliation is no guarantee of decent music. Some PBS affiliates do better, but by no means most. There is much PRM and APM programming that is of the highest quality, and a good bit of NPR programming is very good, but the NPR corporate attitude is the pits.

I have told you that at one time I contributed significant sums to WCQS, our local NPR affiliate. Then NPR’s programming changed, not so subtly. There arouse a frequent need for a mute button, and I would often forget to unmute.

When the morning magazine program began to use nasty rock in the interstices in the early AM, and the “music” reviews were nearly always rock, I complained. I wrote many letters with no response from WCQS and only boiler plate from NPR and the person they jokingly call an “Ombudsman.”  I won’t dignify their response to my letters as an “exchange.”

I turned NPR off in my house, permanently, and I stopped contributing. I will not contribute to a station that makes it necessary to carry a remote with a mute button. I record TV and use fast forward through the nasty segments, but I only pay the cable company for that.

Congress wants to defund them. I will not write Congress about that either. I do occasionally write to NPR to remind them of the situation and why they aren’t getting the hundreds of dollars a year I used to contribute. That money goes to my orchestras and local charities now.

Talk about beating a dead horse. I’m almost sorry about the diatribe…

Our experiences with NPR are hand-in-glove. No diatribe. You’re entitled. This is called freedom. Without choice there is no freedom. We have ever decreasing choices.

In the Chapel Hill area I was part of a community group that met with the Ombudsman. A joke. UNC killed all Classical and Jazz  They prefer the banal, non-musical rock-rap  contemporary “pop” because the generation now in power has no cultural continuity.  There God is “the demographic,” kids with even less exposure to anything of quality than they have.

When I moved to Gainesville the station here had seven and one-half hours of classical music weekdays,  carried the Met and other good music. The UF president took control, and it has been downhill for more than two years. I was, again, part of the protest group. We picketed three or four times in front of the Journalism Building — home of the station — and The Alumni Hall where a high-level meeting was to be held. Most of the dignitaries entered by alternate doors, to avoid us.

I have totally given up on this society. A friend accused me of hating the US. I hate the ignorance that has always been a part of any culture — but the rapid “dumbing-down” under the guise and control of Corporate is the social equivalence of an earthquake-tsunami combination, nation-wide.

I left Chicago at the time NPR was forcing its corporate model on WFMT. Citizens bought the station — $$$$ — and it still offers high quality music and commentary. It is on my desktop, playing right now. Just announced a summer festival in Chitown. Watts and the CSO are included. Listening, now, to glorious music of Jonas Kaufman, from “Verissimo.” Oh, how I miss that place.

I wonder what the world will be like for the youth who are continuing the “School music” tradition. UF has excellent music students, and I am sure there are many others in the nation — but their survival is problematic, given sports and BUSINESS.

My seven-year-old granddaughter is in her third year of violin, and loves it. The four-year-old begins this fall, so they can play together, they say. Kids like this are being fed to the barracuda. For shame.

Yes, it is sad.

All That Jazz

Tom Taylor’s newsletter carried the latest bad news for college radio: WDUQ in Pittsburgh, sold by the bean counters at Duquesne to a public radio group “enhanced” by dollars from a PRC offshoot, Public Media Company, and absorbed into the NPR borg, will shove the beloved jazz programming off into HD purgatory. PRC was brought in by the original management team to help them buy the station, but ended up selling them down the river(s) and forming its own acquisition team:

Pittsburgh jazz fans were anxious about losing their music on WDUQ – and they were right.

The hipsters have been talking about what percentage of jazz might remain after Essential Public Media closed on its $6 million purchase of the non-com from Duquesne University – and the answer is “almost zero.” Except for a Saturday night block, it’s all being shunted to a fulltime HD multicast channel and to a dedicated online all-jazz service. Essential Public Media quotes NPR to the effect that “Pittsburgh is one of only two U.S. cities in the top 35 radio markets without a full-service NPR news and information station.” That will change on July 1 – and give Essential Public Media credit for disclosing their plans, five weeks ahead of the change. The buyer is a first-time partnership between another Pittsburgh non-com, adult alternative WYEP (91.3), and a new unit of Public Radio Capital named Public Media Company. Former Minnesota Public Radio executive Dennis Hamilton, currently Director of Consulting for PRC, will serve as WDUQ’s interim President/GM. We also gain some insight into the financials of the buyer. The Richard King Mellon Foundation and Heinz Endowments have each committed $1.5 million toward the purchase and operating costs. Essential Public Media is getting $250,000 from the strategic reserve fund of WYEP and another $250,000 from a fund managed by The Pittsburgh Foundation.” It’s still talking with TPG and other local charitable foundations.

WDUQ remains a center of jazz programming.

The Pittsburgh operation will continue producing “Jazzworks” for national syndication. It uses some slick digital technology to deliver “a single, significant programming channel”, which can actually be fed in a customized fashion. Jazzworks LLC is currently owned and operated by Duquesne University’s WDUQ, and is part of the package going over to buyer Essential Public Media. Also to keep jazz fans happy – there’s a continuing six-hour Saturday evening jazz show on the main WDUQ signal (90.5), plus “jazz reports and features” elsewhere in the broadcast week. Essential Public Media pledges to record live jazz events around Pittsburgh for broadcast on HD Multicast and online. And here’s something that should make iBiquity happy – “a voucher program for member listeners to help them purchase HD Radio receivers.”

A story on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s website, “Switch from jazz at WDUQ falls flat for enthusiasts,” aired some of the local complaints:

“It’s draconian,” said Evan Pattak, chair of Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh, of EPM’s decision. “From 100 hours [a week] to six — it’s a blow to this city’s cultural and artistic diversity. I can’t imagine any jazz fan who would find it acceptable.”

Mr. Pattak and a group of community leaders and jazz supporters launched Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh earlier this year. They submitted a proposal to EPM, asking for six hours of jazz a day — less than what WDUQ currently airs, arguing that limited jazz is better than none.

Followers of the Save Our WDUQ Facebook site (link on right) are not happy:

Jim Amato Another sad case of a broadcasting company not listening to its listeners. There’s already 3 news/talk stations in this city. What are we going to do without our jazz? This city produced legends in jazz that are world renowned. It’s a slap in the face to jazz and its supporters in this region.

Larry Belli If I want to hear car talk, I go hang with Goober!

Peter King I will certainly stop contributing to WDUQ. And then there’s WYEP, the station that helped buy DUQ and kill the jazz. I won’t ever be contributing to YEP again.Also, for anyone who is considering withdrawing membership dollars but might feel guilty for not “helping” the community, I can name a dozen other arts and/or broadcast/Web nonprofits in Pittsburgh and elsewhere deserving of our support. And one more thing — not just the outcome but the process of this whole thing has smelled bad since Day 1. Without going into the whole long, sad story (which has yet to be fully reported), jazz fans and the DUQ staff have been ignored, treated as fools and generally disrespected. When the “new” DUQ calls me or writes me and subtly suggests I have a duty to support public radio, I’ll answer: “What public radio?”

Busted in Boston

Jeff Boudreau sent along this article from the website of In These Times called “At Boston’s Premier PBS Station, Unionbusting Tactics and a Koch Connection,” providing details about the union-busting move by WGBH suits in “resolving” its labor dispute. It seems that Tea Party mogul (Americans for Prosperity) and ultra-conservative financier David Koch, hyper-active in the war on unions, is a member of the ‘GBH board, notes author Kari Lydersen. As Kari writes of the management move:

The three-year contract guts the union that represents a third of the station’s total workforce, making about half of them at-will employees, giving managers the right to fire on-air talent for any reason without recourse and allowing the outsourcing of work without union approval, which could mean hundreds of job cuts, as described by the union.

The management plan also includes the power to assign employees to work across different media platforms, which could mean significantly increased workloads and give management reasons to fire employees who aren’t trained for the new assignments. Management’s contract also reduces the time a laid-off employee has recall rights to the same job  from a year to nine months, and eliminates severance pay if laid-off workers refuse a rehiring offer in a similar job.

And management’s contract reduces employees’ control over their own schedules, allowing managers to force employees to take unpaid leave or vacation time, and eliminating the past guarantee of two consecutive days off each week.

The article then points out the connection to the right-wing puppet master:

The station’s board of trustees includes billionaire Tea Party backer David Koch, The Boston Phoenix reported:

Public records show that Koch, along with his brother Charles, gave more than $17 million over 10 years to groups that organize against workers. They also provided seed money for the private sector front group Americans For Prosperity (AFP), which is currently backing the union-busting Walker in Wisconsin and comparable efforts elsewhere. A WGBH spokesperson tells the Phoenix that “the Trustees have no involvement in the day to day running of WGBH.

A statement from the union says it appreciates Koch’s financial support, but:

As a board member, Mr. Koch’s well-known political and personal philosophy should not influence WGBH’s labor relations policies. We truly hope that Mr. Koch’s seat on the board and WGBH’s aggressive tactics with our union is just a coincidence. . . . The same right wing forces that are trying to bust public sector unions in Wisconsin are at work right here in Boston trying to bust WGBH’s largest union.

Google the Koch brothers and you’ll find a wide assortment of stories linking them to a war against President Obama (from the New Yorker,here), union busting in Wisconsin (New York Times, here), climate change denial (care2.com, here), and a panoply of devious deeds in their crusade opposing government regulation (see, e.g., The Independent, here). Not surprisingly, ‘GBH suits deny any link between their move to crush the union and the charitable works of the billionaire brothers. But as commenter Alex Pirie remarked, “Why don’t we just cash out, elect the Koch brothers President and Vice President and move to . . . Sweden, Canada?”

DJs of the World Unite

An exchange of comments on the Support Larry Monroe and Paul Ray at KUT Facebook site is worth a read for those not following it. It was in regards to piece posted here by the Reverend Jim on LPFM and Larry Monroe’s new digs on KDRP in Dripping Springs, TX:

Jennifer Catherine: Article posted below is beautifully articulate. Thank you. Live in Blanco County, TX, pay attention, NPR junkie (KUT as a freebie; will never be philanthropic with them again unless/until they change evil ways). Am veteran DJ from KNON/Dallas; had 3 zany/wonderful shows in late ’80’s/early ’90’s; like to think . . . I know what it takes to make good radio show. Beloved brother-in-arms LM has got MORE than what it takes to do that . . . so grateful he’s returned to airwaves with his big heart & soul & kindness & sensitivity to what is happening at the moment, & his massive talent, it brings tears to my eyes. Have been sitting on a perch for long time, observing what’s happening with radio, desperate to dial in something good. Sign up for satellite thing? Keep twisting dial, hoping for something good? F that. Anything valuable that is pleasing my ears right now I’ve found, I have to dial in online, and I keep digging for more.

Larry Monroe: Thank you, Hacienda Sister. See you at the Stone River Boys show at the Continental Club tonight.

Jim Vest: Thank you Jennifer! As the author of the article below I really appreciate your comment. Over the air radio is the real deal tho I have to listen to Larry on my PC now. While I don’t remember KNON precisely I do have fond memories of Dallas stations. When I was a kid in Odessa I can remember tuning in a Dallas AM talk DJ named Rod Roddy. My memories of him are as an unholy cross between Larry King, Howard Stern & Rush Limbaugh. But I was a pretty imaginative kid. . . .

Jennifer Catherine: Damnit, I do not know how to work Facebook! Just took another peek at Jim’s article and wanted to comment on a few things. LM, correct me if I am wrong, but I think you hung in there at KUT for about another year after KGSR and the Californians took over, standing down from Blue Monday only (all that was left) sometime in August of 2010 (I think Blue Monday was not axed when Phil Music and all of Larry’s other late-night shows were). KUT STILL sends me pleading letters about how long it’s been since I donated. I have never bothered to respond, since I used to be SO generous whenever they would ask, and I figured, like Jim said in his article, their new breed slammed the door in my face and doesn’t care what I think. (My latest idea is to copy all the Statesman and AusChron articles I saved about Larry and Paul over the years, stuff their postage-paid envelope with them, and write something in magic marker on it like “you are no longer relevant to me.”) Anyway, count on the U of T to make the worst possible decisions when it comes to music.

Next topic: I was born in 1960 and my grandma gave me my 1st transistor radio, 1st short-wave radio, 1st cassette recorder, 1st walkman, and if she were still alive, woulda given me my 1st ipod. For a salt-of-the-Earth rural Okie, she was remarkably hip to technology. (According to my mom they had the 1st TV in Seminole, OK). So Jim, I agree with you about the purity of discovery when twisting the dial late at night, on a road trip, whenever and wherever. I grew up doing that, and it broadened my horizons considerably. BUT. The game is changing so much that I think the Davids are going to come out on top of the Goliaths in this economic climate. With all the state-wide and nation-wide budgetary saber-rattling, I am most concerned that NEWS will become corporate-speak if NPR goes to hell in a tote bag. And yet . . . I am confident that the clever among us will come up with an accessible wrap-around! With Love & Respect — Jennifer Catherine Oines

Jim Vest: Hi Jennifer! You are right on all points, including unfortunately my slip saying that Blue Monday was axed the same time as Phil Music. It was last year when you say; I even went to the listening party at Evangeline Cafe that nite. Larry has already sent me a gentle reminder of that. My senior moments seem to come more often now. . . . KUT finally quit sending me notices after I got publicly vocal about their practices, think I am on an entirely different list with them now. And yes, over the air radio is not what it was and it may never be again. I imagine if I was out in Odessa twisting the knob now I would just pick up one Clear Channel affiliate after another, each playing the same tired crap. But the LPFM stations do bring a bit of light to the picture so maybe there is some hope. I really appreciate your comments on this, hope you visit us over on the blog more often!

National Public Relations

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting has a good take, here (“Stinging NPR: James O’Keefe’s Big Nothing”), on the public relations disaster that’s been the campaign to keep funding coming in to public broadcasting. In the midst of the Republican offensive to defund public media, it seems the suits at NPR have only opened their mouths to change feet.

We are longtime supporters of public radio, but take issue with the directions taken of late by the national bean counters in general and by our local cognoscenti specifically. Their hubris in presuming to know what’s good for all the “little people” who listen and cough up their butter-and-egg money to fund “our” stations  is tainted by the same corporatist zeal that pollutes discourse nationwide in regards to The News. It is, as dear Jody in Austin remarked, as though they’re determined to build an overpass to the luxury dealerships and high-end establishments on the outskirts of town, bypassing the hoi polloi and leaving them in the decaying central city.

Be that as it may, we are equally aghast at the far-right attempts to marginalize what passes for “centrist” reporting nowadays by a boisterous parroting of the “NPR is liberal” line. Since the days of “morning in America,” this has proven to be a successful tack for controlling the news agenda — banging on pots and pans, waving the flag, and chanting to beat the band, drowning out opposition in sheer volume and repetition. It’s a cynical belief of an oligarchic minority that continual, repeated proclamations that “night is day” will have the desired effect of a cowed electorate bumping around in the dark with sunglasses on.

As FAIR notes:

FAIR’s 2004 study of NPR, which looked at 2,334 quoted sources in 804 stories on four leading programs, provides one such examination (Extra!, 5-6/04) — and found nothing like that:

Elite sources dominated NPR’s guestlist. These sources — including government officials, professional experts and corporate representatives — accounted for 64 percent of all sources.

Current and former government officials constituted the largest group of elite voices, accounting for 28 percent of overall sources, an increase of 2 percentage points over 1993. Current and former military sources (a subset of governmental sources) were 3 percent of total sources.

Professional experts — including those from academia, journalism, think tanks, legal, medical and other professions — were the second largest elite group, accounting for 26 percent of all sources. Corporate representatives accounted for 6 percent of total sources.

And on partisanship:

Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources — including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants — Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent). A majority of Republican sources when the GOP controls the White House and Congress may not be surprising, but Republicans held a similar though slightly smaller edge (57 percent to 42 percent) in 1993, when Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And a lively race for the Democratic presidential nomination was beginning to heat up at the time of the 2003 study.

The conclusion: “If NPR’s main news shows have a bias, it is toward the elite.” But the real zinger comes in closing:

[T]he damage is made much worse by a media that treats O’Keefe’s “scoop” as if it reveals anything important. O’Keefe’s big “get” is that a fundraiser will tell a prospective donor some of what he thinks he might want to hear. The fact that mainstream media have devoted so much attention to O’Keefe’s sting is proof that the corporate media aren’t that liberal at all.

As usual on the blogosphere, some of the best commentary falls within the comments section:

rationalrevolution: Just last night they had a segment about the Wisconsin anti-union legislation and they had a Republican state senator on to talk for a good 5 minutes spouting anti-union nonsense, and to my shock they gave no counter points, questioned nothing, and HAD NO FOLLOW-UP with any union supporters. It was absurd. They didn’t have a Democratic state senator on, the head of any of the unions on, the head of national unions on, nothing…

Don Alejandro: What I can’t understand is why it should be considered a virtual crime for anyone at NPR, especially someone who is not an on-air personality, to express an opinion in private. As far as I can tell, it seems to be perfectly okay with Faux News if their talking heads say, on the air in prime time, the most foul things about anyone who does not hold the extreme far right views they are apparently paid to promulgate, including calling groups or individuals or the president racist.

Faux News megalo-personalities can even host political rallies and promote them on the air. Can you imagine the uproar if an NPR personality promoted their personal political “grass roots” rally on air? Just to be safe, NPR people couldn’t even attend John Stewart’s rally, much less cover it, less they appear the least bit liberal or otherwise tainted (though I don’t believe NPR or any other media enforced any such stricture against Glenn Beck’s ego party).

The real crime is that O’Keefe is given media attention while being allowed to continue committing serial crimes with hidden cameras and fraudulent scenarios…

richard barr: One might think that NPR, in its response, instead of being totally defensive, might have considered aggressively pointing out that the “prankster” who tricked them is someone who’s been discredited previously, was involved in a break-in at a congresswoman’s office, should probably be in jail by now instead of continuing to run amok — and that all that is more significant than the fact that their fundraiser was unwise in his remarks. And one might think that the media, in covering this story, might also have focused more on the disreputable prankster and less on the NPR dupe. (And by the way, was that NPR dupe so off the mark in attributing racism to al least some members of the Tea Party?)

Steve S: In retrospect FAIR should have emphasized that O’Keefe is completely duplicitous and unreliable. Thanks to Glenn Beck, we know the relevance of that to this case as well as all the others: http://wonkette.com/440468/glenn-becks-website-reveals-npr-lunch-video-was-edited-to-ruin-npr. It says loads about the ‘liberal bias’ of NPR that it was Glenn Beck, not NPR, that broke the news that NPR had been punked. Today the NY Times comically claimed that the 430 million NPR receives (about, oh… 1/70th of one percent of the federal budget?) is important to those trying to trim the deficit: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/masters-of-deception/

And much more, all worth the read.

Populist LUV

A pause from the radio wars for some commentary on this site from Jack Balkwill, who puts out the LUV newsletter we are wont to quote in regards to the “liberal agenda” of public media. Jack has written in the past for a range of publications, including USA Today. This particular piece was picked up by the Intrepid Report website, and it carries some harsh words about the state of the nation and its “watchdog” press. He speaks of the need for a network devoted to the public interest:

American citizens walk around in a fog because of the pathetic news they get from the controlling Forces of Greed. Ignorant people are controlled people, which is why we never have a government which represents the public will.

Polling tells us the public want the wars ended, yet our government expands them. The public want government health care, yet our government comes up with plans to transfer more health dollars to the seven-figure salaries of corporate executives and billions in profit to descendants of robber barons for denying health care.

To address this problem, progressives must eventually put together an independent network, ideally a TV network, which would address the major problems of the people of the nation and planet, combined with public interest solutions.

Jack details a number of the areas where the mainstream media is more lapdog than watchdog:

Beyond War

Views of the peace community, which are as highly censored in the mass media as anything. In a leadup to war, such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, the world’s foremost experts on Iraqi weapons would have had a forum here, as they did in LUV News, where we featured the UN’s Iraq Weapons expert Hans Blix and the US Iraq weapons expert Scott Ritter saying there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Unlike the corporate media, where for weeks leading up to the war an invasion was called for by liberals Scott Simon of NPR, Tom Friedman of the NY Times, and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, echoing their conservative columnist friends. Blix and Ritter were ridiculed in the corporate media, and the masses were mislead into war….

Social Justice Review

The status of poverty in America, which has more homeless and hungry people per capita than any other major industrialized nation. It would take viewers inside of Americas largest prison system in the world and show why our economy cannot function without millions in prison. It would give objective information about medical care, in a country with the most people per capita doing without among all industrialized nations….

Consumer Warning

Here I see someone like Ralph Nader doing a weekly program which tells the public what they desperately want to hear about the corporations that are cheating them, poisoning them, and controlling their government.

Your Health

Americans are very concerned with this issue, but corporate media will not allow citizens to hear about anything that doesn’t please their advertisers, board members and owners, who are heavily invested in a medical mafia made up of Big Pharma, private hospitals, and insurance companies.

Thousands of people die in this system annually, merely because they visit a hospital. Had they not done that, they would have lived, so dangerous are our hospitals. Thousands more die because they take dangerous pharmaceuticals which are unnecessary. Thousands more die simply from a lack of preventive care. Thousands more die because they have no health care program.

We have the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality among major industrialized nations, while paying the highest cost for health care by far [emphasis added].

As the old saw goes, if you’re not mad then you’re not paying attention. But the events in the Middle East — and now on our own shores in Wisconsin and elsewhere — have demonstrated how powerful our new social media can be in spreading the word that’s muffled in a media constrained by propriety and pecuniary interest.

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