Thursday, May 26, 2005

People Get Ready on WTUL today

Things covered in People Get Ready on WTUL today:

John Nichols' blog in The Nation, "Limbaugh vs. Moyers", 5/23/2005 (excerpted):

Bill Moyers says that journalists have a responsibility to question those in power.

Rush Limbaugh, speaking for the economic and political elites that currently occupy positions of authority, responds by charging that Moyers is "insane."

Moyers set the stage at the National Conference for Media Reform last week, where he delivered a call for the redemption of American journalism. Though he was appearing less than a week after it had been revealed that the Bush administration ally who chairs the Corporation for Public Broadcasting had waged a secret campaign to drive him off the air, the former host of PBS's "NOW" program was calm and collected. The winner of thirty Emmy Awards reflected upon his own work and that of his colleagues on "NOW." But his real purpose was to defend the craft of journalism against the battering it has taken from those who believe reporters should be little more than stenographers to power. At a time when too many prominent journalists have accepted the diminished standards that their critics would impose upon them, Moyers raged against the dying of the light -- not so much for himself as for the Republic that will not stand without a free, skeptical and courageous press.

"We're seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age-old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable," Moyers explained to the 2,300 journalists, academics and activists who had gathered in St. Louis.

"One reason I'm in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn't play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news."

So when word got out that Moyers was telling the American people that they should expect more from their media than a slurry of celebrity gossip and propaganda, there was hell to pay.

Typically, Limbaugh did not attack the substance of Moyers's remarks. Rather, the viscount of viciousness devoted a substantial portion of his nationally-syndicated radio program Thursday to claiming that Moyers had come "unhinged" and that, "The things coming out of his mouth today are literally insane." The most self-absorbed personality in America media -- who regularly declares that he's got "talent on loan from God" and says, "I'm doing what I was born to do. That's host. You're doing what you were born to do. That's listen." -- even went so far as to suggest that Moyers had a messiah complex.

Let Limbaugh bellow, like the Wizard of Oz when he was trying to keep his machinery hidden. Moyers is pulling the curtain away and telling the American people what is wrong with the "rules of the game" by which so much of today's so-called "journalism" is practiced.

"These 'rules of the game' permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin, invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading," Moyers explained last week.

"I decided long ago that this wasn't healthy for democracy. I came to see that 'news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity.'"

"Pat Mitchell Declares Independence" by John Eggerton in Broadcasting & Cable, 5/24/2005 (excerpted):
Public Broadcasting Service President Pat Mitchell told a National Press Club audience Tuesday that PBS "does not shrink in the face of political threats," and is more important than ever in a world where "a small number of media conglomerates make decisions based on the need to earn higher profits."

Both noncommercial TV and radio have also been under pressure from Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson to provide more conservative viewpoints to balance liberal shows. Last fall, according to Tomlinson, he and Mitchell disagreed over his plan to have an independent monitor on the content of Now with Bill Moyers.

“PBS is not the property of any single political party or activist group or foundation or funder with an agenda of any kind,” Mitchell...told her audience.

"PBS does not belong to a red or blue or purple constituency, and it does not shrink in the face of political threats. PBS has built and maintained a steadfast resolve to never give in to pressures to reflect a political agenda. That resolve is as rock solid today as it has ever been.”

Asked specifically about pressure from Tomlinson, Mitchell...insisted that PBS viewer surveys show that an overwhelming majority views PBS as a trusted source of balanced news. "The facts do not support the case [Tomlinson] makes," for liberal bias, she said.

One thing that Mitchell and Tomlinson do agree on is funding.

“Are we, as a democracy that is dependent upon having informed and engaged communities, willing to commit additional resources to ensure a vibrant, viable and independent public service media enterprise now and in the future?”

Listen to the entire Pat Mitchell National Press Club speech at NPR.ORG.

"Adelstein Attacks Covert Commercialization" by John Eggerton in Broadcasting & Cable, 5/24/2005 (excerpted):
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is taking aim at covert commercialization in the media.

At a speech Wednesday in Washington sponsored by the media-funded first Amendment think tank, the Media Institute, Adelstein [called] for an FCC crackdown on "payola and the acceptance of undisclosed promotions," as well as for improved disclosure on product placements."

[Adelstein's statement] comes on the heels of a speech to the Free Press media reform conference in St. Louis May 14, when Adelstein called on consumers to monitor broadcasts for plugs and to complain to the FCC if they weren't disclosed, pledging that the commission would take action.

Branding commercialism a "pernicious symptom of consolidation," he asked viewers to start recording examples of product placements, VNRs, or a news segment that looked like an ad, check and see whether there is a disclosure anywhere, and if not, file a formal complaint

Following up on Adelstein's remarks, I was driving to work yesterday, channel surfing, when I came across a commercial station where I heard one of the Gulf Coast's biggest personal injury attorneys sitting in with the dj's while they quizzed him on what people should do if they're in an accident, and he replied that people have to "know their rights." There was no mention that the guest had paid for the invitation to sit in. He clearly was not talking about music. Listeners should wonder what sort of compensation the station got for that promotion.

Follow up (not broadcast): Morris Bart is such a dork, he definitely does not have the requisite charisma to be showing up as an on-air celebrity. Not that charisma is required if quality programming is the focus - but that's not what was happening there. It was simply blatant promotion.

Pay attention. Listen in on what stations say and do. I'm particulary curious about the "synergistic" promotions for television shows and soft drinks - when, for example, a dj says he's going to get himself a Snapple when he watches the next episode of American Idol.

"Disarmament in the Senate," editorial in the NY Times, 5/25/2005 (excerpted):
If nothing else, the deal to end the Senate's "nuclear option" showdown was heartening in that it did demonstrate that moderates still exist in Washington, and actually have the capacity to work together to get things done.

[The compromise] would mean, among other things, that Janice Rogers Brown of California will be joining the critical Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Readers will recall that Justice Brown has called the New Deal a "socialist revolution" and praised a series of early 20th-century Supreme Court decisions in which worker health and safety laws were struck down as infringing on the rights of business. In her current job, she once wrote a dissent in which she claimed that ordering a rental car company supervisor to stop calling Hispanic employees by racial epithets was a violation of the company's free speech rights.

We can also expect more rulings by ethically-challenged Priscilla Owen in favor of big business, and against workers, consumers, and the injured. Owen, for example, has taken campaign contributions from Enron and Halliburton, rather than recusing herself when cases came to her court, then ruled in their favor.

And we can expect more rulings by William Pryor, who "alone among state AGs and opposed by his fellow AGs, argued that Congress lacked the power to pass laws allowing the federal government to regulate small lakes and wetlands," and who, again, "alone among state AGs and opposed by 36 of his fellow AGs, successfully argued...that victims of domestic abuse should not be allowed to sue their attackers in federal court."


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