MR. BECK'S REFUSAL
from MPR's official website
with our comments in red
(To righteously respond, click here
"Over the past few weeks, Maine Public Radio has received more
than 2,000 contacts from listeners around the state requesting
that we add the one hour daily Pacifica Radio Network news
program Democracy Now! to our schedule. Approximately 400 of
those contacts are from current members of Maine Public Radio.
This is deceptive low-balling. Beck has openly admitted in conversation to getting over 2,500 postcards alone - and office staff at MPR speak of "the hundreds and hundreds" of calls, faxes and emails they have received.
"The organizers of this effort have devoted substantial time
and have shown high regard for our organization. We appreciate
their recognition of Maine Public Radio as being a valuable
resource for and a key provider of news and information in our
"Many of the supporters of this effort believe that
Democracy Now! and the show's host, Amy Goodman, offer views
and opinions that are not heard on other media, including
Maine Public Radio. Many do not agree with the current
official position of the United States, in particular in
regards to Iraq. They have expressed their view that adding
Democracy Now! to our schedule would bring more balance to our
"Maine Public Radio adheres to the national Society for
Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) code of ethics. It is not
our practice or desire to take stands – left or right –
on any issue, to be perceived as doing so, or to be
perceived as endorsing any views supported or represented by
regularly scheduled programs in our schedule."
Notice that he offers no comment whatsoever on these thunderously important claims. He just whispers them in passing on his way to saying, "No!"
"After careful and thorough consideration we have reached
the conclusion that Democracy Now! should not be added to our
schedule. This decision was reached after many auditions of
the program, hearing the host speak publicly about her
thoughts and views, reviewing our journalistic practices and
standards, and listening to members of the public. Our
reasoning for this decision is as follows:
Amy Goodman also "adheres to the national Society for
Professional Journalists (SPJ) code of ethics" or else she would not be receiving all these national journalism awards - several more in fact than have EVER been won at MPR.
- "A news program or host, either on or off the air, when
perceived as or directly advocating for a specific cause
or standing on an issue, is not compatible with the daily
journalistic style and practices of Maine Public Radio and
our existing news programming."
"Off the air" is the key phrase here, because Amy Goodman does not editorialize on the show. She simply introduces voices and stories that are rarely if ever covered, and which the administration and corporate media would prefer to leave unheard. "Off the air", however, she definitely does promote causes, as many of you have heard - namely, democracy, justice, equality, and international law. If promoting such values in one's off-mike life is truly "not compatible with the daily journalistic style and practices of MPR" then they are breeding stenographers or civic eunuchs over there who deserve far more pity than respect.
- "Maine Public Radio strives to offer programming that is
unavailable elsewhere in the state. Currently, Democracy
Now! is being broadcast in the Blue Hill and Bangor areas,
and will be available in the Portland area beginning in
mid-April. It is also available on-demand via web streaming, and airs on
community access cable television channels in Newcastle
These broadcasts only reach about a fifth of Maine's population, about the same number who can hear Morning Edition and All Things Considered on New Hampshire Public Radio. And ALL of MPR's national programs are available in streams from elesewhere on the web. If this "exclusivity" argument was sincere, MPR should also decline to carry these programs. But the point is bogus in any event, because the 25+ hours of classical music MPR pipes out every week is largely duplicated by Maine's fulltime classical network, WBACH.
- "The inclusion of this daily weekday program into our
schedule would mean displacing programming that our
listeners depend on. We broadcast nearly 60 hours per week
of news and public affairs and a similar amount of music.
This balance has been developed over several years."
According to this math, Democracy Now! would "displace" approximately 8% of MPR's current music schedule - a modest sacrifice of entertainment, it would seem, in a time of admitted emergency, terror and war.
"Maine Public Radio is strongly committed to the freedom of
speech and regularly broadcasts diverse, alternative
viewpoints on many issues every week, as part of its daily
1 p.m. public affairs speakers’ block programs, as well as
with guests on Fresh Air and within local call-in interview
Alternative viewpoints on birthing, car repair, aromatherapy, and state budget tussles may in fact be well represented. A diversity of alternative views on war motives, 9/11, police state policies, media concentration and corporate control of our entire government are not. An informal sample of recent MPR news and "public affairs programming" is pretty congruent with the depressing February "Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting" survey of on-air sources discussing Iraq policy on commercial and public media (see www.fair.org). Their two-week study found: "Seventy-six percent of all sources were current or former officials, leaving little room for independent and grassroots views. Similarly, 75 percent of U.S. sources (199/267) were current or former officials.
"At a time when 61 percent of U.S. respondents were telling pollsters that more time was needed for diplomacy and inspections (2/6/03), only 6 percent of U.S. sources on the four networks were skeptics regarding the need for war.
"Sources affiliated with anti-war activism were nearly non-existent. On the four networks combined, just three of 393 sources were identified as being affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than 1 percent. Just one of 267 U.S. sources was affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than half a percent."
Terry Gross of Fresh Air did invite a representative from the International ANSWER anti-war coalition a couple months back, but spent most of the interview demanding details on and repudiations of the group's socialist/communist members. Search her archives with the keyword "anti-war" and you will find three (3) shows going back to 1996.
One problem of course is that MPR cannot be much more committed to dissent or uncomfortable inquiry than its Mothership, NPR. In addition to the naked war cheerleading of NPR regulars like Cokie Roberts, there is the disturbing deep structure of NPR itself. NPR's President Kevin Klose & VP Ken Stern are both executive alumni of the US International Broadcasting Bureau - those wonderful folks that brought us Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti, and other bastions of managed government news. John A. Herrmann, Jr., chairman of the NPR Foundation, is a managing director of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.'s Global Investment Bank. His NPR homepage boasts, "He advises corporations and financial sponsors throughout the world on merger and acquisition strategies and execution."
Current news and features on MPR are generously subsidized by Republican donor multinationals like Archers Daniels Midland, General Electric and ExxonMobil. not to mention a fat recent underwriting campaign from the "grateful government of Kuwait".
Journalist Norman Solomon, author of "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media" reports, "At NPR News, the diversity of perspectives in reportage and analysis is particularly limited on subjects like U.S. foreign policy and nitty-gritty economic power. Whatever fine journalism airs on NPR -- and there definitely is some -- gets dwarfed by mountains of conformist stenography for the powerful, with routine reliance on official sources.
"The preponderance of deference to government outlooks has combined with outsized programming impacts of corporate donors that 'underwrite' -- and, in some cases, literally make possible -- specific shows. Private money is a big determinant of what's on 'public' broadcasting. Major companies 'have a huge investment in the economy and can use their economic power to leverage program content.'"
So right here on our dear "public" broadcasting too, we have an overwhelming confluence of state and corporate power working to tailor what we see and hear to what they want us to think and do.
Like Bill Moyers, Amy Goodman fights a lonely battle against that control and works like hell in her few minutes each day to shine a light into the spreading dark.
Given Mr. Beck's feeble rationalizations for the realpolitik at work, it is perhaps fitting that he couches his final refusal in an apology.
We are sorry that we are not able to honor the request to
add Democracy Now! to our schedule. We hope this letter fully
explains the reasoning behind our decision. Again, we do
appreciate the recognition of Maine Public Radio as being an
important provider of news and information in our state. Thank
you for your support of Maine Public Radio.
In conclusion, the real question we face today is not about "balance on Maine Public Radio", it is about the cynical obliteration of balance in our media overall. The old reporter's ideal of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable" has died the death of a thousand PR flacks, ad-mongers and bottom-line MBAs.
When the corporate networks betrayed us and all journalistic ethics too, it seemed perfectly valid to turn to the supposedly more democratic "public sphere" for redress. "Public" radio, we expected, could offer a desperately needed antidote to the broadcast spell urging us to fear, hate, sneer, shut up, obey and buy.
We somehow just did not expect MAINE Public Radio to fight to maintain the same see/hear/report-no-official-evil journalism we already endure on the tube. We are not necessarily naive, or even ashamed by our surprise. Public radio really should serve (and respond to) our felt needs for truth and democracy. No, it hasn't yet, it's true, but neither we have we given up. We shall continue to insist they try Democracy Now! for at least a few months - and then just like in the patriotic fairy tales, we all should vote, and "Let the People Decide!"