Friday, March 25, 2011

NPR and AFRTS Won't Be Chopped

On Blogcritics, where my NPR piece appeared, someone commented, “No other broadcast entity is supported by the government (except its propaganda outlets like V of A and Radio Marti . . . ” I had to reply.

Actually there is. AFRTS, Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, is part of the Department of Defense.

As a graduate of the Defense Information School, which trains all AFRTS personnel, let me assure you that AFRTS is in no danger of being defunded. It broadcasts Rush Limbaugh as part of its “stateside radio and television programming, "a touch of home,” to U.S. service men and women, DoD civilians, and their families serving outside the continental United States.” Those are places like Afghanistan and Iraq, among others.

Don’t forget that House Republicans held an emergency session on HR 1076 waiving O'Keefe’s misleading editing, distorted quotes, and untruth and promoted his tape as gospel. The emergency was on. They won.

The bill has no chance in the Senate. The president has a pen full of veto ink. NPR will continue to receive federal funding, as will the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, those “frivolous” institutions recently trashed by the Arch Republican Sarah Palin.

By the way, AFRTS is available in Sweden and Israel.

Someone commented that they were “concerned that AFRTS has become an Establishment propaganda tool which is financed by the taxpayer” and asks about it’s scheduling. Again, I had to reply.

First and foremost let me point out that the service is for Armed Forces and Department of Defense personnel serving the United States overseas, not in the continental US. For scheduling, you should look to AFN, American Forces Network, which is a part of the Department of Defense (DoD).

Second, one could argue that AFRTS is an establishment propaganda tool, that establishment being the federal military/industrial establishment, once again the DoD. One could also argue that the context in which the word “propaganda” is used must be considered. The context usually depends on what side one is on.

Third, with regard to scrutiny and budget trimming, that goes directly to the DoD Budget itself, which is Holy to Republicans. They would just as soon burn an autographed picture of Ronald Reagan than to touch the so called Defense budget. But that is what would have to happen before any cutting of the pittance paid for media.

In 1947 the DoD, the acronym for United States Department of Defense, is what became of the Department of War, which was founded in 1789. It has the largest budget of any US Department headed by a single secretary. Its budget is more than 4.5 % of Assumed Nominal GDP and accounts for more than 21% of the US Federal Budget. One wonders if it would be so much if it was still called the Department of War.

Name changes and propaganda give us the US Navy as a "Global Force for Good". Good aiming, see CNN. While I am at it, the job of the US Army and US Marine Corps is not peace keeping. Their job is to seek out an enemy and to destroy it.

Take it from a former US Army propagandist [Awards winning Military Journalist]. But, I digress.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hidden Tape Emergency

House Republicans held an emergency session on HR 1076, the NPR funding cut. What was the emergency?

A hidden camera captured NPR executive Ron Shiller saying that NPR would be better off without federal funding. But that’s not all. Shiller also ripped into the tea party movement as a bunch of “gun toting racists,” adding “and not just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic.”

Republicans have had NPR on their agenda for years and a phenomenal and bogus tape by James O'Keefe became their next big deal. O'Keefe claims to be acting in the tradition of undercover investigative muckrakers. But the GOP’s new majority seized O'Keefe’s misleading editing, distorted quotes, and untruth and promoted it as gospel. The emergency was on.

Here is an interview with O'Keefe.

As I wrote on Blogcritics, when you can listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for free, who needs NPR? It reaches 33 million listeners through its member stations, with its 36 bureaus and offices around the world, and local coverage produced by more than 270 independent NPR member public radio stations across the country. Republicans hate that. In the House of Representatives they voted their conscience, and this tells us everything we need to know.

It’s not about the money. It is all about the content. The GOP doesn’t like NPR content because they are focusing on a small percentage of it that they disagree with. I am sure Rush Limbaugh agrees with me.

The left politics or right politics argument that is being bandied about is referred to as the False Dichotomy Fallacy, which excludes anything in the middle. The majority of NPR programming is neither left nor right. NPR stations broadcast programs ranging from A Prairie Home Companion and The Thistle & Shamrock to Car Talk and Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me. The news programs Fresh Air and All Things Considered must drive the GOP nuts.

There is nothing like a tempest in a tea party pot, which is what the new House majority seems to be all about. Their emergency meeting on NPR funding is just one of many items on a growing list to stuff that they know is doomed to successful failure. There are health care bills they know they can't pass, abortion bills they know they can't pass, climate bills they know they can't pass, and budget bills they know they can't pass.

The voters that elected them must really be impressed with the amount of time, money and energy their House GOP representatives have spent on defending the Defense of Marriage Act, recklessly accusing Muslim Americans of disloyalty, and pushing culture-war bills related to vouchers, English as the 'official' language, and 'In God We Trust.'

NPR's funding would have been an issue whether or not O'Keefe made that tape. Senator Saxby Chambliss agrees about that, but also says, “You know, an awful lot of conservatives listen to NPR. It provides a very valuable service.” The Georgia Republican also thinks that “total elimination of funding is probably not the wisest thing to do.” He is being politically kind.

Other than NPR stations, radio is owned by the right. Television is owned by the sponsors. That’s why journalism and television have become as oil and water. Television journalism has become an oxymoron. The reason is that television is show business.

“Mack, guys like you [journalists] are like icing on the cake. We don’t really need you,” the Sales Manager of WJCL TV, Savannah, said to me after I got pulled off of a story I was working. “If it doesn't sell beer or cars, it doesn’t go on the air.”

As to news presenters, they are their own little institutions. They are actors playing the rolls of journalists. They are talking hairdos. The scripts they read are becoming more and more shallow, almost vapid. Their script writers are too lazy to use Google.

Incidentally, if you think that one broadcast or cable news organization is any better than another, please think again. Aside from NPR and PBS, all other “self-respecting news organizations” ask themselves two basic questions. Does it sell beer? Does it sell cars?

O’Keefe’s productions sell both.