Pravda, U.S.A. - the Age of GOP Propaganda
5.3 The Censor Media
Here are some of the well-known cases of overt censorship by major U.S.
media outlets, imposed on ads, coverage or opinions considered
unfriendly to (or by) the Bush administration. The fact
that this far exceeds any censorship of ads/coverage/opinions
considered unfriendly to (or by) Democrats shows that on
the issue of censorship the media is biased quite conservative,
rather than liberal. (It's no surprise that well-known
conservatives themselves either
long for censorship of facts, opinions or portrayals they don't
like). [If you know of more incidents, please send
me an email; some
additional cases are in Sec.
I am not covering censorship that may be hidden and not
known to the public because it is impossible to prove and/or
quantify in any meaningful way.
A. CENSORSHIP OF VIEWS/PROGRAMS/ADS CONSIDERED
UNFRIENDLY TO (or BY) THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
5.3.1 CBS and UPN (both
part of Viacom), NBC and ABC - and the United Church of Christ
5.3.2 CBS and
5.3.3 NBC, ABC, CBS
and Fox News -and USAction
5.3.4 NBC and Ashleigh Banfield
5.3.5 PBS and
"Postcards from Buster"
5.3.6 CNN and Log
5.3.7 CNN and the Iraq War (Christiane Amanpour)
5.3.8 Chicago Tribune and Boondocks
5.3.9 Clear Channel and the Dixie Chicks
5.3.10 Clear Channel
5.3.11 Sinclair Broadcasting and
"Nightline" Iraq program
5.3.12 New York Times and Other ICM outlets - and
the Bush bulge
5.3.13 New York Times and Paul Krugman
5.3.14 Washington Post - and the Iraq war
5.3.15 Sinclair Broadcasting and the DNC
5.3.16 Comcast Cable and anti-war ads by Peace
Action Education Fund
5.3.17 CNN, Fox News, and NBC - and the Win Without War coalition
5.3.18 Tribune Media Services and Robert Koehler
5.3.19 CBS and Ronald Reagan miniseries
5.3.20 CBS and coverage of misleading/false
report by Bush administration to go to war
5.3.21 Viacom and Compare, Decide, Vote
5.3.22 Fox News and CNN and reporting on Al Qaeda
B. CENSORSHIP OF VIEWS/PROGRAMS/ADS CONSIDERED
UNFRIENDLY TO (or BY) DEMOCRATS
(i) The Bone
Conduction Music Show of Terry Hughes (via Instapundit)
was evidently cancelled by WEMU-FM (radio) because of Hughes' stated
pro-Iraq war position (also see here)
Bauer's ad against China (and urging Clinton to not visit China)
rejected by CNN [note: I think this is a somewhat
doubtful case because Bauer's ad was mostly against China's human
rights violations - which Clinton was against as well, but I'm
including it anyway]
self-admitted, self-censorship of anti-Saddam coverage for years (for
ostensibly protecting the life of their journalists in
Saddam-controlled Iraq) [note:
again, it is quite a stretch to make this an example of anti-Bush bias
because CNN had been doing this even in Clinton's time, when Clinton
was bombing Saddam - but I'm including it anyway; also see this
note from FAIR providing a different perspective]
There are cases where columns were censored by newspapers
which were critical of the newspaper's own stated positions. I am not
including these in my comparison because these have nothing to do with
censorship of voices against Republicans or Democrats. However, such
censorship is also unacceptable.
McGrory and the Boston Globe (Instapundit link)
Araton and Dave Anderson and the New York Times
Radio Network's censorship of progressive/left-leaning
individuals/groups, for reasons that included (but were not limited
to) criticism of Pacifica
5.3.1 CBS and UPN (both
part of Viacom), NBC and ABC - and the United Church of Christ
Church of Christ (UCC)
plans to run a major ad
campaign in December to raise public awareness
of the denomination. One of the ads is meant, in the words of a UCC
press release, to convey the message "that -- like Jesus -- the
United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of
ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual
You can see
the ad here -- it features two burly bouncers turning various
people away from a church service. And if you watch it you'll see
that the broad message of inclusion over intolerance places a
prominent emphasis on acceptance of homosexuals in the life of the
Yet, according to a press
release out this evening from the UCC, both CBS and NBC have
refused to air the ad because the subject matter is "too
Again, look at the ad because the
spot raises the topic in about as innocuous and uncontroversial a
way as is imaginable. Homosexuality is never even broached
According to the UCC press
release, CBS explained its decision, in part, as follows ...
"Because this commercial touches
on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other
individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from
CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed
a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a
man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the
[CBS and UPN] networks."
(I'm unclear on why the CBS statement
would speak for CBS and UPN. And at first I wondered whether
the dispute was with an affiliate or a station owner who owns both
CBS and UPN affiliates. But the press
release seems quite specific and clear that the ads have been
rejected by both the "CBS and NBC television networks.")
If this is really the case, we seem
now to be in a country where political campaigns can be waged with
flurries of ads replete with demonstrable falsehoods. And yet clear
and tame political speech aimed at a pressing national debate isn't
CBS's explanation seems to rest on
the preposterous argument that because the ad addresses a
major public debate that that makes it "unacceptable".
Or is it just that discussing
homosexuality is "unacceptable"?
As numerous more media-consolidation-savvy TPM readers have now
pointed out to, Viacom owns both CBS and UPN, thus the joint refusal
to air the ad.
UPDATE 5/2/05: See this
Daily Kos diary:
During the season finale of ABC's schlocky reality show, "Supernanny,"
James Dobson's Focus on the Family will be running
ads promoting its "Focus
on Your Child" program, which advises parents on how to
implement the parenting principles outlined in his best-seller,
"Dare to Discipline." These include spanking
with "sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry
genuinely." Children have to be taught respect for authority at
an early age, Dobson preaches, or they'll never develop respect for
governmental authority or God.
Focus's ad buy is its first in prime time TV. It has ostensibly
purchased the ads through its 501 c-3, the self-help component of
its organization, so it can claim legally that the ads are not
political. But they are, and it's absurd to say they're not. On his
radio show, Dobson shamelessly begs for money for his 501 c-4, Focus
on the Family Action, his organization's political arm. FOF
Action is the entity which collaborated with the Family Research
Council to bring us the memorable event known as "Justice
Sunday," where Dobson blamed
the Supreme Court for "the worst Holocaust in human
history." Given that the political and family components of
Dobson's empire are so indistinguishable, I think it would be
appropriate and necessary to file a complaint with the FCC over
Focus's insidious ad buy.
Furthermore, ABC's accomodation of Focus smacks of hypocrisy.
Last winter, ABC's broadcast network refused to an ad by the
National Council of Churches promoting its inclusive policy to gays
and other groups explicity forbidden from belonging to churches
under the ideological sway of Dobson and his ilk. According to the
United Methodist News Network on 12/06/04,"ABC
said it would air the advertisement on its ABC Family cable channel
but not on its broadcast network." ABC stifled the speech of a
group which promotes inclusiveness and diversity, while enabling an
organization led by a man who told the Daily Oklahoman on 10/23/04,
"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the
institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy
the Earth." What am I missing?
First, Microsoft caves to anti-gay radicals in the name of
diversity, and before that, ABC refused to run a pro-diversity ad
for the United Church of Christ. The reason ABC gave the UCC for
denying their ad:
"The network doesn't take advertising from
religious groups. It's a long-standing policy," said
Susan Sewell, an ABC spokeswoman
You can therefore imagine everyone's surprise when ABC
months later accepted an ad from the radical right religious
group Focus on the Family.
Let's take a look at the Focus
on the Family mission statement, shall we?
Hmmm... let's put on our ABC lawyer caps here... cooperating with
the Holy Spirit... disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as
many people as possible... sounds like a religious institution to me
(or our foreign policy). And for a really fun reading, check out the
To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of
Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to
accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional
values and the institution of the family.
Now let's look at the latest
article on ABC accepting the Focus on the Family ad:
The conservative Christian
ministry Focus on the Family plans to advertise its
child-rearing Web site and toll-free number during the ABC reality
show on Monday.
So, a "conservative Christian MINISTRY" is using these TV
ads to spread its "faith-based advice" but that has
NOTHING to do with a religious group or religion.
The ad is the first national television spot purchased by the
group and is part of an effort to
bring its faith-based advice on parenting and relationships
to younger families, said Jim Daly, the group's president and CEO.
If I were the UCC, I'd be setting ABC up for a massive federal
lawsuit based on religious discrimination...
5.3.2 CBS and
U.S. football fans will not see ads
featuring scantily clad vegetarians or a political attack on
President Bush during February's Super Bowl after CBS said on
Thursday that advocacy advertisements were out of bounds on
professional football's biggest day.
The network, over the years, has
rejected dozens of advertising proposals by advocacy groups, who
argue that the network only airs controversial messages that it
"We just want to be able to
present our jiggly women," said Lisa Lange, spokeswoman for People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, asking to join advertisers
like beer brewers who has boosted sales with images of scantily-clad
Liberal group Moveon.org,
known for its Internet funding power, told members this week that it
hoped to have the first political Super Bowl ad.
But its hopes were dashed when CBS
said the spot, which asks "Guess who's going to pay off
President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?" was an issue piece and
could not run.
In a letter, CBS told PETA that it
would not run advertisements on "controversial issues of public
CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said
the policy had been in place for years. "We have a policy
against accepting advocacy advertising," he added. CBS, a unit
of Viacom Inc., does run political advertising for and against
CBS came under criticism in
November when it decided not to run a two-part made-for-television
movie, "The Reagans," after conservatives complained that
it was unflattering to former president Ronald Reagan and his wife,
PETA spokeswoman Lange said that
CBS's broadcast of anti-smoking advertisements and even hamburger
chain spots were controversial, advocacy pieces, as well.
"In essence, CBS is saying we
will air an advocacy ad if we agree with the viewpoint," she
said. [eRiposte emphasis]
The PETA ad shows two scantily clad
women snuggling up to a meat-eating pizza delivery man. "Meat
can cause impotence," the screen reads after the rendezvous
CBS also said the PETA spot raised
"significant taste concerns.
The Center for American Progress has
also chronicled how CBS has a history of running really
controversial ads for corporate sponsors, showing that its claim above
is completely false. Here are some examples from CAP:
Last Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation Pfizer was permitted to run
an ad in which they declared "Pfizer is helping people in need
get the medicines they need." The statement came just weeks
after Pfizer successfully lobbied to weaken the new Medicare bill so
that it does not significantly lower drug prices. Additionally,
Pfizer's other actions further belie their ad. The facts:
- CONTROVERSIAL: "Pfizer Inc.'s surprise
cancellation Tuesday of its anti-AIDS generic drug plan for poor
countries called attention to the number of other pharmaceutical
companies that are contributing actively to the international
effort with below-market drugs, money and other
assistance." [Chicago Tribune, 11/13/03]
- CONTROVERSIAL: The Brazilian government said
today that it will declare AIDS a "national
emergency." The government made the decision after its
negotiations to lower the price of nelfinavir, an AIDS drug now
made by Hoffman-La Roche Inc. and marketed in conjunction with
the U.S.-based Pfizer, broke down two weeks ago. [Washington
Wal-Mart regularly airs ads on CBS touting itself as a good
corporate citizen. Yet, Wal-Mart's corporate conduct is undoubtedly
a “controversial public policy issue.” In the last two years
Wal-Mart's behavior has been front page news in the New York Times
on three separate occasions. The facts:
- CONTROVERSAL: "40 other current and former
Wal-Mart workers interviewed over the last four months say
Wal-Mart [was] forcing or pressuring employees to work hours
that were not recorded or paid." [source]
- CONTROVERSAL: "Hundreds of illegal
immigrants worked at its stores, and its subcontractors appear
to have violated overtime, Social Security and workers'
compensation laws." [source]
- CONTROVERSAL: "For more than 15 years,
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, has locked
in overnight employees at some of its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club
PHILIP MORRIS USA
During the Super Bowl, CBS will air an "anti-smoking"
ad by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA. These ads encourage
citizens to go to www.phillipmorrisusa.com for information about
smoking. But on that site Philip Morris advances a number of
extraordinarily controversial policy positions on smoking related
issues. Some highlights:
- CONTROVERSAL: "Balancing federal, state and
local budgets by raising cigarette excise taxes excessively is
bad fiscal policy." [source]
- CONTROVERSAL: "Business owners should have
some flexibility in deciding how best to address the preferences
of non-smokers and smokers." [source]
- CONTROVERSAL: "Cigarettes should be
regulated as cigarettes, not as a food, or, as FDA attempted to
do in 1996, as a medical device." [source]
The Moveon.org ad rejected
by CBS focuses on the impact of the federal deficit on children. The
ad simply says that the President is responsible for the deficit and
that the nation's children will have to pay for it. There is nothing
controversial about this assertion.
- UNCONTROVERSIAL: The President's own
budget documents prove the charge made in Moveon's ad that the
deficit – and additional debt – is primarily due to the
President's own policies. "Table S-3 of the President's own
budget indicates that implementing the Administration's budget
would greatly increase the deficits in 2003-2005 and obliterate
the projected surpluses in 2006-2008." And while the White
House says its tax cuts will spur the economy and that will fix
the deficit, Table S-3 also shows this theory "is
completely wrong." [National Journal, 2/11/03]
- UNCONTROVERSIAL: Simple math shows that
the multi-trillion-dollar national debt will have to be paid for
by America's children, as asserted in Moveon's ads. When the
President took office, our projected deficit in 2008 was about
$500 per family. Now it is predicted to be $84,600 per family. [source]
NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News -and USAction
Chris Bowers (MyDD):
bill before the state legislature of Ohio intended to regulate
academia? Here is one section, emphasis mine:
and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and
quality of education of their students by persistently introducing
controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that
has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no
legitimate pedagogical purpose.
a look at this (again, emphasis mine):
I asked before who would define
"controversial subject matter." Well, it is becoming
pretty obvious that the word is becoming the main talking point used
by conservatives when they aim to censor progressives. Progressive
scholarship is too controversial, so it must be made illegal.
Progressive advertisements criticizing Bush are too controversial,
so they will not be run. I wonder what will be too controversial
group, USAction, said on Monday that four television networks had
turned down its request to run an advertisement opposing President
Bush's effort to clamp down on medical malpractice lawsuits.
The group wanted to run the spots
just before Mr. Bush's State of the Union address on Wednesday. But
networks said the advertisement violated their standards for
advertising on controversial issues.
The NBC Universal Television
Network, owned by General Electric, told the group, "We are
sorry that we cannot accept your ad based on our network policy
regarding controversial issue advertising."
As a general rule, the policy says,
"time will not be sold on NBC Network facilities for the
presentation of views on controversial issues." The policy
does not apply to candidates for public office in election years.
ABC, CBS and the Fox Broadcasting
Company said they had also turned down the advertisement.
5.3.4 NBC and Ashleigh
Danny Schecter writes in Alternet
(bold text is my emphasis):
Last week MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield spoke at a college about the
coverage of the Iraq war. She was honest and critical. "There
were horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this
journalism? Or was this coverage?" she asked. "As a
journalist, I have been ostracized just from going on television and
saying, 'Here's what the leaders of Hizbollah, a radical Moslem
group, are telling me about what is needed to bring peace to
Israel,'" she said. "And, 'Here's what the Lebanese are
saying.' Like it or lump it, don't shoot the messenger, but that's
what they do."
The "they" undoubtedly were her bosses at the GE- and
Microsoft-owned channel, the same men who fired top-rated talk show
host Phil Donahue and then used the war to try and out-fox Fox's
jingoism with promos proclaiming "God Bless America."
They quickly sought to silence Banfield. "NBC News
president Neal Shapiro has taken correspondent Ashleigh Banfield to
the woodshed for a speech in which she criticized the networks for
portraying the Iraqi war as 'glorious and wonderful,'" reported
the Hollywood Reporter. An official NBC spokesperson later told the
press, "She and we both agreed that she didn't intend to demean
the work of her colleagues, and she will choose her words more
carefully in the future."
It was the kind of patronizing statement you would expect in
Pravda or Baghdad's old Ministry of misinformation. In Saddam's
Iraq, she would have been done for. Let's see what happens at NBC.
Already, Rush Limbaugh is calling on her to move to Al Jazeera.
Michael Savage, the new rightwing host on MSNBC who replaced
Donahue, has branded his own colleague a "slut" ... on the
PBS and "Postcards from Buster"
On Wednesday afternoon this week,
elementary school children and their parents in the Boston area who
were watching public television got to see perhaps the only
ever forced to fend off efforts to ban it. Given the Bush
administration's success in keeping the show off the air -- except
in Boston and a handful of other PBS markets -- it might not be the
last time, as cultural conservatives and the Public Broadcasting
System seem destined to continue to do battle over programming. And
considering how quickly PBS conceded defeat this round, that battle
may become increasingly lopsided.
surrounding the children's series "Postcards From Buster,"
featuring a cartoon bunny who, in one episode, visits Vermont to
make maple syrup and meets children from two families headed by
lesbian couples, generated headlines last week when incoming
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings lambasted the episode as
inappropriate. Many observers likely viewed the showdown as little
more than another head-shaking episode in the ongoing culture war.
(The "Buster" flap erupted the same week that Christian
talk show host James Dobson warned parents that a classroom video on
intolerance featuring SpongeBob
SquarePants "could prompt [teachers] to teach kids that
homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality.")
But for PBS insiders and longtime
supporters, the skirmish, and the speed with which PBS backed down
in the face of threats from the Bush administration, mark a new low
point for the broadcasting institution and a dangerous development
for the public. Low because the content of the "Buster"
episode was so innocuous. And dangerous because it highlights the
inside-the-Beltway environment in which PBS is forced to operate,
where funding concerns often trump programming decisions, and the
fear of upsetting conservatives has become a driving force.
CNN and Log Cabin Republicans
update on the rapid
decline of CNN. Now, apparently, only intolerant Republicans
can get a fair shake.
The pro-gay rights Republican group Log
Cabin Republicans is running a thirty-second
ad in favor of an inclusive, rather than an intolerant
Republican party. The ad's running on other channels. Even Fox News
has agreed to run it nationally, according to Christopher Barron, an
But CNN has refused
to run it, calling it "too controversial."
5.3.7 CNN and
the Iraq War (Christiane Amanpour)
Via the Carpetbagger
In a CNBC interview with Tina Brown, Amanpour was asked if the
administration effectively rolled over the media in advance of the
war, as journalists accepted the White House's rhetoric blindly and
"I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press
self-muzzled," Amanpour said. "I'm sorry to say, but
certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station
was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox
News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and
self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work
5.3.8 Chicago Tribune
Dan Gillmor comments:
Tribune Kills Anti-Bush Cartoon
the top, I agree, but the paper explained its decisions to
readers, according to Romenesko,
this way: "Today's original Boondocks strip presents inaccurate
information as fact."
Maybe someone should tell the Trib
about those horoscopes it runs, not to mention at least some of the
This was one of the most obvious cases of pro-Bush censorship. As Bob
Somerby at the Daily Howler said:
Yesterday, public editor Don Wycliff explained
what happened. Two Boondocks strips had been pulled this
week, and readers had written in to complain. One had even used the
term “censorship.” Wycliff replied, in high dudgeon:
WYCLIFF (3/3/05): Let the record show that what Mr. McWilliams
calls censorship we at the newspaper call editing. What he and a
dozen or so other readers were complaining about was the decision
of Geoff Brown, the associate managing editor for
features/lifestyles, to not publish the Monday and Tuesday
"The Boondocks” strips.
Brown said the problem was the same on both days: "The
Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder had characters stating as fact
things that were not.
For the record, we would support that
general principle. In a newspaper, comedians, humorists and
cartoon writers shouldn’t be allowed to use fake facts to set up
their hilarious punch lines. If a comic strip is pimping false
facts, an editor might well decide not to run it. But what was the
alleged fake fact in Boondocks—the fake fact the Tribune
refused to run? All of a sudden, the Tribune is being extremely careful
about these troubling misstatements:
WYCLIFF (continuing directly): One strip showed a
character, Caesar, looking at a newspaper...and relating to
another character, Huey, the news that "[President] Bush got
recorded admitting that he smoked weed.” ...
Holy mackerel! All of a sudden, the Tribune is really a
stickler for facts! It’s true—you had to infer that Bush smoked
weed from the recorded phone call at issue. But the “inference”
slapped you right in the face if you listened to what Bush said. In
fact, you had to torture all earthly logic to avoid the obvious
inference. Yes, if human beings can reason at all, George Bush has
now said he smoked weed.
Funny, perhaps, but only if you ignore that Bush was not
recorded admitting that he smoked marijuana. As Brown pointed
out in a heads-up memo in advance of the strip's publication date,
"All reputable news sources reporting [on] the tapes were
careful to draw INFERENCES, but no one can say Bush admitted to
So yes—all of a sudden, the Chicago Tribune is being a bear
when it comes to permitting fake facts. The Trib just won’t permit
fake facts—if they appear on the comics page, and if the facts cut
against Bush. But we couldn’t help asking an obvious question: Why
doesn’t this mighty paper pursue fake facts on its news pages,
too? In fact, those pages are littered with phony facts, and no one
seems to give a good golly! Of course, the phony facts that the
Tribune allows are fake facts that serve to help Bush.
By the way, how alert were Tribune
editors during Campaign 2000, when the paper was printing fake facts
about Gore? Let’s assume that we don’t have to ask. Did George
Bush say that he smoked some weed? Editors are touchy about such a
statement. But editors must have been in the Bahamas when the
paper’s Washington bureau chief, James Warren, published this
utter embarrassment—this repulsive string of fake, phony facts,
the fake facts that turned an election:
WARREN (3/19/00): Poor Al Gore. We pick on him, but we like him.
Al Gore is very nice. He's a good guy. But he keeps getting in
trouble for taking credit for things he had nothing to do with.
Remember first he said he was the inspiration for the book
"Love Story." Remember that? That wasn't true. Then he
said he invented the Internet. Remember that? That was false. Then
just last week he claimed to have exposed the Love Canal scandal.
That was false too. You know what's ironic? The only thing he'll
really be able to take credit for—getting George W. Bush
Al Gore said he invented the Internet! By this time, a stream
of half-witted Tribune writers had been making the fake claim for a
good solid year. And by the way, how fact-challenged was the hapless
Warren? Gore’s misquoted statement about Love Canal occurred in
November 1999. Four months later, Warren weirdly reported
that Gore had made the statement “just last week.” It’s hard
to be more clueless than that. But somehow, the Tribune’s concern
about fake facts failed to trigger at this juncture. The paper
continued printing utter bullsh*t about Candidate Gore right through
the November election.
We’ve told you this again and again—if they didn’t exist,
you couldn’t invent them. The Chicago Tribune hates fake
facts—in its comic strips, about Bush. All other fake facts?
5.3.9 Clear Channel
and the Dixie Chicks
Country music's No. 1 act, The Dixie
Chicks, have been pulled from radio playlists thanks to a remark
singer Natalie Maines made in London last week.
"Just so you know," Texas native Maines said on stage,
"we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from
Texas." Maines added she felt George W. Bush's foreign policy
is alienating the rest of the world.
Her remark unleashed a nationwide backlash. The group's records
have been pulled by dozens of country-music stations across the
country, including two Clear Channel-owned stations in Jacksonville,
WQIK 99.1-FM and WROO 107.3-FM.
"Out of respect for our troops, our city and our listeners,
[we] have taken the Dixie Chicks off our playlists," said Gail
Austin, Clear Channel's director of programming for the two
That's a big leap in logic, said media expert Dennis Stouse, a
Jacksonville University professor and chairman of the school's
department of communications. "It doesn't have anything to do
with our troops or our city."
Punishing Maines for speaking her mind does not fit into the
American idea of democracy, he said. "We should accept the fact
that there are viewpoints we don't agree with." Celebrities
have as much right to make political commentary as do television
pundits, he added.
Clear Channel (Various)
Read Robert's "My
Fight with Clear Channel"
On Monday we posted in the mailbag a letter from Robert about his
radio ads. Today we heard the ads, heard that Clear
Channel wouldn't air them -- despite that Robert was paying the
regular ad rate for them to air -- and had to help. Here's the point
of the issue: the airwaves are the property of the American people.
The FCC licenses bandwidth, but they are our
airwaves. And here is a radio company refusing a person the right to
pay to express their opinion. It's like having censors in the Soviet
Union. We hope that highlighting these ads brings them wide national
coverage. They deserve it. Listen to all seven of them, send the
pages to your friends and family, and, if you can afford it, try and
get them on your local radio station.
Radio Ad: Dissent
This is a paid radio moment–
Some of us disagree with the President.
We think the Iraq war is a mess.
We think vote suppression is a crime.
We think tax cuts for the rich are a bad idea.
We think business doesn’t know best. (pause)
And we think dissent is an American value. (pause)
This country was born because people questioned authority.
It’s as American as apple pie.
According to the company's web pages,
"Clear Channel Worldwide (Clear Channel
Communications, Inc., NYSE: CCU), headquartered in San Antonio, TX,
is a global leader in the out-of-home advertising industry with
radio and television stations, outdoor displays, and entertainment
venues in 66 countries around the world. Including announced
transactions, Clear Channel operates approximately 1,225 radio and
39 television stations in the United States and has equity interests
in over 240 radio stations internationally. Clear Channel also
operates approximately 776,000 outdoor advertising displays,
including billboards, street furniture and transit panels around the
world. Clear Channel Entertainment is a leading promoter, producer
and marketer of live entertainment events and also owns leading
athlete management and marketing companies."
Following the September 2001
terrorist attacks, Clear Channel program directors issued a list of
"potentially offensive songs" that it suggested stations
not play. Many reports referred to the list as a "ban" on
the songs, which included all Rage Against The Machine
songs, the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" (which includes the
line "Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade"),
John Lennon's "Imagine," Metallica's "Seek and
Destroy," AC/DC's "Safe in New York," Bobby Darin's
"Mack the Knife," Peter, Paul and Mary's "Leaving on
a Jet Plane," and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of
Fire," and "The Drifters' On Broadway."
Clear Channel spokesperson Pam Taylor
objected to the list being called a "ban," saying,
""This was an effort to help people be sensitive to the
unthinkable environment. It's been somehow turned into some sort of
evil attempt to control pop music, and that's absurd."
According to the New York Times, "a smaller
list of questionable songs was originally generated by the corporate
office, but an overzealous regional executive began contributing
suggestions and circulating the list via e-mail, where it continued
to grow." The program directors at individual stations were
able to decide whether to play the listed songs or not.
Also, in 2003, "after the Dixie
Chicks criticized President Bush during a London performance ...
some Clear Channel radio stations pulled the group's music from
their play lists."
According to the New York Times (March 31, 2003),
"More unified were the actions of Cumulus Media, which owns 262
stations, and has at least temporarily stopped all 42 of its country
stations from playing the Dixie Chicks."
The Clear Channel's activities go
beyond radio. In March 2003, its affiliate stations throughout the
United States organized pro-war rallies, under the name of Rally
for America, to coincide with the Bush administration's launch
of war with Iraq. "Experienced Bushologists let out a
collective 'Aha!' when Clear Channel was revealed to be behind the
pro-war rallies, because the company's top management has a history
with George W. Bush," reported Paul Krugman in the New York
Times. Although Clear Channel denied sponsoring the rallies,
"they were promoted repeatedly by the company's widely
syndicated radio personality, Glenn
To counter negative impressions
resulting from the post-9/11 playlist and "Rally for
America" debacles, Clear Channel hired the crisis-management
Communicators. According to the New York Times (March
31, 2003), part of Clear Channel's damage control included an op/ed
article by Glenn Beck in which "Mr. Beck described the
[pro-war] rallies as a grassroots response to his personal broadcast
call to 'Mr. and Mrs. America' to urge their local radio stations to
Breaking the Law
In their "Ten Worst Corporations
of 2003" list, Robert
Weissman and Russell
Mokhiber report that Clear Channel has "compiled a record
of 'repeated law-breaking' ... violating the law -- including
prohibitions on deceptive advertising and on broadcasting
conversations without obtaining permission of the second party to
the conversation -- on 36 separate occasions over the previous three
"The vice chairman of Clear
Channel is Tom
Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column.
When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the
University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco,
and Clear Channel's chairman, Lowry
Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of
the university's endowment under the management of companies with
strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks
purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a
"In addition, Hicks steered a
controversial scheme to use the University of Texas' $13 billion
endowment for private investment. Among the beneficiaries were the Carlyle
Group, the arms investment firm tied to both George Bush Snr and
the bin Laden family, and George W Bush's controversial Harken
Oil drilling project in Bahrain."
Data released by the Center for
Responsive Politics in early 2004 revealed that Clear Channel
executives donated $42,200 to Bush compared to $1,750 to Democrat
Presidental candidate John Kerry. Clear Channel's [political action
committee] contributed 77% of their $334,501 in federal
contributions to Republicans. 
Broadcasting and "Nightline" Iraq program
The decision of Sinclair Broadcast
Group, which ordered its seven ABC stations not to broadcast
Friday's "Nightline," has received criticism from U.S.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).
Friday's show will air the names and photographs of the more than
500 U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war.
"Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be
reminded of war's terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail,
is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the
United States Armed Forces," McCain, a Vietnam veteran, wrote
in a letter to David Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast
Group. "It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with
the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves."
In a statement online, the Sinclair group said the
"Nightline" program "appears to be motivated by a
political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United
States in Iraq."
Sinclair's decision, announced Thursday, drew angry calls from
the public and a sharp response from ABC News.
"We respectfully disagree with Sinclair's decision to
pre-empt 'Nightline's' tribute to America's fallen soldiers,"
ABC News said in a statement. "The 'Nightline' broadcast is an
expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have
laid down their lives for this country."
Some of the stations have received many calls and e-mails in
response to Sinclair's decision.
"I have not gotten one positive response," said an
assignment desk editor at WSYX, the ABC station in Columbus, Ohio.
5.3.12 New York Times
and Other ICM outlets - and the Bush bulge
is a particularly interesting case because when newspapers were
quoting Bush's tailor as if he were an expert, they refused to report
the claims of a scientist.
As Extra! went to press, New York
Times public editor Daniel Okrent posted a message on his
website (12/21/04) confirming that his paper had, in fact, killed a
story about the device under George W. Bush’s suit. Here is the
text of Okrent’s message:
President Bush and the Jacket Bulge
Online discussion of the famous bulge on President Bush’s back at
the first presidential debate hasn’t stopped. One reporter (Dave
Lindorff of Salon.com) asserted that the Times
had a story in the works about a NASA scientist who had done a
careful study of the graphic evidence, but it was spiked by the
paper’s top editors sometime during the week before the election.
Many readers have asked me for an explanation.
I checked into Lindorff’s assertion, and he’s right. The
story’s life at the Times began
with a tip from the NASA scientist, Robert Nelson, to reporter Bill
Broad. Soon his colleagues on the science desk, John Schwartz and
Andrew Revkin, took on the bulk of the reporting. Science editor
Laura Chang presented the story at the daily news meeting but, like
many other stories, it did not make the cut. According to executive
editor Bill Keller, "In the end, nobody, including the
scientist who brought it up, could take the story beyond
speculation. In the crush of election-finale stories, it died a
quiet, unlamented death."
Revkin, for one, wished it had run. Here’s what he told me in an
I can appreciate the broader factors weighing on the paper’s top
editors, particularly that close to the election. But personally,
I think that Nelson’s assertions did rise above the level of
garden-variety speculation, mainly because of who he is. Here
was a veteran government scientist, whose decades-long career
revolves around interpreting imagery like features of Mars, who
decided to say very publicly that, without reservation, he was
convinced there was something under a president’s jacket when
the White House said there was nothing. He essentially put his
hard-won reputation utterly on the line (not to mention his job)
in doing so and certainly with little prospect that he might gain
something as a result—except, as he put it, his preserved
integrity. [eRiposte emphasis]
Revkin also told me that before Nelson called Broad, he had
approached other media outlets as well. None—until
Salon—published anything on Nelson’s analysis. "I’d
certainly choose [Nelson’s] opinion over that of a tailor,"
Revkin concluded, referring to news reports that cited the man who
makes the president’s suits. "Hard to believe that so many in
the media chose the tailor, even in coverage after the
election." [eRiposte emphasis]
5.3.13 New York Times
and Paul Krugman
He had written 16 books by the fall of 1999 when "out of the
blue," says Krugman, Howell Raines, then running the Times
editorial page, called and offered him a twice-weekly column.
It wasn't long before Krugman started ripping the Republican
presidential candidate, though he says Raines barred him from using
the word "lying" for the duration of the campaign.
After Bush won, Krugman wrote: "The big lesson of this year's
campaign . . . is that a candidate can get away with saying things
that are demonstrably untrue, as long as the untruths involve big
Post and the Iraq war
"...Days before the Iraq war began,
veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus put together a story
questioning whether the Bush administration had proof that Saddam
Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. But he ran into
resistance from the paper's editors, and his piece ran only after
assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, who was researching a book
about the drive toward war, "helped sell the story,"
Pincus recalled. "Without him, it would have had a tough time
getting into the paper." Even so, the article was relegated to
Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories
that questioned the administration's evidence complained to senior
editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic
about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of
groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at
should have warned readers we had information that the basis for
this was shakier …Those are exactly the kind of statements that
should be published on the front page..."
Broadcasting and the DNC
Sinclair Action provides another
SinclairAction was organized by Media
Matters for America and supported by MoveOn,
Press, Working Assets,
Campaign for America's Future,
AlterNet, and Robert
Greenwald (director of Outfoxed) in response to Sinclair
Broadcast Group's systematic pattern of forwarding a conservative
political agenda while censoring alternative viewpoints.
In 2003, a Sinclair TV station in Madison, Wisconsin, refused
to air an ad from the Democratic National Committee that three
other non-Sinclair network affiliates in the same market agreed to
Comcast Cable and anti-war ads by Peace Action Education Fund
Media objections to the Pentagon’s assertion of authority was
too muted to be heard. Instead, press organizations seemed more
intent on ensuring that no one suspected them of anti-war
sentiments. The BCC, for example, banned its senior journalists from
attending the largest anti-war demonstration in that country’s
history, on Feb. 15—although junior staff were permitted to march
as long as they did so “purely in a private capacity.”
Meanwhile, the beating of war drums threw into high relief the
dangers of media monopoly, as Comcast Cable refused to sell
commercial air time to the Peace Action Education Fund, which sought
to run 30-second anti-war ads. Comcast explained that it wouldn’t
run any ad “that fails to substantiate certain claims or
5.3.17 CNN, Fox News,
NBC and the Win Without War Coalition
CNN, Fox and NBC, meanwhile, declined to run ads prepared by the
Win Without War coalition; a CNN spokeswoman explained the decision
by saying “we do not accept international advocacy ads on regions
Also see here.
5.3.18 Tribune Media
Services and Robert Koehler
Looks like others have taken notice of the Tribune Media Service
spiking Robert Koehler's column this week as discussed
previously on BRAD BLOG.
Editor & Publisher ran an
article on it yesterday.
What began innocently enough with a watershed article several weeks
ago by Tribune Media Service's Robert Koehler on the need for Election
Reform and an investigation into the results of Election 2004, has now
erupted into a full-fledged firestorm resulting Wednesday afternoon in
the unprecedented rejection of Koehler's latest column by the
higher-ups at TMS where Koehler is both a columnist and editor!
Tribune Media Services is the syndication arm of the Tribune Company
which, in turn, is the parent company to the Chicago Tribune.
Koehler's original ground-breaking column from April -- the first by
an American Mainstream Media journalist that we know of to out-and-out
charge that the 2004 Election was stolen -- was written a few days
after Koehler attended the National Election Reform Conference last
month in Nashville. The piece was headlined "The
Silent Scream of Numbers: The 2004 election was stolen — will
someone please tell the media?"
He followed it up the next week with another stunner headlined "Democracy's
Abu Ghraib — If they can disable an election, what's coming
While both pieces were distributed via TMS to syndicate member
newspapers, only a handful chose to run either of those two columns.
Most notably, however, despite Chicago Tribune itself having
chosen to run neither column, their "Public Editor", Don
Wycliffe, found it appropriate to write a column in the Trib's
pages wherein he rebutted Koehler's original piece. Wycliff's
rebuttal, as reported
here previously, attempted to discredit Koehler's column, Koehler
himself, and those of us who might give a damn about democracy and the
responsibility that the people (and yes, that would include the
media) have to remain vigilant in order to sustain it.
Wycliff's column, citing the "moral example" of Richard
Nixon (yes, not kidding) as the figure whom Americans ought to follow
in regards to potentially stolen elections, has erupted in a torrent
of email directed towards the misguided and/or misinformed Wycliff and
in support of Koehler.
Koehler once again hits a home-run with this week's column in response
to Wycliff's. Or at least he would have had the Masters of
Tribune Media Services not killed the article for the first time in
As Koehler explained to The BRAD
BLOG this evening, not only is this the first time that he's had a
column spiked by the higher-ups at TMS, it's the first time they've
even bothered to have one of his columns "shown around" to
determine it's appropriateness before it went out!
Koehler took pains to point out that his managing editor, Mary Elson,
has been extremely supportive of his work on both his latest and past
columns and was, in fact, the one who gave him the okay to attend the
conference in Nashville in the first place. It was that conference
which apparently opened his eyes to the crime against democracy which
seems to have occured last November. Actually examining the evidence
will do that to a fellow.
The unprecedented decision to spike his piece, it seems, came not from
Elson, but from higher up on the TMS food chain late this afternoon,
just hours before deadline.
After he was told the piece would not be syndicated, Koehler quickly
cobbled together a replacement column with quotes drawn from the
mountain of Email he has received since this entire affair began.
The spiked column, headlined "Citizens
in the Rain — Maybe we can't have election reform without media
reform", which will not apparently be distributed at
all via Tribune Media Services (Hey, Mr. Wycliff! Sounds like you may
have another great opportunity to write a rebuttal!) is now available
only via Koehler's personal website at CommonWonders.com.
The higher-ups who spiked the column claimed that Koehler's response
to Wycliff was somehow too "personal". Though having read it
-- and having read Wycliff's direct response to Koehler's original
column -- we find that pill a bit hard to swallow.
5.3.19 CBS and Ronald
Capping an extraordinary conservative furor over a movie
virtually no one has seen, CBS said Tuesday it will not air
"The Reagans" and shunt it off to the Showtime cable
Based on snippets of the script that had leaked out in recent
weeks, conservatives, including the son of the former president,
accused CBS of distorting the legacy of Ronald Reagan.
While CBS said it was not bowing to political pressure, critics
said that was exactly the case, and worried about the effects of
such pre-emptive strikes on future work.
CBS believed it had ordered a love story about Ronald and Nancy
Reagan with politics as a backdrop, but instead got a film that
crossed the line into advocacy, said a network executive who spoke
on the condition of anonymity.
The film had been scheduled to air November 16 and 18, in the
heart of the November ratings sweeps. CBS attempted to edit the film
to remove offending passages, but gave up.
"We believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the
Reagans for CBS and its audience," the network said in a
Neal Gabler, author of "Life the Movie: How Entertainment
Conquered Reality," said CBS' decision was unhealthy for
"CBS, in pulling this film, did incredible harm, much more
harm than they could ever have done in making the film," Gabler
said. "What they've told us now is that a very small group of
people have censorship power over the broadcast networks."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said CBS'
decision "smells of intimidation to me."
'They made a business decision'
But conservatives said it was a question of accuracy.
The miniseries became a hot topic on talk radio and the TV news
networks. The chairman of the Republican National Committee wrote to
CBS President Leslie Moonves, asking for historians to review the
movie, and the conservative Media Research Center asked advertisers
to consider boycotting the film.
5.3.20 CBS and
coverage of misleading/false report by Bush administration to go to
I saw this at FAIR:
...CBS puts Niger expose on hold as boss endorses Republicans
...In an outrageous politicization of journalism, CBS
announced it would not air a report on forged documents that the Bush
administration used to sell the Iraq war until after the November 2 election
(New York Times, 9/25/04). A network spokesperson issued a
statement declaring, "We now believe it would be inappropriate to
air the report so close to the presidential election."
The 60 Minutes segment was ready to air on September 8, but was
bumped in favor of the now infamous report that relied on supposed
National Guard memos whose authenticity CBS now says it
cannot confirm. The furor over the Guard memos has created a
situation where CBS executives say "the network can now
not credibly air a report questioning how the Bush administration
could have gotten taken in by phony documents" (Newsweek
Of course, what's really inappropriate here is CBS
allowing its PR problems to suppress a news report on an important
issue until after it no longer matters. The shelved 60 Minutes story
deals with the origins of documents purportedly showing that Iraq
under Saddam Hussein tried to obtain uranium from Niger-- documents
that turned out to be forgeries. The story, according to the Newsweek
online report, asks "tough questions about how the White House
came to embrace the fraudulent documents and why administration
officials chose to include a 16-word reference to the questionable
uranium purchase in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union
Though such questions are clearly relevant to a presidential
campaign that largely revolves around Bush's decision to invade
Iraq, CBS intends to keep the answers to itself until the
election has passed. Could there be more than the embarrassment over
the Guard story behind this decision?
Sumner Redstone, CEO of CBS's parent company Viacom, made
an unusual political statement at a gathering of corporate leaders
in Hong Kong (Asian Wall Street Journal, 9/24/04):
"I don't want to denigrate Kerry... but from a Viacom
standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a
better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for
many things we believe in, deregulation and so on. The Democrats
are not bad people.... But from a Viacom standpoint, we believe
the election of a Republican administration is better for our
Also see Carpetbagger
5.3.21 Viacom and Compare,
The independent progressive group Compare Decide Vote produced an
ad comparing the presidential candidates' policy positions on issues
important to young people, which the group says was accepted for
placement by MTV Network's Comedy Central. Two days
later, the station rejected the ad, citing an MTV Networks
policy against running advocacy ads (Washington Post,
"The reason behind our policy distinction between issue-ads
and political campaign ads is simply that across all our properties,
we talk about these issues every day," explained a Viacom
spokesperson (Media Daily News, 10/13/04).
That reasoning—that outside perspectives on important political
issues are blocked because Viacom's own coverage of the issues is
sufficient—is undermined by CBS's recent decision to hold
until after the election
a 60 Minutes story on forged documents that the Bush
administration used to sell the Iraq war. The network said it
"would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the
presidential election." (See FAIR Action
just broke the Viacom scandal on the front page, but here is
some more background.
Viacom is in on the game as well. They have refused to air this
ad by a youth GOTV outfit -- Compare
| Decide | Vote. They also refuse to air the organization's
two other ads (here
This outfit is targetting the same-day registration states --
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and New Hampshire, but
Viacome won't air their ads. And Viacom controls just about
every youth-oriented cable station (Comedy Central, MTV, VH-1,
5.3.22 Fox News and
CNN and reporting on Al Qaeda post 9/11
On October 10, television network executives from ABC, CBS,
NBC, Fox and CNN held a conference call with national
security adviser Condoleeza Rice, and apparently acceded to her
"suggestion" that any future taped statements from Osama
bin Laden's Al Qaeda group be "abridged," and any
potentially "inflammatory" language removed before
The question of how to present the words of bin Laden or
representatives of Al Qaeda is certainly a valid one for journalists
to consider. The statements require context and explanation of the
kind journalists should use to bracket the remarks of any party in a
major news story. But it is inappropriate for the government to
dictate to journalists how to report the news. In the context of
recent heavy-handedness on the part of the administration (including
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer's ominous remark that Americans
"need to watch what they say"), Rice's request suggests
that the White House is actually asking for something other than
simple journalistic judgement.
Originally the administration expressed concern about the
possibility of Al Qaeda members sending "coded messages"
to their followers in the segments. But Rice's main argument to the
networks seems to have been that bin Laden's statements must be
restricted because of their content. NBC News chief Neal
Shapiro told the New York Times that Rice's main point
"was that here was a charismatic speaker who could arouse
anti-American sentiment getting 20 minutes of air time to spew
hatred and urge his followers to kill Americans."
Although presented as only a call for caution, there's a danger
that the White House conference call may make broadcasters think
twice about airing any footage of bin Laden at all.
The following day, Fleischer took the administration's campaign
further and contacted major newspapers to request that they consider
not printing full transcripts of bin Laden's messages. "The
request is to report the news to the American people," said
Fleischer. "But if you report it in its entirety, that could
raise concerns that he's getting his prepackaged, pretaped message
out" (New York Times, 10/12/01).
To its credit, the Times has apparently resisted such
requests, but some media executives seem to actually appreciate the
White House pressure. "We'll do whatever is our patriotic
duty,'' said News Corp executive Rupert Murdoch (Reuters,
10/11/01). In an official statement, CNN declared: "In
deciding what to air, CNN will consider guidance from appropriate
authorities'' (Associated Press, 10/10/01). CNN chief Walter
Isaacson added, "After hearing Dr. Rice, we're not going to
step on the land mines she was talking about" (New York
The point is not that bin Laden or Al Qaeda deserve "equal
time" on U.S. news broadcasts, but that it is troubling for
government to shape or influence news content. Withholding
information from the public is hardly patriotic. When the White
House insists that it's dangerous to report a news event "in
its entirety," alarm bells should go off for journalists and
the American public alike.