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Bill Moyers Journal looks at hate on the airwaves

One focus is on Knoxville, Tennessee, where the recent shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church has left the pastor asking what role hateful speech from popular right-wing media personalities may have played in the tragedy.  (See our earlier reports.)

The PBS announcement: "What happens when America's airwaves fill with hate? ... a tough look at the hostile industry of 'Shock Jock' media with a hard-hitting examination of its effects on our nation's political discourse."

Tonight, Friday, September 12, at 9:00 PM (EDT) on PBS (check local listings here).

It's not pleasant reading, but click here to read a full transcript of the show >>


by Bruce Gagnon

Bruce Gagnon, Secretary/Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, has shared with us his poem reflecting on the way the media have become the unquestioned -- and unquestionable -- authority in our society.  The media seem able to dismiss movements of protest against the war -- defining reality for us in ways that distort it until there's little left of reality or truth.


[Posted here 3-13-07]

I heard a story the other day
about a Bangor Daily News (BDN) media official
telling peaceniks they had not covered their recent protest
because it was old news.
Redundant....old hat.....
stuff like that.

One peacenik thought about it
and wrote the guy back
and wondered if the BDN
was going to judge car crash stories
and murders and fires
by the same journalistic standards.

I'm certain the BDN scribe was insulted by such audacity.
How dare you say such things to me he must have thought.
I am the creator of the community reality
I am the maker of fortunes and careers
I am the breaker of hearts and lives
I am the one who does as his corporate bosses tell him
I am the chief lackey around here.
Who are you to challenge me?

I remember many years ago
a media gate keeper telling a friend and me
not to worry our pretty little heads
about informing the public on a particular concern.
The newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, had a plan.
They were on the case and had it under control.

The media was the message
the media is the god.
A democratic debate was not needed
activism was not needed
the public was not needed
agitation was not needed
ideas from the great unwashed were not needed
the media boys were on the case.......
Go home and find something useful to do
with your otherwise wasted lives.

And so it goes today from Iraq to Bangor.
The pages are filled with all the news that is fit to be printed.
Whole sections of the paper are left blank for me now
as I rustle though the daily rag
passing the big adverts,
the color pictures of men in orange suits
in handcuffs
on their way to trial
for another sensational murder
or driving under the influence
of a crazy society.

Pages of stories about oranges looking like grapefruit
and birds singing in winter
while Baghdad blows up again
and people cry invisible tears
and Washington burns our health care money.
And politicians tell us they are almost there.

The news is twisted
and turned
and flattened out
and squeezed
and bled
and contorted
and changed
and shortened
to fit the tiny spaces

between the ads for women's underwear
and cars
and SUVs
and hummers
and big stories about violent video games
and returning heroes from a war far away.

A letter here and an announcement there
keep alive the illusion
that all is well here at home.
That democracy and the old ways are sound.

But the truth lies with the rusty scissors
as fewer pages are clipped
and stored
in our scrapbooks
where the stories of our lives used to be collected
to pass on to our children
so we could teach them
about the good work that was done
to keep the fires alive.

Somehow the spirit rages on.
The Russians learned to read between the lines
of Pravda
and today we turn the Times upside down
trying to learn the same lesson
so we can be free again.

By Bruce Gagnon to
Organizing Notes

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (our blog)


Commercial Alert    [7-6-05]

People of faith – whether on the left or the right side of the spectrum – seem to agree that we want to protect our children and our families from the values of commercialism. A group called Commercial Alert has just opened a very helpful new website, which is "to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy."  

The website now includes
C An extensive archive of hundreds of articles about commercialism;
An action center where you can participate in our online campaigns; and,
Hundreds of weblogs where you can discuss articles and issues relating to commercialism.

Take a look >>

Big Bird Lives to See Another Day!

This message comes to us from People for the American Way   [6-24-05]

Late yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives rebuked Right Wing attacks on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting!

Thanks to your efforts, Democrats and Republicans banded together to overwhelmingly restore $100 million in funding to the CPB by a vote of 284 to 140.

While this will undoubtedly help secure the financial future of independent public broadcasting, its political future is still very much in doubt. Ken Tomlinson, head of the CPB, continues his efforts to turn it into a mouthpiece of the Republican Party. And today his right wing agenda advanced one step further when he succeeded in getting Patricia Harrison, formerly a co-chair of the Republican National Committee, named as president and chief executive of the CPB.

While saving the financial future of public broadcasting is important, it is even more important that we protect the independence and integrity of its programming. That is why we ask you to join us by signing a petition calling on President Bush to fire Ken Tomlinson and replace him with someone who respects the vital role that independent public broadcasting plays in our society.

Click here to sign our petition demanding President Bush fire Tomlinson!

This time, it's for real: Save NPR and PBS

This message comes from   [6-14-05]

You know that email petition that keeps circulating about how Congress is slashing funding for NPR and PBS? Well, now it's actually true. (Really. Check the footnotes if you don't believe me.)

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:

A House panel has voted to eliminate all funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch.

The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year—$100 million—and end funding altogether within two years. The loss could kill beloved children's shows like "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Arthur," and "Postcards from Buster." Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.

If we can reach 250,000 signatures by the end of the week, we'll put Congress on notice.

AN UPDATE from MoveOn on June 15: More than 300,000 have signed the petition to save NPR and PBS from losing public funding. This is huge, but we need your help.

Tomorrow, the House Appropriations Committee will decide whether to approve these severe cuts to NPR and PBS. We can stop the cuts—and save public TV and radio—with a strong show of public outrage. We'll report to the committee members on our petition before they vote.

Can you help us reach 400,000 signers by the end of the day? Please send this note to friends, family and neighbors who count on NPR and PBS.

Thank you for all you do.


P.S. Read the Washington Post report on the threat to NPR and PBS at on, or the Washington Post.

In defense of freedom of the media    [5-23-05]

We recently posted a link to the speech by Bill Moyers’ address at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis.   Our earlier note >>

We received this note expressing appreciation of the speech, and urging more attention to it.

I was delighted to find your publication of Bill Moyer's speech in St.Louis on your website. That speech is one of the most direct examinations of what the administration is seeking to do to damage the freedom of the press in the U. S.

As a Presbyterian and surgeon, I would encourage you to move it up to one of the headlines on your website. We need to make the truth of what the administration is trying to do to silence dissension in the press available to all who will read.

William B. McCullough, M. D.

Read Moyers' speech >>

Joan Chittister: We need better news reporting, with less pressure for speed

Another reader has called our attention to a recent article by Sister Joan Chittister, who takes note of the reporting problems of Dan Rather and Newsweek, along with the efforts by Kenneth Tomlinson, chairperson of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to press for "balance" in the reporting by NPR. "Balance" -- toward the right, apparently. Too much reporting, she says, becomes shallow and even inaccurate because of the pressure of time, and the urge to get a story out first.  Reality gets distorted by the pressures of competition as well as political pressures.

You’ll notice that this article appears in the National Catholic Reporter, which takes note sorrowfully that the recent "forced removal of Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese as editor of America magazine is tragic. He was forced from his position by his Jesuit superiors after five years of pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Read her article >>

The note from Chris Baker:

I read this this morning, and felt it could use wider distribution. She strikes a very compelling, and unsettling, nerve.

Bill Moyers responds to CPB's Tomlinson charges of liberal bias: "We were getting it right, but not right wing"     [5-17-05]

Witherspooner Bill LeMosy sends this note: "Here's a must-read for anybody concerned about public broadcasting. While the neo-cons rage, the prophets still speak."

In his first public address since leaving PBS six months ago, journalist Bill Moyers responded to charges by Kenneth Tomlinson - the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - of liberal bias and revelations that Tomlinson hired a consultant to monitor the political content of Moyers' PBS show "Now." Democracy Now! broadcast an excerpt of Moyers' closing address at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis, Missouri. Their web site provides a rush transcript of the broadcast.

Read the excerpts here >>

Or read the full text of the speech >>

Senate votes to overturn FCC media ownership rules

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

For those who have a concern about the number of news outlets in your community, the story below may interest you. As we have fewer and fewer media, the ability of one person or one company to control what we hear and read will increase.

The Congressional Quarterly reports, in its Midday Update for 9/16/03:

The Senate delivered a stinging rebuke to the Federal Communications Commission and the Bush administration today, voting to kill the commission's June 2 rules loosening media ownership restrictions. But the measure's chances of passage in the House are much lower. By a bipartisan vote of 55-40, senators approved a resolution of disapproval (S J Res 17) introduced by North Dakota Democrat Byron L. Dorgan that would nullify the FCC's move to allow media conglomerates to own more television stations. The measure also would reimpose a "cross-ownership" ban lifted by the FCC that had prohibited one company from owning both newspapers and television stations in the same market. The resolution is strongly opposed by House GOP leaders, who likely would block it from reaching the floor. President Bush, who supports the FCC's changes, also could veto the resolution. The FCC's new rules were put on hold by a federal court Sept. 3, a day before they were scheduled to take effect.

For more on the vote, check out the Washington Post's coverage.

For more information, contact:

Elenora Giddings Ivory
PC(U.S.A.)Washington Office
110 Maryland Avenue, NE, #104
Washington, DC 20002.

202-543-1126, fax 202-543-7755.

So who gets labeled?

A careful observer refutes Bernard Goldberg's claims of liberal bias in the media


You've probably heard about the recent best-selling book by Bernard Goldberg, Bias, which charges that TV newscasters are biased against conservatives. His "evidence" is given in his assertion that they label conservatives politicians as "conservative," while seldom applying such labels to "liberals," since they view them as the norm.

Geoffrey Nunberg, writing in The American Prospect, does a little content analysis of 20 major daily newspapers, and finds that just the opposite is true: His sample "liberals" are labeled such for more often than are the sample "conservatives."

He goes on to examine the deeper issues behind such labeling, concluding that "the function of political labels isn't to inform or indoctrinate readers about the people and groups they're attached to. Rather, they're a way of reassuring us that the writer and publication are comfortably in the center, at a safe distance from the extremes on either side."

And finally he says: "If people are disposed to believe that the media have a liberal bias, it's because that's what the media have been telling them all along."

Who will benefit from new FM air channels?

Here's a legislative update on LPFM, 
from Beau Hunter of Radio Free Nashville (sent by Gene TeSelle)

posted 4/11/00

The Oxley bill (HR 3439) is now out of committee and ready for a vote in the House. Debate on the bill may start as early as tomorrow (Monday, April 10). It is important to note that the bill has been AMENDED. After seeing the altered bill, FCC Chairman Kennard immediately issued a brief statement saying in effect that it would gut 75% of the already conservative plan the FCC is attempting to put in place. If anything, LPFM should and could be greatly expanded.

In a way, the amended bill is worse than the original in that it allows Congress to say, "We're for LPFM; we believe the public should have access to the public airwaves." --Indeed: maybe a station in Hohenwald, and one for a high school in North Dakota, and maybe one in the Mariana Islands.

I know that many of you have already called your Representative in opposition to the original Oxley bill. Nonetheless, I am somewhat chagrined to have to ask you to call once again and let them know the amended bill is no improvement. Their offices need to be FLOODED with calls as soon as they open on Monday.

I have also neglected to state how important it is to let our Senators know of our opposition to the equivalent Senate bill, S2068, introduced by Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently adopted rules creating two new classes of low-power FM service that will make thousands of new radio frequencies available for local use by non-commercial broadcasters.  The PC(USA) is planning to support churches in using these new channels for good religious broadcasting.

However, there are moves afoot in Congress to kill the new policy, essentially protecting the monopoly of the air-waves held by current broadcasters.

The first story below reports the "good news."  Click here to jump down to the "bad news" side of the story.

And for a statement from the Chairman of the FCC defending the establishment of low-power FM stations, click here.

Presbyterians Encouraged to Invest in Low-Power FM Radio Stations

PC(USA) says it will help with technical aid, programming

by John Filiatreau, PCUSA NEWS Mar. 22, 2000

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is gearing up to help members and congregations take advantage of a new, low-power FM radio service (LPFM) for local broadcasts of religious programming, including church music, educational programs, sermons and worship services.

In January, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules creating two new classes of low-power FM service that will make thousands of new radio frequencies available for local use by non-commercial broadcasters.

These new LPFM stations would operate at two power levels. Broadcasts on 10-watt stations would reach an area with a radius of one to two miles (three to 12 square miles); those on 100-watt stations would serve an area with a radius of about 3-1/2 miles (about 38 square miles). Antenna heights for both levels of service will be limited to 30 meters.

The FCC is not yet accepting applications for the new radio licenses, but is expected to begin doing so within a few months.

During its recent meeting in Louisville, the General Assembly Council (GAC) approved a motion from the Congregational Ministries Division suggesting that it:

* Inform local congregations of the opportunity to apply for licenses;

* Provide technical assistance in the application process to congregations that express an interest in filing an application;

* Provide technical assistance in the start-up process to PC(USA) congregations and individuals that are granted a license; and,

* Provide supplemental programming support to denominational entities that operate LPFM stations.

The motion specified that "technical assistance" means non-financial assistance, and that the level of assistance to be provided depends on the number of entities that request help with the application or start-up process. "Programming support" includes obtaining and making available to local stations various types of programming to supplement local programming.

The new stations, to be distributed among unoccupied channels throughout the FM band, will all be non-commercial. Current holders of broadcast licenses and parties with interests in other media (electronic or print) will not be eligible for LPFM stations. The licenses will be available only to local entities for the first two years of availability. Each licensee may own only one station in any given community, but eventually may own as many as 10 LPFM stations nationwide.


The FCC has said only that it will begin accepting applications "in a few months." However, it will provide 30 days' public notice before accepting applications. Application forms and information on how to file applications for LPFM stations will be available through the commission's web site << >>

The FCC has said that its purpose in creating the new low-power service is to "provide increased opportunity for new entry and ownership diversity" while providing for "a fair and equitable distribution of radio broadcast service" and maintaining "the technical integrity of the radio spectrum in order to best serve the public." It has said that LPFM license applications will probably be filed electronically, perhaps by email, in order to "speed the application process and therefore introduction of the LPFM service to the listening public."

During conversations about LPFM during the recent GAC meeting, some members commented on a recent "explosion" in the number of "Christian" radio stations, most of them aligned with the conservative Christian right, and said there is a need for stations that impart reformed theology and "mainline" Protestant views.

They said LPFM radio service might be especially useful in mission, community service and evangelism.



Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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