GROUP PRESSURES PUBLIC RADIO
TO AIR PROGRAM
By Ray Routhier
Portland Press Herald
Saturday, April 5, 2003
Organizers of a campaign to compel Maine Public Radio to carry the
progressive national discussion program "Democracy Now!" are asking people
to withhold contributions to the network unless the show is aired.
Members of the "Bring Democracy Now! to Maine" campaign plan to use
flyers, newspaper ads and an e-mail list of more than 800 addresses in
their efforts, said David Kubiak of Kennebunkport, one of the organizers.
Kubiak said his group decided to ask people to refrain from donating to
MPR after network officials decided recently not to air "Democracy Now!"
A group of Maine residents began lobbying Maine Public Radio to air
"Democracy Now!" in January. MPR officials received more than 2,000
letters, e-mails and calls asking for the program, but decided last week
not to air it.
Charles Beck, vice president for radio services, said the main reason is
that the program's left-leaning slant could compromise MPR's efforts to be
balanced and unbiased in its presentation of news and public affairs.
"When you listen to 'All Things Considered' or our other programs, you
don't know how the host feels about certain issues," said Beck. "But when
you listen to 'Democracy Now!' you know exactly how the host (Amy Goodman)
Beck says the decision not to air "Democracy Now!" is final.
Kubiak and others say they want "Democracy Now!" on Maine Public Radio
because it presents a viewpoint that isn't expressed in most mainstream
media, especially during wartime.
Besides trying to make their point by withholding donations, Kubiak said
members of his group plan to attend the next meeting of Maine Public
Broadcasting's community advisory board in Lewiston. That meeting had been
scheduled for today, but was canceled because of bad weather. No makeup
date has been scheduled.
"Democracy Now!" is now heard in Maine on community radio station WERU in
Blue Hill, and is seen on two Maine public access TV stations. Starting
April 14, it will also be heard on WMPG, a community radio station in
Portland on the campus of the University of Southern Maine.
Dave Bunker, the program manager there, said the program will be aired
because "listeners asked for it" and because part of WMPG's mission is to
present perspectives that are "under-represented in the mainstream media."
"Democracy Now" is a listener-sponsored show distributed by Pacifica Radio
Network to public and community radio stations.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454
'DEMOCRACY' DRIVE FALTERS;
LEWISTON - A statewide grassroots group has demanded "Democracy Now!" but Maine Public Radio has quashed the request. "People feel things in their gut, but if they don't see it ever reflected in the media they assume they're all alone and tend to shut up," said David Kubiak, a supporter of a drive to bring the program "Democracy Now!" to Maine Public Radio.
RADIO SHOW GETS SHELVED
By Seth Golden
Special to the Lewiston Sun Journal
April 6, 2003
Kubiak and a host of others planned to protest Maine Public Radio's refusal to pick up "Democracy Now!" at the station's community advisory board meeting in Lewiston Saturday. But, on Friday, radio officials canceled the meeting, citing bad weather forecasts. As to whether the planned protest influenced that decision, Charles Beck, vice president for radio services at Maine Public Broadcasting, said, "That's not the case at all." He added that the station will reschedule the meeting sometime within the next month.
"Democracy Now!," a program broadcast daily on the Pacifica Network and now carried on 120 stations nationwide, champions social justice, civil liberties, human rights and labor struggles, said its anchor, Amy Goodman. But some detractors call her the left's answer to Rush Limbaugh.
Beck said his station has received about 2,400 requests to pick up the show. "This is a very well organized group," he said. "I've been very impressed. They're very passionate about their beliefs." But station officials decided not to air the show. "We feel it's advocacy journalism, Beck said. "It's promoting a point of view." Maine Public Radio does not want to lean either to the right or the left, he said, adding that the program would damage station credibility and limit audience trust.
But supporters of the program say its point of view does not get heard enough in the media. People "just don't hear the debate," Kubiak said. One factor that makes a country fearful is a lack of full and healthy debate in the press, he said. "Democracy Now!" offers a different journalistic point of view and asks questions other media outlets do not, Kubiak said. Most stations on television and radio rely too much on official sources who support official policy, he said.
"There was an old journalistic ethos that the point of journalism was to monitor centers of power and ask hard questions," Kubiak said. "You don't see that being done now."
Asked whether Maine Public Radio relies too much on official sources, Beck said: "I think we're doing the best we can." Television media does sometimes sensationalize, he said. "I think Maine Public Radio has stepped to the plate to fill some of that void. I think we've done a great job of that."
Maine Public Radio is currently engaged in one of its pledge drives. Supporters of bringing "Democracy Now!" to the station are asking people to withhold support until Maine Public Radio agrees to pick up the show for a three-month trial period, Kubiak said. That trial period would come at no cost to the station, he said, adding that the program would be free for 18 months.
Beck said he did not expect the group's protest efforts to hurt the pledge drive. "I don't expect that (the supporters of "Democracy Now!) will be pledging their support," he said.
Whenever the corporate media drift to the right, people have to turn to the public sphere to get balance in news coverage, Kubiak said. "If Maine Public Radio can't serve that function for us in a time of crisis it is not worth supporting," he said.
WERU broadcasts "Democracy Now!" to about 85,000 people in the Blue Hill and Bangor areas, Kubiak said, adding that WMPG just picked up the program and reaches 70,000 in the Portland area.
"Air space is limited," Beck said. "We try to not air too many programs that are available elsewhere." Kubiak feels, though, that the program should still be offered on Maine Public Radio.
"North Korea calls itself a democracy," he said, adding that Maine Public Radio may be using the word "public" simply to get more support. "Basically we're just asking everybody to work the phones now and work on the pledge-drive issue," Kubiak added.
See the "Bring Democracy Now! to Maine" campaign website at: http://www.nancho.net/dn2maine/ and Maine Public Radio' response at http://www.mainepublicradio.org/
MPBC TURNS DOWN RADIO SHOW
The Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. has decided not to air
a daily news radio show that criticizes the war in Iraq,
despite the efforts of a group seeking "more varied
perspectives and in-depth reporting" on world events.The
controversial program "Democracy Now!" is hosted by
journalist Amy Goodman and covers subjects including
military repression in Indonesia, sweatshop labor around the
globe, genetically altered food, the death penalty and
Listeners request controversial program 'Democracy Now!'
By Ruth-Ellen Cohen
Bangor Daily News
April 9, 2003
MPBC has received more than 2,300 e-mails, postcards and phone calls from people who want the
program, according to Rhonda Morin, spokesperson for MPBC, which consists of public radio and
Four hundred requests were from MPBC members, she said.
The decision by a majority of the 10-member MPBC steering committee was made after reviewing the
program, attending lectures presented by Goodman and obtaining feedback from the organization's
16-member community advisory board, Morin said Tuesday.
The committee felt it was "far from being fair and balanced" and that it "didn't fit within the journalistic
ethics of what we adhere to," she said. "We don't carry any type of news programming ... that supports
or advocates for ... a particular point of view or stand on an issue."
The show is broadcast on WERU-FM in Orland from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday through
Friday. David Kubiak, a member of an advocacy group, Bring Democracy Now! to Maine, said people
aren't getting all the information they need.
"The media environment has become a competitive propaganda machine and the sources almost entirely
presented on TV and radio represent the administration stances and pro-war and conservative opinions."
Broadcasting the show could ease MPBC's tight budget, according to Kubiak. He said the show
generates a large audience and that its first 18 months would be offered free to MPBC. In addition, one
resident has offered $5,000 to the station if it would air the program, Kubiak said.
Requests for the show also were submitted from a variety of religious, political, environmental, labor,
educational and peace groups from across the state, including the Maine Council of Churches, the Maine
AFL-CIO, and the Maine Democratic Party, said Kubiak.
The advocacy group had planned to protest at the MPBC annual meeting, which was postponed last
Saturday because of the weather. When the meeting is rescheduled, members will attend.
The group is urging people to withhold dues and pledges until public radio agrees to give the show a try.
News from the struggle beytond Maine:
Forwarded by Democracy Now!
"This from today's Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin.
My favorite quote: "NPR programming is not controversial compared to
the content provided by Pacifica, a company founded by conscientious
objectors to World War II."
I guess when they said "not controversial", they forgot to ask
Jeff Cohen, Steve Rendell and others at Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting (www.fair.org), David Barsamian ("The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting", alternativeradio.org), Jerry Starr ("Air Wars",
cipbonline.org), Robert McChesney ("Rich Media, Poor Democracy"), Roger
Smith ("Public Broadcasting as State Television"), Peter Hudiburg ("Terry
Gross on NPR's Fresh Air calls Ramsey Clark 'Goofy and Irrelevant'"), and
PUBLIC RADIO PROGRAM POLARIZES LISTENERS
One of the Southern Tier's public radio stations has begun a test run of
Democracy Now, a nationally syndicated show that in a few weeks has drawn
criticism and praise from across the political spectrum.
'DEMOCRACY NOW!' OFFERS LIBERAL VIEW
By Jeffrey Blum
April 6, 2003
In the process, the show has alienated some Southern Tier jazz fans.
Democracy Now, the self-proclaimed "exception to the rulers," is a news
program broadcast from New York City by the Pacifica Radio Network. The
program pulls no punches in its criticism of the war in Iraq and of the
Bush administration. It airs weekdays from noon to 2 p.m. on WSQX FM-91.5,
in a slot where the station formerly played jazz.
WSQX purchases most of its programming from National Public Radio. NPR
programming is not controversial compared to the content provided by
Pacifica, a company founded by conscientious objectors to World War II.
At issue is whether WSQX will continue to air Democracy Now after the
summer. Pacifica currently makes the program available to WSQX at no cost
but plans to invoke a $4,000 yearly fee in September.
At WSKG, parent station of WSQX, officials say that finding $4,000 for a
new show is not easy.
The television side of WSKG is about to begin an expensive conversion to
digital broadcasting that has been mandated by the federal government. The
digital conversion, pressure from a slow economy and a decline in
donations since the September 11 terrorist attacks make finding an extra
$4,000 a challenge for the nonprofit station, President and CEO Gary
"For commercial guys, $4,000 is lunch," Reinbolt said. "For us it's not so
Gregory Keeler, WSKG's programming director, said Democracy Now was
the most requested show he has seen since starting work at the station in
1985. Now that the show is on the air, he said, response has been
"I haven't counted the responses because there have been that many,"
Keeler said. He estimates that responses are running about four to one in
favor of Democracy Now.
Response to the show has been polarized.
"You either love it or you hate it," Keeler said.
E-mails to Keeler fall on the ends of the love/hate spectrum.
Some carry messages of disappointment with WSQX:"Sadly, you must count me
as an ex-NPR listener," said one.
Others bring ringing endorsements:"Thank you for restoring my faith
One listener's e-mail began, "WoW! Holy Cow! This is fantastic! thank you
thank you thank you thank you for running DEMOCRACY NOW!"
The Palestinian Solidarity Committee, a Binghamton University student
group, is spending about $900 to put up two billboards advertising
"We feel like it's the best thing we can do right now for the movement for
social justice and the antiwar movement," said Ken Burak, a graduate
student and member of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee.
WSQX member Ken Thrash, 54, of Endicott is unhappy Democracy Now has
Thrash, a jazz fan, said he has listened to WSQX since it went on the air
in 1995. One day at work, he realized the show had replaced jazz he in the
"I didn't think it was appropriate," he said. "It seemed almost
He added:"I won't drop my membership over one thing. I still listen to
other programs. When this program is on, I turn it off or put something
else on. As far as I'm concerned, there's not enough jazz."
Come September, Tier Democracy Now listeners will learn whether they
will be able to hear the show any more.
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