November 7, 2005

True Confessions: Bozell Loves The Simpsons, Friends

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 12:56 pm
Filed under: PTC

From the Didn’t See This One Coming file:

Bozell likes “smut,” and admits it.

“I think The Simpsons is hilarious,'’ Bozell says a little sheepishly. “I love The Simpsons. But every once in a while, it just hits you right in the face. . . . It would be a hilarious show without it, so why did you do it?'’

This is a news flash, and not just to the First Amendment attorney who calls Bozell ‘’devoid of humor, lustful after publicity, and vastly ignorant'’ or the network executive who derides him as “the guy who thinks he can take care of my kids better than I can.'’

To the FCC, whipped into a frenzy by the deluge of e-mailed complaints from Bozell’s group, to the network executives cowed by his rages into pixilating everything from old women’s cleavage to cartoon babies’ butts, and even — perhaps most of all — to his million-member TV legion of decency, the Parents Television Council, it is liable to be a shock that in the privacy of his own living room, Bozell consorts with the enemy.

With those over-sexed, under-disciplined Friends, for instance. Last year, when 51 million other Americans were saying tearful goodbyes to the show as it ended its decade-long run, Bozell was filing an FCC complaint over an episode about a birthday cake decorated with a frosted penis. ‘’Patently offensive,'’ Bozell called Friends then.

Now, though, he says he may even have shed a tear or two himself.

‘’It’s unquestionable that it was a very terrific, extremely high quality show,'’ Bozell says. “So much of it was so enjoyable for adults and even younger people. And yet so much of it also was really pushing the envelope. So can I say 51 million people are wrong? No, no, I can’t say that.

“But even of those 51 million, I suspect, even the fans of Friends would also acknowledge that Friends could go a little overboard. Nobody is suggesting that Friends the show ought not to have been on. What we’re saying is some of the stuff on that show ought not to have been on.'’

That’s considerably milder rhetoric than you see in the newsletters and press releases that come smoking out of Bozell’s Parents Television Council. There, the cop show The Shield is ‘’this assault on decency.'’ MTV is ‘’blatantly selling smut to children.'’ The fast-food chains using an ad with a wetted-down Paris Hilton are “forcing American families to digest their filth.'’

From the Miami Herald.

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Minneapolis Parks Board Changes Mind, Allows Free Speech

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 12:45 pm
Filed under: Free Speech?

Once upon a time, there was a candidate for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. We’ll call him Jason Stone. One day, in an effort to win the hearts of voters, Jason Stone engaged in some pamphleteering at a local park.

What Jason Stone didn’t know is that he was being watched by his sworn enemy, the Big Bad Superintendent, Jon Gurban. The Big Bad Superintendent licked his greedy lips and gnashed his sharp, sharp teeth. Jason Stone was distributing pamphlets without the magic permit!

The Big Bad Superintendent huffed and puffed and called 911.

Soon, a small army of four police officers responded to the Big Bad Superintendent’s roar for help.

Word of the Big Bad Superintendent’s phone call made its way through the kingdom. Popular pundits throughout the land — including those at the Star Tribune and the City Pages — criticized the Superintendent.

And so last week, the Big Bad Superintendent used his powers to change the policy requiring a magic permit, provided that the pamphleteers don’t disturb the wading pool culture.

Big Bad Superintendent: I am asking that any individual or small group who are in the park distributing literature use common sense! By that I mean please do not block access or egress to park buildings or block or impede traffic on parkways or paths. Do not litter or bother parents who may have children in wading pools or people playing on athletic fields.

The end.


Flags on Fire

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 12:15 pm
Filed under: Free Speech

As expected, the proposed Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning passed the House during my hiatus.

Here’s a roundup of the op-eds on the burn ban. (more…)

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Religious Foes Come Together to Fight Common Enemy — Gay People

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 11:58 am
Filed under: Free Speech

In a rare (and bizarre) show of togetherness, Jerusalem’s Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders have come together to fight a gay pride parade planned for June 30th. The city’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor has put the kibosh on the parade.

Uri Lupolianski said he acted “out of concern that it would be provocative and hurt the feelings of the broader public living in and visiting the city and due to concerns about public disorder”. In a show of unity, Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders had denounced the festival as an abomination. Eitan Mayer, the town hall’s director-general, said that the gay pride march had been provocative in the past.

The Open House, a Jerusalem gay and lesbian community centre which organised the parade, announced that it was petitioning the district court, which will hold an urgent hearing on Sunday. The police had already approved the route through the centre of the New City, ending with festivities in Liberty Bell Park, which has a replica of the bell which summoned the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the American Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

“This is an issue not just of sexual orientation, but of democracy and freedom of speech,” Hagai El-Ad, the Open House director, told The Independent. “We are certain that freedom of speech will prevail and that the parade will take place as planned.”

About 4,000 marchers have attended three previous parades, which passed with only minor incidents from Jerusalem’s large religious community. Mr El-Ad predicted that even more would turn out this year not just to celebrate, but to protest at the ban. “Jerusalem’s beauty stems from its diversity,” he said. “The mayor’s personal beliefs cannot be a basis for trampling on the civil rights of one segment of the population. This sad process begins with the gay and lesbian community, but I don’t want to imagine the nightmarish reality that would be created in Jerusalem if a process of this sort was allowed to begin.”

From the Independent Online.


AM/FM Broadcasters Want to Prevent Satellite Stations from Local Reporting

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 11:45 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite

The Clear Channels are nervous.

First they thought that no one would actually pay to subscribe to radio when they can get it for free. Then 5.5 million listeners signed up for Sirius or XM, and the terrestrial channels’ most famous DJs jumped ship.

The AM/FMs have comforted themselves by pointing to their provision of local coverage — something the nationwide satellite channels are seemingly unable to do.

Until they started doing that too.

Now AM/FM broadcasters want Congress to prohibit satellite stations from providing local content. A similar bill petered out last session, but has been revived and is currently pending.

Reports the Silicon Valley Business Journal:

The Federal Communications Commission in 1997 granted operating licenses to the country’s two satellite radio services — Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., of New York City, and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., of Washington, D.C. — with the stipulation that they would only offer a national service.

Over-the-air, or terrestrial, stations wanted to maintain their advantage in the competition for listeners by being able to provide local content in their home markets — and reap local advertising dollars.

But Sirius and XM both offer localized traffic and weather reports in 20 key markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area.

“We always like people to live up to what they agreed to,” said Bill Conway, program manager for the Bay Area stations of Bonneville International Radio Corp., of Salt Lake City.

An XM or Sirius subscriber can be listening to one of the 120-plus channels of music on each service, flip to another satellite channel for traffic and weather, and never have to listen to a terrestrial radio station.

Satellite radio is following the rules, said Don Kelley, a spokesman for Sirius.

“We are allowed to have content of a local nature as long as it is nationwide,” Mr. Kelley said.

The satellite channel that carries traffic and weather about San Francisco can be heard in Miami, New York City, or anywhere else Sirius is available. And for that matter, someone driving through the Bay Area can hear traffic and weather reports from Boston, Philadelphia or Los Angeles.

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“Chocolate War” Challenged in Ann Arbor

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 11:28 am
Filed under: Book Bans

The most challenged book of 2004, says the American Library Association, was Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. Jumping on the bandwagon, one Ann Arbor mother is fighting to get the book banned in her kids’ district.

Chris Anderson, a mother of five children in the Milan district, said the book is inappropriate for the classroom and contradicts the district’s teaching in terms of character building.

“It has vile language and bad sexual conduct and masturbation,'’ Anderson said. “Wet dreams and masturbation were mentioned something like six times. The entire book has a very negative message. The main character stands up to the school bullies and gets beat to a pulp for it.'’


School board secretary David Johnson said Anderson’s request to remove the book from that list has sparked concerns about its contents. “(Cormier) may be a very well-known author but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a good critical look at (the book),'’ Johnson said.

The board is likely discuss Anderson’s request, and the committee’s recommendations, in August.

And on a side note, just for the record, I am the cheese.

From Michigan Live.


US Companies Help Iran’s Censors

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 11:23 am
Filed under: CensorWorld

Even before last week’s election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran was considered to have some of the most restrictive web censorship in the world.

Iranian citizens are routinely blocked from sites about women’s rights, gay issues, sites with offensive political content, and Western ‘blogs’. This profound anti-freedom is no doubt one of the issues that gets the Bush administration’s sabers rattling.

But before condemning the Iranian censorship (or, for that matter, China’s), the US needs to take a look under its own rug. Much of the “filtering” technology used in Iran has been developed by American companies, reports the New Scientist.

The information was uncovered by an organization called the OpenNet Initiative, whose stated mission is to “investigate and challenge state filtration and surveillance practices.”

The New Scientist reports that OpenNet researchers “remotely accessed computers within Iran’s internet borders to test the restrictions imposed by the government.”

The team used a variety of methods to test the filters — dialling into Iranian ISPs from outside the country, connecting to desktop machines using remote-control software, and routing traffic through dedicated servers within the country.

They found that 34% of the 1465 URLs they tested were blocked, including 100% of the pornographic websites tested. Many gay and lesbian web pages were blocked, as were those hosting politically sensitive content — 15% of blogs and 30% of news sites were inaccessible. Sites providing tools and information for circumventing filtering technology were also blocked in 95% of cases.

OpenNet found that Iran ISPs extensively employ Smart Filter, made by San Jose company Secure Computing.

Secure Computing sheepishly told the New Scientist that Iran was using the software without permission. “Secure Computing has sold no licenses to any entity in Iran,” says spokesman David Burt. “We have been made aware of ISPs in Iran making illegal and unauthorised attempts to use of our software.”

May be true, but Secure Computing’s implication that it has nothing to do with the worldwide business of censorship is a little disingenuous. The company’s website boasts a worldwide presence. And its sales pitch for Smart Filter is the stuff of every cube worker’s nightmares:

SmartFilter® products, including the leading Bess® filtering solution for education, and Sentian™ allow you to control outbound employee access to Web applications, thereby preserving performance so employees can use them productively and efficiently.


The “T” Word

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 10:56 am
Filed under: PBS

Finally, it gets a mention in the mainstream press.

The war against PBS is a war against “tolerance,” and what it means to different people.

From Denver Post TV writer Joanne Ostrow:

The people who hate Bill Moyers have a multipronged campaign going.

The crowd that thinks “tolerance” is a dirty word, that wants to muzzle Buster, censor “Frontline” and cut funds to the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio are the partisans who want to finish the job Newt Gingrich started in 1995.

A decade ago, when conservative Republicans tried to gut funding for public broadcasting, they were halted by a public outcry.

This time, they’ve got a coordinated strategy enabled by a lack of public awareness.

It’s about time that someone (besides us) said it.


PTC: Cable’s G4 in Stealth Attack Mode

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 10:49 am
Filed under: PTC

In their ongoing attempt to keep us guessing, the Parents Television Council has decided that the lesser watched networks are more dangerous than the MTVs of the world. Today, anyway.

The PTC is upset with G4, which bills itself as a network for video game lovers. G4 is holding a contest for Videogame Vixen of the Year. Turns out that animated bikinis get the Bozellians just as hot as the real thing.

From Broadcasting & Cable:

“The fact that these are animated cartoons versus real women doesn’t make it better. It’s meant to elicit the same reaction as pornography,” says Melissa Caldwell, the Parents Television Council’s director of research. Caldwell says the contest — and its slot on the not exactly high-profile G4— bolsters the argument for reining in cable, either with indecency standards or by offering a la carte or family-tier programming options. “It shows how hard it is to monitor what programs are coming into your home.

“You may know that MTV is something you want to watch out for, but who’s ever heard of the G4 channel?”

Is it just me, or is there something broken in that logic?


Grokster Sticks Its Head in the Lion’s Mouth, Gets Chomped

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 10:25 am
Filed under: Free Speech?

In other Supreme Court news, file-sharing enabler Grokster lost its battle with MGM. The SCOTUS ruled unanimously today that Grokster (and, by extension, similar peer-to-peer authors) can be sued for infringing on copyright rules. The case now returns to a lower court, where the lawsuit will presumably take place.

The Supremes and lower court judges have all acknowledged that peer-to-peer software can be used for legitimate, non-lawbreaking purposes. Their suspicion, however, is that up to 90% of file sharers use the software for unauthorized purposes.

[By the way, I just bought a new toaster. I’m mostly planning to use it to make toast. The Supreme Court, however, might want to consider whether I may eventually employ it for some authorized purpose — say, assaulting that girl in the movie theatre who won’t get off her damn cell phone. There is a chance that I’ll do it, after all, and shouldn’t Procter-Silex be held accountable?]


There’s no shortage of coverage of the Grokster case. Here are some of the more interesting.

CBC, Canada:

Monday’s judgment gives the entertainment industry an alternative to going after individual online file-swappers. Recording companies have already sued thousands of users, settling about 600 cases for roughly $3,000 each.

However, the problem of piracy is unlikely to go away as software programs created abroad aren’t subject to U.S. copyright laws.

Music and production companies claim as much as 90 per cent of songs and movies copied on the file-sharing networks are downloaded illegally.

Grokster and other similar services contend they do not have direct control over what online users are doing with the software they provide for free.

San Francisco Chronicle:

The current case is seen as pivotal by both the massive entertainment and technology industries, leading to 55 amicus briefs being filed on both sides. Music and movie firms said stopping the file-sharing services was crucial to stem the tide of digital piracy. Computer and consumer electronics companies said holding the file-sharing services liable would set a chilling precedent that could stifle future innovations.

Today’s ruling opens the door for the entertainment industry to fight piracy by suing companies whose technology is used for illegal copying of copyrighted works. Observers said that will give Hollywood a much stronger weapon than its controversial tactic of suing individual users who download music and movies.

The companies suing Grokster and StreamCast include units of the largest music and movie companies in America: Time Warner, Disney, Sony Corp., Viacom Inc., Fox Entertainment Group, News Corp., General Electric Co., Vivendi Universal SA, Bertelsmann AG and EMI Group Plc.

Internet News:

Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology developers are legally responsible for the illegal acts of their users, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today. The unanimous landmark ruling is a major victory for movie studios and music publishers seeking to curb the widespread theft of copyrighted material on the file-swapping networks.

“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement,” wrote Justice David Souter in the majority opinion.

At issue is the legal liability of peer-to-peer (P2P) technology companies that enable users to swap copyrighted material without compensation to the artist or the publisher. Hollywood, and the high-priced content owners it represents, argued the companies were inducing end users to commit copyright theft. future.”


‘Brand X’ Exed

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 27, 2005 @ 9:55 am
Filed under: Media Watch

Earlier today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of cable providers in what’s been dubbed the “Brand X” case.

The Supremes’ ruling allows cable companies to restrict access to their networks — or to their actual cables, as it were. In effect, the ruling will allow Comcast, for example, to prevent its customers from accessing the website of Time Magazine — which is owned by rival cable network Time Warner.

Though such extremes are possible, Broadcasting & Cable points out that the FCC still has rule-making authority over the issue, and, if enough fingers are crossed, would probably step in before the big kiss-off to consumers got to that point.

Still, the ruling sends a cold chill down the spines of consumer advocates and media watchdogs. Here’s what our friend and advisory board member Jonathan Rintels has to say:

It is nothing less than the opening shot in what promises to be an ongoing war over whether the future Internet will be “open” or “closed.” Will Americans enjoy the freedom to visit any website, as they do today, or will they be restricted to visiting sites approved by — or in business with — the cable, telephone, or media conglomerate “gatekeeper” that provides broadband access to the Internet?

Extreme media consolidation and concentration have eliminated many independent voices and visions from much of America’s media. Many creative artists fervently hoped that high speed broadband would empower them to share their creative visions directly with their audience over the Internet, eliminating the Big Media gatekeeper/distributor. Today’s Supreme Court Brand X decision may have dashed those hopes. Here’s why. Cable broadband providers will have the power to discriminate as to which websites their customers visit. They can demand payment from content creators for access to their broadband customers. They will have the power to divert their customers to sites they own and operate, or that pay them “carriage.” Or they can simply block customers from accessing programming that competes with websites or TV networks that they are in business with. And no doubt the FCC will soon extend this power to discriminate to telephone company DSL broadband services as well.

Thus, the implications of Brand X and the ongoing battle over whether the Internet will be “open” or “closed” can hardly be overstated. As FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps has observed, “This Internet may be dying. It may be dying because entrenched interests are positioning themselves to control the Internet’s choke-points and they are lobbying the FCC to aid and abet them… We seem to be buying into a warped vision that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that traditional user accessibility can be superseded by a new power to discriminate. Let this vision prevail and the winners will be entrenched interests with far greater power than they have today to design and control the Internet of the future.”

Update: ZDNet has published a helpful FAQ regarding Brand X.


Are Brent Bozell’s Recent Comments on PBS Hypocritical or Deceitful?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 26, 2005 @ 9:06 pm
Filed under: PTC, PBS

Brent Bozell is the president of the Parents Television Council.

On June 23, 2005, he appeared on “The Today Show” and said:

Brent Bozell, red hair and red beard, wearing a suit and tie, showing teeth but not smiling
Shows like “Sesame Street,” “Barney,” that type of programming, they are making hundreds of millions dollars in profits on the sales of their merchandise. They don’t need a dime of taxpayer money.


PBS is supposed to be cultural programming, not political programming. And there’s far too much left-leaning political programming.

The director of SpeakSpeak, Amanda Toering, wrote an article saying that Bozell is hypocritical, as he pretends to be a champion of family programming but wants to cut funding to PBS which offers lots of family programming.

That is a valid interpretation.

However, another interpretation is that Bozell is saying that if PBS eliminated its political programming, then it could maintain its family programming without government funding.

Bozell claims that “PBS is supposed to be cultural programming, not political programming.”

In the latter case, Bozell is being deceitful about the mission of PBS.

President Lyndon Johnson said when he signed the Public Broadcasting Act creating PBS in 1967 that

At its best, public television would help make our nation a replica of the old Greek marketplace, where public affairs took place in view of all the citizens.

More on whether Bozell is being hypocritical or deceitful at Move Left.


Daily Show and CNN: The Serious and the Joke

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 26, 2005 @ 4:19 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

From Independent World Television:

You know a Jon Stewart zinger is especially funny when it makes it onto the “real news” the next day. Like this one on CNN’s Daybreak this morning.

The Daily Show featured a clip from a recent Bush press conference. A reporter asks the President: “Given the recent surge in violence , do you agree with Vice President Dick Cheney’s assessment that the insurgency is in its last throes?”

Bush answers by saying: “I think about Iraq every day. Every single day.”

Stewart cuts in: “Really? You think about the war you started every day?”


Stewart: “Yeah, I tie a little string around my finger. Sometimes — sometimes I look down and I think to myself, ‘What’s that doing there?’”

(More laughter.)

CNN ended the clip there, with anchor Carol Costello’s polite chuckle signaling the return of “the real news.” The Daily Show clip was presented as a little guilty pleasure, like a fudge sundae for breakfast. “Something that might get you laughing this morning, because I know I need to laugh this morning,” as Costello put it.

But then the CNN anchors agreed it was time to “move along” with the serious news. So what was CNN’s very next story?

COSTELLO: It was a disappointing day for popsicle fans in New York…. This was the unveiling of a world record-sized popsicle. But it was thwarted by — by — it melted.

Carol Costello of CNN smiling and wearing a suit jacket
Carol Costello of CNN

Independent World Television is planning to start a tv network for serious news, which takes no money from corporations or the government and has no advertising. I’ve donated.


Good News/Bad News for PBS and NPR

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 26, 2005 @ 3:21 pm
Filed under: PBS

Funding for the CPB:

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted to restore the $100 million cut by the House Appropriations Committee for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. The overwhelming vote of 284-140 followed a letter-writing campaign by boosters of the CPB, many of them viewers of programs broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service. “Cookie Monster won’t have to settle for crumbs, after all. Not this year,” commented TV critic Phil Rosenthal in the Chicago Tribune.

But a better funded CPB run by whom…

Meanwhile, the CPB’s board on Thursday selected Patricia S. Harrison, a former co-chairman of the Republican Party, to become president and CEO, a move that was greeted with angry protests by several Democratic senators.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is supposed to protect PBS and NPR from partisan influence, not to be a partisan influence.


LA Times on Importance of NPR

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 26, 2005 @ 10:02 am
Filed under: PBS

An editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times on public broadcasting:

In an era when commercial media are increasingly beholden to corporate conglomerates, public broadcasting plays an especially important role.

NPR offers about the only serious, comprehensive news on radio.

Sure, you can get nature shows and BBC specials on cable — but not everyone can afford $50 a month for basic cable. The CPB, which distributes taxpayer funds to public TV and radio stations, was created in 1967 to shield those stations from political considerations. Domination by ideologues thwarts the purpose for its existence.


Bozell Bonanza

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 25, 2005 @ 5:17 pm
Filed under: PTC

Brent Bozell is president of the Parents Television Council.

He wants more tv shows with nuclear families, and tv fathers treated respectfully:

Just as Hollywood has the power to influence society in so many negative ways, so too does it have the ability to promote positive social change. It could do so in this field by presenting the nuclear family as the role model for society.

And it should do a much better job showing respect for fathers, too. Many TV dads teach convoluted lessons at the service of comedy. On ABC’s “Complete Savages,” the family celebrates Thanksgiving dinner and goes around the table saying what they’re thankful for. While all the sons said “girls” except for the one that said “farts,” the dad concluded: “You know what I’m thankful for? That I have five sons who would do something as stupid as steal a turkey so I could have a happy Thanksgiving.”

It was not always like this. Go back in TV history and remember how viewers were riveted by how Dick Van Dyke juggled his career and family life on his show, or how Lorne Greene ruled the roost on “Bonanza.” These were fathers you could admire. One of the reasons those shows were such wonderful successes can be found in their portrayal of the father figure. It’s as easy as that.

Bozell doesn’t name two old shows about nuclear families in which the father is treated respectfully.

Instead, he gives us a sitcom about a nuclear family in which the father trips over the furniture during the opening sequence, and a Western about a man who lives with his three grown sons by three different mothers (none present).

If these shows were on now, would Bozell say that the father looks foolish during the opening of the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” and that “Bonanza” needs a mother figure?


Bozell Loves Family Programming; Bozell Hates Family Programming

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 23, 2005 @ 3:47 pm
Filed under: PTC, PBS

Red-headed bloviator Brent Bozell, whom we hate to love to hate, just can’t seem to make up his mind about whether “family friendly” programming is a good thing.

You probably know Bozell from his position as figurehead of the HMS Parents TV Council. Bozell and his army of easily offended proselytes are largely responsible for the siege on the FCC that resulted in record indecency fines in 2004.

Bozell’s PTC regularly excoriates broadcast television (and even cable, over which the FCC has no jurisdiction) for piping filth into our homes, and presumably into our children’s minds.

One might think, then, that Bozell would be the leading champion for a child-friendly TV network. Imagine a station that dedicated itself to educational programming instead of bash-’em-up daytime talk shows. Imagine a network that encouraged kids to love to read, instead of encouraging them to beg mom or dad for the latest PlayStation hit. Imagine —

Hey, wait a second. We’ve already got that. It’s called PBS! Rejoice, Bozells of the world!!

Or maybe not.

This morning’s Today Show had Bozell showing his true colors. It’s not kids he cares about; it’s politics.

REPORTER NORAH O’DONNEL: At “Sesame Street” they are waking up to a new reality as Republicans in Congress put public broadcasting on the chopping block.

Mr. GARY KNELL: We hope that these cuts are indeed restored.

O’DONNELL: Gary Knell is the president and CEO of Sesame Workshop.

Mr. KNELL: We need a public television sector that’s going to focus on children’s needs.

O’DONNELL: Ten years ago, Republicans fought to end taxpayer funding of public broadcasting. They failed. Part of the reason, no one wanted the blame for taking Big Bird off the air. Today, amid record deficits, Congress is proposing a 25 percent cut. Conservatives continue to make the case it should be eliminated all together.

Mr. BRENT BOZELL (Director, Media Research Center): Shows like “Sesame Street,” Barney,” that type of programming, they are making hundreds of millions dollars in profits on the sales of their merchandise. They don’t need a dime of taxpayer money.

O’DONNELL: But defenders of PBS charge the drastic cutbacks are just the latest move in a larger conservative
campaign against perceived liberal bias in programming.

Representative DAVID OBEY (Democrat, Wisconsin): The Republican thought police have just decided that they will either rule public broadcasting or they will ruin it.

O’DONNELL: The fight over content stems from incidents like this recent episode of “Postcards from Buster,” where Buster the bunny visited a pair of lesbian parents.

Mr. BOZELL: PBS is supposed to be cultural programming, not political programming. And there’s far too much left-lean political programming.

O’DONNELL: PBS denies claims of bias.

Ms. PAT MITCHELL (PBS President): You know, it’s not new that we have political pressures, and our resolve to resist them is as rock solid as ever.

First off, can we call a spade a spade and be honest about what the nattering PBS naysayers mean by “left-leaning”? They mean “tolerant of opinions not necessarily condoned by evangelical Christian churches.”

Can we all agree on that?

Secondly, Bozell is pulling a fast one on us Katie-happy Today Show viewers. Notice he hid his PTC nametag and donned his Media Research Center hat? Tricky, eh? He’s hoping we won’t notice that he’s the biggest self-proclaimed family programming advocate around — and that he just advocated for the defunding of Barney and Sesame Street. Slick one, Brent!

Barney and Elmo, according to Brent Bozell, are worth more to your kids as marketing tools than they are as educational tools. He seems to miss the point that the very idea behind public funding of these programs is that they can emphasize learning over buying — without having to worry about how well the latest toy is selling.

Why is Brent Bozell not behind such solid kids’ programming — the kind my generation grew up with?

‘Cause politics is more fun. And because he’s a blatant hypocrite.

And finally, a note to the Today Show producers and their colleagues. Why do you keep calling this guy? Call me for a change! I’m much cuter.


Ted Koppel Criticizes News ‘Candy’

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 23, 2005 @ 11:31 am
Filed under: Media Watch

From Broadcasting & Cable:

Increased competition and pressure to turn a profit has resulted in TV news giving more attention to stories like the “runaway bride” from Georgia than to substantive issues, ABC News Nightline anchor Ted Koppel lamented Wednesday at the Promax/BDA conference in New York.

Coincidentally or not, that comment came the night after NBC’s Dateline ran an exclusive interview with the above-mentioned bride — and topped the ratings for its 8 p.m. time period.

Referring to the shrinking audience for news, Koppel said, “With the need to make money and a smaller piece of the pie, we have to keep appealing to as large an audience as possible.” He added, “Sadly, the ‘Runaway Bride’ brings in a larger audience than a one-hour documentary on Iraq ever could.”

Koppel talked about changes from when he started:

Koppel, who is exiting Nightline at the end of the year(and thus speaking more freely than many news anchors), urged the audience, largely promotion and marketing professionals, to support hard-news and old-school journalism, making several references to his days as a war correspondent in Vietnam.

Technology, Koppel said, has increased competition in news. During the Vietnam war, he recalled, it would take three days for film to make it from the battlefield to New York for air. Now, Koppel said, it takes three seconds.

“If the length of what we do is reduced and the substance of what we do is reduced. If we focus only on the candy that gets people to flock to the television and we don’t put on the substance because it is unlikely to make money, that is not good for the republic,” Koppel said.


Former RNC Chair In as PBS Prez

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 23, 2005 @ 9:19 am
Filed under: PBS

Broadcasting & Cable has reported that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has approved Patricia Harrison as its new president. Harrison is the former chair of the Republican Party.

Democratic legislators and activists had asked the CPB not to confirm Harrison, saying that her appointment would increase the already-simmering political tensions at PBS.

More at B&C.


PBS Deserves Support, Says Letter

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 22, 2005 @ 8:49 pm
Filed under: PBS

A letter to the Minneapois Star Tribune praises PBS (June 22 letter in internet edition only):

Don’t touch that dial

Thanks to Tom Teepen for raising our consciousness about the threat to public television and radio. What can we do to fight this danger to the only channel I watch?

The Public Broadcasting System is a vital drink of water in the desert of commercial television: more honest and complete news, wonderful fine arts, educational children’s programs, programming that makes one think. The list could go on and on. Our country will be diminished if it is squelched.

Jeanne Martin, Mabel, Minn.

If you would like to contact Congress in support of PBS, there is a form here.


More Press Coverage of Howard Dean and Senator Durbin Needed, According to Brent Bozell

Posted by Eric Jaffa
June 22, 2005 @ 8:05 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch

Brent Bozell is the founder of the conservative group Media Research Center, which monitors press coverage.

Brent Bozell’s June 7 column for MRC claims there was too little coverage of controversial statements by Howard Dean.

For example, Bozell cites Howard Dean’s statement that Tom DeLay “may end up in jail.”

In today’s column, June 22, Bozell claims there is too little coverage of Senator Durbin’s controversial statement about Guantanamo on June 14.

Durbin read a report to the Senate written by an FBI official. It included, “I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.”

Durbin said, “If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

If this isn’t the first place you’ve read about these statements by Dean and Durbin, then you may share my skepticism with the notion that there has been too little coverage.


Bad News for College Students: Hazelwood Ruling Not Just for High Schools

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 22, 2005 @ 10:50 am
Filed under: Free Press

Judges from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that high school administrators’ rights to censor school newspapers also apply to administrators of publicly funded colleges.

The Supreme Court’s Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision in 1988 states that school officials have the right to exercise “editorial control” over school publications, and that they do not violate the first amendment by doing so.

In 2000, the Dean of Governors State University in Illinois ordered a printing company not to publish the school newspaper, the Innovator, until it had been approved by administration officials. Student journalists were angry, claiming censorship of stories that might be critical of the university. The students sued, contending that the Hazelwood ruling did not apply to higher education.

Here’s what the Student Press Law Center has to say about the appeal court’s ruling:

First, the court said that that the analysis of the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision, which dramatically curtailed high school students free expression rights, was applicable at the college and university level as well. In essence, the court said that under Hazelwood, a court confronted with an act of student newspaper censorship by a public college official must first determine if the publication had been opened up as a “designated public forum” where students have been given the authority to make the content decisions. The majority said that the fact a publication might be extracurricular was not determinative of its public forum status.

Second, the court held that even assuming that the Innovator was a public forum, the dean who censored the publication was entitled to qualified immunity from damages for infringing the students’ rights because she could not have reasonably known that the limitations of the Hazelwood decision did not apply to college and university student publications.

From the SPLC.


OK Libraries Accept Gift of Gay Books; Conservatives Pissed

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 22, 2005 @ 10:24 am
Filed under: Libraries

We reported earlier that the gay community of Oklahoma City, in the wake of the state legislature’s ninny-headed anti-gay-book resolution, offered to donate a couple of nonfiction books to OKC libraries.

The library commission dithered, but finally accepted the gifts. There’s still no word on whether they’ll actually be placed on library shelves.

Moral of the story: Always look a gay gift horse in the mouth.

Rest of the story.


McDonald’s Ad Banned in China; Insulted Viewers

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 22, 2005 @ 10:15 am
Filed under: Ban It!

McDonald’s has learned a lesson about how not to advertise to the Chinese consumer.

Chinese television has stopped airing an ad that depicted a Chinese man on his knees, begging a hamburger hawker to accept an expired coupon. The ad had a happy ending — turns out that McDonald’s coupons never expire in China. However, the spot ruffled the feathers of Chinese officials, who were offended by the image of the begging man.

“What a shame that the commercial portrayed Chinese consumers as willing bend to such a petty interest!” said one complainer.

McDonald’s issued a statement that basically said, “Hey, we thought it was funny.”

From the Xinhua news agency.


NH High School Student Speaks Out for Free Speech

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 22, 2005 @ 10:06 am
Filed under: Free Speech

New Hampshire high school student Kaitlin Clark says that book banning doesn’t help kids — it hurts them.

Is book banning necessary? Absolutely not. Even as students, the first amendment gives us the freedom to read what we want. So, why are some school boards in our country trying to restrict our reading materials? Is it because they believe things such as racism and offensive language, or wizardry and magic, aren’t appropriate for today’s youth?


As students, we’re taught about racism in social studies units through topics such as slavery or human rights. Often, these teachings start in early grade school, even before a child is able to read a chapter book.

Regarding offensive language, today’s youth has certainly heard it before. They may hear offensive language from an adult, parent, fellow classmates or an older sibling. School boards will not eliminate offensive language or the history of racism and slavery through book banning. Instead, they’re restricting a student’s right to read what they wish. A comment at makes a good statement. “This book was written by Twain to deal with the moral and racial issues of the time.” If a person would rather not read about this time era (experiencing it as it was) they have the right not to read this book.


Book banning shouldn’t be an action to eliminate certain elements in reading, such as offensive language, racism, magic and/or wizardry. Besides violating our first amendment rights, it is impossible to ban everything that some believe. Every person is unique and this includes the choice of materials they like to read.

Let’s respect diversity and stop banning books. Let us make our own choices about what we want to read. As long as we like what we’re reading, we’ll be readers. What’s the problem?

From Foster’s Online.


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