'Public' Broadcasting and Partisan WAMC Radio
Posted in the Pittsfield Forum
#1 Oct 11, 2012
'Public' Broadcasting and Partisan WAMC Radio
By Frank Robinson,'The Rational Optimist'.
Published: October 11, 2012
Were great fans of PBS TV, and maintain membership through monthly contributions. But while at one time, PBS programming was unique, the TV landscape has totally changed, and today most viewers have hundreds of choices. PBS is no longer even noncommercial, with ads little different from those elsewhere. So I agree with Mitt Romney that taxpayers should not continue subsidizing this; since PBS caters to more upscale viewers, its one more example of welfare for the rich.
Some accuse PBS of left-wing bias, and though thats certainly true of Bill Moyers shows, in general the network does strive to be neutral and fair. Among news discussion programs, The McLaughlin Group always balances the political viewpoints of its participants, and those on Washington Week never let slip such personal leanings.
Similar things can be said of National Public Radio. But not the local NPR affiliate, WAMC. I listen all the time, and it has some great stuff (the book guy, Joe Donahue, is terrific). However, while its boss and ubiquitous on-air presence, Dr. Alan Chartock (quoted on Wikipedia) insists that it maintains editorial neutrality and includes as many conservative commentators as liberal ones, that is laughably disingenuous. I myself was once, 30 years ago, a conservative WAMC commentator (I was dropped; perhaps I wasnt very good). Since then, the stations left-wing slant has become much more blatant. It gives a few minutes weekly to one token conservative opinionist (Herb London); all the rest are on the left. The Alternative Radio show has hour-long hard left rants. Chartock himself, who hogs a lot of air time as WAMCs political commentator and chief interviewer, while also emceeing frequent call-in shows as well as thrice annual week-long fund drives, does not even try to soft-peddle his cheer-leading for Democrats and progressives and their pet causes like anti-fracking. He openly declares he backs Obama and relentlessly smears Republicans. During the recent fund drive, he made clear that he was asking progressives(and, really, only them) to support their station.Just because youre progressive, Chartock said,doesnt mean you dont have money!(He should know, with his $200,000 salary.) And after the presidential debate, the fund drive patter was pointedly all Big Bird.
By Marquil, Hill Country Observer
Not surprisingly, WAMC has indeed cultivated an overwhelmingly left-leaning and devoted fan base. Its political call-in shows are almost completely one-sided. When there is a rare dissonant voice, Chartock claims to welcome that; however, while he fawns over callers who agree with him, he is generally curt and dismissive toward those who dont. I have experienced this myself more than once; no wonder he gets few such calls.(Is Chartock as bad as Hannity, et al? No. But bad enough.)
Wikipedias WAMC article notes that NPRs official policy for affiliate stations is to be fair, unbiased, accurate, honest, and respectful of the people that are covered. WAMC conspicuously violates this policy. Wikipedia quotes a Washington-based NPR news producer who happened to tune in to WAMC while on a New York trip, who said that Chartocks in-your-face political bias made his jaw drop to the floor and really freaked me out. He was disturbed that Chartocks crazy behavior undermines NPRs effort to maintain public confidence in its fairness.
#2 Oct 11, 2012
(Continued from above)
WAMC may be violating not only NPR policy but also, arguably, the law. It is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization, receiving tax-deductible donations. Partisan politics are off-limits to such entities. This has been a big issue for churches, when candidates are endorsed from pulpits. Why shouldnt the same strictures apply to Chartocks overt on-air partisanship?
Im a free speech absolutist, and if Chartock wants to run a progressive radio station, thats fine. But dont try to tell us it is neutral and unbiased. Dont cloak it as a public radio station. And dont ask taxpayers to fund it.
But he does, and we do, and not only via the tax-deductibility of contributions.* Some years back, Chartock tried to drum up donations by claiming a supposed Republican conspiracy to silence WAMC by cutting its state funding.**(Why would they, if the station wasnt biased?) But since then, the conspiracy of silence seems to be about WAMCs public funding itself. The stations budget is not made public perhaps odd for an organization soliciting donations. And for all the declamations of solidarity with Big Bird in the fund drive, I didnt hear a word about WAMC itself receiving public funding as well.***
After some internet sleuthing, I was able to confirm that WAMC does receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which gets $400 million annually from the federal government. The station also gets money from the New York State Office of Educational Television and Public Broadcasting, whose website says the details of such funding can be found on the websites of each recipient broadcaster; but for WAMC, such is not the case. So I still dont know the amounts. I guess transparency and honesty are not progressive values.****
Taxpayer support for a radio station with such an openly partisan political stance is simply wrong. Especially if only one side of the political debate is being thusly funded. Do any right-wing broadcasters receive public money like WAMC? I dont think so.
WAMC and Big Bird aint birds of a feather; Big Birds feathers are not colored progressive.
* When a donation is tax deductible, effectively the Treasury pays for part of it. Political contributions are not tax-deductible.
** An oft-heard Chartockism is,I dont want to engage in conspiracy theories, but Another favorite tactic to scare up donations is threatening to drop the most popular programs like Car Talk and, recently, Alternative Radio.Ill yank it right off the air, Chartock said,and dont think I wont. I do think he wont.
*** Also curiously never heard from is WAMCs Board of Trustees which, strangely for a progressive outfit, is not elected by the membership. While WAMCs website lists the trustees, there is no clue about how theyre selected. Nor any contact information.
**** The fund drives always feature challenges where some donor says hell give $X if they can raise a certain amount by a certain deadline. As the deadline nears, they always seem far short. Yet somehow they always claim to make it. Fishy? <<<<<
#3 Oct 11, 2012
#4 Oct 11, 2012
Frank Robinson's article is on-point.
WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Inc. has been a scam and a fraudulent enterprise since Day One more than 30 years ago when Alan Chartock and three other politically-connected 'corporators' were awarded the highly-valuable WAMC broadcast license without ever having to go through any sort of formal public-bidding process, the kind that would normally apply any time a state agency sought to dispose of any valuable state-controlled asset.
One day the 10,000-watt WAMC broadcast license (91.3 FM) was public property, owned by the taxpayers of the State of New York via licensee Albany Medical College then a division of the New York State Education Department.
The next day, that oh-so-valuable broadcast asset, with rights to use the highly desirable broadcast tower high atop Mt. Greylock in neighboring Massachusetts, had been transferred to WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Inc., an educational non-stock entity set up and wholly controlled by Alan Chartock & Company.
And thats the way things stand to the present day.
#5 Oct 11, 2012
CORRECTION: One day the 10,000-watt WAMC broadcast license (90.3 FM) was public property, owned by the taxpayers of the State of New York via licensee Albany Medical College then a division of the New York State Education Department.
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