WHO IS BEHIND THE "MEDIA REFORM" MOVEMENT?
By Cliff Kincaid
November 17, 2009
Robert W. McChesney, the socialist professor whose Free Press organization is leading the charge for the $50 billion “progressive” transformation of the media, hosts a one-sided, tax-supported radio program sponsored by the University of Illinois that could serve as a model for the “New Public Media” the group has envisioned for America.
As Accuracy in media was the first to disclose, McChesney recently introduced Obama’s anti-American pastor Jeremiah Wright at a celebration of the socialist publication Monthly Review. Wright praised Marxism and called America “land of the greed and home of the slave.”
As AIM has documented, McChesney’s organization, Free Press, has led the campaign for what it calls “New Public Media.” McChesney’s “Media Matters” show on WILL radio AM 580 in Urbana, Illinois, may be the model for what Free Press has in mind. The Sunday show is an examination of politics and media issues from a hard-left perspective and serves as a personal propaganda vehicle for McChesney’s favorite political causes and candidates.
In response to an inquiry from Accuracy in Media, McChesney couldn’t name one conservative who has been on his show since it was launched in 2002.
“There is no shortage of ‘conservative’ talk available to listeners in our community,” he told us, presumably referring to other stations. “There are precious few programs anywhere on the dial that feature many of the guests we have.”
This may indeed be true. A review of the archives of the McChesney radio show finds interviews with a steady stream of left-wing activists, many of them from the “media reform” movement that McChesney has dedicated much of his academic life to creating and nurturing. These include John Nichols, Ben Scott, Josh Silver, Derek Turner, and Craig Aaron from Free Press, which McChesney co-founded in 2002. (He still serves on its board.) Interestingly, Scott was one of McChesney’s students and helped produce his radio show before going to work for then-Rep. Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist, and then becoming director of policy for Free Press.
McChesney has provided a platform for representatives of the left-wing media watchdog organization that also calls itself Media Matters. Topics have included “How hate talk radicalized the American right,” “How the press rolled over for Bush,” and “What liberal media?” The entire thrust of the program is that the media are too conservative and too “capitalist.”
McChesney has also interviewed FCC commissioner Michael Copps a number of times on his show. Copps appeared at the 2008 Free Press conference and used the Obama campaign slogan, “Yes, we can,” as he urged the thousands of “progressives” in the audience to elect Barack Obama and bring “change” to Washington, D.C.
No Fairness or Balance Here
The one-sided nature of the show is ironic since Free Press regularly attacks Fox News for not being truly “fair and balanced.” Indeed, when one of its former board members, Van Jones, was being exposed on Fox News for his communist views and background, Free Press said this “visionary and principled” leader was the target of a “smear campaign.” Later, after Jones was ousted from his White House job, Craig Aaron of Free Press said that Glenn Beck, who had been exposing Jones, was an agent of “fear and misinformation,” without explaining what facts about Jones had been misrepresented.
WILL Radio AM 580, affiliated with National Public Radio and sponsored by the University of Illinois, received $1.2 million from the University of Illinois and almost $1.6 million in federal grants, including from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), in 2008.
Under the law, 47 U.S. Code, Section 396(g)(1)(A), programs funded by the CPB are supposed to be objective and balanced. But McChesney openly flouts the law and does not even seem to be familiar with the legal obligations that are supposed to apply to his show and others.
McChesney told AIM that his program “is very popular in our community” and that “The free market has spoken.” But his show is not dependent on the free market. Rather, it is supported by tax dollars and on-air fundraisers hosted by McChesney and guests such as Noam Chomsky of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a Communist Party spin-off.
New Socialist Media
While the McChesney show has a very small listening audience, its format and themes may give us some insight into the kind of “new media” we could expect from passage of the $50 billion “Public Media Trust Fund,” a Free Press proposal which is supposed to be financed by a tax on home electronic devices. This would be on top of the $8 billion from taxpayers that has been provided to the CPB for public TV and radio since 1967. (The CPB currently receives about $400 million a year.)
In addition to these expenditures, AIM has noted that $7.2 billion under the Obama federal “stimulus” plan has already been allocated toward development of a national broadband Internet plan, and that some of the funds could be diverted into the coffers of “progressive” groups dedicated to McChesney-style “media reform.”
A professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Robert W. McChesney has said that “media reform” should be part of the march toward socialism in America and that capitalism has to be dismantled “brick by brick.” Van Jones, the ousted communist “Green Jobs Czar” of the Obama Administration, served with McChesney on the board of Free Press, a George Soros-funded organization, in 2007 and 2008.
Despite its socialist orientation, Free Press is financially supported by extremely wealthy individuals such as George Soros, the leftist billionaire, and Marcy Carsey, one of the creators of The Cosby Show whose net worth has been estimated at $600 million. Carsey serves on the Free Press board and was a top Obama inauguration donor, having contributed $50,000 to the event.
Where is the Balance?
Jay Pearce, director of creative content of WILL Radio at the University of Illinois and executive producer of McChesney’s radio show, declared, “That’s a good question,” when asked why the radical “media scholar” fails to include interviews with any identifiable conservatives on the air.
Mark Leonard, general manager of WILL, said, “It doesn’t concern me,” when asked about the complete lack of conservative guests. “What we celebrate is a diversity of points of view,” he said, although he couldn’t name one conservative on the air on WILL. He said he assumes that conservatives sometimes call into the “Media Matters” program, and that was good enough for him.
The biased programming contradicts the purposes of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and requires objectivity and balance in programs funded by the CPB.
“From its advent more than four decades ago, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has had a legal mandate to ensure ‘strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature,’” the CPB says. “This principle is part of the bedrock of public broadcasting in America, a country built upon a foundation of lively and open political and social discourse.”
These descriptions of some of his recent shows and guests provide an illustration of the one-sided news and information that he regularly puts on the air:
Wendell Potter speaks out on “the need for a fundamental overhaul
of the American health care system…”
• Glenn Greenwald “examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press.”
• John Wilson, author of “President Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union.”
• Robb Weissman examines “the activities of multinational companies.”
• Kevin Phillips talks about his book on “the global crisis of American capitalism.”
• Greg Mitchell, author of “Why Obama Won.”
• Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, “which is one of the leading voices for peace and social justice in this country.”
Interestingly, on February 18, 2007, McChesney interviewed Mark Lloyd, now the FCC chief diversity officer who was then a fellow at the Soros-funded Center for American Progress. He urged more federal involvement in telecommunications policy, including more tax dollars for a “fully-funded” public broadcasting. McChesney said Lloyd was so informative that he should be a “permanent guest.” Lloyd returned the favor, saying, “Much of what I learned about public broadcasting, early years, came from reading you Bob.”
The Partisan Political Agenda
While he postures as a “media scholar,” McChesney is himself a political and partisan activist, as demonstrated in Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. These disclose thousands of dollars in financial contributions from McChesney to political candidates, all of them Democrats except for one Green Party nominee in Illinois, a retired visiting professor at the University of Illinois by the name of Carl Estabrook who was known for his far-left perspective on the Middle East.
McChesney used his radio show back in 2002 to promote Estabrook, who holds the view that Israel is “a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States government” and a “pariah state” engaged in an illegal occupation.
McChesney contributed to Barack Obama in 2004, when he was running for the Senate in Illinois, and then-Rep. and now Senator Bernie Sanders, socialist from Vermont.
But in 2008, he supported Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who advocated a federal “Department of Peace,” and former Senator John Edwards, later exposed as an adulterer. Back in 2000, McChesney contributed to Ralph Nader’s run for president.
On the Senate level, McChesney contributed financially to Senators Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jon Tester of Montana, and James Webb of Virginia, and Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont. McChesney featured both Brown and Sanders on his radio show several times.
McChesney also contributed to the Progressive Patriots Fund, the leadership political action committee of Senator Feingold, and the campaigns of Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (Illinois), Chet Edwards (Texas) and Donna Edwards (Maryland).
The Center for American Progress
McChesney’s well-financed Free Press is not alone in the effort to transform the media along Marxist lines. Supporting the project is the so-called Center for American Progress (CAP), the Soros-funded group that employed Mark Lloyd before he went to work at the FCC as Associate General Counsel and chief diversity officer. CAP itself released a proposal for “an independent and stable funding stream for public media” in its Change for America book project that was designed to influence the Obama Administration. The sources for the report included books and articles written by McChesney.
The author, Lauren Strayer, was a producer at Air America, the liberal radio network that went through bankruptcy in 2006.
Not surprisingly, Strayer would later surface as a contributor to the Free Press report, “Public Media’s Moment,” which urged “new public funding for new public media” and the creation of a “White House Commission on Public Media” to bring this about.
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This same proposal was recently adopted by discredited former CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather, who called for a “White House Commission on Public Media” during an appearance before the Aspen Institute. Rather was a featured speaker at the 2008 conference of McChesney’s Free Press and has become a hero of the progressive “media reform” movement.
© 2009 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights Reserved
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Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues. One of Cliff's books, "Global Bondage: The UN Plan to Rule the World" is still awailable.
Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.