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Who is Behind the "Media Reform" Movement? (Part One)

November 23, 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.

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.

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."

Copyright ©2009 Cliff Kincaid

 


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