Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams: Firing from NPR "is a chilling assault on free speech"

Many years ago when my husband and I were renting a house, we were told, “You can paint the walls any color you want as long as it's off-white.” That struck me as an odd way to tell us not to redecorate. Why not just say that instead of making a pretense of giving us a choice?

I remembered those words when I heard yesterday that National Public Radio had fired longtime news analyst Juan Williams because of his controversial remarks during his Monday-night appearance on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor. (View the video clip of that segment here.) Does freedom of speech apply to journalists, or does Williams' termination send the message, “You can say anything you want as long as you agree with us”?

Williams said to host Bill O'Reilly on that program, “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

He was describing his own knee-jerk feelings in that situation to make a point, and his words were taken out of context. The rest of his comments in that interview emphasized that despite people's personal reactions and fears, they should distinguish between moderate and extremist Muslims, and they should not violate anyone's rights because of religious affiliation.

In an opinion piece published on the Fox News website yesterday, Williams further clarified his remarks:

Yesterday NPR fired me for telling the truth. The truth is that I worry when I am getting on an airplane and see people dressed in garb that identifies them first and foremost as Muslims.

This is not a bigoted statement. It is a statement of my feelings, my fears after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by radical Muslims. In a debate with Bill O’Reilly I revealed my fears to set up the case for not making rash judgments about people of any faith. . . .
And I made it clear that all Americans have to be careful not to let fears lead to the violation of anyone’s constitutional rights, be it to build a mosque, carry the Koran or drive a New York cab without the fear of having your throat slashed.
He also recounted his conversation with his boss at NPR, Ellen Weiss, in which she informed him that he "had violated NPR’s values for editorial commentary” even though his comments were not made on NPR. He wrote:

I asked why she would fire me without speaking to me face to face and she said there was nothing I could say to change her mind, the decision had been confirmed above her, and there was no point to meeting in person. To say the least this is a chilling assault on free speech. The critical importance of honest journalism and a free flowing, respectful national conversation needs to be had in our country. But it is being buried as collateral damage in a war whose battles include political correctness and ideological orthodoxy.

NPR had already distanced itself from Williams by changing his status from “senior correspondent” to “analyst,” and in Feb. 2009 they requested that he stop identifying himself with NPR in his Fox News appearances. In a statement issued on Wednesday night, NPR said, “His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.” Vivian Schiller, CEO of NPR, said on Thursday that “Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself, 'his psychiatrist or his publicist'—a comment she later said she regretted. 'I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark,' Schiller said in a statement released by NPR.”

How interesting that Schiller is allowed the freedom to make an unprofessional, unkind remark like that and is let off the hook with an apology, while Williams is fired for stating an opinion that was taken out of context.

Some Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, are calling for an end to federal funding for NPR. Already there is proposed legislation in Congressional committee, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in June, which would cut funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after fiscal year 2012. According to NPR, it receives about one percent of its budget each year from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and another one percent from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional federal funds are received indirectly through fees paid to NPR by affiliated public radio stations that buy its programming. NPR posted charts showing its sources of financial support and those of member stations. Whether or not NPR should continue to receive federal funding, I am not convinced that cutting it would hurt NPR financially that much although I do believe that the government should protect Americans' freedoms and should hold recipients of federal funds accountable if they violate those freedoms.

I don't always agree with Juan Williams, but I do support his freedom of speech, and I'm not a fan of political correctness when it jeopardizes that freedom. Ironically, in Monday's interview, Williams was actually advising O'Reilly to be careful about what he says. Perhaps Williams should have been more careful himself, but at the same time, he should have the right to express his opinions without censorship. He should also be afforded the fairness that journalism is supposed to exercise, but NPR executives failed to give him that when they took his remarks out of context and fired him without even granting his request for a face-to-face meeting.

On the bright side for Williams, Fox News has signed him to a new three-year exclusive contract worth almost $2 million and has given him an expanded role at the network, with an online column and more frequent appearances. He will guest-host The O'Reilly Factor tonight. And I hope that Fox News lets him paint his office whatever color he wants.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

McCoy Named GM of KFMK

CRISTA Broadcasting has named Tim McCoy as general manager of KFMK 105.9, which serves the Austin, TX, market. CRISTA's acquisition of KFMK from Aloha Trust (a holding entity of Clear Channel Communications) awaits final FCC approval. Following that confirmation, KFMK will launch a new Christian Contemporary Music format on Mon., Sept. 20.

McCoy is a third-generation radio manager, joining his father and grandfather in having managed Midwestern radio stations. His extensive experience in the radio industry includes on-air work, engineering, sales, sales management, and general management. Most recently, he served as vice president and general manager of Univision Austin from 2003 to 2009. Prior to Univision, McCoy served in management roles for Pulitzer Broadcasting, Susquehanna Radio, and Hispanic Broadcasting.

“We are thrilled to bring on a high-caliber radio manager like Tim as the general manager for our Austin operation,” said Stan Mak, vice president and general manager of CRISTA Broadcasting. “His excellent background in radio management is complemented by a rich history of employees who have enjoyed being mentored by him. He will immediately begin to assemble a management team and staff for KFMK 105.9.”

McCoy said, “It is a great honor to join a highly regarded organization like CRISTA Broadcasting, where vocation and faith come together. I am excited about what we will be building here in Austin. KFMK is going to bring a unique sound and extensive community involvement to the people of this great city. I can’t wait to get started. We’re going to present a new spirit to Austin.”

In addition to KFMK, CRISTA Broadcasting owns Spirit 105.3 and KCIS AM 630, Seattle, WA; and Praise 106.5, Bellingham, WA.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FM Atlas-21 Now Available

The 21st edition of FM Atlas is now available for purchase from FM Atlas Publishing. Here is some information on the new edition from the author, Bruce Elving:

For ease in ordering the 21st edition FM Atlas, call 1-800-605-2219. For some reason, we were without that service for a few weeks, maybe months, but were charged for it.

Here's what fellow WTFDA people are saying about the new FM Atlas:
  • It's "an incredible reference covering nearly every station in North America. . . . Every FM station is noted [on] maps and in databases sorted by frequency and location. It’s all here: antenna height, power, SCA sub-carrier info, and promotional catch-phrases. Even low powered FM translators are included. I can only say good things about your work. The amount of detail is phenomenal. . . . Consider the convenience of using your book in a car as opposed to using a computer! Each edition becomes well-loved and dog-eared and lasts nearly forever. I'm amazed how gracefully you dance with the map portrayals. So logical! What fascinates me is how adept you are at taking a huge technical group picture that is so accurate. I'm just so glad that you keep at it! Again, my congratulations on another gem” ( K.Z., ABC-TV, retired, Katonah NY).
  • “I have enjoyed the FM Atlas for about 30 years now!” (David B., Wyoming DE).
  • “Thanks again for keeping the FM Atlas alive” (R.R., London ON).
  • FM Atlas-21, all 288 pages of it, arrived. . . . It made me think back to that magical time during the '70s and '80s when I would eagerly wait for each new edition, and excitedly tear open the package and then spend hours and hours examining it page by page” (N. L., Atlanta).
Remember, this is the new edition, out just in time for the skip and tropo DX seasons of 2010. Just $19.95 per copy plus $2.05 shipping from FM Atlas, PO Box 336, Esko MN 55733-0336. (Canadians kindly remit by postal money order in U.S. funds.) We accept American Express, Visa, MasterCard, or PayPal. Call 1-800-605-2219; e-mail

Friday, February 26, 2010

Format Change Antagonizes Advertiser

After FM station WWMM—now WAPI-FM—100.5 in Helena, AL, announced a format change from alternative music to all talk, Jeff Tenner, owner of Soca Clothing in Homewood, AL, launched a Facebook group called "Save Live 100.5." Tenner said, "I'm an upset advertiser, and I'm also just an upset music listener." Tenner is clearly not the only upset listener; his Facebook group has grown to more than 20,000 members.

A casualty of the format change is Scott Register, whose specialty show "Reg's Coffee House" was broadcast on Live 100.5 on Sundays. He said, "I don't know if I'll be back. I do know that I'll probably be the last human voice you'll hear on Live 100.5." "Reg's Coffee House" had just celebrated its 13th anniversary in January, and its Facebook fan page credits the program with spawning Live 100.5.

Citadel said that Live 100.5, which came on the air in August 2008, had not generated the ratings or the revenue that owners needed to keep it going.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

NFCB Conference

The National Federation of Community Broadcasters will hold its 35th annual Community Radio Conference in St. Paul, MN, June 9-12, 2010. This is an opportunity to meet the NFCB's new president, Maxie Jackson, who will give an opening address and will drop in on workshops and sessions and talk to NFCB members. Jackson succeeded retired president Carol Pierson in Jan. 2010. The conference's host station is KFAI *90.3 Minneapolis.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Air America Ceases Programming, Announces Bankruptcy

Air America Media, the progressive radio network that launched in 2004, shut down live programming on Thurs., Jan. 21, and announced that the company would soon file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Reruns of Air America shows will air until broadcasting ends completely on Mon., Jan. 25.

The company cited the "difficult economic environment" as the reason for its failure, calling the past year a "perfect storm" in the media industry due to falling advertising revenues. Radio-industry ad revenues have declined for 10 consecutive quarters. Other casualties of the economic storm include Citadel Broadcasting and the long-time trade publication Radio and Records, which recently filed for bankruptcy as well.

Air America said, "Those companies that remain are facing audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies, are often saddled with crushing debt, and have generally found it difficult to obtain operating or investment capital from traditional sources of funding. In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success." Although Air America saw some hope for increasing revenues through Internet growth, its "expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies."

Well-known Air America hosts included Al Franken and Rachel Maddow. The network began as a liberal alternative to conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, but it struggled financially throughout its history. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2006 and was sold in 2007 to New York real-estate investor Stephen Green and his brother, politician Mark Green.

Air America described itself as instrumental in building, through its approximately 100 radio outlets nationwide, "a new sense of purpose and determination among American progressives" and in inspiring a revival that it said led to the Democratic gains in the 2006 mid-term elections and to the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.