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February 23, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It shows up on public broadcasting stations, it trumpets its connections with famous universities, and its hosts are world-famous former top government officials. But the twice-a-week program titled World Business Review is not the newsmagazine it claims to be. In fact, in a media world where the lines between advertising and programming are increasingly blurred, World Business Review has more than once had to defend against journalistic questions about whether it is really a "program" at all. Bob wondered, too, and after nine months of poking around, concluded that what amounts to a 30-minute commercial may well be running on a public TV station near you.
ALEXANDER HAIG: Welcome to World Business Review, I'm Alexander Haig. Our next topic involves solutions in the field of electronic messaging. Here for this discussion is Bill Long, chairman and CEO of ECBridges.
BOB GARFIELD: Yes, that's the Al Haig, former secretary of state, former White House Chief of Staff, retired 4-star general and, lately, it would appear, inquiring TV journalist. Following in the footsteps of fellow Reagan Administration appointee Caspar Weinberger, Haig is the host of World Business Review, which boasts that it is award-winning educational fare. Here's the general in a typically hard-hitting WBR interview:
ALEXANDER HAIG: Now Jim, how does an EDI Solution enhance a company's ROI?
JIM: Tremendously. Because you have the ability…
BOB GARFIELD: Still, according to its producers, Florida's Multi-Media Productions, WBR reaches approximately 50 million American homes. There's an asterisk next to the 50 million homes figure, and if you look farther you see the figure qualified as "potential." That means WBR shows up, at some point during the broadcast week, on one or another channels which are available, cumulatively, in 50 million households. It doesn't mean gigantic audiences are tuning in. Common practice. Small matter. But the more you dig into World Business Review, you realize that its promotional materials could use a whole lot more asterisks. Take, for instance, the claim that …
VOICE-OVER: The following colleges and universities offer World Business Review as a course, course supplement, or through their library systems.
BOB GARFIELD: Under the headline about a "full semester curriculum" developed by Indiana State University's Professor Gerald Cockrell, WBR's website recently listed 40 institutions of higher education employing the show for educational purposes. Well, yes and no.
JIM GRAY: They don't really have a connection with Duke University like they claim.
BOB GARFIELD: Jim Gray is Associate Dean of Fuqua School of Business at Duke University
JIM GRAY: We saw World Business Review's use of our logo and name as unauthorized exploitation of our brand. When we found out what they were doing, we asked them in no uncertain terms to cease and desist. What they did was they sent unsolicited -- sent us tapes, and was pretty savvy in getting us to sign an acceptance of those tapes, which merely said, "Yes, we'll take the tapes, and we'll put them in our library." And nobody ever checks those out, that's for sure, and we've stopped having them in our library.
BOB GARFIELD: Shortly after we began making inquiries, Duke's name was pulled off of WBR's website. But 39 others remained. Among them, we located 12 institutions where a professor or two keep the tapes in classrooms as supplemental materials. One of them is Indiana State's Professor Cockrell, who is on WBR's advisory board. Cockrell told us he likes how WBR stays on the cutting edge of technology long after traditional texts become outdated. But, according to university spokeswoman Theresa Exline, even he doesn't use the tapes as a formal part of the curriculum.
THERESA EXLINE: He's not using this as curriculum either. He uses the videos in his classroom to supplement a full-fledged curriculum.
BOB GARFIELD: Several universities told us the tapes are seldom, if ever, checked out, but the producers are keen to keep them stacked on library shelves. An official at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh told us that when they tried to unsubscribe from WBR they didn't even get return phone calls. Maybe that's because WBR thrives on a delicately balanced ecosystem of borrowed prestige, in which the appearance of broad university affiliations, General's Haig's international stature, and public television's mission are inextricably linked. But if the college-connection is problematic, the public TV one is even more so.
STAN MARVIN: They have a very slick operation.
BOB GARFIELD: Stan Marvin is Program Director at KRCB-TV, a PBS affiliate north of San Francisco.
STAN MARVIN: And I was a little wowed by the fact that, gee, we could have these guys on our TV station -- woo hoo! It doesn't cost us anything, uh, to have Caspar Weinberger or Alexander Haig emcee a program, or host a program, on our station.
BOB GARFIELD: KRCB no longer carries the program. The decision to drop it came after Stan Marvin became suspicious by just how un-Mike Wallace-like General Haig's questioning was. He says he telephoned his WBR contact and asked her to disclose the relationship between the interviewers and the interviewees.
STAN MARVIN: She didn't want to tell me everything, and I asked straight on, do the people that I'm watching on your program pay to be on your program? Because that's a no-no. And she didn't answer me. She sort of just danced around the question. And that was enough for me.
BOB GARFIELD: That's because, according to the FCC, public stations are prohibited by the amended Communications Act of 1934 from carrying advertising for for-profit entities. But when KRCB's traffic manager tried to cancel the show, Marvin says….
STAN MARVIN: She got extremely irate with him, and threatened all kinds of things. "Don't mess with the general." That's the quote.
BOB GARFIELD: As it turns out, WBR story subjects are almost always paying customers. They pay a so-called underwriting fee for their companies to be featured -- a fee up to $50,000 -- to WBR's advisory board called the Alliance for Technology Education. More on the Alliance shortly. But anytime an interview subject is paying anything to appear, the relationship ceases to be journalism -- which may explain questions like this:
AL HAIG: Dennis, how difficult is it for a merchant to set up a contactless smart card reader? Is it expensive?
DENNIS RYAN: No, the readers are actually a few hundred dollars, so the price is not prohibitive…
BOB GARFIELD: Dennis Ryan is president of Amatech, whose feature on World Business Review included not only friendly questions from General Haig, but also testimonials from a satisfied Amatech customer. All in all, to use Ryan's phrase, "good bang for the buck."
DENNIS RYAN: It was not blatant advertising for Amatech. They actually asked some questions that we didn't give them. So from that standpoint they did get spontaneity.
BOB GARFIELD: They weren't argumentative questions?
DENNIS RYAN: Absolutely not.
BOB GARFIELD: The producers of World Business Review repeatedly declined to make General Haig or anyone else from the organization available to be interviewed on tape, but CEO and executive producer Thomas Clynes sent correspondence arguing that appearance fees are just a means of "creative financing" for a worthwhile program, that the producers retain editorial control and that the shows have clear disclaimers disclosing a financial relationship with the companies being profiled. That disclaimer -- which describes the sponsorships as "funding of production costs" -- is onscreen in the final credits for 8 to 12 seconds. In actuality, most of the stations we contacted, including a Hillsborough County, Florida cable-access outlet grandly called The Education Channel, expressed surprise at the financial relationship. Lucy Griggs is the Program Director at the Education Channel.
LUCY GRIGGS: No, I didn't realize that it was actually a fee that they had to pay to be on. Their website shows -- and their credits, I think, too -- that they have sponsorships from businesses, but it's not elucidated.
BOB GARFIELD: That financial relationship is further clouded by that other entity: The Alliance for Technology Education. According to those we interviewed, clients who appear on WBR pay their appearance fees not to the production company, but to the Alliance, which in turn "underwrites" the overall series. According to Larry Holden, who at the time was Program Director at WSBE in Providence RI., this layer of separation was created in 1997, following objections from stations about the direct funding. In his phrasing, the Alliance is a slush fund.
LARRY HOLDEN: They established a fund, and corporations and other funders would be able to contribute to the fund, but were not dictating or paying for the individual programs that might have a particular executive of a particular company appearing on the program. So there was a layer of isolation.
BOB GARFIELD: That layer cleanses not only client fees coming in, but also money going out. FCC rules prohibit public stations from selling their airtime, but the Alliance has bestowed grants to "underwrite" WBR on at least 7 of the public-TV stations. The Alliance for Technology Education may have a non-profit-sounding name, but it is registered with the Florida Secretary of State as a for-profit corporation, listing World Business Review boss Thomas Clynes as principal officer. Station executive
LARRY HOLDEN: Neither of us were born yesterday. I think that they believe that this would help the station continue to broadcast the program. [SOUND from infomercial for "The Juiceman"]
BOB GARFIELD: Infomercials have their rightful place in the commercial-television food chain, so long as there is no misdirection about what's going on. World Business Review airs on PBS stations amid all sorts of misdirection -- for the stations, for the universities whose names and logos it bandies about, and most of all -- no matter how cleverly the elements are arranged and obscured -- for the public. The public, then, might be wondering about the producers' boast that WBR is an "award-winning program." That it is. It has won what it calls the "coveted" Telly and Aegis awards… both heavily geared toward commercials and corporate video production. Among the other honorees when WBR received its trophies: the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and West Valley High School. Office of Strategic Misinformation
February 23, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Coming up, our report on the World Business Review hosted by Al Haig. Has the general turned journalist? Or pitchman?
ALEXANDER HAIG: Dennis-- how difficult is it for a merchant to set up a contact-this-smart-card reader? Was it expensive?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Also, reports that the Pentagon plans to plant misinformation -- the government tells us they're not lying about not lying -- but is that just another lie?
BOB GARFIELD: And Congress is funding a radio service that uses the universal language of pop to deliver its message to the Middle East's MTV generation.
MAN: You know artists like Hakim and Khalid in the Middle East blend very well with Britney Spears and New Kids on the Block.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Plus it wasn't exactly Tonya and Nancy, but this year's Olympic ice skaters still managed to set the media's post racing.
BOB GARFIELD: We'll be back with all that and more after the news. [THEME MUSIC TAG] 01:00 * SPACE FOR NEWSCAST * [THEME MUSIC] * SEGMENT A * 06:00
BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Once again this week Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was at pains to reassure the world about the Pentagon's commitment to truth.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Government officials, the Department of Defense, this secretary and the people that work with me tell the American people and the people of the world the truth.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That promise set some eyes to rolling, considering the government's checkered history of deception in the Vietnam War for example, even though earlier in the century the government aired dramatizations to inoculate the public against Nazi lies. [DRAMATIC MOVIE MUSIC]
MAN: Did you know there's ground glass in all the surgical sponges in the Army?
WOMAN: Girls with needles under their nails 'been working in the gas mask factories and been puncturing the masks!
MAN: You know what I overheard at lunch? A ship with 5,000 bodies from Pearl Harbor arrived in New York!
BOB GARFIELD: What prompted Rumsfeld's declaration though was a fresh revelation. According to the New York Times the Pentagon, frustrated by America's poor showing in the propaganda war is considering a campaign in which it would plant false information in foreign newspapers. Joining us to discuss such a scenario is Paul McMasters, First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom Forum. Paul, welcome to OTM.
PAUL McMASTERS: Thanks for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: Now look, I've known you for many years, and I know I don't even have to interview you on this subject. I'm just going to interrupt you periodically to squeeze some more lighter fluid on the fire. The Defense Department planting disinformation in foreign media. Go.
PAUL McMASTERS: Well I think there's a, a number of reasons to be concerned about this. Obviously we all know that there are -- disinformation has been an instrument of foreign policy in military operations since the beginning of our times, and we're not the only ones that practice it. I think in this situation, though, we're seeing a racheting up of that as a policy and-- an interesting placing of it in an office in the Pentagon rather than in the intelligence agencies or say out of the State Department.
BOB GARFIELD: Let's talk about the credibility of the United States for a moment. The U.S. is always at pains with foreign audiences to persuade them that it is speaking the truth. What effect do you suppose it will have -- irrespective of whether this program ever is carried forward -- on the credibility of all messages from the United States to audiences, domestic and foreign.
PAUL McMASTERS: Where I am primarily concerned about this is what it does to the credibility of the press and its ability to provide an independent and credible source of information to the American people. If the people don't know whether to trust the information they're getting either from their elected leaders or their un-elected press, then that really confuses the democratic process.
BOB GARFIELD: Paul, what precipitates this, it appears, is America's frustration at trying to get its message across to audiences in the Arab and Muslim worlds. These are audiences that are accustomed to dealing with media sources that are heavily controlled by repressive governments. Should the government fight fire with fire?
PAUL McMASTERS: Every war is different than the preceding war, but this one moreso than any other, and it is very tempting to-- if we can adopt the military methods and tactics that our enemies are using, why not their informational tactics? I think in the long run, however, it compromises so many things that we stand for that there can be nothing but harm -- not only to the credibility of our officials but the ability of the American citizens to fully understand, support and/or challenge policies that come out of Washington.
BOB GARFIELD: Whatever happens now with this initiative or proposed initiative, isn't the damage already done?
PAUL McMASTERS: Well I think that certainly can be argued, especially if you take it in this context. We have seen from the very beginning a, a conscious or an unconscious -- and I would like to think that it was an unintentional compromising of the American press by administrative policies. We saw the calls from the White House to the major networks and newspapers about how they should cover interviews with Osama bin Laden -- we heard the ominous warning from the White House spokesman about Americans should watch what they say. I think this proposal would do even more damage in the ability of the American press to get an independent source of information and therefore better evaluate what is going on in this very important War on Terrorism.
BOB GARFIELD: But even if the Defense Department says oh, no, no - this was just talk - we discussed it - forget all about it - we would never do such a thing - this is off the table -- is there really anyone who believes that it will truly be off the table?
PAUL McMASTERS: Well I think that there will be some who will take the Defense Department at its word here, but we must keep in mind that on several occasions the secretary of Defense has said to the American people through the press briefings that he would not nor any of his people lie directly to the American people. Is that the truth or is that a part of a campaign would be a question that would come to many people's minds.
BOB GARFIELD: Well Paul, thank you very much.
PAUL McMASTERS: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: Paul McMasters is a First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom Forum in Washington, DC. [MUSIC] Pop and Propaganda
February 23, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The U.S. government's media war against terrorism has a new weapon -- pop radio. Norman Pattiz of Westwood One, one of the nation's largest distributors of commercial radio programming has been enlisted to create a new radio network that will spread the gospel of American values and pop culture all the way from Cyprus to Djibouti. The target audience is people under 25 who make up 60 percent of the population of the Middle East. Norman Pattiz joins me now, and he's brought along an English language demo tape. We'll play some of the clips and you can be the judge. Norman Pattiz, welcome to the show.
NORMAN PATTIZ: Thank you. It's nice to be here.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you've been quoted as calling this project "The New Station for the New Generation." You make it sound a little like an MTV spinoff.
NORMAN PATTIZ: Well, it's not an MTV spinoff, you know, in the strictest sense, but it does have some of the same qualities. Since this is a radio broadcasting service that's targeted primarily to the 25 and under audience, we want to use the kinds of tools that we know work in attracting that audience to build the largest possible following that we can. So we'll be using a mix of Arabic and Western pop music to deliver the 25 and under audience to our news and to our messages of public diplomacy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What sorts of research have you done?
NORMAN PATTIZ: We've done focus groups in Cairo, in Amman, in the Gulf, and the kinds of things that they want on that radio station are things like features on marriage, features on health, features on finance, features on computers and the Internet -- the kinds of features that you would expect an audience of 25 and under to be interested in, in just about any part of the globe! [AMERICAN POP MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
FEMALE ANNOUNCER SYLVIA: Hey, coming up in the next hour along with a lot of great music, of course, you'll hear some of our listeners' answers to the question of the day, a roundup of American editorial opinion plus a rundown on what's happening in clubs and concerts this week all across the region. And tonight at 10 don't miss U.S. Policy Roundtable -- a lively exchange of opinions from experts in Washington and the Middle East.
MALE ANNOUNCER: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week....
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You'll be presenting a mix of Middle Eastern music and American pop music. What sorts of Middle Eastern music and what sorts of American pop artists have you discovered in your research do translate well over there?
NORMAN PATTIZ: We're finding that the Arabic pop and the Western pop blend very, very well. You know artists like Hakim and Khalid-- in the Middle East blend very well with artists like Britney Spears and New Kids on the Block-- [CLIP OF EGYPTIAN SINGING STAR GEORGE WASOUF]
FEMALE ANNOUNCER SYLVIA: Egyptian singing star George Wasouf [sp?] and Kalem Aness [sp?] -- People Talk. Before that we heard New Kids on the Block, Iraqi singing star Kaddam Asaher [sp?] and we started things off for you with Desert Rose from Sting and Cheb Mahmi [sp?]. I'm Sylvia [sp?] and I'll be back with a really inspiring song from the one and only Mariah Carey right after we check the latest news.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's interesting that you talk about Britney Spears and the New Kids on the Block but you never mentioned rap music, and you'd expect that rap would resonate in lands where there are so many young people and so much anger!
NORMAN PATTIZ: Well that may very well be the case that some of that might make its way in. By the same token, you know, to be real--realistic about this, we've got to do a bit of a Kabuki dance here -- we're operating in some areas on FM frequencies that we'll be getting through agreements with the local governments. We're not interested, you know, in de-stabilizing moderate Arab governments by putting on you know a-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Puff Daddy?
NORMAN PATTIZ: Not necessarily Puff Daddy but a lot of stuff that's criticized heavily right here in the United States!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: De-stabilize the governments or de-stabilize your relationship with the governments?
NORMAN PATTIZ: I think that there'll be less objection to our music than there may be objection to the kind of open and free dialogue, the example of a free press in the American tradition -- those are probably the things that are going to irritate some members of local governments than the music that we play. [NEWS RADIO MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
MALE ANNOUNCER: I Want to Know -- authoritative answers to your questions from experts all over the world. This question comes to us from Mohammed in Cairo. He says: I want to know why the U.S. is fighting a war against Islam. Well, Mohammed, perhaps the best expert to respond to your question is President Bush. In his speech to the U.S. Congress on September 20th he said that the U.S. is not fighting a war against Islam but against terrorists, and he addressed these words directly to Muslims all over the world.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well let's talk about some of the news and information content then. Getting beyond marriage and dating shows and personal finance, you'll be producing news, and you'll be producing news by local people but under the direction of people in the United States to some extent. How close is this to propaganda?
NORMAN PATTIZ: It's not propaganda at all. I am a governor on the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees all of our international broadcasting services -- Voice of America -Radio Free Europe - Radio Liberty - Radio Free Asia - The Marti's and several other services. [NEWS RADIO SOUND EFFECTS]
MALE ANNOUNCER: Every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week --as news happens -- News of the Moment brings you the straight story direct from our comprehensive network of experienced correspondents around the world.
PAULA WOLFSON: Paula Wolfson [sp?], the White House.
ALEX VALITO: Alex Valito [sp?], the Pentagon.
SCOTT BOBB: Scott Bobb [sp?], Bangkok.
AYAZ GUL: Ayaz Gul [sp?], Islamabad.
LAITA HONGFINCHER: Laita Hongfincher [sp?], Beijing.
FELIX RAMIREZ: Felix Ramirez [sp?] , Abijon [sp?].
LINDA CASHTON: Linda Cashton [sp?], Washington.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But when you talk about the Radio Marti's and the Radio Liberty's and so on, those clearly are restricted in areas, and we've heard complaints from them and about them during our War on Terror in that some of their reporting has been circumscribed. These are not necessarily paragons of the most open kind of information that will also provide dissenting voices to American policy.
NORMAN PATTIZ: Well you know that, that's in the ear of the beholder; I mean all one has to do is listen to NPR, Fox and CNN cover the same story to realize that you might get a different take from all 3 of those right here in the United States. Our mission is quite simply to promote freedom and democracy through the free flow of accurate, reliable and credible news and information about America and the world to audiences overseas.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much.
NORMAN PATTIZ: It's my pleasure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Norman Pattiz is chairman of Westwood One, and as a member of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors is a prime mover behind the Middle Eastern Radio Network set to launch in about a month.
FEMALE ANNOUNCER SYLVIA: Hey, it's a beautiful sunny afternoon all across the region. Hi there, I'm Sylvia and I've got one of the biggest hits for you of the year 2000. It's a collaboration between the English singer, Sting, and Algerian rise-star [sp?] Cheb Mahmi -- a song they sang at a concert together in Tunis just this past April. Here you go -- here's Desert Rose. [CLIP OF SONG DESERT ROSE]
BOB GARFIELD: Coming up, the courts hand big media a big win, and we rip the shroud of secrecy off of the World Business Review.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media from National Public Radio. Market Mingling Okayed
February 23, 2002
BOB GARFIELD: We're back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. This week the axe that consumer advocates kept warning us about finally fell on a couple of FCC regulations written decades ago. A federal court in Washington ruled that it's okay for cable systems and TV stations in the same market to buy each other up. It also said that the FCC must reconsider the rule that says no one company's TV stations can reach more than 35 percent of the nation's households. It's anticipated that the next regulation to go up on the chopping block will be the one that bars broadcasters and newspapers in the same market from owning each other. Essentially the court and its broadcast plaintiffs say that these measures to protect diversity are outdated in such a crowded media market. Chris Murray, a lawyer for the Consumer's Union, is worried.
CHRIS MURRAY: In any community, most people get their information from two sources -- either the broadcaster or the cable company. Imagine if these news services start buying each other up.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are you absolutely convinced that stories and ideas will be suppressed if the owners become bigger?
CHRIS MURRAY: It's not so much just if the owners become bigger. The question is: if the owners have sort of an increasing web of relationships between each other and they have joint ventures, they have joint programming agreements and aggressively covering each other becomes sort of economically dangerous for them. I think that's where the viewpoints get suppressed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now the court strictly speaking didn't overturn the cap that says no one broadcaster can reach more than 35 percent of the country with the stations it owns. It's sent that back to the FCC, and the FCC is expected to come up with, say, a 50 percent cap or something like that. Does it really matter?
CHRIS MURRAY: Well you're exactly correct that it's been sent back to the FCC, but the political reality is that the Federal Communications Commission under Michael Powell is going to either get rid of this entirely or raise the cap to such a level that the local affiliates really go away, and the marketplace result to that is that local news goes away, because it's incredibly expensive to produce, it's much more efficient to just put in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer all over the country.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How would you counter the objections of the industry that have said listen -- we have so much more diversity now than we did when these rules were promulgated -- when there were only three networks -- when you have a hundred channel satellite, cable, the Internet and so forth adding to the general cacophony.
CHRIS MURRAY: We have to talk about the difference between variety and diversity of ownership. It's one thing to have 70 channels, but if those 70 channels or a hundred channels are all owned by the same person or by 3 or 4 companies, to me that's not real diversity.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So do you see this as just falling dominoes --all of these protections that were put in place so many years ago -- dropping one by one?
CHRIS MURRAY: Well we are absolutely in free fall mode with regard to media ownership restrictions, whether it's the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership rule going away, this particular broadcast-cable cross ownership rule going away, the 35 percent broadcast cap -- all of these sort of seemingly byzantine, slightly boring regulations -- as they go away all at once -- it's amazing the consolidation effects that we're going to see. For instance in the Internet, we always hear, you know, well if you can't get diverse news and information over broadcast television, just go to the Internet. Thirty percent of all user minutes last year were spent in one company's web site, and that was AOL/Time Warner. We always think well the Internet can't really get consolidated, but it's happening there as well.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Chris Murray, thank you very much.
CHRIS MURRAY: Thank you for having me.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Chris Murray is a lawyer for the Consumer's Union. Steve Effros joins us now. For 23 years he was the head of the Cable Telecommunications Association, one of the major national trade associations for the cable television industry. Steve, welcome to the show.
STEVE EFFROS: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you are one of the people who actually wrote these laws back in your FCC days in the '70s.
STEVE EFFROS: That's right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why were they apropos then but not now?
STEVE EFFROS: The concern back then was when there was a nascent industry such as cable that a broadcaster could buy the cable franchise and then not build it. That no longer is an issue because the cable systems are built. There was also a concern that a cable company could buy a broadcast station and then only carry that broadcast station. But there are now rules that prohibit that -- so they have to carry all the broadcast stations anyway. The two principal concerns, legally, were eliminated by the passage of time and the passage of other rules and regulations. The third one, with regard to diversity, has obviously changed. Back 30 years ago we had, you know, 3 major networks and several independents, maybe, in major markets and a public broadcast station. Now we have hundreds of stations. And so those were the primary concerns. They're no longer concerns. The, the court said this is anachronistic.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well then tell me why do you think that consumer advocates are so passionate about this?
STEVE EFFROS: I'm not sure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I think because they see it as the first or perhaps the fourth or fifth of a series of a dozen dominoes that are dropping all the protections of the public interest in the broadcast realm that were established by the FCC when you were there writing them.
STEVE EFFROS: The public interest in the broadcast realm --but-- what that does is make the assumption that big is bad!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And you don't think big is bad!
STEVE EFFROS: I don't think there's an-- there's very much support for the proposition! No! I think that we got more news when CNN had enough money to do news. They couldn't do it when they were small! So, no, big is not necessarily bad! I, I just don't buy that premise! If CNN were the only one, then I buy the premise, but we have anti-trust laws for that. We-- There, there are a whole other set of laws in this country that are there to deal with the question of monopoly, and those haven't been touched. So I'm still not sure why there is this-- this cons-- you know this feeling that the sky is falling. I don't think the sky is falling.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: When you see some other age-old regulations going under the axe like the 35 percent cap or the upcoming probable repeal of the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership rules, do any of these give you cause for concern?
STEVE EFFROS: I think there's cause for being very pleased that the system has worked, because what the courts are saying is it seems to us that we have more diversity today than we've ever had; we have more different points of view being heard than we ever had; and therefore the rules that you are talking about which were established in an era when we didn't have that diversity are no longer needed. I think that's a good thing!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay! Steve, thank you very much.
STEVE EFFROS: All righty. Any time.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Steve Effros is president of Effros Communications, a strategic communications and consulting firm. [MUSIC]
Who Owns Olympic Images?
February 23, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Watching the local news each night or any of the sports highlight shows you'll always find the day's sports highlights -- the great shot, the winning homer, the fatal Nascar crash and so forth. So conspicuous by their absence for the past two weeks at least on non-NBC affiliates are highlights from the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Joining us now to explain the Olympic news blackout is David Wittenstein, an intellectual property lawyer with Dow, Lonis and Albertson [sp?] in Washington, DC. Mr. Wittenstein, welcome to OTM.
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: Thank you very much.
BOB GARFIELD: Now I don't watch much primetime but I do watch a lot of news, and in the past two weeks I have seen a lot of baseball players stretching in Florida, a lot of college basketball highlights, and almost no ski jumping! What's the deal?
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: NBC sends out to all of the TV stations something it calls News Access Guidelines that tells them how much they can take and when they can show it, and it's pretty restrictive because NBC doesn't want to see its big investment diluted by having ABC and CBS and Fox and everybody covering the games just the way you're seeing it on NBC affiliates.
BOB GARFIELD: How can they govern how the media covers news events? Isn't there a fair use doctrine which permits news organizations to run otherwise copyrighted material if there's a genuine news value?
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: There certainly is, and the problem with sports in particular is that there's really only been one reported case on Fair Use of Sports Highlights. The case is about 20 years old, and it suggests that there is very limited if any fair use for sports highlights.
BOB GARFIELD: Well if that's the only court precedent, is there some sort of gentleman's agreement that allows networks to share the clips that they obviously share now?
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: Yes, absolutely, and lots of networks do have sharing arrangements, but otherwise a lot of the limits that are placed on how much is shared really are through these News Access Guidelines.
BOB GARFIELD: Considering there's only one 20 year old case on this legal question and considering that the networks more or less conspiratorially ignore the ruling in that case and have been for decades, why do you suppose that nobody has straightforwardly challenged the decision or at least tried to create some new law by testing the waters in this area and running, say, NBC's figure skating footage against NBC's will?
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: You know it's a risk against a, a, a well-heeled copyright plaintiff that has spent a lot of money and has every incentive to pursue an infringement claim very vigorously. I actually happen to believe that there have been enough developments in the law about how news uses are favored and preferred types of uses that I think you'd have a - a good fighting chance. The case that's the 20 year old case takes the position, for example, that almost by definition something that you want to show on your news program that's a highlight is by definition so qualitatively important -because it's a highlight - that it can't constitute fair use. Well that doesn't make any sense. So--
BOB GARFIELD: And here's Wally Bruckner [sp?] with the parts of the game that you really wouldn't have cared to see!
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: Precisely. You could probably be allowed to show the things that nobody wants to see.
BOB GARFIELD: Oh, like the Jeff Greenfield Show. [LAUGHTER] You -- no need to comment. David Wittenstein, thank you very much.
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: It's been my pleasure.
BOB GARFIELD: David Wittenstein is a partner with the law firm Dow, Lonis and Albertson in Washington, DC.
Drama on Ice
February 23, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: If you know nothing else about the winter Olympics you know that 16 year old Sarah Hughes leaped up from 4th place to capture the gold. Figure skating is one of the most popular of the winter games, or at least the one the mos--or at least the one most fraught with emotion. One of the reasons is the way the media portray the competitors as characters in a melodrama. [PRINCESS MUSIC]
MALE ANNOUNCER: They are the princesses of figure skating. [DRAMATIC MUSIC] And tonight four women will take the ice looking to join that list of legends. A 23 year old Russian who re-discovered her love for the sport. Two teenagers looking to burst out of the shadows and into the spotlight. And one skating icon -- hoping to prove that she can win on her own terms.
DAVID WITTENSTEIN: Abigail Feder-Kane has frequently written on the subject of figure skaters and the media, and she says the drama fuels the passion for the sport.
ABIGAIL FEDER-KANE: It's important to remember that other than a group of very attached core audience members, most people don't follow skating very closely. So every 4 years they have to be given a reason to watch - a reason to care. And that's why I think these narratives, these stories that are constructed around the skating are as important and as fascinating to study as the events themselves.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So describe some of those narratives. What have we become accustomed to over the years.
ABIGAIL FEDER-KANE: I think for a long time the standard narrative was the conflict of the Cold War -- was East versus West. When the Eastern Bloc began to break down, the first big conflict that we got in ladies figure skating was the idea of athletes versus artists, and there was a period of time when the difficulty in the programs the women were doing was almost as difficult as what the men were doing. And there was a lot of discomfort with that. Should the women be doing these triple jumps? Would skating just become a jump fest? Was it losing its artistry and therefore losing its appeal?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is that why we had Nancy Kerrigan - graceful lady and Tonya Harding - athletic, aggressive -- what was the name? -- tough cookie they called her? [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
ABIGAIL FEDER-KANE: Absolutely. The "tough cookie," and long before 1994 and the famous whack on the knee -there was always a dichotomy set up between Kerrigan and Harding, and in fact between two other champions -- Kristi Yamaguchi [sp?] who won the gold in '92 and Medori Ito [sp?] of Japan. Ito and Harding had both performed the triple axle jump successfully in competition. They were the only two women who had done it. Kerrigan and Yamaguchi had not performed that jump although they each had their share of athleticism and performed plenty of triples. But it was just easier to set them up as the artists versus the athletes.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: There's another scenario I seem to remember; it's the up from adversity scenario. I remember a Ukrainian skater from about 8 years ago - Oksana Baiul - whose mother had died, whose life was so miserable--
ABIGAIL FEDER-KANE: The Baiul story is especially interesting because you may or may not remember, but that came on the tail end of the whole Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding drama, so you had Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding going into these Olympics and not many people seemed to be paying much attention to the fact that Oksana Baiul was actually the reigning world champion! She had won the world championship in 1993. When you actually got to the Olympics and it became clear after the short program that Harding was not going to be in contention, then suddenly Baiul's story began to emerge, and lo and behold her overcoming-adversity story was a lot more touching and a lot more dramatic than Nancy Kerrigan's overcoming her knee injury. So in that case there was one narrative going into the games - the conflict narrative - the good girl/bad girl narrative. There was another narrative that emerged -- Nancy Kerrigan overcoming the adversity of her injury and there was a final narrative that became predominant -- Oksana Baiul overcoming the adversity of an entire life.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So what have we seen in this Olympics? What story has prevailed or are we actually hearing bits of all of those scenarios?
ABIGAIL FEDER-KANE: Nobody seems to be able to decide what the best story is. There's a little bit of Cold War Redux here; the showdown between Russia's Irina Slutskaya [sp?] and American Michelle Kwan which is a longstanding rivalry and in fact in the Canadian and French papers that's the predominant story. The American media I think missed Tonya and Nancy to a large extent and was looking for a conflict - was looking for another bad girl, and for a few moments there in late January/early February it looked as if they had identified Sasha Cohen [sp?] as this villain. What was Sasha Cohen's crime? She had brushed up against Michelle a couple of times during practices. I think the story might have been taken further had there not been the scandal of the judging in the pairs competition. Finally there is the story which I think ended up predominating -- would Michelle have her coronation or would yet another teenager knock her off her throne and keep her from winning the great price.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Abigail thank you so much.
ABIGAIL FEDER-KANE: Thank you, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Abigail Feder-Kane is probably the world's expert on media coverage of Olympic figure skating.
February 23, 2002
BOB GARFIELD: Americans may admire the physical discipline of figure skating, but increasingly they're doing yoga -- a physical and spiritual practice born in India roughly 5,000 years ago. Yoga was brought here 140 years ago, and some would say it's taken that long to become hip in America and just a little bit longer to become a marketing tool. Rachel Myrow reports from KPCC in Los Angeles.
RACHEL MYROW: Steven Powers has been doing yoga for 2 years now. The president of M&K Sound [sp?], an audio equipment company, added the discipline to his fitness regimen after he spotted a class one Saturday morning on the beach in Venice, California. When M&K began developing a new ad campaign for its speakers, Powers thought it only natural to recommend his yoga teacher, Andrea Brook.
STEVEN POWERS: What are the qualities that a person like Andrea or any talented yogi has? Balance -Power - Focus - Clarity.
RACHEL MYROW: For years M&K's advertising has relied on the company's relationship with big name customers like George Lucas of Star Wars. In recent months Powers and his advertising director decided to try a new tack. The concept is still in development, but when all is said and done, potential customers will flip a magazine page to find Andrea Brook assuming a dramatic asana [sp?] -- poised in the presence of M&K speakers.
STEVEN POWERS: We want to kind of communicate about our speakers that they're not average - they're not run of the mill - we're very much the high end -- you know many people don't hear the difference or they're not that interested in music to go out and spend thousands of dollars on a pair of speakers. [MUSIC FROM M&K COMMERCIAL]
SHEILA CHANDRA: [SINGING "TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS"] TURN OFF YOUR MIND RELAX AND FLOAT DOWN THE STREAM IT IS NOT DYING IT IS NOT DYING
RACHEL MYROW: While Powers professes to be out of touch with Madison Avenue, he's intuitively hip on a happening trend. Yoga imagery is everywhere, lending its limber spiritual veneer to Nike shoes, breakfast cereal, even Internet stockbrokers like Ameritrade. Whether it's SUVs or underwear, advertisers know yoga doesn't just stretch -- it sells. Moreover, it sells to the right people. Carrie Hollenberg, an expert in what makes consumers tick at SRI Consulting in the Bay Area calls them "actualizers."
CARRIE HOLLENBERG: These are people that tend to be leaders in society. They tend to be quite sophisticated; they value independence, self-- they have a lot of self-confidence; they're quite active in their day to day life. They're generally quite technologically savvy. They travel. They are, they're appreciative of other cultures.
RACHEL MYROW: While actualizers haven't elbowed out the patchoulie-scented [sp?] hippies of yoga in years past, they have changed the face of the practice here in the U.S. Consider for example the ultimate actualizer -- Madonna -who even played a yoga instructor in The Next Best Thing.
MADONNA: Hands together in prayer position; feet together. Namaste. [sp?]
YOGA CLASS: Namaste.
MAN: Namaste. [CHANTING BEGINS]
RACHEL MYROW: Go to the right class in L.A. or New York and you just might lunge into Chadaranga [sp?] a couple mats over from Christy Turlington or Shaquille O'Neal. Surveys find roughly 20 million Americans have tried yoga. A practice that big is bound to pull in some people who even if only unconsciously just want to be hip as opposed to arrived. Andrea Brook, the yoga teacher from the M&K ad admits she's seen some pretty silly stuff in the 6 and a half years she's been teaching.
ANDREA BROOK: That hipness where, you know, all-- where we're focusing on what am I going to wear to yoga - what am I going to drive to yoga - you know - people are racing down the street honking and yelling and screaming and flipping people off so that they can get to yoga. That's the part that cracks me up the most. [LAUGHS]
RACHEL MYROW: But whether they get it or they don't, Brook figures anything that exposes people to yoga is a good thing because yoga is a good thing.
ANDREA BROOK: I love the idea of using yoga in advertising because it makes people think oh, I want to do that. And I do see yoga as a lifestyle, and it profoundly affects people's life and the choices that they make and how they feel about themselves.
RACHEL MYROW: But is yoga in the service of selling products really yoga? Anne Cushman, a contributing editor for Yoga journal explains followers are clearly admonished not to fall prey to the myriad delusions of materialism and greed.
MAN: Yoga really asks us to look at what actually makes us happy, and if we really investigate, we see pretty clearly that having more things does not bring us any real lasting, sustained happiness whereas the whole premise of advertising is exactly the opposite.
RACHEL MYROW: That said, Cushman doesn't believe advertisers are using yoga as anything more than a superficial backdrop.
MAN: For instance if you see a car ad with a picture of a gorgeous young woman in Downward Facing Dog, they're actually not trying to sell the car through yoga; they're trying to sell the car the way they try and sell everything which is by associating it with a young, beautiful, fit person doing something sort of hip.
RACHEL MYROW: Proving that on Madison Avenue, certain principles hold true forever. [SHEILA CHANDRA SINGING TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS] Whereas achieving the perfect sculpted butt through yoga is an elusive and ultimately transitory state of grace. For On the Media, I'm Rachel Myrow in Los Angeles.
SHEILA CHANDRA: [SINGING] LAY DOWN ALL THOUGHTS SURRENDER TO THE VOID IT IS SHINING [MUSIC] Danny Pearl and Howard K. Smith
February 23, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This week we learned that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was killed by his captors in Pakistan. From all we've heard, Pearl was the best kind of reporter -- a committed and compassionate exposer and explainer lately applying his skill to the people who call us, whom we call, the enemy. In this case he was seeking information about e-mails exchanged by Pakistani militants and Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber. Pearl's was just one of a hundred stories by a hundred reporters that add vital pieces to the puzzle of our place in the world, the challenges we face. It's hard to do. We owe him our grief and our gratitude. And this week we mark another passing. Newsman Howard K. Smith died of pneumonia and heart failure at the age of 87. He hadn't been on the air for more than 20 years, but people still remember him for his opinions, his prickliness and his principles.
HOWARD K. SMITH: The sunny south land this year shivered under the icy hand of a crisis in civil rights, a crisis which pitted neighbor against neighbor and which seriously threatened to undermine our posture abroad as the champions of liberty.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That was Smith in a 1957 radio report about the fight over school integration in Little Rock. You'll notice he passes judgment in the very first sentence. In a later report on civil rights he concluded with a quote from Edmund Burke that "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." That quote, condemned as editorializing by his CBS bosses was dropped and ultimately, so was Smith. The next year, he re-emerged with his own show on ABC analyzing the issues of the day. One segment called "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon" included an interview with Alger Hiss, the alleged spy fingered by Nixon prompting a torrent of angry letters. Smith replied that he's put a prostitute on the show if she played an important role in history. Eight months later, the show was cancelled. Smith next took up residence on the anchor desk at ABC Evening News, but after some years was demoted to commentator. Then his commentaries were dumped, and he left the business in 1978 at the age of 65. During the Second World War, Smith began his career as one of Edward R. Murrow's hand-picked recruits -- a team that would set the standard for broadcast news. Smith was marked then and ever after as one of Murrow's boys. But as television grew up, boys like Smith grew old and disapproving. The man who infuriated viewers with his forthright views on integration and Richard Nixon became infuriated in turn with what he deemed TV's liberal bias. He wanted television to reflect his own convictions, and in that he is no different from any other viewer. Inevitably, TV reflects the people who produce it, a varied lot, but not necessarily the mirror of America. So tension between the nation and its news reporters is inevitable and appropriate. The anger reporters can inspire, justified or not, is instructive, and passion can be a spur to progress. Howard K. Smith once said, "a dull and cautious editorial or a strong one on a banal issue are of no help to anyone." He said editorials, but he editorialized in his reports as well. Passion in work is always risky. More than one journalist has lost his credibility or, like Smith, his job. Sometimes, as in the case of Daniel Pearl, the loss is incalculable. [MUSIC] 58:00
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Janeen Price and Katya Rogers with Sean Landis; engineered by Irene Trudel, Dylan Keefe and George Wellington, and edited -- by Brooke. We had help from Andy Lanset, Jim Colgan and Kathleen Horan. Our web master is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mike Pesca is our producer at large, Arun Rath our senior producer and Dean Cappello our executive producer. Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from National Public Radio. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield.