Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pravda By Deb Bucknam Sept 2010

 Author's note:  I wrote this last fall.  With VPR fundraising in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to reprint this.  VPR is so predictable that a long time listener like me can tell when the "news" story begins how the story will be told. 

Recently I read a story about a young American who stayed with a family in Leningrad during the Soviet era.  The family would gather around the TV set every night to watch the news.  The young man reported that the news was unvarying:   great news from the Soviet Union, good news from Eastern Europe, and bad news from the West. 

Vermont Public Radio follows the Soviet era model.  A review of its morning and evening news broadcasts over the last several months reveals that VPR reports great news about Democrats and particularly our Democratic congressional delegation, good news from the Progressive party, and in the rare instances it reports on Republican candidates, bad news. 

Now that the campaign season is in full swing, VPR has ramped up its congressional happy talk.  VPR broadcasts stories directly from Sen. Leahy, Sanders and Rep. Welch’s press offices, with quotes from our congressional leaders, including almost daily “news” about federal funds coming into Vermont, complete with a member of our Congressional delegation praising the worthiness of the funded programs.   Other stories showcase Leahy, Sanders and Welch as fighters against greedy capitalists and gargantuan oil polluters.     There were several “news” stories about Sen. Leahy in the “spotlight” as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and two glowing articles about Leahy’s nearly 15 year unsuccessful “fight” for a landmine treaty.   Another favorite VPR technique is to approvingly broadcast “news” about a member of our congressional delegation introducing bills in Congress.   Never mind that introducing a bill is a non-event and the bill may never get past a subcommittee.   

None of these “stories” are newsworthy.  They are merely congressional news releases dutifully re-broadcast by VPR.

Stories about Republican campaigns are usually either negative or non-existent.  For example, recently, after broadcasting stories about government stimulus funds coming to Vermont, thanks to Sanders and Welch, VPR broadcast a story that the largest campaign war chest in Vermont was funded by donors who were not aware that it was operated by a Republican Governor’s committee.  The only comment VPR broadcast about the matter was from VPIRG, a far left advocacy organization (although VPR never names it as such) complaining that the fund should be “transparent”.    VPR also recently broadcast a Democrat’s criticism of Republican Auditor of Account’s campaign finance filing; negative remarks between Republican Secretary of State candidates, and two mistakes on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page when she endorsed a New Hampshire Republican candidate.   Negative stories about Republicans are never too insignificant for the VPR news team.

VPR has instituted a virtual news blackout of the U.S. Senate and House races here in Vermont.  Thanks to VPR’s news embargo, for example, many Vermonters have not heard of the sole Republican Senate Candidate Len Britton, an attractive young Vermont businessman whose political views more closely mirror Vermonters’ opinions than do those of the antediluvian Sen. Leahy.  Britton’s clever Youtube videos about our burgeoning national debt have caught national attention, including CBS news, but VPR has refused to broadcast any stories about this phenomenon   

With Sen. Leahy’s campaign war chest at almost $3.5 million, the chances of Len Britton being heard above the Leahy din in the paid media are small.    Similarly, Rep. Welch’s campaign war chest is also substantial, unlike his opponents.  Because of Leahy’s and Welch’s rich store of campaign funds coupled with the their nearly daily free broadcasts from VPR, and VPR’s  news blackout of Leahy’s and Welch’s opponents, Vermonters, like Soviet era citizens, have practically no opportunity to hear dissenting voices or to meaningfully participate in Vermont’s U.S. Congressional races.

VPR has become a well-behaved appendage of the Vermont Democratic political establishment instead of a vigorous First Amendment practitioner.  Our Vermont democratic process suffers as a result.

No comments:

Post a Comment