Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm a General Failure - Efforts to Make Armed Forces Radio Fair and Balanced

Remember Wesley "I'm a General" Clark?


No! Please leave now.


I guess we could take you off the air, huh?

Well, according to Extreme Mortman, Clark's name has popped up again.

Some intriguing logic going on in Wesley Clark’s e-mail letter campaign urging Congress to remove Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces Radio Network. Quite a daunting standard he’s suggesting we impose on taxpayer-funded speech.

But let's say that the government pulled Limbaugh off of Armed Forces Radio, or Clear Channel pulled him off of Clear Channel. The Ghost of H. V. Kaltenborn speculates on what would happen:

If they took Rush Limbaugh off AFR Network there would be such an outcry by the troops…. the only reason it went on their in the first place is that the TROOPS themselves wanted it there. If you doubt me, put Randi Rhodes on AFR and see what happens.

Meanwhile, others are asking that Armed Forces Radio and balanced. The following post is from 2005:

Armed Forces Radio (AFR) is a station that broadcasts to American troops overseas through “over 1,000 outlets in more than 175 countries.” It currently features an hour of programming by right-wing host Rush Limbaugh. There is no comparable progressive program.

Today, that was supposed change. Ed Schultz – the host of the most popular progressive radio show in the country — was supposed to start broadcasting on Armed Forces radio. Jones Radio, the company that syndicates The Ed Shultz Show, received an email on September 29 from an Armed Forces Radio official confirming that one hour of Schultz’s program would begin airing today, October 17.

But this morning at 6AM, the producer of the Ed Schultz show, James Holm, received a call from Pentagon communications aide Allison Barber. She told Holm that she was calling so early to let Schultz know his show would not begin airing on AFR today. You’ll remember Barber as the aide caught coaching troops before a photo-op with President Bush last week.

Barber told Holm that the Ed Schultz show would not start on AFR today because her boss, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita, was out of the country and couldn’t approve it. Barber also said she was going out of the country soon for a week-and-a-half. Holm asked Barber if the show would begin when DiRita and Barber returned. Barber said she couldn’t guarantee that.

A little while later:

After receiving a letter signed by many Congressional Members and thousands of phone calls and e-mails, the Armed Forces Radio Network has decided to update their programming mix and broadcast The Ed Schultz Show.

Which raised the issue - what's on Armed Forces Radio today? Here are some excerpts from the current program schedule:

  • Sports Overnight America

  • NPR Morning Edition

  • ESPN Colin Cowherd

  • Rush Limbaugh

  • Dr. Laura

  • The Jim Rome Show

  • The Ed Schultz Show

  • The Alan Colmes Show

  • The Sean Hannity Show
And if you look at AFN's FAQs (which in this case stands for Frequently Agitated Quibbles), you see the question "Why does AFN air political-talk radio programs?" The answer:

AFN has an obligation, backed by Congressional mandate, to provide our audience access to the same variety and diversity of programming that they would enjoy if they were back in the States. Because political talk radio is among the most popular stateside radion formats, AFN currently offers four political radio talk shows on our AFN radio schedule: Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity represent the conservative viewpoint and Ed Schultz and Alan Colmes represent the liberal viewpoint. We make our choices based on popularity with the American audience. We don't censor programs. We strive to provide our overseas audience with a choice and let them decide for themselves what they want to see and hear. There is no requirement for our audience to listen to anything they personally disagree with. To review the balance we strive to achieve via the totality of our radio and TV schedules, please visit

Unfortunately, this formula (presumably backed by Congressional mandate) results in the same old "I'm progressive" "I'm right" two-choice system which is yawningly boring. Unless you dissect the differences between Limbaugh and Hannity, for example. Throw a libertarian, a socialist, or an old die-hard Reform Party member into the mix every once in a while.

But then again, people don't join the military to listen to good radio.

P.S. on NPR. Those who think that NPR is a bunch of wild-eyed Communists should try listening to Pacifica.

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