Tea Party Takeover of Alabama Public Television Reverses the Station’s Mission

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The Big Picture
by Glynn Wilson

Another hot week.

Another Alabama summer wishing I were in the mountains, where at least the nights are cool.

Another week of idiocy in the news and on Facebook.

What is a real journalist to do under such conditions? Write a column trying to illuminate the situation after a fine Sunday breakfast.


There has not been that much big news of interest so far this summer since the United States is in the process of pulling out of all of our ill-fated foreign wars, the economy is bumbling along in a gradual recovery form the disastrous Bush years, there have been no major natural disasters of late and most of the talk radio, cable news and social networking chatter has been about such diversionary stories as the Sandusky trial, which I have done my best to totally ignore. It just feeds the prurient interests of the rednecks who obsess about social culture war issues like gays in the military and gay marriage, while ignoring the big news that matters by people who consistently vote against their own economic self interest.

We should get some big news in a few days, however, when the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court finally gets around to letting us all in on how they ruled in the big health care case.

Meanwhile, I am still in the middle of several big investigative stories, including one on oil and gas fracking planned for the Talladega National Forest, a close look at the Alabama Supreme Court, and what’s really happening to the media in Alabama, including the implosion of the Newhouse newspapers and the tea party takeover of Alabama Public Television.

But since a certain Birmingham News column is getting a lot of attention on another Sunday of my ongoing discontent, it appears appropriate that I shed some light on this situation today even though there is more work to do on this story.

Another reason that I’m going to deal with the public television situation today is that I received a crazy blog comment and had an e-mail exchange on Saturday with a real dingbat who used to work for APT, Lori Cummings, who is going around in blog comments and on Facebook trying to claim the Religious Right programming had nothing to do with the firings of two executive staff members and the resignations of seven board members.

When she was on public television, I was of the opinion then that she didn’t belong there, because her idea of programming was such nonsense as a series she produced on “Life After Death,” which featured people claiming that they had “seen the light” after near-death experiences. This was not a science or educational show. It was sensational garbage parading as science and education, and I put it in the class of crap on obscure cable channels that promote conspiracy theories about UFOs.

For the record, to borrow the name of the so-called news show that is sparsely watched by average, working people in Alabama anyway, this woman claims her DVDs sold more than any other in the history of public television, which just shows that these so-called Christians in Alabama are not only NOT Christians, they are capitalists and liars. Public television is a non-profit entity and is not in the business of making money by selling products, although they do sometimes raise money for programming that way.

Furthermore, Cummings, the commission, the Republicans in charge of this state and the tea party clearly have no understanding of the history of the United States, the U.S. Constitution, the proper role of the publicly owned airwaves, or much of anything else, in my view.

As I have written many times — and the people of this state and country really need to digest this fact — the tea party, Judge Roy Moore and others who are quite willing to put religion over government are the modern descendants of the British Loyalists who were NOT in favor of the American Revolution. They have no problem with the church running the state, like the monarchies of Europe before we invented and exported modern democracy to places like France. This is a critical message that we MUST get out to the population of this state and country, and the story is NOT being told by the Newhouse newspapers, at al.com, or any local television news station — certainly not APT — because it would cause a veritable shit storm among their little Christian audiences.

Even the Birmingham News column, which tries to be “fair and balanced” like Fox News, while shedding a fraction of light on the subject, makes factual mistakes and hides the Big Picture about what’s really going on.

For starters, the chiropractor from Opelika, Dr. Rodney D. Herring who is behind this ideological mess — who has no expertise in communications and thus no business being on the regulatory commission in the first place — was NOT appointed by the current Republican Governor, Robert Bentley, although I guess he was re-appointed. He was appointed by Bob Riley. If you don’t believe me, you can read the press release about his appointment on APT’s Website.

Is this just a simple mistake? Or is the News covering up for its own editorial support of Bob Riley for eight long years?

According to Archibald, and an inside source on the staff at APT who I interviewed at length last week, Herring questioned the station’s mission, vision, values diversity statement, which affirmed the station’s non-discrimination policy on the basis of “disability, religious belief, age, culture, sexual orientation, physicality, education, and socioeconomic status.”

But what Archibald obscures is why Herring questioned the “sexual orientation” part of the diversity statement. According to my sources, he pretty much demanded that it be removed even though to do so could very well be illegal and place the station’s license in jeopardy with the Federal Communications Commission.

From what I’m told, Herring is an anti-gay tea party activist who said he would have that part of the diversity statement removed one way or another, with or without the staff, and he threatened to go to the legislature and have state funding reduced for public television if this was not done immediately.

Apparently the diversity statement has now been removed from the station’s Website, although the boiler plate employment diversity statement is still there.

It simply states that “Alabama Public Television is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. The policy of APT is to provide an educational and work environment that provides access to jobs, promotions, career opportunities, programs, services and benefits regardless of age, race, color, national origin, ethnic group identification, ancestry, gender, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, veteran status, or political affiliation.”

The station’s mission statement is also useful for people to see. It says the station is “committed to enrich the lives of Alabama citizens” by “providing essential educational services with the highest quality direct instructional content” and to “helping our state reach true school equity statewide.” The station is also supposed to be committed to showing the state’s “unique heritage.”

What has apparently been added is a commitment to work “closely” with the state and national departments of Homeland Security, in a continuation of its mission to “disseminate information effectively in times of disaster.”

The station is also committed to “bringing the very best in the world of music, theater, dance and the arts to enrich and inspire the lives of the people” of the state.

Nevermind that neither Archibald or the bad doctor understand a thing about evolution and there is no way creationism should be given currency on public television.

At the heart of the station’s mission lies this, and this is where the tea party is stepping on dangerous ground.

The station’s commitment is also to be fulfilled by “offering programming that educates the citizenry, giving them the means and the desire to reach their highest potential through the development of a strong work ethic bonded to honesty and integrity as well as the technical training so necessary in today’s global economy.”

According to my inside source, the new conservative direction of public television sought by the new Republican tea party types is actually the opposite of that mission.

“It’s clearly an attack on children and an education, because the extreme conservatives’ biggest enemy is an educated populace,” the staff member says. “The minute you educate people and they start thinking for themselves, and they stop being fearful, they might stop following the beat of your drum and you may not get reelected. You lose power. So by targeting education and educational institutions, it’s job security. You stay in rule over a fearful, suspicious, ignorant population. That’s what they want.”

We have way more to report on this story in the days ahead, but this should set up the factual groundwork for anyone out there with an Internet connection looking for the facts.

Have a great day and stay out of the heat.

Related Coverage

Religious Nuts Take Over Public Television in Alabama

Madison County Democrats Call for Resignation of APT Commission Members, Staff Reinstatement

© 2012 – 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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