Churning Sinclair Broadcast

Now it's starting to roll, with McCain, soldiers' relatives and media watchdogs speaking out.

From Sen. John McCain:

McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, sent a strongly worded letter to Sinclair Broadcast Group about its decision to pull Friday's "Nightline" from seven stations throughout the country.

"There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq," the Arizona Republican said in the letter Friday.

From Military Families Speak Out:

"The Sinclair Broadcast group is trying to undermine the lives of our soldiers killed in Iraq. By censoring `Nightline' they want to hide the toll the war on Iraq is having on thousands of soldiers and their families, like mine," wrote Jane Bright of West Hills, Calif. (Her son, Sgt. Evan Ashcraft, was killed in July near Mosul, Iraq.)

"We should be honoring all the men and women who have served," said Ivan Medina, 22, of Hinesville, Ga., who was with the Army in Iraq and whose twin brother, Irving, died there. "My hat goes off to `Nightline.'"

From the national media reform group Free Press:

"No one thinks for a second this decision has anything to do with journalism," McChesney said. "It's a politics-slash-business decision that Sinclair made because they don't want to (anger) the White House."

Sinclair, a political supporter of the Bush administration, is trying to curry favor with the White House to bolster chances of gaining changes in station ownership rules, McChesney alleged.

"The stench of corruption here is extraordinary," he said.

The White House is backtracking, Sinclair is silent. Don't forget the connection. Sinclair has contributed heavily to Bush -according open secrets the company or its directors have given over $200,000 to the RNC and Republican Candidates. $65,434 in 2004 political donations — 98 percent of that to Republicans and 2 percent to Democrats.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group

I posted on this in detail over on Daily Kos earlier today, and Markos followed up with further research from David Sirota, but what I'm interested in seeing, is if the military families ramp up the outrage, they should. And it's happening, from the Air Force Times staff writer, Gordon Trowbridge:

Among Sinclair's ABC stations is one in Asheville, N.C., where some family members of servicemembers killed in Iraq said the company's decision is misguided.

"That's ridiculous," Beth Whitener told the Asheville Citizen-Times. Whitener's husband, 19-year-old Army Pfc. Joey Whitener was killed Nov. 15 when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.

"I think it' s more than appropriate to show those faces because they were over there fighting for our freedom. I think they have a right to be honored and shown on TV."

Brenda Franklin, whose husband, Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin, 38, was killed in August in an explosion in Baghdad, said the public needs to see the faces of the soldiers who have died in Iraq.

"We have paid a lot," she told the newspaper. "My family has paid a lot. I think everybody needs to see the faces."

Pretty easy to tell that Sinclair Broadcasting Group is heading for a blowup in their face. Shit, the Air Force is putting the contact info for Sinclair on their website: Nightline’s decision has come under criticism from some conservative commentators for the decision to read the names. Koppel, who was embedded with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division during its drive to Baghdad last year, was widely praised by television critics for providing some of the most compelling coverage of the war.

Sinclair, based in Hunt Valley, Md., owns 62 television stations across the country. Its Web site is; its phone number is (410) 568-1500.

Viewers who want to give feedback to ABC News can call the network at (212) 456-7777 or e-mail

Now, I get the slight slant that "conservative" in its usage there is more pejorative than allied, and Koppel the latter.

And, is the email of the guy there at SBG who makes decisions.

AP on top of Bush

A few days ago, Bush threw a bit of a temper-tantrum, and the WH released a photo on their transcript designed to intimidate the AP and other reporters. There's a new poll out today by AP/Ipsos, showing Bush 45% and Kerry 44% but the quotes that AP's Lester found are something that's been absent for too long, here they are:
"If he had let a west Texas boy run that war, it would be over by now," said Robert DeWoody, a 61-year-old independent from Odessa, Texas, who supports Bush. DeWoody disputed any suggestion that Bush is a Texan. "He lived here a little while, but he doesn't have the west Texas mentality."

Count Amerilis Patillo, a 75-year-old Chicago Democrat, among those who disapprove of Bush. "I don't like what the little shrub is doing on Iraq," she said. "If the Supreme Court doesn't select Bush this time, then Kerry will get in."

The poll also found Bush's overall job approval was at 48%, with 50% disapproving, confirming the recent Pew poll that showed Bush's negatives had overcome his positive ratings-- $40 million later and he's still moving down.

Exegisis of political process

This was written and put on the DFA listserve in the waning days of the campaign in February. The guy who wrote it, Joe Costello, was one of those brought on board by Trippi late in the fall of 2003, to try and 'frame' Howard for his upcoming frontrunner experience, but no matter, Howard was Howard. Joe was replying to Jim Moore's writing, Should political libel and fraud be crimes? Jim was coming into this political experience for the first time; Joe had seen it with Jerry Brown firsthand, 12 years earlier, and offered this as we reached the end of the campaign:

The question of political libel is extremely problematic. Simply, one cannot have the government be the judge of political speech.

The biggest reason negative campaigning and innuendo works so well in this age is the complete decimation of old political structures or associations. Modern politics has become a despicable alliance of big money, powerful corporate media, and a mercenary professional political caste.

There are no longer party organizations or any political associations that vet candidates and create strong allegiances that would hold up to negative attacks.

In the old days, candidates at local and state levels were promoted through party and other political structures. They were given endorsements by these organizations and thus gained legitimacy. In most cases, the organizations had more legitimacy than any specific candidate. When attacks came, the organizations could vouch for the candidate and they could better withstand the blows.

Also, when there were actual party organizations, which stood for something, once you had the party's backing, people could better look past the human foibles because they believed the candidate stood for a larger political agenda. For example, the political association created by the Dean campaign held up against the onslaught and amazingly collected another 9 million dollars at the height of the attacks.

Today, the only initial vetting process to running for office is whether the candidate can fund their campaign. In modern campaigns, if the money can be had, a candidate can rise from relative obscurity and gain recognition. However, this recognition can be relatively thin and thus when attacked and muddied, a new candidate can quickly fall, because there is no underlying political associations to defend them or provide greater legitimacy.

Understand that John Kerry faces the same problem right now and will be open to a tremendous onslaught by Bush. This will be from both sides one of the dirtiest and foulest campaigns in American history.

Having been through the Dean campaign, everyone has also witnessed the abysmal role of the national corporate media. They believe it is their role to pick a candidate. They focus on process and scandal but not on issues. They're own vested power interests go unchecked and unbalanced.

The rotted and corrupt political process we now have has evolved over the last forty years. Its technological foundation is broadcast television. The net and other technologies allow us the opportunity to restore a healthy politics not through libel laws, but by building new information channels and creating new vibrant political associations - that's the hope, that's the challenge.
-Joe Costello

Makutano Junction Soap Opera

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

The last place most of us look to for useful information is television soap operas. But Makutano Junction, a Kenyan-produced soap opera set in the fictional town of the same name is not your average TV drama. Broadcast in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and throughout English-speaking Africa on Digital Satellite Television (DSTV), Makutano Junction doesn't deal with the evil twins, amnesia, and dark family secrets typical of U.S. daytime dramas. Instead, the show's plot lines revolve around more grounded (although not necessarily less dramatic) subjects like access to health care and education, sustainable income-generation, and citizens' rights.

Funded by the U.K. Department for International Development, produced by the Mediae Trust, and broadcast by the Kenya Broadcast Corporation, the show was originally designed as a 13-part drama in 2004. But Makutano Junction was since developed into a six-season TV phenomenon, with over 7 million viewers in Kenya alone. Its website provides all the information one might expect from a television show site, including episode summaries and character profiles. It also features "extras" on themes from specific episodes and encourages viewers to text the producers for more information.

In Episode 8 of Season 6, which aired in 2008, the character Maspeedy gets into trouble for soaking seeds. Seed soaking works by essentially tricking the seed into thinking it has been planted, allowing it to soak up in one day as much water as it would in a week in the soil. This speeds up germination and significantly shortens the time between planting and growth, leading to a vegetable harvest in a quick amount of time.

But the other characters in the show are unfamiliar with this practice and, when they discover Maspeedy's project, have him thrown in jail because they are convinced that he is brewing alcohol illegally. After some plot twists and a little slapstick humor involving two trouble-making characters who attempt to drink the water in order to get drunk, the truth comes to light and Maspeedy is released from jail. He then teaches the rest of the town the simple technique of soaking seeds to speed plant-growth time.

After the episode aired in May 2008, thousands of viewers sent texts to Mediae  requesting more information about seed-soaking techniques. These viewers were sent a pamphlet with detailed instructions on how to soak their own seeds. Follow-up calls- which were part of a study to test the effectiveness of the show's messaging- revealed that 95 percent of those who had texted for more information had found the pamphlets helpful. And 57 percent had tried out seed soaking even before the pamphlet arrived, just based on the information provided on the show. Ninety-four percent said that they had shared the information with up to five other people.

By peppering the drama-infused lives of its characters with demonstrations of agricultural practices, trips to the doctor for tuberculosis tests, and Kenyan history, Makutano Junction serves to both entertain and provide reliable information for families throughout sub-Saharan Africa. This is soap opera drama that people can actually relate to-and learn from.

To read more about innovations that use entertainment and media to alleviate poverty and hunger see: Using Digital Technology to Empower and Connect Young Farmers, Acting it out for Advocacy and Messages from One Rice Farmer to Another.

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg begin_of_the_skype_highlighti   end_of_the_skype_highlightin is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.  She has already traveled to over 19 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Benin next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.  

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on  Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates.  Please don't hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.




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