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Public TV Hijacked by Foreign Propagandists
BY JERRY KENNEY | AUGUST 31, 2010
Imagine the shock that some viewers must have felt when they first clicked on their public TV station’s new digital sub-channels expecting to see more shows like Big Bird or Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, only to find programming more attuned to the views of Osama bin Laden and Vladimir Putin.
About 30 non-commercial TV stations around the U.S. are airing “MHz Network Worldview,” which includes programs from Al Jazeera English, the Kremlin’s “Russia Today” and other foreign state-controlled instruments of propaganda. MHz Worldview is also available in the Washington, D.C. area.
MHz Networks’ slogan is “Many voices. One world.” A non-profit entity, it is designed for “globally-minded people.”
One of the controversial programs broadcast on MHz1 WNVC-DT every Sunday is titled, “Living Islam in America,” described as “a thirty minute discussion-magazine formatted television series with a primary goal of educating the general population about the faith & culture of Islam and the burgeoning Muslim communities throughout America.”
The host, Johari Abdul Malik, is described by his supporters as an advocate of non-violence. However, the Investigative Project on Terrorism says that he supports radical and political Islamic causes. It reports, “At a 2001 conference hosted by the Islamic Association of Palestine, a now defunct propaganda branch of the Specially Designated Terrorist organization Hamas, he called for attacks against Israeli infrastructure to show Muslim displeasure with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”
Abdul-Malik said, “I am gonna teach you now. You can blow up bridges, but you cannot kill people who are innocent on their way to work. You can blow up power supplies… the water supply, you can do all forms of sabotage and let the world know that we are doing it like this because they have a respect for the lives of innocent people.”
Abdul-Malik has also been quoted as saying, “before Allah closes our eyes for the last time you will see Islam move from being the second largest religion in America—that’s where we are now—to being the first religion in America.”
American taxpayers are helping to put this material on the air whether they watch it or not.
This odd-couple arrangement with some tax-supported TV stations (not to be confused with the PBS network) has been a windfall for many foreign-propaganda machines. After years of struggling to obtain carriage on American TV outlets, some foreign governments not only get multiple hours of free national broadcast airtime each week, but as a bonus, they get a few dangerously naive souls, mostly from academia (who own many of these stations) insisting that foreign governments actually have a First Amendment right to free carriage on tax-supported public TV. Their spokespeople imply that to remove the programs would go against their affiliate agreements, constitute censorship and even violate the lofty principles of academic freedom.
I do agree that MHz Network Worldview is educational TV because the very first day that I watched it I learned that: (1) The U.S. spends too much money on intelligence gathering; (2) The U.S. is a fascist country; and (3) Harry Truman was a war criminal. Gosh, I didn’t know that!
These are examples of the propaganda being disseminated through the foreign networks carried by MHz.
One would think that the oil-rich Emir of Qatar, who bankrolled Al Jazeera, would already have enough of our petrodollars in his pockets to buy his own doggone airtime just like Rupert Murdoch did when he started Fox News Channel. If the Emir can’t find a commercial station stupid enough to air his twisted version of the world, he could always lease access on cable, just like the other infomercial kings do. That would satisfy any First Amendment concerns without forcing our great grandchildren to borrow even more money to buy airtime for him.
One station that I spoke with said that while they may not like some of MHz Networks programs, they cannot pre-empt them even if they want to.
They cite their affiliation agreement which reads: “The Station shall distribute the Program Service in full as delivered to the Station by the Network and during the time periods provided for herein, without any additions, insertions, alterations or deletions of any kind not otherwise covered in this agreement.” Some might interpret that as an “unauthorized transfer of control” of a station.
In effect, foreign propagandists have hijacked public television stations made possible by the American taxpayers.
I always thought that public TV stations adhered to production standards that put a substantial emphasis on accuracy in content. But obviously something has changed.
This has come about because the digital transition has given stations a lot more air time to fill. They find themselves with many more channels to program but unfortunately only the same paltry amount of creativity, initiative and common sense with which to do so. So, being desperately in need of filler, they turn to almost anyone with a satellite uplink and a program feed. I call it state-of-the-art technology in the service of medieval ideology.
It seems that some bureaucrat-broadcasters are willing to air almost anything knowing that no matter how misleading, irresponsible or reprehensible it may be, they can always justify it in the name of improved global understanding, academic freedom or free speech. Take your pick. That is, if they are even aware that they are airing it at all.
The very first MHz affiliate program manager that I contacted was at WDSC-TV in Daytona Beach, Florida. She appeared not to have known for nearly seven months that her station was even airing Al Jazeera English (AJE). She found out only after she received a complaint from a soldier. Apparently, they don’t even watch their own channels. After she finally did watch one episode of AJE, she concluded that it was “innocuous.”
Maybe it was the multi-million dollar studio in Washington, D.C. with anchors wearing designer suits and having proper British accents that brought her to that conclusion. Everyone knows that Jihadist propaganda can only emanate from a dusty cave somewhere in the Middle East decorated with war maps and AK-47s.
The bottom line is this: U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the distribution in the U.S. of another country’s propaganda. Period.
With regard to censorship, there is however, one country’s state-sponsored programming that iscensored by federal law. That country is the good ole US of A.
Yes, domestic broadcasting of the Voice of America’s foreign programs has been prohibited by the Smith-Mundt Act since the 1940’s. I haven’t heard MHz Networks or any of its affiliates make any effort to UNcensor VOA. Go figure.
Nine years ago, fanatical Jihadists used civilian airliners as missiles in waging their war on our form of government. Military experts call it “Asymmetric Warfare” when one foe with far fewer military resources than the other must resort to strategies that exploit the other side’s weakness and if possible use the other side’s resources against him.
Any serious warrior also knows the value of wartime propaganda and its ability to manipulate a foe’s attitude toward the war in general with the ultimate goal of lowering the other side’s will to fight.
Let’s make sure that tax-supported public TV isn’t being hijacked, too, for use as a propaganda machine.
Jerry Kenney is an independent television producer from Daytona Beach Florida, a graduate of Daytona State College, and a volunteer pilot for charity medical flights. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org