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Friday, November 10, 2006

Too close to that old Army home?

Note: Copperas Cove Leader-Press correspondent Paul Gately wrote the following story over the squabble around the Killeen-based PBS station's problem with running a story on the local Congressional race and its relation to the war in Iraq. It provides some insight into living and working around a huge U.S. military installation like Fort Hood.

Carter defeated challenger Harrell to retain his seat, his third 2-year term, on Tuesday.

More from the Copperas Cove Leader-Press can be seen online at www.coveleaderpress.com.


From the Nov. 7, 2006 edition

KNCT reverses blackout decision

By PAUL J. GATELY
Leader-Press correspondent
GATESVILLE – It took less than 48 hours for policy makers at KNCT-TV in Killeen to reverse a decision to eliminate a news program from Friday night’s line up and re-schedule the local broadcast of “Now” for Monday night.
The particular program was a look at the U.S. Congressional District that includes Fort Hood and Copperas Cove – the 31st Texas Congressional District, and the two candidates who are running for the seat.
Citing a fear of unfairness to one candidate or the other, KCNT Station Manager Max Rudolph and Central Texas College President James Anderson decided to pre-empt the scheduled airing and delete the program from the run list.
KNCT’s station manager and college officials decided not to air the program late Friday when they were unable to obtain a copy of the program for review prior to airtime. The purpose of the review was to ensure fair and balanced coverage for all candidates in this local race.
But a groundswell of opposition that came immediately from citizens in the area prompted Mary Beth Harrell, the Democratic candidate for the job, to seek an answer as to why the program was cancelled. The effort resulted in a Saturday news conference at CTC’s KNCT studio and coverage of the issue to the point that Rudolph reversed his original decision on Sunday and rescheduled the program for Monday night.
Station and college officials viewed the show online late Saturday and subsequently scheduled the show to air Monday evening.
“Max cancelled the program because we didn’t know if it was fair and balanced,” said Barbara Merlo, community affairs spokeswoman for KNCT.
“They (PBS) didn’t notify us it was going to run and they didn’t notify us when they came down here to shoot the program,” Merlo said. “We just didn’t want the program to influence the local congressional race.”
If that was the intent – it backfired.
“We didn’t intend to have any impact on the election, but unfortunately the Mary Beth Harrell campaign has used this to their advantage. We certainly didn’t anticipate this degree of response form the public and I don’t know if we would have made the same decision if we had,” Merlo said.
“I’ve never gotten a realistic answer about why they cancelled the show in the first place,” Harrell said on Monday. “It wasn’t a story about politics in the first place. It was a story about Central Texas, Fort Hood and the soldiers who live here who are fighting in Iraq. I just thought it was a real shame that the very people the show was about weren’t able to see it.”
To say they were not aware of the program and its content somewhat falls back on KNCT, others in the business say. The President and Chief Executive Officer for KWBU, the PBS station in Waco, said her programmers are notified of content on “Now” as much as 14 days before a particular show airs and then again one week out. As well, the entire program was available on the Internet. In fact, Merlo said Rudolph viewed the program on Saturday via the PBS website.
“If we did receive that, I’m not aware of it,” Merlo said.
The PBS-Now website (PBS.org) clearly states the show’s content and purpose: “With less than a week to go before the election, it’s clear no single issue will have more impact than the war in Iraq. This week NOW goes to one of the most pro-military districts in the country – the Texas 31st – to see how people deeply affected by our presence in Iraq might vote next Tuesday.
“This conservative district is home to Fort Hood, the largest active duty army base in America, and almost everyone living there has a personal connection to the war. Since the war began, Fort Hood has sent tens of thousands of young men and women to fight in Iraq.”
Despite the district’s support for the military, Democrat Mary Beth Harrell, is trying to win a seat in Congress with a campaign strongly critical of President Bush’s war policy.
“The civilian leadership, this administration, this rubber stamp Congress, has failed our troops, and failed our community, and failed our country,” Harrell told ‘Now’.
“She is challenging the pro-war Republican incumbent, Congressman John Carter, who argues that the war is vital to protecting America from terrorists. Matt McAdoo, a 26-year-old libertarian candidate, is also in the running. He believes U.S. troops in Iraq should ‘pack up and leave.’”
Merlo said after viewing the program, Rudolph decided it was fair and balanced and did need to air for the sake of the viewing public.
“There should never have been a question,” said Polly Anderson, of KWBU. “This is PBS. It is our job to serve the public and airing programs like “Now” is one way we do it.”
Cursory checks with PBS stations in Waco, Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Amarillo indicated the program aired in its original time slot last Friday.
“I found nothing offensive about it. That’s a personal opinion, of course,” Anderson said.
And in the long run, both the other Congressional candidates say they approved of the show’s content, as well.
“We’ve heard Congressman Carter and Mr. McAdoo both thought the program was good and had no problems with it,” Merlo said.

1 Comments:

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Michael Robinson said...

Oops!

 

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