Apr 6, 2012

PBS ombudsman "senses" that Dyer pledge shows violate PBS "nonsectarian" policy

Do motivational speaker Wayne Dyer's pledge programs violate PBS's Editorial Standards and Policies to provide "nonsectarian" content? "My sense is that they do," writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. "PBS feels strongly that they do not."

In a PBS online promo for Dyer's latest, Wishes Fulfilled, he is identified as a "beloved spiritual teacher."

Getler writes that in 2009, in connection with a dispute involving five local stations (Current, April 13, 2009), the PBS Board defined sectarian content as "programming that advocates a particular religion or religious point of view." There is no definition of "nonsectarian" in PBS editorial standards adopted in June 2011, Gelter notes.

When Gelter asked John Wilson, PBS programmer, about the board's statement in regard to Dyer, Wilson responded: "PBS believes that Dr. Dyer's programs do not promote one religious viewpoint over others. That is, his programs do not advocate a particular, specific religion or a particular, specific religious point of view. Instead, his programs are motivational in nature and reflect multiple cultural, religious and non-religious philosophical traditions."

The issue for Getler, he writes, "is that the board statement in 2009 does not say: 'or a particular, specific religious point of view,' as Wilson interprets it. It says, again: 'Sectarian content includes programming that advocates a particular religion or religious point of view.' I view 'or' in that usage to mean alternatively, that programming should not advocate a religious point of view."

News organizations including NPR protest closure of hearing at Guantanamo Bay

NPR is one of 10 news organizations that filed an objection Thursday (April 5) to plans by the Pentagon to close a hearing next week on alleged mistreatment of a detainee by the CIA.

The Miami Herald, one of the signatories to the 15-page letter, posted the document online.

The objection focuses on the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, allegedly involved in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors. In a hearing set for April 11 at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, al-Nashiri's attorneys plan to argue that he shouldn’t be shackled while interviewed because it would remind him of trauma he experienced while in CIA custody. The military court has closed the hearing, citing national security reasons. The news organizations contend they should be able to view al-Nashiri’s testimony because details of his treatment have already been made public, and the military has ways to protect sensitive information.

"Failure to adopt and employ such readily available less restrictive means would not only violate the Constitution of the United States, it could undermine the credibility of, and public trust in, the proceedings of this military commission," concluded the letter.

Maine Appropriations Committee rejects elimination of pubcasting funding

Members of the Maine Legislature's Appropriations Committee late last night (April 5) unanimously rejected a proposal from Gov. Paul LePage to eliminate all $1.7 million in fiscal 2013 state funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network by July 1, the network reports.

Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta proposed an amendment, unanimously adopted, that directs the state to work with MPBN to determine costs for its emergency alert system, and requests reports from MPBN on its future plans and on how MPBN may use its bandwidth to provide other fee-based services to the state. "A plan whereby over the next five years," Katz said, "the appropriation which is provided by the state to MPBN would gradually be reduced and replaced by fee-for-service contracts to be agreed to by the parties for the kinds of services I was just talking about."

MPBN President Mark Vogelzang said the network will look at new ways to work with the state, and he is "especially pleased" that the $1.7 million is safe. "It's not all of the money we had asked for," he said, "and it's still going to be a 13 percent decline over this year into next year. So it will be a tough one, but I think we're happy."

"Magnificent Obsession" on WBEZ-FM marking 20 years

This week, host Jim Nayder is marking the 20th anniversary his show, Magnificent Obsession: True Stories of Recovery, on Chicago pubstation WBEZ-FM. Each 30-minute weekly episode presents an individual's personal battle with addiction, in his or her own words, writes Time Out Chicago media critic Bob Feder. The program grew out of interviews Nayder conducted years ago during marketing work he did to supplement his radio income, for a suburban hospital's new chemical dependency unit. "I thought writing notes might be distracting, and, being in radio, decided I would simply record the conversations on a little cassette," he said. "When I went back to the tapes for the research info, I was mesmerized by the stories these folks were sharing." He originally pitched it to the station as a 13-week documentary, and response to the first few episodes was "dramatic."

To mark the anniversary, on Sunday (April 8) Nayder is airing the first episode. "It’s special to me for many reasons," he said. "It’s a great program and story, and 'Dan,' who speaks, recently passed away. He died completely sober and lived the past 20 years happy and with a family that he was able to save and love by finding recovery. Although Dan physically is no longer with us, his voice, story and help to others live on. I thought, what better way to celebrate?"