Skip to comments.Two sides of the dial tackle war- Talk radio stations air opposing views (Houston, 501C3 violation?)
Posted on 03/10/2003 3:36:54 AM PST by weegee
Two sides of the dial tackle war
Talk radio stations air opposing views
By ALLAN TURNER
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle It's hard to think of Montrose's somnolent, tree-lined Lovett Boulevard as a political war zone. But with the United States eyeball-to-eyeball with Iraq, the street has become Houston's ideological ground zero -- home to radio stations that have become broadcast bastions for the pacifist left and the hawkish right.
Separated by less than a city block, KPFT-FM, a listener-supported champion of "progressive" causes, and KPRC-AM, a heavyweight of right-wing talk programming, have marshalled thousands for rallies and marches that aired views on war with Iraq.
Though they maintain a cordial collegiality, the stations are at odds by their very nature.
At KPFT, one of six Pacifica stations nationwide, political passion trumps profit. The station formally has editorialized against U.S. intervention in Iraq and has moved news and commentary into prime-time slots. Weekly listenership approaches 158,000.
KPRC, one of eight Houston stations of the Clear Channel Communications megachain, officially is neutral. But its two talk-show hosts, Pat Gray and Chris Baker, conservatives in the Rush Limbaugh mold, have boosted the station to a No. 2 ranking in the local AM market. As a commercial station, its passion is profit.
Media observers say the stations probably don't persuade many listeners to change their opinions, but they definitely solidify views already held. They credit talk shows with uniting the Republican Party, and note that the Democratic Party desperately is seeking to exploit the formula.
"It's more like preaching to the choir," Garth Jowett, director of the University of Houston's School of Communication, said of advocacy broadcasting. Only 15 to 20 percent of listeners, he said, likely would consider changing their views.
"People naturally tend to seek out opinions they agree with," added David Donnelly, a former UH professor who now is associate dean of the communications school at Qunnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. "People obviously for the war will listen to the stations, to the programs that reinforce their opinions. The same thing applies to those who oppose the war. They'll filter their information.
"If you feel your opinions are correct and have like-minded people talking about them, you'd be in a position where you feel validated. You'd feel righter than right."
One danger in partisan broadcasting, Jowett said, is that it can distort through misinformation or deliberate "disinformation" and become propaganda.
"One of the purposes of propaganda is to elicit an actual action from an audience, whether it's votes, purchasing a product or getting off their (rear) to go out and parade yourself around," Jowett said. "It's a neutral technique -- good or evil depending on the perspective of your audience."
While KPFT acts as a clearinghouse for anti-war information -- the first Pacifica station was founded in 1949 by World War II pacifist Lewis Hill -- it has taken a back seat sponsoring peace rallies. At the same time, the line between the station and its audience is thin.
"The way we've used it, it's a community radio station," said Diane Bulanowski, spokeswoman for the Houston Coalition for Justice Not War, which co-sponsored a rally Sunday in Hermann Park. "I can go into KPFT, sign up for studio time and make a public service announcement for a rally, march or other antiwar event. Without the announcements it would be hard to get the types of crowds we've been seeing recently."
She said about 3,000 people attended a Feb. 15 peace rally at Eleanor Tinsley Park.
Roughly 10,000 people last Saturday attended a KPRC-sponsored "Rally for America" at downtown's Jones Plaza. Although the event was promoted as nonpartisan, it quickly became a pep rally for President Bush and his policy toward Iraq.
Pro-Bush, pro-war speakers included House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land; House Deputy Whip Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands; and City Councilman Michael Berry. The only war opponent to speak, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, was greeted with boos and shouted down with chants of "USA! USA! USA!"
Both stations posted rally photos on their Web sites. On KPRC's, red, white and blue prevails, with rally participants waving some of the 2,500 American flags the station gave away. On KPFT's, protesters hoist a huge American flag whose stars have been replaced with corporate logos.
A request for interviews with talk-show hosts Gray and Baker, who were emcees at the patriotic rally, was instead directed to Ken Charles, who is Clear Channel Communications' regional vice president for programming.
Charles described the rally as "cathartic," saying it provided a nonpartisan venue for people to express patriotism. A number of war critics were invited, he said, but only Lee appeared. "She has a lot of guts," he said. "She walked into a lion's den."
Charles, who is responsible for KPRC's day-to-day programming, said the station is "gender-neutral when it comes to politics."
"We aren't Republican, we aren't Democrat, we don't do station editorials," he said.
Unlike its sister station, all-news KTRH, KPRC is devoted to talk and commentary. That its talk-show hosts are conservative, Charles said, is a reflection that conservative talk sells. Liberal shows, though initially popular, he said, eventually foundered on the shoals of "lecture radio."
Both Jowett and Donnelly expressed concern over the stridency of talk radio, but Jowett noted that the hazards inherent in the talk format also could apply to the partisanship of KPFT.
Talk radio "fundamentally has altered the way our society communicates," Jowett said. Although the format sometimes is described as a modern town hall meeting, there are significant differences, he said.
First, talk radio can reach millions of dissimilar individuals all the time.
"A man in 18th-century America, how often would he hear a speech? Two or three times a year if he was lucky," Jowett said. "Now people are exposed to two or three hours a day."
The great negative of talk radio is its inflammatory nature, Jowett said.
"They use humor and sarcasm as part of their arsenal," Donnelly added. "You think about Limbaugh's `feminazi.' When you do that, you create this wide category and stereotype that make it easier for people to dismiss the alternative perspective. You're going beyond telling jokes. There's cruelty -- that's part of talk radio."
KPRC's Charles responded that, "I can't sit in there every moment of every day, hold their hands and be a morality watchdog."
"I trust those guys to know where the line is," he said. "When I see a host getting near that line, or on that line, or crossing that line, my responsibility is to walk in there and correct whatever it is. I would never allow a host to be critical of someone for race or gender or sexuality."
"Let's be honest," he added. "If people didn't enjoy talk radio, they would vote with their dials and turn it off."
By contrast, said Jowett, a self-described liberal, KPFT represents a "lonely outpost."
"There are at least five talk-show stations, with nuances in their level of conservatism," he said. "But the fact is the KPFT audience doesn't find an outlet anywhere else."
KPFT station manager Duane Bradley agreed, calling his station "a voice for the voiceless."
Bradley, who assumed his position 13 months ago after a bitter internecine battle over Pacifica's program content was resolved in favor of program purists, said he has attempted to return KPFT to its original mission as an "educational station."
Previous management had moved away from commentary and news in favor of audience-grabbing music. Now, the station broadcasts "Peace Watch" daily at 5 p.m., having moved it from the 11 p.m. slot despite the possible loss of drive-time listenership.
Other programs include "Free Speech Radio News," commentator Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," and locally produced news programs.
Typical of the level of community service Bradley hopes to provide was KPFT's 1987 decision to broadcast the Iran-Contra hearings in their entirety.
"I think radio can be background noise in many cases," Bradley said. "It gets you through your office day comfortably -- a commercial radio version of Muzak."
KPFT is a part of the California based Pacifica Network. In recent history there was a coup that overtook the station and increased the political activism and programming on air (away from local and syndicated music programming). Some FReepers have expressed concern when I say that KPFT's tax status needs to be examined by the IRS because they like some of the music programming (so do I, I have friends on the air on music programs there) but their activism may be in violation of their 501c3 exemption:
KPFT - ABOUT - FAQ - Who Owns KPFT?
KPFT is licensed to the Pacifica Foundation. Pacifica was founded by Lew Hill in 1949 and pioneered the concept of listener-supported radio as an alternative to the market-driven media of the time. Pacifica's programming is not supported or controlled by advertisers. The Pacifica Foundation is a non-profit corporation and is an IRS 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.
To be tax-exempt as an organization described in IRC Section 501(c)(3) of the Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the purposes set forth in IRC Section 501(c)(3) and none of the earnings of the organization may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate at all in campaign activity for or against political candidates.
The organizations described in IRC Section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to under the general heading of "charitable organizations." Organizations described in IRC Section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with IRC Section 170.
The exempt purposes set forth in IRC Section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening of neighborhood tensions; elimination of prejudice and discrimination; defense of human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.
To be organized exclusively for a charitable purpose, the organization must be a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation. A charitable trust is a fund or foundation and will qualify. However, an individual or a partnership will not qualify. The articles of organization must limit the organization's purposes to one or more of the exempt purposes set forth in IRC Section 501(c)(3) and must not expressly empower it to engage, other than as an insubstantial part of its activities, in activities that are not in furtherance of one or more of those purposes. This requirement may be met if the purposes stated in the articles of organization are limited in some way by reference to IRC Section 501(c)(3). In addition, assets of an organization must be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose. This means that should an organization dissolve, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose described in this chapter, or to the federal government or to a state or local government for a public purpose. To establish that an organization's assets will be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose, the articles of organization should contain a provision insuring their distribution for an exempt purpose in the event of dissolution. Although reliance may be placed upon state law to establish permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes, an organization's application can be processed by the IRS more rapidly if its articles of organization include a provision insuring permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes. For examples of provisions that meet these requirements, download Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.
An organization will be regarded as "operated exclusively" for one or more exempt purposes only if it engages primarily in activities which accomplish one or more of the exempt purposes specified in IRC Section 501(c)(3). An organization will not be so regarded if more than an insubstantial part of its activities is not in furtherance of an exempt purpose. For more information concerning types of charitable organizations and their activities, download Publication 557.
The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator's family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests. No part of the net earnings of an IRC Section 501(c)(3) organization may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. A private shareholder or individual is a person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any managers agreeing to the transaction.
An IRC Section 501(c)(3) organization may not engage in carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities. Whether an organization has attempted to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities is determined based upon all relevant facts and circumstances. However, most IRC Section 501(c)(3) organizations may use Form 5768, Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization to Make Expenditures to Influence Legislation, to make an election under IRC Section 501(h) to be subject to an objectively measured expenditure test with respect to lobbying activities rather than the less precise "substantial activity" test. Electing organizations are subject to tax on lobbying activities that exceed a specified percentage of their exempt function expenditures. For further information regarding lobbying activities by charities, download Lobbying Issues.
For purposes of IRC Section 501(c)(3), legislative activities and political activities are two different things, and are subject to two different sets of rules. The latter is an absolute bar. An IRC Section 501(c)(3) organization may not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. Whether an organization is engaging in prohibited political campaign activity depends upon all the facts and circumstances in each case. For example, organizations may sponsor debates or forums to educate voters. But if the forum or debate shows a preference for or against a certain candidate, it becomes a prohibited activity. The motivation of an organization is not relevant in determining whether the political campaign prohibition has been violated. Activities that encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate, even on the basis of non-partisan criteria, violate the political campaign prohibition of IRC Section 501(c)(3). See the FY-2002 CPE topic entitled Election Year Issues for further information regarding political activities of charities.
Do the hours and hours of Noam Chomsky speeches, Amy Goodman's "Democracy" Now!, and Michael Moore rallies violate this?
Pacifica received $1.3 million tax dollars to broadcast their ultra-left propaganda.
Drango: Strange, the article deliberately seems to ignore the fact that KPFT is a "Public Broadcasting " station!
Actually, though I'm not all that familiar with the "public" station business, I believe that you may be thinking of KUHF, which I am sure is a public broadcasting station and receives a large part of it's support from the taxpayer supported, Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I am not aware of any such support that KPFT receives from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, though I do know that as a 501c3, they do receive millions in tax breaks. Please post whatever info you do have in this area, as I'm sure that others on FR are similarly interested.
Illbay: I don't really enjoy KPRC's local talk hosts, Gray and Baker. They just aren't real sharp on their facts, and they seem to be more intent on fomenting controversy than actually discussing and informing.
Agreed. Actually, I must admit that I don't have that much experience listening to either of them. In fact, I only learned that KPRC had swung back toward the conservative side, when I read on FR a few weeks ago, about the KPRC sponsored rally downtown. Since then, I have listened to each of them several times. But based on what I have heard so far, I must agree with you, that they are more into fomenting controversy, than getting their facts right.
Personally, I like King Jon (Matthews) on KSEV the most, with Mike Richards as a close second. Jon is just a little more entertaining and isn't quite as prone as Mike, to go off evangelizing on some subject that just detracts from the real issue (not that Mike is guilty of that very often). Mike, though not as entertaining, is somewhat better informed. I just find Jon's style more congenial and persuasive.
On the other hand, I would rather listen to the wackos at KPFT, than listen to Dan (holier than thou) Patrick. I appreciate the fact that he has been saved. I have been saved. But, I somehow think that he would be a much better advocate for conservatism if he had grown up in his religion. The most vehement anti-smoking advocates are not people like me, who have never smoked and hate the smell, but reformed smokers. The most vehement anti-drinking, anti-drug and anti-anything-else advocates, are former alcoholics, addicts, etc. And unfortunately, the most vehement promoters of religious causes are not those who grew up in their religion, but those who turned their lives around later in life. This isn't always the case. But, it's like a pendulum. They seem to convert their former excesses in materialism to excesses in promoting their new found faith. Although I personally appreciate their desire to share their long awaited discovery, I can tell you from a half century of experience, that such pushiness only serves to alienate most people who have not yet been saved. When overly ardent people like Dan are given a large public forum, it only serves to turn away those who might otherwise be on the fence and leaning our direction. It's not that I disagree with him. I don't. I just don't want to add my support to his excessive way of presenting those points and thus, be party to driving away those few who may be about to achieve enlightenment.
Drango: Strange, the article deliberately seems to ignore the fact that KPFT is a "Public Broadcasting " station!
Actually, though I'm not all that familiar with the "public" station business, I believe that you may be thinking of KUHF, which I am sure is a public broadcasting station and receives a large part of it's support from the taxpayer supported, Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I am not aware of any such support that KPFT receives from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, ... Please post whatever info you do have in this area, as I'm sure that others on FR are similarly interested.
Another decent radio host is Michael Harris on mornings on 1430AM KCOH (Houston's oldest black owned radio station). The man who hosts the show is conservative on a number of issues (and in his support of George W. Bush and his administration) and he gets taken to task for it by some of his callers (but the opposition is much more respectful of this host than they are of Dan Patrick or Jon Matthews).
AIR PERSONALITY / NEWS DIRECTOR Michael Lawerence Harris has been a part of Houston radio since 1972, and a member of the KCOH radio team since 1974. As the host of KCOH's "Person To Person" for more then 20 years, Michael has never been one to avoid the controversial, a stance that has earned respect and popularity across the United States. He serves as the station's News Director and hosts the popular "Gospel Melody Time", named in honor of Rev. W. Leo Daniels and Mrs. Nevarro Harris Daniels, Michael's aunt and uncle. Michael was selected Houston's "TOP JOCK" in an area wide competition sponsored by the Houston Chronicle. He has been recognized and named Best Talk Show Host by the Houston Press newspaper, a Man on the Move, and a Houston Black Achiever. Awards and honors recieved include the Havanah Award from the Houston chapter of the American Jewish Committee, the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from the NAACP, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Houston Black Alumni Association. He has been part of an overseas media fact finding tour to Isreal, and served on a Justice Department panel studying Black/Asian race relations in Washington D.C. Most of Michael's latest honors are related to his work toward racial unity and understanding. The program "Inside 11" co-hosted and co-created by Harris, won the first NAACP Image Award. Harris was born in Galveston, TX in 1952. Due to his mother's illness, Michael and his brother lived with their grandparents in the small deep east Texas community of Shady Grove Gary. He attended the University of Houston from the fall of 1969 thru the spring of 1973 majoring in Radio and Television. He worked in Scholarships and Financial Aid, was a founding member of the UH Crescendo's and was a member of the Black Student Union. He and his family live in Woodforest West. He attends the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ pastored by his long time friend, Heavyweight Boxing Champion George Foreman. He continues to work with many charitable projects within the Houston Community.
Govenor Rick Perry at the KCOH Radio Station with Michael Harris. Govenor Perry is the the first sitting governor to appear on "Person to Person", answering phone in calls from KCOH listeners.
Michael begins each day at 5:30 AM with the best of modern and classic black gospel music. KCOH "Gospel Melody Time" with Michael Harris inspires, enlightens and entertains until 8 AM. Then it's time to talk.
I have not listened to the show much of late although I have turned it on. I couldn't tell you his current position on the war but I was not hearing a lot of antiwar rhetoric when I did turn it on last month.
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