Guest post — June 7, 2013
Note from Dan: The following is by Michael Bentley of Salem and is related to previous guest posts here and here. It concerns the so-far unsuccessful efforts by some local activists to persuade WVTF to carry the radio show “Democracy Now!”
By Michael Bentley
Back in 2011 Susan Geary wrote an op-ed for The Roanoke Times on Plowshare Peace Center’s ongoing dispute with WVTF’s management about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Communication Act requirement for privately owned stations to have a community advisory board (CAB).
As a result of Plowshare’s campaign (which began in summer, 2008, with a meeting with the Rick Mattioni), the CPB’s Inspector General ruled that the station is indeed privately owned (by the Virginia Tech Foundation) and, as we have contended, only loosely “a service of Virginia Tech.” Consequently the station formed its “Friends Council,” which it assured the CPB was fully compliant with the law.
Plowshare has been represented at every FC meeting (only 2 are required/year) and has sought to have several questions answered. Plowshare members have been the only public attendees at any of these FC meetings. At the last meeting in December we asked if they had a policy about responding to letters from the listening public and were assured that they would reply to our letter of March 2012. But none of our letters, addressed to co-chairs Brenda and William Gray of Lynchburg, have yet been answered. I’m attaching the most recent one, mailed in early May.
WVTF is currently having a “mini” fund drive and still receives federal tax funds for its operations. On June 14th there will be an open hearing on WVTF’s budget at the VT Foundation meeting at 11 a.m. at Hotel Roanoke. We plan to be present as we have for the past several years (the only members of the public to attend) and again ask for answers (provided they let us speak at all).
Plowshare has been supportive of public radio and has lobbied both state and federal elected officials so that funding for public media will not be eliminated. We have encouraged the over 400 people on our mailing list to contribute to “our” public radio station.
But we are perplexed and exasperated that we can’t get a response from them or answers to our questions. There is no transparency. At the December meeting the FC members were putting on their coats and leaving when the “public comment” period of the meeting started, and at the meeting before that, there was no public comment period at all and they went into “executive session.”
Isn’t this odd behavior for a group supposedly representing the listening public? And as you know, the WVTF “empire” has expanded to cover well over half of Virginia.
Dan, you have a penchant for finding answers. We wonder if you’d lend your pen to this situation and see if you might find out the answers to the reasonable questions we’ve been asking for years (listed in the attached letter)?
Your attention is much appreciated. We all love your work!
May 3, 2013
Mr. Bill Gray & Mrs. Brenda Gray, Co-Chairs, and Members
WVTF Friends Council
c/o WVTF Public Radio
3520 Kingsbury Lane
Roanoke, VA 24014
Dear Mrs. Gray and Friends Council Members:
Plowshare Peace Center sent letters to you and the FC dated March 2, 2012 last year, and one before that with delivery confirmation on Dec. 22, 2011. At the November 29, 2012 FC meeting, which I attended, I asked about your policy on responding to listener/public queries. You answered that you would respond to our letter(s), but neither I, nor Plowshare Peace Center with its several hundred WVTF listeners, which I represent, have yet to receive any response. We believe that since your organization has a formal and representative role in an NPR affiliate that receives public funds this lack of responsiveness is troubling.
Do you acknowledge that Inspector General’s Office of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) ruled in November, 2011, that WVTF must comply with guidelines for community advisory boards (CABs)? Are you aware that those guidelines require a CAB that is representative of the Station’s listening public? Are you aware that those guidelines allow for CAB recommendations to the affiliated station on a wide range of matters, including advising on programming?
We have other questions, some of which we posed at a past FC meeting but were never answered: how were members of the FC selected? by whom and by what process? Also, what are the terms of service for members and procedures to replace those who resign or whose term expires?
We hope that this letter will finally elicit a reply to our questions and concerns. We think that this kind of information should be freely available. We plan to see you at the next FC meeting, and we hope you will allow for a public comment/question period. Will there be an opportunity to address the FC members at the next meeting before members begin leaving? Thank you for considering this request.
Chair, Public Information Committee
Plowshare Peace and Justice Center
1719 Grandin Rd., Roanoke, VA 24015
cc: Mr. Glenn Gleixner, WVTF; Mr. Larry Hincker, Virginia Tech; Mr. James Dooley, VT Foundation Office of the Inspector General, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Greg Schnirring, Vice President, Radio Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 401 Ninth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004-2129