Reed Irvine Editor
|February A, 1975|
CBS and RCA (NBC) have lost their appeals to the Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to omit resolutions proposed by AIM from the proxy material to be sent out to all their shareholders.
This is a major victory for all AIM supporters. This means that every shareholder of these two large corporations will have an opportunity to read and vote on the resolutions we have proposed. For the first time in history, we believe, the shareholders will have an opportunity to do something positive to improve the fairness and accuracy of network news programing by simply casting a vote.
Since the shareholders of these corporations are not accustomed to being asked to vote on such important issues, there is a danger that many of them will not read the proxy material carefully and will not take advantage of this great opportunity. What we must do now is bring our resolutions to the attention of the shareholders and persuade them to give us their support. You can help. We will explain how at the end of this article.
The resolution AIM proposed to CBS reads as follows:
RESOLVED: THAT THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF CBS, INC. SHOULD TAKE SERIOUS NOTE OF THE COMPELLING NEED TO ESTABLISH A COMMITTEE OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY TO DEAL WITH CHARGES OF UNFAIRNESS IN PROGRAMMING BY CBS NEWS.
The SEC rejected all of the arguments advanced bv CBS for denying AIM's request that the above resolution be sent out to all shareholders. The Commission noted that the resolution was advisory, not mandatory, and that the directors would not be legally obligated to carry out the resolution even if it received the support of a majority of the shareholders. (While the shareholders can vote the directors in or out. they have very limited legal authority to tell the directors what to do). However, if a majority of The shareholders support the resolution, it will not be easy for CBS to ignore their wishes completely.
The Commission rejected the CBS contention that the resolution represented interference by the shareholders in the conduct of the corporation's ordinary business operations. The Commission said that to set up a committee to examine a particular area of the company's business and issue a report is a matter of business policy and this is a legitimate proposal for the shareholders to make.
The Coinmission recommended that two minor amendments be made to our resolution. These provided for some limitation on the scope of the investigation to be made and for limitations of the expenditures of the proposed committee to reasonable amounts. We have submitted a revision to CBS to include these suggested changes.
The resolution AIM submitted to RCA has been modified somewhat. The SEC insisted that we take out language that was critical of one-sided and misleading programing by NBC. As amended, the resolution reads:
1. WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission has found that NBC, a subsidiary of RCA, had violated the fairness doctrine by presenting a one-sided treatment of private pension plans in America and NBC has appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals where the matter is now pending,
2. WHEREAS, NBC has chosen to devote large amounts of corporate funds to appealing this adverse ruling to the courts,
RESOLVED: THAT THE SHAREHOLDERS ASK THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF RCA TO TAKE SERIOUS NOTE OF THEIR WISH THAT NBC BE REQUIRED TO EMPLOY AN OMBUDSMAN, OR IN-HOUSE CRITIC. WHO WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR REVIEWING NBC'S PERFORMANCE IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROGRAMMING WITH A VIEW TO INSURING FAIRNESS AND BALANCE. AS WELL AS STRICT ACCURACY, IN THE PRESENTATION OF NEWS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS DOCUMENTARIES.
We were not permitted to say that NBC had frequently aired one-sided programs and that this was contrary to the public interest and to the best interests of the corporation. This may make it more difficult for some shareholders to understand why we are pushing this resolution. We must therefore do all that we can to publicize these resolutions and enlist shareholder support for them. We cannot rely just on the material that will be sent to the shareholders by RCA and CBS.
1. We have had some response to our request that supporters tell us if they own CBS or RCA stock, and we want you to redouble your efforts to put shareholders in touch with AIM.
2. We have decided that it would be highly desirable to carry out a campaign for support of our resolutions by taking ads in the financial press. We would like to buy space in such papers as The Wall Street Journal to inform shareholders of our resolutions and to urge that they vote for them. This will require several thousand dollars. If you agree with us that a heavy shareholder vote in favor of our resolutions would be one of the best things that could happen to television, then please send in a generous contribution to enable us to fight this campaign. Contributions should be sent to AIM, 777 14th St., N.W., Washington. D.C. 20005. They are tax-deductible.
3. We have a petition addressed to Mr. William S. Paley, Chairman of the Board of CBS, 51 West 52nd Street, New York 10019, asking him to accept the AIM resolution. You may wish to write to Mr. Paley personally to make this request. Or you may wish to circulate a copy of our petition for more signatures. We will gladly send you a copy.
4. If you own or can acquire even a single share of stock in CBS or RCA, plan to attend the annual meetings of these companies. The AIM resolutions will be moved and debated at these meetings. CBS will hold its meeting in Boston on April 16. RCA holds its meeting in New York on May 6.
Several supporters have asked how they can get a share of RCA or CBS stock. We will sell single shares at cost to us, as an accommodation. Check the price in the paper or with a broker and send us that amount plus 10 per cent. If the cost to us is less. we will return the balance. If it is more. because prices rise, we will bill you for the extra cost. As we go to press. RCA is S13 and CBS $38 a share.
On February 5, 1975, papers throughout the country carried an AP story reporting that the National News Council had upheld AIM's complaint that a Jack Anderson column called "The Torture Graduates" was biased and inaccurate.
We are pleased that the National News Council, which is headed by Stanley H. Fuld, a former chief judge of the State of New York, and is funded by large liberal foundations, agreed with AIM in this case. We had sent letters pointing out the gross distortion in the Anderson column to 400 newspapers last September, and many of them had printed our letter as a correction.
The AP story about the National News Councils' affirmation of our charge was suppressed by many papers that should have carried it. The New York Times did not see fit to tell its readers about this rebuke to a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who is frequently in the news. AIM placed several long-distance calls to The Times about this. We learned that the editors decided that since they did not carry the Anderson column, they had no obligation to publicize the fact that he had been caught in a deliberate distortion.
AIM wrote to the Chairman and President of The Times, Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. about this serious omission. We pointed out that Anderson makes news with his sensational charges, and that the finding by AIM and the National News Council was an important commentary on his credibility.
In a reply dated February 12, Mr. Sulzberger acknowledged that The Times had not carried the story, noting that they had also not reported the News Council's rejection of a complaint against The Times. Mr. Sulzberger said: "I am sure you know my philosophy on any National Press Council-that it is a useless organization. I can only assume that the editors agreed with me."
It is interesting that a paper which is quick to report on the misdeeds of public officials, businessmen, professionals and nearly anyone else, takes the position that any organization that investigates and exposes the misdeeds of journalists is "useless" and that its findings do not deserve to be reported to the public. How does this square with a question Mr. Sulzberger posed in a speech he gave a year ago when he asked: "Do we heed criticism and report it?"
This story was also ignored by The Washington Post on Februaw 5. AIM quickly called the omission to thle attention of The Post's ombudsman, who agreed that it should be published. The Post carried the story on page 3 the following day. This shows the value of the ombudsman, an in-house press critic who believes that newspapers should heed criticism and report it.
Stung by the blow to his credibility, Jack Anderson published a reply to the National News Council in his column. His main defense was that he and his staff had spent many months investigating the International Police Academy, "including the trainees attitudes toward torture." He compared this with the statement that the Associate Director of the National News Council had spent the better part of a day going over the relevant papers at the Academy.
ACCURACY IN MEDIA, INC. is a non-profit, educational organization. Gifts and contributions are tax deductible. Francis G. Wilson, President, John R. Van Evera, Executive Secretary. Subscription for the AIM Report $3.00 per year.
AIM has found that Anderson's people spent only five hours at the Academy going over some 55 papers written by trainees. Many of the papers were written in hand and in foreign languages, making for slow going. Anderson used quotations from only six of these papers.
To determine whether those quotes were taken out of context, the National News Council had to examine only those six papers. One can obviously make a far more thorough check of six papers in five hours than of 55 papers.
In a letter to papers that carry the Jack Anderson column, AIM pointed out that examination of the papers at the International Police Academy by his aides had to be superficial, given the time allotted to it. Noting that Anderson had also relied on an endorsement of his column by Senator James Abourezk, Mr. Irvine pointed out that Senator Abourezk had led the drive to kill the International Police Academy. Anderson's column had been a big assist for him. He had reason to be grateful to Anderson for his help.
Mr. Irvine concluded: "Anderson's distortions helped kill the international Police Academy. The public should take note of the methods he used."
The Washington Post FEBRUARY 6, 1975
The January AIM Report discussed the news media's whitewash of Fidel Castro and his continuing efforts to promote violent subversion throughout the Western Hemisphere, including the United States.
We have since received letters from both CBS and The New York Times in response to questions we had raised about their coverage of Castro and Cuba.
Mr. Sulzberger, the Chairman of The New York Times, informed us that he had been unable to find out why his paper had not reported that the Uruguayan and Chilean ambassadors to the Organization of American States had documented continued Cuban support for violent subversives in their countries.
The readers of The Times are still uninformed on this point.
Our questions to CBS about Dan Rather's October 22 interview with Fidel Castro brought a lengthy response from Robert Chandler, a CBS News vice president. We had pointed out that Dan Rather had said nothing about Castro's continuing support of terrorist and subversive movements in other countries. Rather had implied that this was past history, having ended, perhaps, when Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia. "Now Castro talks more of conciliation and trade." Rather said.
We asked CBS why they had omitted Castro's statement that he had aided revolutionaries in other countries as much as he had been able to and that an essential requirement for his support was that the revolutionaries be fighting. We pointed out that this clearcut affirmation of support for violent subversives in other countries was in the taped interview that CBS had acquired from Frank Mankiewiez. There was nothing ambiguous about it, and it was certainly newsworthy. It was entirely contrary to the impression left by Dan Rather's own description of Castro's attitude on this subject.
Here is how CBS News responded to this question.
We did use the following statements by Castro relative to his support of revolutionary activities: "And I believe that to make a revolution you need the people, and force is also needed, and power is needed, the power of arms is needed... What I already told you in, the first part of this interview is that I consider that the force of arms is needed to carry on a revolution under the conditions of our Latin American peoples... If a revolutionary process is to be carried out without the support of arms, then it does not march forward."
This statement by Castro had absolutely nothing to do with the question of his support for violent subversives in other countries. It was made in response to a question from Rather about the experience of Allende in Chile and the possibility of bringing into existence a "social reform government" through the electoral process. In his answer, Castro cited the examples of Peru and Panama, where left-wing governments are able to retain power because they control the armed forces. CBS omitted those illustrations in the passage quoted (as indicated by three dots), because they make it clear that Castro was not talking about his support of subversion, but about the need of revolutionaries to get control of the military forces in their countries.
Evidently CBS cannot explain the omission from its program of Castro's declaration of support for violent subversive movements in other countries. This is a prime example of advocacy journalism. CBS had a highly newsworthy statement by Castro, reaffirming in categorical terms that he had supported and would continue to support revolutionaries in neighboring countries, provided they were fighting. This was highly relevant to the debate then going on about the lifting of sanctions against Cuba. Those sanctions had been imposed ten years earlier precisely because of this policy of Castro's.
Instead of informing the American people that Castro had not changed his policy, letting them hear it from his own lips, CBS censored Castro. Knowing that Castro was still helping those dedicated to violent overthrow of other governments, Dan Rather falsely implied that this was all past history and that Castro had switched to talking of "conciliation and trade."
Mr. Chandler, in his letter to AIM, said that by presenting this program and updating American audiences on Cuba, CBS News had performed a "useful public service." He said: "At CBS News we regard such news programming as journalistically sound and essential to the functioning of our nation's participatory' democracy."
Mr. Chandler did not tell us how participatory democracy was aided by censoring an important statement by Castro bearing on an issue currently being debated and substituting words that conveyed a diametrically opposite impression.
In our letter to CBS criticizing the Rather program, we focused to a large degree on the picture of Cuba presented in the program. We contrasted what Rather said with what had been said about Cuba in a 1970 CBS documentary and an October 21, 1974 WCBS-TV documentary. WCBS is a CBS-owned station in New York City. The WCBS report was made by their correspondent, Jim Jensen, who had gone to Cuba with Senator Javits and Senator Pell in September 1974.
Both the Jensen broadcast and the earlier CBS program pictured Havana as a drab, shabby city, where consumer goods were in very short supply. They pointed out that long lines of people form before the stores to buy the scant supplies. They both discussed the meagerness of the rations. In 1970, CBS had said that the meat ration was limited to 3/4 of a pound per person per week. Jensen put the ration at 2 1/4 lbs. per person per month (a little more than 1/2 lb. per week). Jensen said that each person was limited to 6 lbs. of rice and 15 eggs a month. Both Jensen and the 1970 program noted that even tobacco was severely rationed and that women had to make most of their own clothes, since clothing was rationed also.
In contrast to this graphic portrayal of the shortages of consumer goods. Dan Rather said only this:
What is not a showcase are the shortages. No newspapers or magazines, other than those published under Government control. A shortage of variety in books in the book stores, and some shortages in basic consumer goods. In general, people look reasonably well-clothed and well-fed, but many items are rationed-meat, for example, and milk. The rationing does appear to be more an inconvenience than a hardship.
CBS in commenting on this criticism said: "Mr. Rather specifically dealt with the facts of shortages and rationing, referring to meat and milk; obviously if there are shortages and rationing, then it is axiomatic that the allowances in a given time are bound to be small and it is certainly not misleading if examples are not mentioned. The question of whether waiting in line is a hardship or an inconvenience is best left to the observer."
CBS would have us believe that it is impossible to distinguish between slim and generous rations. But Dan Rather had said that the rationing appeared to be more of an inconvenience than a hardship, which suggests that the rations themselves were quite adequate. Not many Americans would consider being limited to 2 1/4 lbs. of meat and 15 eggs a month as merely an inconvenience. Obviously the audience is better served if provided with the actual figures, not with Mr. Rather's questionable judgment about the adequacy of the rations.
In its 1970 program, CBS suggested that members of the Communist party were a privileged class in Cuba. They suggested that they were not short of consumer goods and that 1975 new Alfa Romeo automobiles had been purchased for the use of officials while ordinary, citizens had to struggle to keep ancient, disintegrating cars running. Jim Jensen also mentioned the Alfa Romeos used by the privileged officials and noted the contrast between these cars and the ancient cars used by others. Dan Rather made no mention of this departure from egalitarianism.
CBS did not explain this omission, observing only that the old cars on the streets did appear on their new film.
In his interview vrith Fidel Castro. Dan Rather was on his good behavior. He was not the tiger that he frequently was when questioning the President of the United States. He did raise the embarrassing subject of political prisoners, but he did not pursue it when Castro said that 80 per cent of his political prisoners had been freed, but that the time had not come to free the others. He did not ask to see these men and women, nor did he ask why Castro did not permit them to have visits from the Red Cross or Amnesty International.
When Castro moralized about Watergate, Rather did not point out the irony of such comments on the part of a dictator who permits no opposition press, no opposition party and who maintains an organization of spies that reaches into every neighborhood.
When Castro made false statements about the United States and Chile, Rather did not challenge or correct him. For example, Castro was shown saying this:
Actually Allende was very respectful of parliament. He was very respectful of the opposition parties, and was very respectful of the opposition press and of the constitution and the laws. It is absolutely false and absolutely baseless that Allende tried to destroy the opposition parties, that Allende tried to destroy the opposition press, and that Allende tried to destroy parliament. I knew Allende very well, and I can assure you that Allende scrupulously respected the law, the constitution and the institutions of Chile.
We pointed out that CBS could have simply referred to the August 1974 AIM Report to refute that Castro lie. There we pointed out that on August 22, 1973, the Chilean House of Deputies overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring that the Allende Government was guilty of the most serious constitutional violations, having the goal of establishing a totalitarian system absolutely opposed to the democratic system established by the Chilean constitution.
Of course, if CBS had been rude to Castro, they would not have been invited back to Cuba. But it is shameful that a proud organization of the stature of CBS should demean itself with such a sycophantic posture before a totalitarian dictator.
Dan Rather said he was. He said that 650,000 people had fled "because they could not live under what they insist is his economic and political tyranny." He added that his impression was "that among those Cubans who remain Castro is overwhehningly popular."
AIM pointed out to CBS that in the 1970 documentary, they had said that 650,000 had fled Cuba and that an estimated 500,000 wanted to leave, despite terrible obstacles placed in their way. Rather had nothing to say about any such large number of people who might still want to leave. Apparently disaffection and the desire to leave have vanished in the past four years, if we are to believe Rather.
Jim Jensen of WCBS gave a different picture. He showed his New York audience a film sequence involving a young Cuban student who told the CBS crew that the gaiety they had been filming was a charade. He told them that many Cubans were inwardly sad and that everyone is afraid. He offered to tell them more, but before that interview could be filmed the secret police had a word with him. His story changed 180 degrees when the newsmen next talked to him, but he promised to visit them at their hotel. But before the astonished eyes of the TV crew he was whisked off by the secret police and was never seen again.
We asked CBS why this story, could be broadcast only to the New York audience. It would have been very enlightening to those who saw the Dan Rather program to have this glimpse of a side of Cuba that seems to have eluded Dan Rather.
Mr. Chandler did not answer this question. He did tell us that in contrast with Mr. Rather. who had a whole week in Cuba before he interviewed Castro, Jim Jensen flew in with Senators Javits and Pell and was there only one weekend. He was restricted to the Havana area and was accompanied by guides wherever he went, in contrast with the greater freedom accorded Mr. Rather. He added: "Mr. Jensen's report was his own and must stand on its own merits. It was produced independently of CBS News by WCBS-TV, New York, which, while part of CBS. has its own news organization unconnected with CBS News."
One detects a certain spirit of rivalry within the CBS family in this comment. The fact is that Mr. Jensen's report stands very well on its own. It is Dan Rather's report that falls on its face, by comparison. Despite the shorter period of his stay and the handicap of being constantly under the eyes of his guides (who would not let him film the long lines of people in front of the stores}, Jensen provided his audience with a more honest and factual report on Cuba than did Dan Rather.
Mr. Chandler told us that CBS thought that a major interview with Fidel Castro coupled with fresh on-scene television reports from Cuba by seasoned journalists could contribute significantly to the discussions now underway on present and future U.S.-Cuban relations. He thinks that the Rather program served this purpose in "a responsible, fair and newsworthy manner."
We disagree. And we think that the failure of CBS to come to grips with the questions we have posed is good evidence that the serious flaws in the program are beyond defense.
We get many letters thanking us for the great work we are doing. AIM victories, such as the success with our shareholder resolutions, give us all a big lift. This month we placed a quarter-page ad in The Washington Post at a cost of nearly 52000 to tell the story of The Post-Anderson Cover-up. It attracted a lot of attention and favorable comment. All of our work is made possible by contributions from you. Won't you help us help you even more? Send in your contribution today. Remember, it is tax-deductible.
In February we sent two letters to papers carrying Jack Anderson's column. One dated February 10 concerned a column Anderson had published about one Amy Conger who claimed she had been tortured while under arrest in Chile. The other, dated February 19, answered Anderson's criticism of the National News Council over the finding that he was wrong. We also sent letters to papers carrying Jenkin Lloyd Jones's column on February 10 and James J. Kilpatrick's column on February 24.
If you see any of these letters in your papers, please clip and send to AIM.
AIM Sent This Letter to Papers Carrying the Anderson Column on 2/10/75
To the Editor: Last November, Jack Anderson published in his column a lurid description of brutal tortures allegedly inflicted on an American named Amy Conger while she was under arrest in Chile. Miss Conger's allegations were also aired over the NBC Today Show. The Chilean Embassy in Washington immediately declared that Miss Conger's charges were false, offering documentation which cast serious doubt on her veracity. For example, she told the NBC audience that she had gone to Chile with no political motivation. The Chilean Government charges that she was actively involved with the terrorist organization known as MIR and that she harbored fugitives in homes that she rented with funds obtained from MIR.
Anderson implied that Miss Conger's health had been damaged by her 13-day imprisonment, saying that "she appears to be recovering." The Chileans have a document signed by the American consul and the vice-consul in Santiago which certifies that when Miss Conger was released to them, she was in perFect health. Columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. called the consul in Santiago to check on the discrepancies between what Anderson said and what the Chilean Embassy said. The consul told Mr. BuckIcy that Miss Conger made no complaint charging that she had been tortured when she was released. Mr. Bueldey reported this in his syndicated column of December 24, 1974. Anderson replied to Buckley in his column of January 3. He said Buckley had not contacted Amy Conger to hear her story. He added: "He did not call us or seek access to the range of informants from whom we built these accounts." AIM immediately wrote to Jack Anderson, indicating that we wanted to check out his allegations. We asked him to tell us how to get in touch with the informants he had relied upon, including Miss Conget. If that was not possible, we asked him to supply us with the information obtained from these informants together with any evidence that would indicate how reliable they were as sources for the Conger story. We also asked NBC to tell us what they had done to check out Miss Conger's charges before airing them. Jack Anderson has not responded to our request. Neither has NBC. Are we to believe Amy Conger or the American Officials who said they received her in good health and that she had not complained of torture?
REED J. IRVINE Chairman Accuracy in Media
That extremely useful media watchdog, Accuracy in Media. a Washington. D.C. outfit, has come up with a beauty this tune a hilarious and illuminating paradox central to the national coverage of the textbook controversy in Kanawha County, West Virginia. You may have noticed something odd about the way this whole affair has been reported by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Star News, Tune, Newsweek, CBS, etc.
On the one hand, the media managed to convey the impression that the protesting parents are a hunch of ignoramuses and religious nuts. and sided with the education establishment and the book publishers. On the other hand, the national media were strangely vague and general about the supposedly offensive material in the textbooks. The Washington Post merely said that the protesters charged the books with being "anti-Christian, ungrammatcal, and immoral" Hardly enough to stand your hat on end. It turns out that the offending material was judged to be too raw for inclusion in the newspaper and TV reports. Editor and Publisher is the trade magazine of the newspaper industry, and it commented editorially on the inadequacy of the reporting of the textbook controversy, pointing out that "the reader doesn't really know what it is all about unless some of the objectionable material is published" On the other hand. it went on, "We don't know of any newspaper of general circulation that is prepared to print the stuff verbatim." When the media did get around to providing some of the specifics, they did so in a most revealing fashion The examples chosen were either exceptionally mild ones, or, startlingly enough, what did appear on print was bowdlerized, rather like Nixon's tape transcripts Thus. publishing a poem called "Love Your Enemy." the Washington Post allowed the following lines to see the light of dav: Brought here in slave ships Love your enemy Work for no pay Love your enemy Last hired, first fired
Routine protest stuff you could write when half asleep. But the Post omitted the following rather more lurid passage. Rape your mother Love your enemy Lynch your father Love your enemv Bomb your churches Love your enemy
The leaflets circulated by protesting parents contain other passages ignored by the media Though many of these are too far out for even this highly sophisticated column. I will include: "A tall, red-headed chick She had been mainly a whore, actually, with very expensive johns, who would pay her a hundred dollars a shot. And she was a very lively chick. who took a lot of pot. Really, a remarkable, beautiful, goodhearted tender girl."
According to the parents' leaflet, the "educational materials" provided by one package included a tape giving directions for achieving the most pleasant effects from marijuana, and another describing murder as the ultimate pleasure, including a detailed account of strangling a child. and chopping off a man's head.
Now the point here is not that any of the above-cited materials under any and all circumstances are unfit for classroom use. A teacher might want an example of bad, ersatz protest poetry. He might want an example of individual pathology, for analytical purposes He might want to discuss, with vivid examples, the assumptions that inform Madison Avenue publishing houses No. the point here is that the national media found themselves in a cleft stick It goes without saying that they would support the educational establishment and its ethos against the protests of ordinary people. and that they would depict those people as ignorant clowns, even as in the parallel case of busing By censoring and omitting the actual material in question. however, the media implicityly agreed with the protesters concerning its offensiveness
The cultural and class interests of the media aligned them with the educational establishment and with the publishers Their professional judgment and instinct for survival quietly confirmed the opinion of the parents.