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Why doesn’t public radio want public input?

I was a member of the now disbanded WOUB radio and TV “Community Advisory Council” (CAC) and attended the last four CAC meetings.

The first two meetings allowed time for members of the public to raise concerns. Those who spoke all expressed the wish that WOUB would carry the news program “Democracy Now!” At the last two meetings, no public input was allowed.

The next to last CAC meeting was held in May ‘08 in Ironton, as part of WOUB’s “Community Engagement Day.” The program, which lasted from noon into the evening, had no opportunity for give and take with the public.

At the last CAC meeting, in October ‘08, I raised concern about the lack of openness to community input. About a month later I received a letter from the WOUB director stating in part:

“If any council member’s sole agenda is limited to only one issue, especially an issue such as determining or selecting broadcast content—which is clearly outside of the defined role of council members—then he or she is most likely not performing functions that are in the best interest of the station. He or she should probably not be on the Council.”

I was puzzled, because the first two of eight listed responsibilities of the CAC were: “a. provide suggestions for local productions, selection of programming, and other center services; “b. examine past programming and services on an annual basis to provide continuing evaluation;”

Two months later, in February, 2009 I received notice that the CAC was being discontinued for budgetary reasons.

The Athens News ran a story “WOUB cited time/money issues in dissolving citizen panel” (1-13-2010) which states:

“. . . the board included members from around WOUB’s broadcast area, including Ironton, Marietta and Chillicothe, and . . . the station would reimburse travel expenses for members who had to drive long distances. …”

At the meetings I attended, there were 10 or fewer council members in attendance and most of them were from the Athens area. I drove the farthest and did not ask for reimbursement.

The director has stated that WOUB is under no legal obligation to have an advisory council or for council meetings to accept public input. I would think the question is whether it is a good idea to invite public input.

It appears to me that the WOUB management is conflicted about public involvement in public broadcasting. They say they want our money, though not, I note, enough to accept a day sponsorship from a group of citizens who asked the station to wish Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now,” a “Happy Birthday” on the air.

I welcome communication about WOUB and/or “Democracy Now” at jmrrpress@gmail.com.

John M. Morgan