Friday, October 21, 2005
Senate Letter to Sec.of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
October 19, 2005
The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Department of Defense
The PentagonWashington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:We are writing to express our concern about the lack of political balance in talk radio programming on the Department of Defense's (DoD) American Forces Network and to request a definitive timeline by which we can expect DoD to correct this imbalance.
More than a year ago, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution offered by Senator Harkin expressing the sense of the Senate that the Secretary of Defense should ensure full implementation of the American Forces Radio and Television Service goal of maintaining equal opportunity balance with respect to political programming.
AFN Radio carries the shows of a wide range of conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, and James Dobson, to the near total exclusion of progressive talk radio hosts. This is in violation of DoD's own guidelines on political programming on the American Forces Network, specifically, DoD Directive 5120.20R, which calls for political programming on American Forces Network that is "characterized by its fairness and balance," as well as news programming guided by a "principle of fairness" that requires "reasonable opportunities for the presentation of conflicting views on important controversial public issues."On September 29, 2005, Manny Levy, Chief of the Radio Division of the American Forces Network Broadcast Center, formally advised the syndicate that distributes "The Ed Schultz Show" that AFN Radio would "begin carrying the first hour of 'The Ed Schultz Show' each day, beginning Monday, October 17, 2005 at noon PT/3 ET." However, higher-level DoD officials subsequently backtracked on this commitment. A Pentagon spokesman said that Mr. Levy "got ahead of the process," and that no decision had been made in a review of which programming to add to the network.
Inclusion of "The Ed Schultz Show" would have been a first, partial step toward achieving balance in political programming on AFN Radio. Even that first step has been abruptly canceled. Why, more than a year since the Senate passed its resolution, has DoD not implemented any program changes to balance political programming? At this late date, why is DoD still in violation of its own guidelines for political programming on AFN Radio? Given the time that has passed since this issue was brought to the attention of DoD by the Senate, the problem is not that Mr. Levy was "ahead of the process." The problem is that DoD is woefully behind in addressing this imbalance and coming into full compliance with its own guidelines and procedures. We request that you provide us with an action plan and timeline for achieving greater political balance in AFN Radio programming as quickly as possible.
We respectfully request that you respond to this letter by November 1, 2005.
Tom Harkin United States Senator
Byron L. Dorgan United States Senator
Carl Levin United States Senator
Frank Lautenberg United States Senator
Mark Dayton United States Senator
Jack Reed United States Senator
Ron Wyden United States Senator
Daniel Akaka United States Senator
Christopher Dodd United States Senator
Edward Kennedy United States Senator
Russell Feingold United States Senator
Barack Obama United States Senator
John Kerry United States Senator
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