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Life Arts    H2'ed 3/31/11

On the Road with Sue Wilson and "Broadcast Blues"

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My guest today is Sue Wilson, producer of the documentary, Broadcast Blues. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Sue! You're on the road, in Florida right now.  What're you up to? 

Joan, this is so darn much fun.  The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida stepped up to sponsor an 11 City Media Reform Tour of Florida, featuring my documentary film, Broadcast Blues .

We started the tour last night in Fort Lauderdale to an enthusiatic crowd.  Radio personality Nicole Sandler had me on her show Thursday and came out to kick off the tour, it was great fun!

As you know, the film premiered two years ago, and it is so exciting that there is still so much interest! (Probably because broadcasting has gotten worse, instead of better!)


But the one question I always get is "You've laid out the problems, now what do we do about it?" Well, in the past two years, I've actually come up with real world solutions.   It's about thinking nationally, and acting locally.

First, we the people must understand that we own the public airwaves and that local TV and local radio broadcasters are required to serve the public interest, or they don't get a license to be in business.  

Next, I am encouraging people to form small watchdog groups, using the successful Sacramento Media Group as a model, to personally visit and hold broadcasters accountable to their local communities.  To that end, I'm in the process of working with Brad Friedman ( to set up a new website, "" to give these groups a way to communicate their findings with each other.  (We'll get it up very soon.)

The site takes it to the next level:  we are asking people nationwide to specifically report "incitements to violence" they hear on their local radio and TV stations.  Like shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater, that kind of speech should not be permitted on our public airwaves.  Those complaints will go to both the FCC and to the local radio (or TV) stations. We will then monitor that information to seek the most egregious cases to file lawsuits and petitions to deny the offending stations' licenses.  

Then back around to our local watchdog groups:  we'll work in tandem with them, asking them to inspect their stations' public files to make sure these complaints are being revealed to the public, as they should be.  They'll be asked to report back to us on the site, and also to issue reports to their local newspapers and media.  

Lastly, we'll publicize the findings. In real life, the only way things change in Washington (the FCC and Congress) or locally (the broadcasters) is as a result of noisy public pressure.  It's time to make some noise!  

For readers who have not seen Broadcast Blues, can you back up and give us a brief overview of what the film was about?

Broadcast Blues is a 75 minute documentary film that essentially shows everything I have learned over the past 25 years as a professional broadcaster about Radio and TV and our Public Airwaves.  People know there is a huge problem with the media;  this film shows why (poor policies) and what we can do about it (change those policies!)   The film is jam packed with information, but it also has music, animations, Danny Glover, Phil Donahue, Naomi Judd, and a rocking soundtrack, so it is fun and easy to watch, and lifts people.

Broadcast Blues is a fine film. It's a few years old by now. So, where and how did the idea of taking it on the road come from?

Broadcast Blues premiered March 22, 2009.  Here we are, exactly two years later, touring Florida, courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida.  One of their members, Kindra Muntz, saw the film some time ago, and passionately felt that every person in this country should see it, and she has been tirelessly working ever since to promote this tour and other screenings.  At this point, outside of college classrooms, it is the only way Broadcast Blues can be seen.

Even though the film is somewhat dated, it has what, in this industry, they call great "legs."  Essentially, the public interest in broadcasting has become more relevant, not less, and people are hungry for this knowledge.  And in just 75 minutes, people see the accumulation of eleven years of my knowledge;  it changes forever their perception of the media.

Happy anniversary! Now what? Touring the country until every man, woman and child has seen it would be a tad impractical.  What exactly are your plans?

From Florida, we take the film to Boston to Free Press' National Media Reform Conference for a screening April 8.  After that? Hmnn, you are right, I can't continue to personally tour the country with the film, but I'm hoping that groups will step up to sponsor their own screenings of the film and start their own media watchdog groups.  Here in Florida, midway through the tour, people are saying everyone in the country should see this film.  Beyond that, it's a great way to build publicity and have a fundraiser for your group.  It can be a big group, like the UU church, or a little group, like the Coffee Party, or if you're an individual, you can work with (yey!) OpEdNews to sponsor an event.  For legal reasons, I do have to work through groups who will sponsor screenings.

But there's more.  While it's important for folks to see the film, as it gives people a baseline of information they really need to know, I am developing a webinar to give people the tools to activate.  Right now it's on my site, in the form of a "Media Activist Toolkit."  I will soon make myself available to be on the phone to walk people through the toolkit, answer question, and motivate!

It's very exciting, every place we go, people are catching on that they do have some power over their local TV and Radio broadcasters.  We just need to focus, to organize and - this is key - to make noise!

Look out Tea Party, the Truth Party is coming to town!

That's quite true. OpEdNews is lending its name and support to what can become a massive, grassroots effort. Anything else you'd like our readers to know, Sue?

First, an addition to your previous question.  I am working on two books.  One, (working title) the Premeditated Misinformation of America.  Two, Ten Practical Strategies for Taking our Media Back.

The takeaway here is that broadcasting corporations have been hiding the fact that they are responsible to their local viewers and listeners (even the Supreme Court has affirmed that fact). The corpos REALLY don't want people to get that, so I am shining a light so people can understand their rights.  But just understanding that is not enough;  if we are going to restore the discourse that our beloved Democracy requires, We the People need to rise and take back what belongs to us:  our public airwaves.

Thanks so much for filling us in, Sue. Good luck with the books and this terrific project! 

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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