The Ed Schultz Show is syndicated by the Jones Radio Network on over 100 stations and has experienced incredible growth and popularity in the last year. Schultz and his company had cut a deal with AFR to air one hour of the show beginning on Monday, October 17. Early that morning the shows producer got a call canceling the deal.
The story has a number of twists and turns, so instead of repeating all that, it is best to read the
story as published by the Washington Post. (AFR is also identified as Armed Forces Radio, AFN or Armed Forces Network and AFRTS or American Forces Radio and Television Service.)
As you can see from the Post story, something doesnt add up. Did Schultz have a deal? Did the Pentagon break that deal? Did someone at too low a level at AFR promise Schultz something that couldnt be delivered? Was this just a petty attempt to get even with Schultz for airing audio embarrassing to the President? All this will shake out in the next few days and is secondary to what is actually going on here.
During the time I was a broadcaster for AFR (77-80) the most pressing choice we had to make was whether to listen to the Wolfman Jack Show or the Charlie Tuna Show. The Wolfman and Tuna were the most popular DJs of their day. Listening to AFR was, for the most part, a mindless exercise. It was just there.
Then, Rush Limbaugh came to AFR. Military broadcasters wondered exactly what this meant. By regulation, political opinion had never been allowed on AFR, just as political campaigning is not allowed on federal property. And, AFR is federal property.
In the battle for the hearts and minds of the American military, AFR has become a playground for conservative political commentary. So, the entrance of Ed Schultz into that playground was considered the utmost in fair play. The right got their hour of airtime and now the left would have an hour. Fair and balanced comes to mind--except I think somebody already uses that.
Now, that balance hangs in the balance. If Ed Schultz does get on AFR our military personnel in 177 countries will have a chance to balance Limbaughs commentary. If the Pentagon refuses to put Schultz on the air then our troops lose. (If Schultz doesnt make the cut, I wonder if the Pentagon would consider Randi Rhodes of AAR? Shes former Air Force and would have the troops eating out of her hand.)
If the AFR deal falls apart, Jones Radio Network should take a tip from Christian broadcasters and pursue getting the Ed Schultz Show on short-wave outlets around the world. Its not that expensive and would put liberal/progressive talk into many foreign countries where English is usually the second language, citizens are hungry for information and our troops would be served at the same time.
Even though we frame this situation in terms of what is fair and what is balanced and question if Ed Schultz is getting a raw deal, it goes to a more personal level. The Bush administrations desire to keep our uniformed uninformed is a slap-in-the-face to those who serve. It questions their intelligence. It questions their decision-making abilities. And, it makes a mockery of the liberties for which they have been told they are fighting.
Someone once said that the pen (in this case the spoken word) is mightier than the sword. Theres another take on that offered up by the prototypical rappers, The Last Poets. Their theory, in word and song, is that the The Pen and the Sword are Equal in Weight and you can accomplish as much with one as the other.
Our military already has the sword. Shouldnt they be allowed access to the penthe spoken word? Or, does the Pentagon believe theres a danger in that? Is a good military well-armed and well-informed? It appears not.
What we now believe to be a minor scuffle between a liberal/progressive talk show host and American Forces Radio goes right to the heart of the Bush administrations desire to control the media here at home and abroad.