Wednesday, September 2, 2009

KTBS, KLFY contribute of one hour of air time to GOP to attack healthcare reform

KTBS in Shreveport and KLFY in Lafayette will be making huge in-kind contributions to the Republican Party's efforts to kill healthcare reform by airing an all-Republican town hall meeting on healthcare and calling it a public service.

KTBS will carry the program tonight live from Shreveport starting at 8 p.m. KLFY in Lafayette will rebroadcast the program on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. There are probably other stations involved. I have direct knowledge about these two.

The only panelists taking part in the forum are three Republican congressmen from Louisiana — Charles Boustany, John Fleming and Bill Cassidy. There will be no Democratic involvement in the event.

No Democrat on the panel.

And this is news?

I saw an announcement of the forum on KFLY in Lafayette on Sunday afternoon. I called the news director on Monday morning. Dwight Dugas confirmed that the three panelists were the three Republican members of the Louisiana congressional delegation who are doctors.

I asked him what the news value of such an event would be. He said "to inform the public"

I asked him how this could be considered informing the public about healthcare reform when only one side of the issue would be presented. He said the information would come in the form of questions submitted by the public.

As anyone who has watched the Republican town hall meetings knows, attendance is limited to supporters and questons are screened in advance.

Yet, KLFY and KTBS want the public to believe that this will some how be different.

The Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee has delivered a letter to KLFY calling for the station to either cancel its re-broadcast or to give supporters of healthcare reform an hour of that station's time. The letter is here (PDF).

This is a travesty of journalism even by the low standards of today's market-driven television news.

In a conversation with the station manager of KLFY this morning, I was offered two hours to find a Democratic doctor who would take part in the forum which is being held in Shreveport tonight. I found a doctor who would be happy to debate the other doctors on the subject, but not on such short notice. Besides, he would have had to leave his practice at midday in order to get to Shreveport in time for tonight's event.

As I told the KLFY manager, it is not our responsibility to give their forum the air of responsibility that they did not see fit to confer on it through the bias the premise obviously carries with it.

I believe that if there is no Democratic participation in tonight's forum, then KTBS and any other station carrying the event will have to file an in-kind contribution report with the Federal Elections Commission showing the one-hour of air time they are giving to this obviously partisan event.

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