December 23, 2011
Crossposted from

December 12, 2011, Occupy Sacramento joined the Media Action Center and Sacramento Media Group in an action we called "Occupy Clear Channel." Activists in eight cities joined in the action. 
We held a press conference in front of KFBK, the Clear Channel station which launched Rush Limbaugh, protesting its secret middle of the night decision to put Right Wing talk radio on a third giant frequency in Sacramento, while offering zero opportunity for alternate political speech.   We asked that Clear Channel hold a public forum for the public to air its grievances.

Why We Occupy Clear Channel

December 15, 2011

Why did the Media Action Center and the Sacramento Media Group and Occupy Sacramento occupy Clear Channel radio stations in Sacramento Monday? (note: Groups throughout the entire country supported this action.)  The corporate giant recently took music off its 92.5 FM frequency and chose to simulcast KFBK programming (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity et al) on that 50,000 watt station.  That means Clear Channel is now broadcasting "conservative" right wing political opinion on three huge frequencies (KFBK, KGBY, and KSTE) on more than 120,000 watts of power.  (Note below, the lonely Air America station we once had in Sacramento broadcast over just 1,000 watts of power;  it was the only available frequency AA could get in this community.)  

The following article appeared in the Sacramento Bee Sunday, May 11, 2008, just after that progressive station went off the air.  Then we had 264 hours of right wing talk radio on our airwaves in Sacramento every week.  Now, with the Clear Channel flip, it's more like 350 hours of right wing talk, and not a minute of any alternative political opinions.

Sue Wilson: Federal Rules Give Corporation Backed Conservative Radio ALL the Local Voices

There's a mournful hush in Sacramento these days, the empty sound of an entire political viewpoint quieted.  32,000 weekly listeners who once tuned to KSAC 1240 AM  to hear partisan Democrats beat up on George W. Bush, now hear only Christian hiphop. 

There's nothing wrong with Christian HipHop; it's a great outlet for artists breaking out of the gansta rap mold.   But there are six other commercial radio stations licensed in the Sacramento area programming the Christian message.  In the political realm, three local radio stations program 264 hours of partisan Republican radio talkers beating up on Democrats every week.   Now, zero stations program any Democratic view whatsoever.   264-0.

This follows the national trend revealed in the 2007 Free Press and Center for American Progress study, "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio."  Nationally, 90% of commercial talk radio is conservative, only 10% is liberal.   (This study does not include Public Radio, which by statute is required to provide differing points of view; one is as likely to hear a Republican's views as a Democrat's.  And NPR hosts don't beat up on anybody.)   

KSAC shared another characteristic with other liberal radio stations: it had a tiny, 1,000 watt transmitter.  Tough for a little station which barely reached Sacramento's suburbs to compete with 50,000 watt giant KFBK, whose signal stretches from Chico to Modesto, from Reno to that little town of San Francisco.  Despite  KFBK reaching millions more potential listeners, KSAC mustered an audience nearly 20% that of KFBK's.   (Its ratings were double local conservative station KTKZ, which has a 5,000 watt transmitter.)  And Arbitron showed the progressive station's audience was steadily growing.  KSAC was the little station that could.  Until it couldn't. 

Occupy Clear Channel - the day after

December 13, 2011

Yesterday, about 25 people came together in Sacramento to ask the community's largest radio owner, Clear Channel, to provide an outlet for Alternative talk radio.  As the big company only puts "Conservative" talk radio over the air in more than 90% of the country, they are effectively denying Freedom of Speech to the rest of us in the public square of radio.

We entered the building to inspect the stations' public files (since we the people own the airwaves, the stations are required to report to us.)  And allies in Washington DC, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Madison, Sarasota, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach (Rush Limbaugh's newly adopted hometown) joined our effort.  We'll have report as soon as we can compile it!

Time to Occupy the FCC?

December 2, 2011

What is it going to take to make the federal agency tasked with protecting the public interest in broadcasting actually listen to the public?   An uprising of three million people?   A directive from President Obama?   An order from the second highest court in the land?   We've seen all of that, and still nothing has worked.   It may be time to Occupy the FCC.   But I digress.

Just before the big Thanksgiving holiday, the Federal Communications Commission leaked information that they are once again reviewing the broadcast media ownership rules, and that -- get this -- they intend to leave local TV and Radio ownership rules in place, and plan to move ahead with the same newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules that Republican chair Kevin Martin put into place. 

But wait, don't they remember the 3 million people who wrote them in 2005, saying they want more owners of fewer radio and TV stations, not the other way around?  Or what about President Obama's January 2009 directive, originally reported in BradBlog, that we need to diversify media ownership?   Or the recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling specifically surrounding the newspaper cross ownership issue, which said the FCC had not properly listened to the public, and that they must do so before making such a rule?   

What is it Charlie Brown says every time Lucy pulls the football out from underneath him?     

It gets worse.   True to form, the FCC quietly announced that there would be an FCC hearing about media ownership rules held in Atlanta, Georgia December 1.   They announced the forum in their Daily Digest the day after Thanksgiving, just 6 days before the public event.   The hearing would be the last public event held before the final notice of proposed rulemaking for 2010 Quadrennial Ownership Review is released, the last opportunity for the public to make comments about OUR public airwaves for the next four years!

It is clear the FCC does not want to hear from the very public it serves.

So I am not kidding about Occupying the FCC.   

More.   Soon.


 Occupy Sacramento screened "Broadcast Blues" Thursday evening, and the Occupy protesters are now looking closely at corporate misinformation and fear created by media, especially radio.  What will come of it?  Stay tuned. 

Why Occupy Wall Street Needs to Occupy Radio!

In its September 29, 2011 Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, Occupy Wall Street wrote, "They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media."  
And which media 1)reaches the most people, 2)promotes the most fear and disinformation, and 3) is legally subject to the will of the people?  
It's Radio! 

Compare these maps representing numbers and sizes of  "Conservative"
"Right Wing" radio stations and "Liberal" radio stations across the USA:

Then look at a map of the 2010 Midterm Election Results:

About 50 million Americans listen to Right Wing Talk Radio.

Now here's the SCARY part:
Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have far more reach on Radio than Fox News.
You won't believe it until you
See These Charts!  

Radio is still the country's number one source of news and information,
but fewer than 10% of the country is able to hear any progressive talk radio.
Those who do tend to vote for more Democrats than those who do not.

How did this happen?
See the story from Broadcast Blues:

Find a real plan of action to take our media back at the Media Action Center .

How Talk Radio and FOX News created the Tea Party

Folks seem to think that the Koch Brothers are the driving force behind the Tea Party.  Well, they are quite literally funding the busses that drive supporters from town to town to make it look like they have big crowds.  But even billionaires don't have the clout to create a national movement out of a grassroots gathering.  Only major media can do that.

Here is the video of the very first Tea Party rally Michael Stavros and I put together on April 15, 2009 in Sacramento. Rallies were promoted simultaneously throughout the country by, you guessed it, Talk Radio and Fox News.  THAT'S how the Tea Party movement was really born. 

Does Occupy Wall Street enjoy the same coverage?  No, because Talk Radio and FOX News only promote the pro-corporate side of the story. That's the only way "Conservatives" the "Right Wing" can remain in power.  They demonize this very real grassroots uprising to promote fear about it. 

Folks in Occupy LA asked me, "Who cares what Rush Limbaugh says?"  Answer: 20 million VOTERS who listen to him.

Tony Trupiano Interviews Sue on the radio!

Thanks, Tony, for putting me on OUR PUBLIC AIRWAVES!  For those who missed it, here's the Podcast:

Video Interview of Sue Wilson's Media Action Plan!

Many thanks to Bruce Fealk for writing this story and doing a videotaped interview inside the Frank Lloyd Wright designed UU Landmark Auditorium. 

Click to watch:

Sue's Response to Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a popular "Conservative"   Right wing radio talk show host who dominates Milwaukee's airwaves, as well as much of the state of Wisconsin.  In true form, he today wrote about me in his blog, totally mis-characterizing my message.  But d'ya think he would dare actually debate me on our public airwaves?  Nah.  He can only win the argument if he goes unchallenged.

So here's his blog, go through the comments to find my answer:

Sue's Response to Rush Limbaugh

Sue's Response to
Rush Limbaugh:
SacBee Laments Right-Wing Talk Radio as a "Threat to Democracy"

May 12, 2008


RUSH: As you know, ladies and gentlemen, my adopted hometown is Sacramento, California.  I worked out there at KFBK, 50,000 watt blowtorch, 'til this day carries the program, been on the air there since 1984, so 24 years at KFBK Sacramento, number one.  And while there, one of my nemeses was the Sacramento Bee, the local newspaper owned by the McClatchy clan.  It is still owned by the McClatchy clan, and it has still refused to accept what has happened to me, as evidenced by a story that is special to the Bee published yesterday.  Headline:  "Federal Rules Give Corporation-Backed Conservative Radio all the Local Voices."  This is a story, this is a hand-wringing, tear-jerker story of how liberal talk radio couldn't make it out there, and damn it, it's not fair, it's not right, and it's because federal rules give corporation-backed conservative radio all the local voices.  Listen to how this thing starts, by Sue Wilson, who I don't know.  She was probably still in diapers when I was in Sacramento. 

     Hmmnn… I worked under the Fairness Doctrine, which went out in 1987, so my age must be at least …. well, you do the math.

"There's a mournful hush in Sacramento these days, the empty sound of an entire political viewpoint quieted. More than 32,000 weekly listeners who once tuned [to the local lib outlet] to hear partisan Democrats beat up on President George W. Bush, now hear only Christian hip-hop."  Now, if that's not the funniest opening of a news story that I have ever read, I don't know what is.  Thirty-two thousand weekly listeners is nothing!  People don't understand radio ratings.  Thirty-two thousand weekly listeners would add up to about 1,500 every 15 minutes, the average quarter hour would be about 1,500 to 2,000 listeners.  I mean, for crying out loud, it's a 0.1 or 0.2, but it barely shows up as an asterisk in the rating books.

      That 1,000 watt station was getting 20% of KFBK's ratings, the market leader.  So by Rush's math, if KFBK had a 1,000 watt station instead of a 50,000 watt station, KFBK would get a whopping 0.5 or 1.0?   Maybe he has a problem with mathematics.   Math is precise, kind of like facts. 

 Now, Sue Wilson says, "There's nothing wrong with Christian hip-hop; it's a great outlet for artists breaking out of the gansta rap mold. But there are six other commercial radio stations licensed in the Sacramento area programming the Christian message. In the political realm, three local radio stations program 264 hours of partisan Republican radio talkers beating up on Democrats every week. Now, zero stations program any Democratic view whatsoever: 264-0."  So it's 264 hours of partisan Republican bashing to zero hours of partisan liberal bashing. 

     That he got right.

Wisconsin is Watching!

I've been on the ground in Wisconsin for less than 24 hours, and I do not remember a time I've received a more warm welcome.  To my delight, Milwaukee's Shepard Express alternatively newsweekly featured two stories about our project to reclaim Wisconsin's airwaves for their rightful owners, all the people of Wisconsin. 

'They Are the Public Airwaves, Not the Republican Airwaves'

By Lisa Kaiser

Issue of the Week: The Big Lie: Liberal Talk Radio Doesn't Sell

And yet a third, only to be found online:

Media Reform Activist Sue Wilson on Right-Wing Bias on the Airwaves

Thursday morning, I talked with Tony Castañeda on his "8 O'Clock Buzz"

And Friday, I talked with Sly Slyvester on "Sly in the Morning,"  WTDY

I'll be at FightingBobFest tomorrow, on the Sara Shultz show tomorrow morning, and at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Landmark Auditorium tomorrow night.  See you there!

The Media Action Center has Launched!

We are ready to start the ground game to take back our public airwaves from corporate control.  Read all about it at the Media Action Center!

Wisconsin Media Reform Tour Schedule

In just one week, I will be flying to Wisconsin to remind folks that We the People own the broadcast airwaves!  Click here for the Schedule of Events.

No More Cheney Plame Games!

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the rounds promoting a new book intended to rewrite the history of his role in the most failed and corrupt presidency, possibly ever.

Here are the facts: the Bush White House outed covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson with the help of its close ally, the mainstream news media. Shame on them all.

This story is covered in its entirety in the documentary Broadcast Blues.  Here's a 52 second clip:

Fairness Doctrine Demise Gives Rise to the Public Interest

August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011, the FCC made it official: the Fairness Doctrine is dead and buried.

But shed no tears: the FCC also made it clear that the broadcasters' obligations to the "Public Interest" are alive and well!

It's Radio, Stupid! (Or is it Stupid Radio?)

July 26, 2011
Why has the Tea Party flourished?  Why are people in the US grossly misinformed?  Why can just a few run our country off the cliff?   

The Right Wing hijacked Radio fifteen years ago;  the effects are just now being completely felt.

Compare these maps representing numbers and sizes of  "Conservative"
"Right Wing" radio stations and "Liberal" radio stations across the USA:

Then look at a map of the 2010 Midterm Election Results:

About 50 million Americans listen to Right Wing Talk Radio.

Now here's the SCARY part:
Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have far more reach on Radio than Fox News.
You won't believe it until you
See These Charts!  

Radio is still the country's number one source of news and information,
but fewer than 10% of the country is able to hear any progressive talk radio.
Those who do tend to vote for more Democrats than those who do not.

How did this happen?
See the story from Broadcast Blues:

Media Reform Victory: People Win, Corporations Lose!

 July 11, 2011 

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia handed the public a huge victory last Thursday, and giant corporations a rare loss, in their decision [PDF] on a case that (ironically enough, given the subject matter) most of the public knew nothing about, but one which has the potential to benefit real people with better quality news and information for decades to come. 

The case, Prometheus Radio Project v FCC, pitted "Citizen Petitioners" who seek more persons owning local media outlets to ensure diversity in viewpoints and news coverage, versus "Deregulatory Petitioners" who want fewer persons (spell that "corporations") to own local media outlets, and the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves that go with them, in order to enhance their profits.

At stake were the rules determining how many local TV and radio stations one company can own in a single market; whether a newspaper owner can also own a TV or radio station in the same town; and how broadcast ownership by minorities and women should be handled.

The Deregulators challenged the FCC's constitutional and legal authority to set rules and restrictions on ownership of broadcast spectrum licenses, while the Citizen Petitioners sought to protect the FCC's authority, even while challenging a number of new rules the agency speciously attempted to enact without appropriate public input.

Six attorneys representing Free Press, Media Alliance, The United Church of Christ, and Prometheus Radio Project went up against 48 lawyers representing such corporate behemoths as Clear Channel, CBS, Belo, FOX, Cox, Sinclair, Tribune, and Gannett, and groups including the National Association of Broadcasters, plus another 8 attorneys for the FCC and 5 more from the US Department of Justice. The case became a classic David v. Goliath struggle.

The good news this time around, at least for the moment, David finally won one...

The case dealt with current ownership rules, as determined by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). There are a myriad of rules, among them these, which now allow that one party may own no more than:

  • two TV stations and six radio stations in the same market (or one and seven);
  • three TV stations in large markets where 18 or more stations exist;
  • up to eight radio stations in the same town.

The FCC is tasked with making sure the broadcast media --- via the limited broadcast spectrum which is owned by we, the people --- serves the public interest. Every four years, as required by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the FCC must revisit the issue of public interest in media ownership (the "Quadrennial Review.")

In 2003, the FCC Commissioners held public hearings on media ownership, then essentially ignored what the public told them. The FCC, chaired at the time by Republican Michael Powell, next laid out a group of rules that put more broadcast media stations into fewer hands. The public rose in protest (as covered in my 2009 documentary, Broadcast Blues.)

After Powell's hearings, Prometheus Radio went to court to challenge the new rules. They won a Third Circuit Court ruling which found that the FCC had not properly listened to the public and would need to start from scratch.

So, four years later, from October 2006 to November 2007, the FCC, this time under Republican chair Kevin Martin, once again held a series of public hearings on media ownership, but in some cases, as the court find this time around, they offered the public as little as 10 calendar days notice before the meetings. Worse, as revealed during the trial, the FCC actually buried studies with findings which undercut their own advisement for relaxation of ownership rules. (An Inspector General's report even found that the FCC had a research strategy specifically designed to justify their preconceived goal: the repeal of the newspaper-media cross-ownership rule.)

Then Martin, on November 13, 2007, just four days after the final public hearing, issued an Op-Ed in the New York Times which outlined the newspaper/broadcast ownership rules he was considering. Until then, neither the public --- nor even fellow FCC commissioners --- knew what rules he was considering.

Déjà vu. Hold public hearings, then ignore the public. Just as Powell had done four years earlier.

 image courtesy                                                                    

New York Times Issues PARTIAL Correction on Breitbart

July 1, 2011

As reported today in Bradblog.comthe New York Times public editor, responding to criticism from Brad Friedman Media Matters and others about inaccuracies in last weekend's Jeremy W Peters' puff piece on Andrew Breitbart,  has issued a partial correction, this about a videotape that Peters said showed NAACP members applauding former USDA official Shirley Sherrod when she talked about at first being reluctant to help a white farmer many years ago.  (That Breitbart story, which blatantly misrepresented Sherrod's comments, forced Sherrod to resign her post.  Sherrod has sued Breitbart for damaging her reputation.)  New York Times Reporter Peters apparently didn't look at the video before reporting that tidbit, as it, in reality, showed no such thing.  (Apparently words now go directly from the mouth of Andrew Breitbart directly onto the pages of the paper of record.)    

But the Times has still not corrected its long ago misstatement that ACORN advised Breitbart protege James O'Keefe and his hidden camera partner Hannah Giles on how to evade taxes and conceal child prostitution.   In point of fact, the video shows the opposite.   Read the full story over at .

But here's the takeaway:  It was the New York Times misreporting that eventually brought the group ACORN down for no good reason, other than engaging in a political hatchet job.

What does the Times hope to gain?  Access?  An answer to cries of the "liberal" media?  

It can't compare to what they've lost:  credibilty, at a time when we need REAL journalism the most.

NYTimes on Breitbart: STILL getting the ACORN story wrong!

June 28, 2011

Wow.   Little did I know as I followed Ryan Clayton with a camera as he confronted Andrew Breitbart at the recent NetRoots Nation conference in Minneapolis that New York Times Reporter Jeremy W. Peters was also there, doing an "expose" on the conservative provocateur.  

(That's me, behind Ryan Clayton, in this Ben Garvin NYTimes photo, camera in hand.)

The Times writes, 

"Some of his reader-generated scoops have reverberated all the way to the halls of the United States Capitol, like the Weiner photos and undercover video he released of Acorn workers offering advice on how to evade taxes and conceal child prostitution. After the videos went viral Congress ended grants to Acorn, and federal agencies severed ties with the group. "
This would be a great story if this were a fairy tale, but this is the New York Times, which until recent years actually checked facts and reported news.  

Peters did get part of the story correct:  after the sham videos hit the halls of Congress, Acorn was regarded as a pariah, and the group which strove to register more voters later disbanded.  (I can still hear GOP cheers echoing all the way to California.)

But here's the important part of the story, the part the New York Times left out, the part my colleague, investigative reporter Brad Friedman, has been hammering for more than a year, as he does again today on

"... after telling the ACORN worker that her pimp (not O'Keefe!) had beaten her and stolen her money, the sympathetic worker tries to offer advise on how to hide the money from the pimp, not from the government!

The other frequently cited piece of misinformation concerns the ACORN worker who advised that Hannah use the IRS code for "performance artist" when filing her taxes, since there is no code for "prostitute" on those forms. As in all of the offices, the workers were explaining how Giles had to report her income and pay her taxes --- rather than evade them --- even if her income was from prostitution."
You want all the facts on this?  Read Brad Friedman's reporting on this, he owns this story.

But here's my point:  there is a reason that I am so passionate about calling out the tactics of Andrew Breitbart and his minions.  The man is perpetuating a fraud - not just on the American people , but on our very democracy.   I am talking about someone who calls himself a journalist who worked to set up the ACORN organization with a hidden camera (like a Candid Camera/ Borat comedy,)  asked honest employees bogus questions, then edited the video to mislead viewers and lawmakers, all for political gain.   It doesn't matter if it being done on the "Right" or the "Left," it is wrong.

Despite the comment in Peters' article that people today tend to "select facts" they agree with, at the end of the day, nobody wants to be lied to.  If people fully understood the lies they are being spoon fed by the Right Wing Media, I think  they would be quick to seek out honest, trustworthy reporting.

But, as I reported more than a year ago, the New York Times fails that test.  They failed it with Judith Miller, they failed it with ACORN, they failed it with Breitbart.  The "Paper of Record" just doesn't seem big enough to correct the record.

Thank God for bloggers, but not all of them are as accurate as Friedman, either.  

So let me say this to all who have a microphone on Radio or TV, and to all those who are paid to write for print publications:  We the People need you to do the hard job of real reporting.  We need real facts to make real decisions.  

Just because some may enjoy it, please don't make our democracy into a sideshow.    We are counting on you.

Continued Interest in Breitbart: (Not sure why...)

June 25, 2011

More than a week after 100ProofPolitics' Ryan Clayton went after Andrew Breitbart at Netroots Nation in Minneapolis, I am still getting requests for information and clarification about the exchange.  The latest came from Radioactive Gavin, who had me on his radio show =Making Waves= on KDVS out of Davis, California.

From Gavin's description:  
"Common Frequency's newest Board member, journalist Sue Wilson, was the guest for today's =Making Waves= on KDVS. We talked about an aggressive progressive named Ryan Clayton confronting Andrew Breitbart, the conservative provocateur, at the Netroots Nation conference last Friday. Sue was there.

Sue says Breitbart "is trying to run away from the monsters he's created." He is being sued by one of his victims, but his attacks on NPR, ACORN and Rep. Weiner are all considered successes. And she also debunks the myth of the focus group-tested meme that "the liberal media" controls American thinking.
Plus, we discussed the questionable judgment of CNN devoting so much airtime to Erick Erickson, another incendiary partisan allowed to, as David Brock of Media Matters says "disable journalism".

Normally I devote my attention to local, independent public media but I think what's really important here is the outrage Sue speaks to, about what Breitbart represents in terms of the crumbling standards for information dissemination in our democracy.

And stay tuned because we wrapped the show with a clip from Wilson's documentary Broadcast Blues, a dramatic story of two journalists who were fired by a Fox affiliate for refusing to lie about a story on Monsanto the station preferred to silence. Sue took the film on an 11-city tour through Florida, encouraging more citizens to demand public interest obligations from broadcasters.

Listen HERE.


In case you missed it, Radio or Not's own Nicole Sandler scored an interview with none other than Breitbart protege James O'Keefe .  He told Nicole he just seeks the truth.   This is the guy who pretends to be a journalist but uses Borat tactics of asking crazy questions using hidden cameras, then maliciously edits the answers so they don't resemble the actual interview, but instead furthers his own skewed agenda.  The guy I wrote about here who pretended he dressed as a pimp to walk into an ACORN office (that lie was debunked by Brad Friedman over at

 (That's O'Keefe, in his pimp get-up, on the left.  A journalist he is NOT.)

"If the shoe fits, wear it.  If the truth hurts, bear it!"  ~Sue

Breitbart Ambush: Fair or Foul?

June 18, 2011

The internet has lit up with stories about the exchange between "Conservative" blogger Andrew Breitbart and Progressive Blogger Ryan Clayton.   Public opinion is critical of Clayton's questioning of Breitbart, saying that it is less than objectiive journalism.

But consider that Clayton asked straightforward questions, and clearly has a camera visible when so doing. Consider also that Clayton released the entire uncut video so that viewers may clearly see the entire exchange.  Contrast that with the work of Breitbart protege James O'Keefe, who sets up interviews under false pretenses, uses hidden cameras,  and edits video to substantially change the meaning of his interviewees answers.
This may not be great investigative journalism, but at least it is transparent.  Perhaps Breitbart and his minions could learn from this?  (Doubtful.)

Breitbart Ambushed at Netroots Nation

June 17, 2011

Would be journalist and provocateur Andrew Breitbart met his match today when he tried to crash the liberal NetRoots Nation convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  100 Proof Politics editor Ryan Clayton was ready - and his camera and hard questions forced right wing Breitbart into a hasty retreat.
The story started the night before when two women ventured into the streets of Minneapolis wearing the traditional Hijab (headscarf.)  They were approached by John Hugh Gilmore, a 52 year attorney and self described Conservative who blogs for "Minnesota Conservatives."   According to police, he asked the women what they thought of Ayaan Hersi Ali, a Somali who is a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who decries Muslims.  The women told him they weren't exactly fans.   The inebriated Gilmore then became upset and started harassing the pair, asking what right they had to be in this country, until 60 onlookers intervened.  Police were called and arrested Gilmore, but not until Gilmore tried to reach Andrew Breitbart on his phone.

Fast forward to today.  Breitbart entered the Minneapolis Convention Center just minutes after Clayton had interviewed Sana Saleem, a blogger of Pakistani heritage and co-founder of, who had witnessed the confrontation.  Breitbart claimed he knew nothing about the event, and a Breitbart colleague accused Clayton of lying about the whole affair, (but Minneapolis Police Department has confirmed Gilmore's arrest.) 

Clayton moved beyond the Minneapolis incident into questions to confirm or deny rumors of Breitbart's alleged drug use and sexual habits.   While Breitbart denied having a cocaine habit, he would not answer whether he had personally ever used cocaine.   Given Hugh Hewitt's recent interview with Breitbart  where Breitbart references the gay magazine "Blue Boy," Clayton also asked about Breitbart's penchant for gay magazines.  At that point, without answering directly, the flustered Breitbart left the Netroots Nation convention, hounded by dozens of attendees shouting, "Coward! Coward!"

Mr. President, Don't Just Scold the Media, Fix It!

April 29, 2011

After revealing his "long form" birth certificate Wednesday, President Obama scolded the news media for letting this non-issue become a national obsession. But if President Obama really wants to restore reporting to its rightful role, he needs to act on commitments he made immediately after his inauguration. As I wrote in September 2009 for The BRAD BLOG:
Shortly after Barack Obama was sworn in as President last January, as Brad Friedman reported at the time, the new White House website "Technology" page signaled a hopeful change, and a call to re-examine the oversight of our public airwaves:
Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum.
Okay, let me connect some dots here. For more than two years, GOP extremists have made the President's birth certificate an issue that has successfully permeated the country's consciousness. According to a New York Times-CBS News poll last week, 43% of the country is not sure Barack Obama was not born in this country, despite long standing factual evidence to the contrary.

How did GOP extremists manage to make a non issue such a huge issue? They used the power of broadcasting to beat the drums of paranoia into 50 million people across our land. They used the power of talk radio, which they have used to successfully marginalize Democrats and anyone else outside their narrow point of view.

That's right. According to Arbitron, 53 million people listen to talk radio every day in this country. When Glenn Beck loses his Fox "News" audience of 2 million, he still will have his radio audience of 10 million. According to Katz Radio Group (subsidiary of radio giant Clear Channel) President Mark Gray, "The weekly reach of radio is higher now than it was three decades ago -- yet the power of radio to reach and influence consumers unfortunately remains a bit of a well-kept secret."

What's an even better kept secret is that roughly 95% of this nation can hear only Right Wing Hate radio on their commercial dial. Progressive voices are purposely kept out of the national discussion on our publicly owned airwaves. (It's like gatekeepers keeping progressives out of our national parks, only much more important.)

Which takes me back to the first of the President's commitments: "ENCOURAGE DIVERSITY OF OWNERSHIP IN BROADCAST MEDIA."

How can the President keep his commitment to the American people? He can call for a bill to be introduced in Congress which would rewrite radio ownership rules, rolling them back to pre-1996 levels, which would mean one owner could have 20 FM and 20 AM radio stations, rather than the unlimited numbers they can own today following passage of the Telecommunications Act under Bill Clinton. If more than just six "persons" were in charge of radio, as is now the case, we would naturally get more diversity of political thought, more debate over real issues, and more localism, which once was the hallmark of terrestrial radio.

There has traditionally been bi-partisan support for this action, but it has lacked one key component: leadership.

In fact, as Brad Friedman would later note at Alternet, by the summer of 2009, the President's hopeful call for reform of media ownership rules on his White House "Technology" page "had been quietly excised from the White House website without a trace, apology or even an explanation."

For whatever reason he chose to back off then, hopefully the past two years have made the problem of the wholesale rightwing takeover and corruption of our public airwaves clearer to the President than ever before.

The other key media commitment the President made, at least for a short time, back in January of 2009 was to: "CLARIFY THE PUBLIC INTEREST OBLIGATIONS OF BROADCASTERS."

It is critical to understand that we the people own the airwaves. Broadcasters, (local TV and Radio stations) own a lot of fancy equipment which allows them to broadcast over OUR air. They made a business deal with us that they get to broadcast over our air ONLY if they serve the public interest. (This differs from cable TV; once you write a check to Comcast you make a business deal with them to get programming over their cables. It's an important legal distinction.)

After the Reagan administration tossed out the Fairness Doctrine, broadcasters pretended that they had no further public interest obligations. It's another falsehood the right wing is perpetuating, and the President clearly knows it; but their obligations to We the People are no longer well defined. Broadcasters still are required to write reports to the public over how they are operating, on topics like children's programming and shared service agreements between stations that reveal how one news staff is shared by more than one station, but very little else.

And now, in a quiet behind the scenes effort, broadcasters are trying to wiggle out of doing even that. In a tiny April 7th notice [PDF] by the Federal Communications Commission (the agency which is to oversee broadcasting and supposedly ensure the use of the public airwaves in the public's interest) broadcasters, in the name of reducing paperwork, are trying to squeeze a rule change through so they no longer have to report to the public at all. (We have until June 17 to fight this back. Please see this urgent action and make sure broadcasters still have to report to the real owners of the airwaves, you and me!)

On this, the President needs to take control of his FCC and formulate real public interest obligations. Commissioner Michael Copps has created a good list [PDF] for starters. President Obama needs to throw his weight into that effort.

This corporate owned media needs more than a tongue lashing: The President, our Congress and We the People need to take action -- executive, legislative, and judicial -- to restore real fairness and balance to our broadcasters and to our democracy.

The time is NOW.

* * *
Learn lots more on these topics at and find out what public interest obligations really should look like in my documentary film, Broadcast Blues.  

Sue Wilson is a media activist, director of Public Interest Pictures' Broadcast Blues, and a 22 year veteran of broadcast journalism. Her numerous awards include Emmy, AP, RTNDA, and PRNDI for work at CBS, PBS, FOX, and NPR. She is the editor of the media criticism blog, Sue Wilson Reports.

Dear AOL Members: AOL is Censoring Your Email ... And you have never been told


(Originally posted on 4-22-2011)

If you use an AOL email address, AOL is doing you the favor of making sure you do not receive email containing any links to in it.
Not email from a address, mind you, as if I were a spammer or something (which, obviously, I'm not), but any email from anybody that has a link to this site, or to one of our news stories.

I learned this swell news early this week when someone was kind enough to let me know that their attempts at sending a link to this site to a friend bounced back to them with an error message. That error message was "HVU:B2". What is that error?:
  • 421 HVU:B2
    • There is at least one URL or domain in your e-mail that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members. Resolution will require opening a support request.
That's right, "substantial complaints" from someone, whatever that means, will result in no links to stories at The BRAD BLOG getting through to any of AOL's millions of members. And they will never know about it.

Again, these are not even emails from They are simply emails from anybody to any AOL email address which has my domain linked in the body of the email.

Neat, huh? I wonder what would happen if there were "substantial complaints from AOL members" about, say, Or Or Would that result in millions of members not being able to receive any email that links to anything at those sites? Sounds like a great way to ratfuck someone you don't care for politically, doesn't it?

So what did I do about this? What level of hell have I had to descend to over this past week in trying to solve this problem?...

So far, I've spoken to at least 10 different AOL support people on the phone, since clicking the "support request" URL they offer in the error message seen above actually takes you to someplace on the "AOL Postmaster" that doesn't actually give you the form you supposedly are to fill out to deal with this issue.

It took a day or two, and several more calls to more very nice AOL tech support people who told me they couldn't help me in the slightest, but a friend did some digging and finally figured out that this form is the one to fill out to deal with this particular problem. Or, at least, it's supposed to be.

After filling out that form, I was given a webpage with a message to the effect of: "Thank you for filling out the form. We will send a confirmation email to you with instructions on how to proceed."

That confirmation email never came, despite my having tried about 4 different times, from several different email addresses throughout the week. My friend tried as well. He also never received the promised "confirmation email."

Each time afterward I would call AOHell tech support again and was told by the still almost-always very nice tech support person that they couldn't help at all, that they couldn't escalate the call, that they couldn't allow me to speak to a supervisor, that the one and only way to deal with this problem was to fill out the form at the "AOL Postmaster" webpage --- the one that I told them each and every time I called that I had already filled out, received a promise of a "confirmation email," and then never received it.

They were very very sorry, but all that they could advise was that I fill out that form again and wait for a confirmation email that would never come.

In the meantime, today I received dozens of automated emails from my own mailing list program --- the one that I use to send out news alerts to media folks --- informing me that dozens of AOL members on that list had been automatically unsubscribed today because notes to them had bounced more than 3 times (that's one of the settings in my maillist program.)

After a few more calls to tech support today, asking nicely, then begging, then pleading for a solution, begging to speak to a supervisor, someone, anyone, who could help, I was again told there was nobody I could speak to, the call could not be escalated, I could not speak to a supervisor, that I should go fill out that form to solve this problem.

I asked for a corporate AOL phone number where there might be someone who could help, and was --- finally, after much begging --- given one. It turned out to be the 800# to the AOL billing department instead. You'll be shocked to learn they couldn't help either --- but they did recommend that I fill out that form at the "AOL Postmaster" page!

I finally looked up the AOL corporate website online, found the numbers for the "Corporate Media Inquiries" department, figuring I'd either get help or get an on the record comment about this mess and about the fact that AOL is censoring members emails for them, and spoke to another very nice person whom I told about the situation, explained that I was a journalist, not a spammer (and besides the notes being rejected didn't even need to come from my address to get rejected), mentioned the irony that I even write news for Huffington Post from time to time, and explained that I'm at wits' end, and will probably need to write a story on this at this point to let people know that AOL is censoring their users emails!

He promised to report the situation to tech support for me, he promised to elevate the matter, he promised to have someone who could fix the situation call me back hopefully today (though it was late in the afternoon on Good Friday, so he couldn't promise promise, but he promised to try.) It's several hours later, and I've received no call. But it is Good Friday, when, as everyone knows, the Internet shuts down.

But I did receive a note from an AOL user I know, who I'd explained the situation too (when they contacted me wondering why they had received a notice that they were being automatically unsubscribed from my mailing list). They said they'd asked a friend to send a note with in it to them and, though "it took a while," they said it made it through!

Great! The call to the "Corporate Media Inquiries" department did the trick, I guess! Right? Not right.

I replied to my AOL friend (from a address, with the text of their email quoted --- the one that contained in it --- and the message immediately bounced. Same error. Same hell.

In my second-to-last ditch effort today, nearly a full week into this nightmare, nearly a full week since colleagues on my email alert list have not been receiving my emails, I once again filled out the same "AOL Postmaster" form for, perhaps, the 5th or 6th time. You know, the one that tells me after I've completed it that I'll get a "confirmation email" that never comes? This time, I got a different response after filling out the form:

Yes. A blank page. A blank page with nothing but their sidebar on it. No message. No nothing. At least its more honest.

At that point, I figured I'd better write this article if, for no other reason, some folks with AOL addresses may be wondering why they're not getting their usual email news alerts from me. This is why.

But also because the world should know how easy it apparently is to keep AOL users from getting links to "objectionable" websites if enough "substantial complaints from AOL members" are made. Neat trick, huh? Let's keep that one in our back-pocket, shall we?

Oh, and also I thought the world should know that AOL is censoring its members' email and they know nothing about it! And if your own website gets caught in that censorship there is almost nothing you can do about it!

I'm reminded of a similar incident that occurred with Comcast back in the summer of 2005 --- which we covered exclusively here --- as they, the nation's largest email provider, were not allowing emails to go to users if they contained "" in the body of the email. 

We eventually were able to learn from Comcast that the problem was due to some automated anti-spam program that triggered a filter to block emails that had URLs which had suddenly become very very popular on the Internet, under the presumption that they must be spam. Or so Comcast claimed anyway. It was a very politically charged summer, and the site was reporting on information which argued that Bush had determined to go to war in Iraq whether there were WMD there or not.

The problem was eventually corrected and was removed from the filter. But a month or so later --- as Cindy Sheehan took up her famous stand in Crawford, TX, urging Bush to meet with her to explain the "noble cause" for which her son had been killed in Iraq --- emails containing "" were similarly filtered out by Comcast and never reached their intended destination. We reported on that incident here.

In many ways, the Comcast incident was arguably even worse than AOL's shame, in that their system didn't even bounce an error message back to the sender. The email was sent off, and nobody ever even knew that it didn't arrive.

Well. Sorry for the long explanation, but I feel better having gotten it out of my system --- even though, as of now, it is likely that AOL members cannot get emails which contain links to this news site in them.

If my contact at AOL cares to offer a response from the "Corporate Media Inquiry" department, I will, of course, be happy to run it (as I offered him originally --- but he chose to try and solve the problem, rather than give an on-the-record comment for now, which I actually appreciate.)

But, sorry. This is all bullshit, and folks need to know.

AOL members who wish to complain, request they be allowed to receive emails with in them, or would prefer to switch to an email provider that doesn't censor their mail without telling them first, can call: 800-827-6364, or they can be ignored via the AOL feedback page here.

* * *

UPDATE: Another AOL user tells me via Twitter: "I just sent from AOL to AOL with your domain and it works; only from outside AOL in fails."

That would explain why my AOL friend was able to receive an email with my domain it from another AOL user, and why my reply to her, quoting the same email, failed. Fail. Fail. AOL. Fail.

UPDATE 4/23/11, 5:11pm PT: Just a quick update for those who've asked. Yes, emails containing links to any page at are still blocked when sent from any non-AOL address to an AOL user. This is more than 24 hours after I directly notified and spoke to their Corporate Media Inquiries division, who promised they'd escalate the issue. And just about a full week since I was initially notified about the problem in the first place, and began my full week of of endless tech support calls and written complaints via the form mentioned above at the "AOL Postmaster" site. Still censored.

Interestingly, someone pointed me towards an article posted in 2004 with the exact same problem with AOL. The article sounds almost identical to mine, in both the description of the problem, and the serious issues it presents about how this AOL "feature" could be used nefariously. The article is no longer available at its original address, but the cached version is at is right here.

URGENT ACTION! Require Broadcasters to report to the Public!

April 19, 2011

The FCC is asking for public comment as to whether broadcasters should continue to be required to submit public files for public inspection.  (This is under the Paperwork Reduction Act.)  Broadcasters say almost nobody looks at the public files anyway, and claim it takes too much time and paper to produce them.  But you and I know the Public Files are critical to the public interest. (And it's part of the media activist toolkit to get the public to monitor their public files routinely.  But let's make sure we have something to monitor!)

FCC Comment Request: 

PLEASE mobilize your people to write the FCC by June 17.   So far, the FCC has received only a few comments from the public.  Let's make sure they receive thousands!  Say we the people need to have public files, but that broadcasters need to post them online This will not only save paper, it will give us easy access to the public interest information to which we are entitled.  (Broadcasters are behind the scenes fighting online posting tooth and nail.   Let's win this battle now.)
Direct all PRA (Paperwork Reduction Act) comments to the Federal Communications Commission via e-mail to  and .

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For additional information, contact Cathy Williams on (202) 418–2918.

I will be following this situation closely;  please let me know if you have acted, and I will follow with a report.