KBDI pushes limits on controversial pledge tie-ins
by Joanne Ostrow
The Denver Post
KBDI-Channel 12 has a reputation for broadcasting bold, distinctive documentaries. Just where to draw the line between bold/distinctive and kooky/irresponsible is a matter of opinion.
Last weekend, during a pledge drive, Channel 12 aired controversial documentaries promoting conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 and claiming taxes are unlawful. Answering the phones during the pledge drive were conspiracy believers who reportedly encouraged callers to believe.
The station received complaints over “America: Freedom to Fascism” along with ” 9/11: Press for Truth” and ” 9/11: Blueprint for Truth.” It also fielded requests for more.
The claims made in “Freedom to Fascism,” namely that the country is evolving into a police state ruled by a powerful elite that has tricked Americans into paying taxes, have been refuted by facts, notably in a lengthy New York Times piece last month.
I’m with the viewer who cancelled his KBDI membership and wrote, “What’s next on the KBDI hit list, films about President Obama being a citizen of Kenya or about how health-care reform wants to kill your grandmother?”
It’s nothing new for KBDI to staff the phone banks during pledge drives with supporters of whatever is on the air. Conservationists have been recruited to answer phones during nature broadcasts. Still, the arrangement raises questions about whether the station is making deals with interest groups to carry programming in exchange for pledge support.
A KBDI spokeswoman said, “Phone bank people are instructed not to get into debates whatever the issue. We can find people to staff our phone banks without making deals.”
Shari Bernson, Channel 12’s membership director, selects documentaries for airing. Her goal, she said, is to provide a forum for expression of different points of view and to air things the other stations won’t. “It hasn’t been easy with this content,” she said.
” 9/11: Pressed for Truth” was one of KBDI’s top five fundraisers in the past year. The station plans encores of the 9/11 docs in September.
“I am not a 9/11 truther,” Bernson volunteered. But her research found 43 percent of Americans have questions about what actually happened on 9/11. As far as fundraising goes, “Our mission is airing programming outside the mainstream.”
The station knows controversy fuels fundraising. Fully 32 percent of the station’s budget comes from pledges.
Original article here.