Sunday, April 17, 2005

Pentagon Offers Propaganda Channel to Cable, Satellite Users

Did you know the Defense Department operates a 24-hour television "news" network?

The Pentagon Channel was launched last year, available to 2.6 million troops on 136 military bases worldwide. It was originally designed as a closed-circuit station, but as of February, when it became a 24-hour network, the Bush administration began promoting it to cable and satellite users.

Cost to taxpayers: $6 million per year.

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EchoStar's Dish Network carries the station, as do 10 cable providers, including Time Warner Cable (for its digital cable subscribers). Public channels in several states, primarily in the Southeast -- local community channels, for example -- air shows as part of their broadcast days. The Defense Department estimates 11.6 million Americans now have access to the channel. Additionally, Sirius Satellite Radio offers an overnight feed of the network's programming.

"There's nothing wrong with the military bringing this onto the base," Robert Snyder, director of Rutgers University-Newark's journalism and media studies program, told the St. Petersburg (FL) Times last month. "But broadcasting Pentagon programs on a public access cable channel is basically going to be the equivalent of a public relations channel intruding into the public sphere. They shouldn't be broadcast and published out into the general world as if they were an independent source of journalism."

According to a network press release, the channel's "CNN-like" programming includes:

-- Shows like "Around The Services," a daily half-hour program featuring military news from top Defense officials and military services around the world.

-- One-minute news updates called "Pentagon Channel Reports" air at the top of each hour.

-- A daily program called "Freedom Journal Iraq," focusing on military missions, operations and U.S. military forces in Iraq.

-- A program called "Studio Five" airs weekly interviews from top Defense leadership.

-- The channel runs programs specific to each branch of service. For the Sea Services, the channel features shows like "Navy and Marine Corps News" and "Your Corps," a show produced monthly at Quantico Marine Corps Base that features the men and women of the Marine Corps.

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This isn't the only effort to bring military propaganda to a television near you.

The military also offers the Army and Air Force Hometown News Service, a unit of 40 reporters and producers designed to produce "news" stories highlighting the accomplishments of military members. The reports are then sent to the members' hometown television stations.

"We're the 'good news' people," Larry W. Gilliam, the unit's deputy director, told the New York Times.

According to the Times, the unit produced 50 "news" stories last year that were broadcast 236 times in all, reaching 41 million households in the United States.

The news service makes it easy for local stations to run its segments unedited. Reporters, for example, are never identified by their military titles. "We know if we put a rank on there they're not going to put it on their air," Gilliam told the Times.

Sadly, few stations acknowledge the military's role in the segments. "Just tune in and you'll see a minute-and-a-half news piece and it looks just like they went out and did the story," Gilliam told the Times.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would bet the ranch these various U.S. Military propaganda tools have cost taxpayers well over $6 million. Of course, the Bush Administration is not widely promoting these costs nor is Congress fighting them.
No one is putting this into context with PBS, which is struggling to hang onto government support. Under the Bush Aministration: Military propaganda. Yes. Quality educational programming for our children and alternative news coverage. No.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing missing are cartoons that demonize our enemies. That would be a very useful tool in fighting radical Muslim subhumans. I think the money is well spent. And as a taxpayer, I would be willing to pay more if it meant putting our great country and its fighting heros in a positive light. I would much rather see my money put toward this nobel cause than wasted on funding sex-change operations as is the case in places such as San Francisco.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are Muslim children "radical Muslim subhumans." Any attempt to demonize an entire class of people leads to -- what now -- does the Jewish Holocaust come to mind?
Let truthful objective news reporting put our country and soldiers in a positive light, and not government propaganda disguised as same.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The radical conservative blogger misses the point. The military propaganda channels aren't being sent to Muslim countries. They are being sent to U.S. televisions.

As to the second half of his comment, I don't see how any of us benefit from such ill-informed hatred.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous joe said...

if the government turns a profit on these channels, do we all get a tax refund?

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

putting aside the propoganda question (i agree that the govt should not be wasting time on this--let the news come from news channels), the cost is meaningless and the comparisons to other uses for the money is a typical response used...and it is meaningless.

For the fed govt, $6m is nothing. And, no matter how much money is brrowed or spent, people can always try to justify a viewpoint by indicating where else the money could be used.

the argument is sound; the reference to money diminshes it.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Well, if the argument is sound, then even if $1 is spent on propaganda, that's $1 too many.

The point, if you reads this blog over many posts, is that the Bush administration believes in propaganda. Not just the pentagon channel and the hometown news reports, but the payments to conservative commentators, the jeff gannon mess, etc. (some people would include the establishment of an arab-language "alternative" to al jazeera and the forced closing of iraqi newspapers that showed support for the insurgents.)

Either you agree that propaganda on this scale is bad, or you don't. As you said, "the govt should not be wasting time on this--let the news come from news channels"

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On somethingweird.com you can find on sale government-funded propaganda tools shown usually in schools from the 40s through the sixties on subjects ranging from hygene to sex education to emergency drills in the event of a nuclear attack.
But we knew all knew these pieces were from the government. I guess the difference today is that the proliferation of cable and various multi-media outlets makes it difficult to discern where this stuff is coming from.
Maybe I don't have a problem with these U.S. Military broadcast stations as long as each program is preceeded and proceeded by a stark announcement: "This is a production of the U.S. Military and offers only the viewpoint of the U.S. Military and the Bush Administration. It is paid and funded through your tax dollars."
Let there exist no uncertainties over whether such programming represents independently-produced, objective journalism.
I think the money issue is relevant in the context of where the Bush Administration is placing tax dollars towards other forms of broadcasting such as PBS.

4:37 PM  

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