By Bill Marx.
Chances are no news outfit in the city, especially public radio station WGBH, where mega-millionaire and Tea Party funder David Koch serves as a trustee, will look hard for an answer to the question asked above. Bravo to Jane Mayer and the New Yorker for publishing an incisive piece about an issue that also affects the New England media landscape—the impact of oil giant and arch-conservative David Koch’s millions on the news media, which include, in Mayer’s article, charges of encouraging censorship.
In 1997, he [David Koch] began serving as a trustee of Boston’s public-broadcasting operation, WGBH, and in 2006 he joined the board of New York’s public-television outlet, WNET. Recent news reports have suggested that the Koch brothers are considering buying eight daily newspapers owned by the Tribune Company, one of the country’s largest media empires, raising concerns that its publications—which include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times—might slant news coverage to serve the interests of their new owners, either through executive mandates or through self-censorship. Clarence Page, a liberal Tribune columnist, recently said that the Kochs appeared intent on using a media company “as a vehicle for their political voice.”
Mayer’s report deals with David Koch throwing his weight around at WNET and PBS. Unfortunately, she does not talk about whether Koch’s powerful presence at WGBH influenced its brutal treatment of its unions or helped change the station’s focus from arts and culture to an absurd duplication (given the presence of WBUR) of NPR news programming. At WGBH, the latter is surrounded by locally-produced talk shows of consummate innocuousness.
I would settle for someone explaining this elemental paradox about Koch and WGBH, pointed out by Russ Davis, the Massachusetts chapter president of Jobs with Justice: “It just doesn’t make sense why someone who on one hand is trying to destroy public broadcasting should also be sitting on the board of this station.”
Below is a Robert Greenwald documentary on the uber-conservative political campaigns financed by the Koch Brothers, who are now trying to buy themselves a Murdoch-like media empire. Nothing much on the behind-the-scenes doings at WGBH in the film, alas, even though trustee David Koch is in a strategic (i.e. holding buckets of money) position to meddle with national PBS programming decisions.