Thursday, September 1, 2011

What in God's Name is a School Board Member doing with his own Show on OCAT?

Last week OCAT's new fall line-up debuted and on the schedule appeared a current events roundtable gab-a-thon rather humbly called "Oshkosh Area Politics." It is by no means the first of it's kind -- who can forget "It's Your Law" with George Curtis, "Eye on Oshkosh" with Cheryl Hintz," "Vox Populi" hosted by Gordon Doule, Tony Palmeri's "Commentary" or even the more sports orientated "Gang Greene Show"? What makes "Oshkosh Area Politics" different, however, is that it's host, and presumably the guy in charge of editorial content, is a sitting member of the Oshkosh school board.

This is where red flags should rise and loud alarms should ring.

The problem here is that there are very clear rules about how much involvement elected officials and candidates running for office can have with certain broadcast productions, and "Oshkosh Area Politics" appears to violate all of them.

It's not uncommon for broadcast personalities to get into politics, but when this happens, they are required by law to leave their on-air platform for the duration of their campaign and time in office. The most recent example of this happening is when Jonathan Krause stepped down from his on-air duties at WOSH to run for state assembly last year. It happened on a local level when Tony Palmeri gave up a weekly radio show on WRST to run for city council several years ago.

Sitting officials fall into this same boat for two reasons. 1.) there's always the chance that they will run for re-election, in which case their air time essentially become an extended campaign commercial and 2.) it's basically propaganda. The debut episode of "Oshkosh Area Politics" illustrates both of those points perfectly and it's a little ironic that the opening discussion of OAP is about "local media bias," which is essentially a question of media ethics, which are given no regard whatsoever by the very format of the show.

We'll reserve our critique of the content of Schneider's project for another time. In the meantime let's make ourselves perfectly clear:
No sitting elected official should be given broadcast time to provide unfiltered editorials to the public. Ever. Period.
If Schneider wants to become a local pubic access TV host, that's fine, but he should resign his seat on the school board first.

This isn't to say that Schneider can't be allowed to appear as a guest on radio or TV shows where sympathetic hosts will let him spout uncritically, but there's no possible way that Scheinder's program is kosher in terms of either broadcasting standards or rules pertaining to the responsible use of one's office.

"Oshkosh Area Politics" is essentially a half hour TV ad for Ben Schneider and his agenda. The same would be true if it were run by a liberal office-holder. There's really no other way to look at it. The fact that the show will be rerun over and over during the course of the week like all shows on OCAT makes it even more absurd.

If conservatives want a public access show to counterbalance a perceived bias in the local media, they're welcome to it, but OAP is pure propaganda so long as Schneider is the showrunner. OAP should find a new host and producer or close shop all together and if it doesn't someone should file a complaint with the Government Accountability Board.

And if that doesn't happen, we'll be happy to host a live chat during it's broadcast -- we haven't had one of those in a while and it might be about time to pull the chats out of the mothballs.

OAP is on YouTube here.

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