Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Our Media, Our Politicians, Our Problem

If you were watching Senator Tom Daschle’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on C-SPAN tonight (and, hey, who wasn’t?), you probably noticed several shots of local media mogul Bill Duhamel’s ecstatic, smiling visage. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Duhamel family (which controls 50% of our state’s television resources) also exerts no small amount of control over our state’s Democratic party.

The Democratic party, of course, has the noble reputation of representing the interests of the average American, whereas the Republican party has generally been known as the party of big business. Oddly enough, the South Dakota Democratic party is chaired by Judith Olson Duhamel. Judith is, of course, the wife of Bill Duhamel, the president of South Dakota’s largest and most influential media corporation.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with the South Dakota Democratic party associating with local business leaders. The vast majority of our local businesspeople have done a fantastic job of giving back to our community and assuring that our community is as prosperous and successful as possible.

Duhamel Broadcasting is not one of these benevolent corporations.

Remember, media corporations – no matter how powerful – do not own our airwaves. This great and powerful resource, the medium that gives the first amendment to our Constitution real meaning,, belongs solely to the American people. We graciously allow local broadcasters to use these wonderful assets – free of charge – and we ask only in return that they genuine coverage of community events and meaningful community access to our airwaves.

I’ve visited quite a few cities across America, and I’ve made an amazing (and depressing) discovery. Local broadcasters in Newcastle, Wyoming provide their community with public access to the airwaves. The gigantic megacorporation Comcast provides New England residents access to their public airwaves. In my travels, I have found only one local broadcaster who showed sufficient disdain for the people of their community to refuse to provide them with public access television.

That corporation was Duhamel Broadcasting.

So, I offer this challenge to the South Dakota Democratic party: either disassociate yourself from Duhamel Broadcasting, or ask them to live up to their obligations as members of our great community.