4100 Redwood Rd #406
Oakland, CA 94619

Broadcast Blues

Click here to ask for more information about this project:




Arts & Culture: Television
Economy: Corporations
Information & Media: Communication, Freedom of Expression, Knowledge, Media
Peace and Conflict: Arms & Military
Politics: Activism, Corruption & Transparency, Democracy, Ethics & Value Systems, Justice and Crime, Law


Raised to date: $200,000.00
Estimate to complete: $125,000.00
Total Estimated Budget: $325,000.00
The budget numbers above are accurate as of 04/30/2009



Media Type


Project End Use

Other: Theatrical, DVD sales, possible TV also.

Key Personnel

Sue Wilson
Sue's career is about making government policy understandable and accessible to average people. She produced public affairs specials for KCBS-TV Los Angeles in 1987 just after becoming CSULB’s “Outstanding Graduate.” Next, a series on wasteful government spending for Sacramento's Fox station. Then onto PBS station KVIE to produce election specials for Van Gordon Sauter. Next to Sacramento's NPR station to moderate a Gubernatorial debate, and produce and host monthly documentaries on health care policy and aging.

Sue is the winner of two Emmy awards, and several AP, RTNDA, and PRNDI awards for investigative reporting and documentary work.

Earl Katz
Executive Producer
President of Public Interest Pictures and President of Creative Philanthropy, is an activist/documentary producer. He is currently Executive Producing two documentaries, Broadcast Blues and One Nation Under God. He has been a lead driver on the electronic voting issue since early in 2003. His award-winning documentaries have been an adjunct to his career as a political, social justice, and environmental activist since 1970. Katz is Executive Producer of Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election with Danny Glover (Sundance Channel), Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties (Sundance Channel), and Hacking Democracy (HBO), for which he received an Emmy® award nomination.

Marcos Barron
Executive Producer
Marcos Barron, Executive Director Marcos Barron is an emerging young leader who puts his skills, connections, and passion to work for good. As a political fundraiser, he helped elect Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Hillary Clinton, all while building budgets of non-profits, ranging from Handgun Control and the National Breast Cancer Coalition to Rock the Vote and Free the Slaves. He later ran People For the American Way's California Office where he helped defeat Ward Connerly's divisive initiative that would have had disastrous medical and civil rights impacts throughout the state.

Outreach/Engagement Plan(s)

When Broadcast Blues premiered in March at the Sacramento International Film Festival, people were lined up around the block to get in.  The turnout was enormous, the publicity was great, and the audience feedback was that this is a film every person in America should see.  We won the prestigious "Outstanding Environmental Vision" award; (the film makes the point that the environment and other issues will only improve when the media does the proper job of reporting about it.)   

We are currently in discussions with California Common Cause about sponsoring a 35 state tour of the film.  We are also working with the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Media Alliance and many other grassroots groups to co-sponsor theatrical screenings.  This will enable us to get local media coverage throughout the nation.   

Our Sacramento screening was preceded by a protest of Rush Limbaugh, which also gained press coverage, and we will stage protests of other media issues as appropriate.  In addition, citizens revolted after the premiere, writing to the FCC and the White House about the FCC's inattention to the film director's FOIA request of July 2007, asking when was the last time any station's license was revoked.  The FCC has formally apologized, and is now processing that request. 

Next, we will be posting on our website a petition to revoke the license of KDND, the radio station in Sacramento which sponsored a water drinking contest which killed a woman.   This will gain national publicity, but this is no stunt:  the petition has been drafted by a Washington DC specialist, and we will ask the public to sign onto that petition.  This will bring enormous public pressure to the FCC to do something they apparently have not sone in many years: revoke a station's license for reckless, in this case, deadly conduct.

The goal is not just to promote a film, but to goad the American people into action:  this is our media, and we really are taking it back!   But the road is long; this is a movie the media does not want people to see.

See more at www.broadcastblues.tv .



Streisand Foundation$10,000.0006/24/2008
ARCA foundation$50,000.0006/18/2008
Carsey Family Foundation$10,000.0006/11/2008
Lear Family Foundation$10,000.0005/16/2008
Harvey Glasser$250.0006/11/2007
Laura Kimpton$500.0006/11/2007
Janet Morrow$10,000.0005/22/2007
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation$25,000.0004/25/2007
Park Foundation$25,000.0009/26/2006
Streisand Foundation$10,000.0007/20/2006
ARCA foundation$50,000.0006/20/2006


4904 Bal Harbor Dr.
Chattanooga, TN, 37416

Short Synopsis

Media policy is killing people in this country, literally, and it is damaging our democracy, too. But We the People are taking our media back!




What can be more important to our democracy than trusting the news and information we see and hear? Yet from the left to the right, almost no one does anymore. And with good reason.

Broadcast Blues will begin by showing how our media ended up in such disarray.


We start with an easy, lyrical pace, going back to the early 1930’s when broadcasting was in its infancy. We’ll show how Congress and broadcasters alike understood that balanced discourse was in the public interest, in fact vitally important to our democracy, and so passed the Communications Act of 1934 which provided strict rules for station licensing and ownership.


Then we move onto to World War II, when so much was at stake, and the country huddled around their radios, depending on and trusting the information that was reported. But we’ll see how, at the same time, Tokyo Rose was halfway around the world, broadcasting propaganda, and learn how that propaganda affected the soldiers and the war. No surprise that after WWII, the FCC regulated broadcasting further with the Fairness Doctrine, requiring stations to offer contrasting points of view on issues of importance.


It just seemed only right and fair. And does it ever seem like a long time ago.


In 1987, Ronald Reagan's FCC said the marketplace would ensure fairness, so they got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, (except for NPR and PBS, which still have to fairly present opposing views.) And they opened up the door to media consolidation.


Big change.


1988. The rules had changed and Rush Limbaugh taught us all how to play; name calling, personal attacks, even inciting riots at the Democratic Convention.


1996, the Telecommunications Act gave fewer owners the right to own many more radio stations; this puts Rush on the air all over the country. And not just Rush, but a rash of right wing wanna-bes, on radio and cable TV, who call themselves entertainers, but who 22% of Americans count on for their news, even if it isn't true. How they dominate they airwaves, and how through their efforts, the country's midsection went from blue to red.


Fast forward to today, and progressive talker Ed Schultz is making headway with his radio show, broadcast out of Fargo, N.D. But we show that even good ratings aren't enough to keep progressive talk on the air. Clear Channel has taken all progressive talk off the air in the key swing state of Ohio, and replaced it with programming that gets half the ratings. Twenty more well performing progressive stations have been bumped off the air since the 2006 election.


Media Matters David Brock tells us there has been a concerted effort by the Conservative Movement to disable journalism. We explore that concept first by telling the story of a Fox News reporter who refused to lie to the public about a cancer link to milk, then was fired for it. She fought back, and a jury decided that WTVT had indeed intentionally distorted the news. But Fox ultimately won on appeal, and all the rest of us lost. Fox got a court ruling that … news doesn't have to be true.


We next explore how newsrooms are shrinking as media consolidates, and David Brancaccio and Amy Goodman help us understand how too many of the reporters who remain get caught up in the game of trading their objectivity for access.


Then Helen Thomas, juxtaposed which news footage, reveals the abysmal coverage of lead up to the war in Iraq, saying that too few reporters were asking hard questions. But we visit the McClatchy (Knight Ridder) newsroom to discover that the reporters who were asking hard questions before the war have been frozen out of access ever since.


And Phil Donahue tells how his talk show on MSNBC was canceled despite high ratings, because of his anti-war stance. (This segment closes with an animation of Rumsfeld bringing a big bag of money into the GE building, and GE pulling the plug on Donahue's show…all this to the Lennon classic, "Give Peace a Chance." )


Then we look at what happens when reporters get too much access to the press, and reveal the TV punditry were outright lying about Valerie Plame's CIA status (according to CIA documents. )


So news doesn't have to be true. Neither do campaign ads. Fact Check's Brooks Jackson reveals a series of falsehoods in ads. Can we ban campaign ads altogether? No, and GOP Rep. John Doolittle tells us why in the eyes of the court, money equals free speech.


So why can't we have free airtime for candidates? (Another animation here shows the relationship between fundraising and ads.) It's been tried and shot down before by broadcasters who are reluctant to cut into their massive 46% profits. Profits which could quadruple or more with the upcoming digital changeover. And Free Press' Josh Silver foreshadows the convergence of digital TV and the internet.


Next topic: Indecency and Violence. Naomi Judd leads us into a debate between the Parent's Television Council and Creative Voices, and we see a protest of Viacom over the Don Imus flap. But all sides agree that the problem with indecency is caused by media consolidation. Senator Byron Dorgan asks, who do you complain to when the station's owners are 1,200 miles away?


That takes us to Minot, North Dakota, where a a train derailment spilled a deadly cloud of anhydrous ammonia on 1:00 AM on a cold January night. But no emergency alerts went out over the radio; no one could reach the emergency broadcast radio station, KCJB, anymore. Clear Channel owned the station, (and all other five commercial stations in Minot.) We do a re-enactment of the evening with people who still suffer health problems today.


Then we show the story of a woman who tried to win a Nintendo Wii for her kids by drinking two gallons of water on a radio contest, and died four hours later. The FCC has ignored the family's call to remove the station's license.


So why can't the FCC take away these stations' licenses? Most people don't know they can challenge licenses; not one person in Minot even tried.


Fox reporter Jane Akre, coming off the loss of her lawsuit, does file a petition to deny WTVT's license to broadcast, based on proven claims of news distortion. But two years later, she still hasn't heard a thing from the FCC.

Quick history lesson now about the make up of the FCC , and how the Bush appointed chair Michael Powell led the FCC to further consolidate the media, despite three million letters of public opposition. Free Press's Robert McChesney and Senator Bernie Sanders recount the struggle.

But media activists had a surprise for the FCC when the Media Access Project and Prometheus Radio sued the FCC and woon, forcing the entire consoldation debate back to the drawing board. Official FCC hearings have been going on again for a year now, and we show comments relating to TV and newspaper crossownership, musicians unable to access airwaves, TV producers unable to sell their shows, and more.

But over and over again, we hear complaints about licensing, asking why can't the FCC do its job and revoke bad stations' licenses?

At one of the FCC hearings, we see Jane Akre demanding to know when she'll get an answer. Then she quizzes the two Democratic FCC commissioners in a smaller setting, who say that license challenges need a big change, and that they are in the purview of the media bureau.

So Sue calls the FCC Media Bureau, only to get a bureaucratic runaround. They claim they don't know how many petitions to deny licenses they have, and in a testy exchange, Sue challenges that assertion. We end up filing a Freedom of Information Act request on July 23, 2007. Despite the requirement that they respond within 20 business days, many months later we have still received no response.

Meanwhile, Jane Akre's petition to deny… has been denied.

So Sue takes her turn at the microphone at an FCC hearing and warns the commissioners that We the People are taking our media back!

Luckily, she is not alone. While GOP Rep. Mike Pence tries to banish the Fairness Doctrine permanently, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan and Republican Senator Trent Lott try to prevent further media consolidation. But the FCC doesn't listen, so grassroots media activist groups like Free Press, with thousands of members, are taking it to the streets in protest.

Add a rocking theme song, music and animations, and Broadcast Blues becomes and easy fun way to understand the impact of media policy and what we the people can do about it.

Click here to ask for more information about this project: