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Letter to C-SPAN re Unanswered Questions
by Dwight Van Winkle
10 Jun 2002
Below is my letter to C-SPAN asking them to broadcast the Unanswered Questions press conference, which will be held on June 10 from 2-5 PM at the National Press Club. C-SPAN reportedly considered then refused broadcast.
First, I am not affiliated with the Unanswered Questions organization, and they have not asked me to publish this letter on Indymedia. I admire the work of people in the group, and want to see them make their case to the American people, who can judge for themselves whether the information is credible and useful in fulfilling our civic duty to hold their government accountable.
The story of C-SPAN's refusal to broadcast, as well as C-SPAN contacts, is available at
If you agree with me the Unanswered Questions press conference is worthwhile information for
the public to consider, please e-mail, call an fax C-SPAN.
My letter follows.
Mr. Rob Harleston
Assignment Editor, C-SPAN
Ms. Karen Gaither
Assignment Editor, C-SPAN
Ms. Ellen Schweiger
Assignment Editor, C-SPAN
Via facsimile to (202) 737-6226
Dear Mr. Harleston, Ms. Gaiter, and Ms. Schweiger:
Please broadcast the Unanswered Questions press event on June 10, 2-5 PM at the National Press Club. I have heard that you considered, then rejected, broadcast of this event, which is described at http://www.unansweredquestions.org.
I want to know what these people have to say, particularly the families of 9/11 victims and their lawyers. Shouldn't these people have a small proportion of the chance to speak to the American people that the President and his advisors get everyday, even when it has become obvious that some of what these officials say is to cover their own malfeasance? Let the American people judge the credibility and usefulness of the information presented by Unanswered Questions.
As discussed below, I am troubled by what appears to be a lack of consistency, in that you aired the "Flying While Brown" panel discussion on June 7, which is quite similar to the Unanswered Questions press conference in that it involves plaintiffs and their lawyers suing an airline.
I am also troubled that information presented by Unanswered Questions at this event may provide valuable information to the American people and Congress as they consider the proposed Department of Homeland Security, yet you are instead providing airtime to Bush Administration officials to further push their agenda.
My understanding is that you have four criteria which you consider in selecting events for broadcast: 1) The event should be of a public affairs nature; 2) The subject should be an issue of national importance; 3) Event should be selected to show balance between different sides of a particular issue; 4) Speakers participating should be closely related to the topic under discussion.
I think the Unanswered Questions press conference clearly meets criteria 1,2, and 4, and that C-SPAN must be using criteria 3), balance, to justify its decision not to broadcast the Unanswered Questions press conference.
I understand your criteria of "balance," I understand your criteria of "balance," but balance should extend across the events you cover, and an event which might lack alternative views can serve to correct imbalances in the media as a whole. "Balance" should not be used as an excuse to silence those who question the Bush Administration, when the Bush Administration has so many opportunities to state its position.
In fact, it appears that you will during the Unanswered Questions press conference you will instead air Bush officials discussing the proposed Department of Homeland Security. This is particularly ironic in that information presented at the Unanswered Questions press conference may provide valuable input to the debate on homeland security, and might even place into question the need for reorganization as well as other new laws and policies that affect civil liberties.
In this context, your failure to air events such as Unanswered Questions could be perceived as reflecting an extreme lack of balance.
I also question whether C-SPAN consistently applies its criteria on balance. On June 7, you broadcast an event that cannot be called balanced: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's panel discussion "Flying While Brown." This event is on the Internet at:
First, I applaud you airing this "Flying While Brown" event. I am against racial profiling, and believe the plaintiffs have a strong case for compensation. Moreover, I think the plaintiffs and their lawyers are performing a public service by discussing their lawsuit publicly, and C-SPAN is performing a public service by giving these plaintiffs a forum.
However, the panel cannot be called balanced on this issue. It was moderated by the legal advisor for the Anti-Discrimination Committee, Kareem Shora [sic]. The panelists were: (1) a civil rights attorney representing Arab-American and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging passenger discrimination; and (2) Ms. Lopez's client, Mohammed Ali, a Pakistani citizen and U.S. resident who states he was subject to passenger discrimination.
There was no one on the "Flying While Brown" panel representing the airlines, pilots and flight attendants, or airline passengers who might provide a different view. I personally know a flight attendant that does not want to fly with Arab-looking people. I think she is wrong, and that profiling is unconstitutional and does not enhance security, but I do not think she is immoral or completely irrational to feel this way. This view would fairly be part of a "balanced" panel, if that was an absolute criteria for C-Span covering an event.
Therefore, it is fair to say that the "Flying While Brown" does not meet your standard for balance, yet it was still broadcast.
Why then, are you rejecting the Unanswered Questions event,? This events also focuses on plaintiffs and their attorneys in a lawsuit against an airline related to 9/11. Here, the victims are dead, and the plaintiffs are grieving families of the 9/11victims.
I wonder if you are more concerned about the other guests, who are either relatives of 9/11 victims that are against the war in Afghanistan, or will speak about insider trading and CIA interference in the visa process at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. However, these are certainly topics of great public concern and national importance.
Please show courage at this crucial time in our nation's history. At least show the same respect to the families of 9/11 victims that you showed to people discriminated against after 9/11.
If you choose not to broadcast this event, please publicly explain why on your website. Frankly, I think C-SPAN's credibility is at stake. Thank you.
Dwight Van Winkle