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MPR’s California station suspended Planned Parenthood spots

Media critics are heaping scorn on Minnesota Public Radio’s Pasadena station for suspending Planned Parenthood spots during the recent federal budget-cutting debate. Republicans sought to cut the group’s funding, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

KPCC-FM’s parent is American Public Media Group, MPR’s St. Paul-based corporate umbrella. According to a memo obtained by L.A. Observed, KPCC-FM program director Craig Curtis ordered the “short-term suspension” Friday to last through the weekend, writing:

There is nothing wrong with the spots per se, or with our business relationship with Planned Parenthood, but for a few days their presence on our air might raise questions in the mind of the “reasonable listener” regarding our editorial and sales practices.

According to The Nation, MPR denies having a role in KPCC’s operational decision, adding it has no Planned Parenthood spots to bump. For his part, Curtis (a former MPR staffer) calls the move a “routine procedural one” that occurs when an underwriter becomes the center of a major news story.

The argument against what KPCC did is pretty straightforward: you have and will take the cash, why obfuscate it? For all the concern about the “reasonable listener,” playing three-card monte with your money isn’t exactly keeping faith with your high-quality audience.

And of course, you get accused of cowardice. Quips the Nation, “A ‘reasonable listener’ might now have questions about the journalistic integrity of the station.”

That said, avoiding the collision of advertiser and story is hardly unique to public radio. Newspapers regularly shift ads off a page if a nearby story is about the advertiser. Like the KPCC move, it’s designed so fewer readers will make the connection between finances and journalism, even if the newsroom is insulated from advertiser influence.

Sometimes, the advertiser is grateful for the separation. (I couldn’t find quotes from anyone at Planned Parenthood about KPCC’s move.)

MPR took over KPCC in 2000; according to KPCC’s site, it is governed by a separate board of trustees and a regional advisory council. American Public Media Group appoints the board based on the California board’s recommendation. MPR alums include Curtis, host John Rabe and journalist Than Tibbetts Sanden Totten.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 04/12/2011 - 08:30 am.

    There’s a huge difference between “shifting ads off a page” if a nearby story is about the advertiser, and pulling the “ads” entirely to avoid any possible controversy.

    Those spots on KPCC wouldn’t necessarily have run during any segment with a story about possible Planned Parenthood cuts, so there was no legitimate reason to pull them. It was a purely craven, cynical move, proving that KPCC management should be replaced with true leaders, instead of cowards.

  2. Submitted by B Maginnis on 04/12/2011 - 02:48 pm.

    The Hypocrisy of the Liberal Left.

    Props to you, David, as I don’t believe we’ll hear about this from the local newspaper of record.

  3. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 04/12/2011 - 04:30 pm.

    I hope BD Maginnis is not just assuming that KCPP is a mouthpience of the “Liberal Left” because it is public radio or under the umbrella of MPR. One could, however, jump to the more likely conclusion that every person involved with this stupid decision is male.

  4. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/12/2011 - 10:22 pm.

    Cowardice. I’m done with the anti democratic anarchists of the right controlling the agenda. We are a pluralistic society. The notion is rooted in our Constitution. To not use public money to fund abortion is only a political “agreement.” If the Constitution were truly put to the test all views on the beginning of life would have to be respected. We all pay our fair share or excuse me we should all be paying our fair share to fund the government we all receive the benefits through.The first means test is the allowance for pluralism. The second means test it he pluralism of equal reponsibility. How could it be any other way. If we are a true pluralistic nation then what is the reason one view is winning the argument ? Pluralism implies all view must be given the same statue. The undemocartic anarchists of the right are not entitled to their postion at the exclusion of all others. It’s just not fair.

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