Hey, Seattle City Council: This is what we were talking about

During Reclaim the Media's campaign to persuade the Mayor's office and the City Council to negotiate a more publicly-beneficial deal with Comcast, one of the arguments we made was that the government-programmed Seattle Channel needs to be run with greater public oversight, and needs to devote more of its programming time to the nuts-and-bolts of civic government accountability--i.e. broadcasting (and rebroadcasting) pCouncil meetings, public hearings, etc. The channel is the past has been criticized for serving as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Mayor and for powerful City Council officials, rather than supporting government accountability.

The local press (except for Real Change) largely ignored such citizen concerns, and Council refused to even consider a Community Council Federation resolution which would have established sensible minimums for accountability programming produced by the Seattle Channel. The city signed a new 10-year franchise agreement with Comcast in in mid-April.

Now, less than two months later, the Seattle Weekly is lambasting the Mayor's office for using Seattle Channel resources to produce a propaganda video on his plan to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. While the video in question was not actually aired on the channel, some (including community activist John Fox) have questioned the ethics of the situation. Mayoral spokesperson Marty McOmber says that

the Seattle Channel "routinely uses its facilities to produce projects that support policy communication efforts for the City Council, city departments, and the mayor's office." The spoof video is not a political or campaign statement because, McOmber says, it "was used during a policy speech by the mayor given to the downtown Rotary Club. The only thing that sets it apart from other such Seattle Channel projects is the use of parody and humor." The video was never broadcast on the Seattle Channel itself but can be viewed at the mayor's official Web site.

The Seattle Channel's policies include this in a preamble: "The channel belongs to the citizens of Seattle and exists to inform and involve citizens in government, civic and community affairs. It is the goal of the Seattle Channel to provide a multimedia program service for the City of Seattle, its citizens, officials, and employees. . . . Programming and scheduling decisions will be non-partisan, equitable, and determined on content." Later, under the heading "Editorial Integrity": "We will not create program material conditional on editorial control or review of specific content."

The Weekly article fails to mention that the Council had just bypassed a 10-year opportunity to hold the Seattle Channel more accountable to its stated mission.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey