Georgia Gov. Debates Will Be On a State-Funded Network the Gov. Controls. Will Its Own Scandals Be Discussed?
Primary debates sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club have begun airing on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Those for Gov. will occur next week.
More than most public broadcasters, GPB receives nearly half its funding from state appropriations. Its oversight body, the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission, is politically-appointed by the Gov.
As such, it’s rife for political interference and cronyism.
Georgia’s current Gov. Nathan Deal infamously orchestrated its hiring of the state’s climate-change denying Senate Majority Leader for a $150,000 job.
Other GPB scandals include a secret back room deal giving it daytime control of a student-funded college radio station, an IRS investigation into its treatment of freelancers, and three straight years of increasing financial losses as reported on its annual state audits.
After the Fiscal Year 2017 audit was released last fall I awaited reporting on it by the Atlanta press.
There was none.
I then tried to contact each of the declared candidates for Gov. myself seeking comment.
Only one campaign replied but wanted to know what news organization I was with.
Discovering I was just a guy with a Facebook page the campaign made no comment.
With debates on the network itself approaching I again tried to contact the candidates for comment. None have replied to date.
This week I asked The Atlanta Press Club about GPB’s scandals and whether they would be addressed in the debates. In doing so I noted the high level of distrust the public holds towards both politicians and the press.
Press Club spokesperson Lauri Strauss sent this statement:
“The Atlanta Press Club appreciates its long-time partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting to air political debates statewide that help voters make informed decisions on election day. Each debate includes a panel of journalists who determine what questions are most relevant to the election to ask the candidates. We agree the lack of trust in media is a concern and hope the nature of our debates as politically neutral and balanced increases the public’s trust in our local media and reminds them of the importance of quality journalism.”
So any questions about GPB will be up to the individual journalists.
For its part The Atlanta Press Club has been mute throughout GPB’s management scandals.
Elsewhere journalists are becoming increasingly adversarial towards bad management.
Employees of the Denver Post and other newspapers owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital are in outright rebellion.
Their fight is in part for better pay and working conditions but also to protect the public service mission and independence and credibility of their profession.
The risk of not doing so can be seen in the fate of Sinclair Media’s journalists. A viral video showing local anchors from various cities all reciting the same corporate script made them objects of ridicule.
The Atlanta Press Club is decidedly not a union. Its website lists numerous corporate partners and other sponsors raising conflict of interest concerns such as scandal-plagued Kennesaw State University.
The Press Club is housed near the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and holds its press conferences in the Commerce Club.
(The CEO of the Metro Chamber also sits on GPB’s board.)
That this isn’t considered unseemly is telling.
Being “politically neutral and balanced” without accountability can actually foster a culture of corruption.
Politicians use GPB for exposure, GPB depends on politicians for access and funding. Business interests fund both.
It becomes an incestuous club where the public’s interest gets lost.