MPB Cancels ‘Fresh Air' for ‘Inappropriate Content'

photo

Terry Gross' program ‘Fresh Air' will return to Mississippi Public Broadcasting Aug. 2 in a later time slot.

Updated 5:15 p.m. (See the full statement from MPB Executive Director Judy Lewis in comments below.)

Mississippi Public Broadcasting's decision to pull the nationally-syndicated show "Fresh Air" from its radio schedule is drawing fire. This morning, media blog Gawker linked to a July 13 blog post by Fred Hammond, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Alabama, in which Hammond criticized the move.

"One of the beauties of public radio is that it will air shows that commercial radio is too scared to air," Hammond wrote. "It will offer a point of view that challenges us to think about life in new and unique ways."

Hammond quoted a July 12 e-mail from MPB Radio Director Kevin Farrell in which Farrell informed a listener, "MPB no longer airs this program ("Fresh Air") due to recurring inappropriate content."

The Huffington Post and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow have also joined in the criticism of MPB.

In a second post on the Rachel Maddow Show blog, Laura Conaway reported that MPB pulled the program after a complaint about host Terry Gross' July 7 interview with comedian Louis C.K.

"Mississippi Public Broadcasting shares a campus with offices for the state's colleges and universities, and we have learned that some of those offices play public radio for callers who are on hold," Conaway wrote. "Recently, a caller got put on hold during Fresh Air and heard Terry Gross ask comedian Louis C.K. if he always has sex with his shirt on. The caller complained, the station's zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct kicked in, and away went Terry Gross and 'Fresh Air' for Mississippi."

This afternoon MPB released a statement from Executive Director Judy Lewis defending the decision: "Mississippi Public Broadcasting strives to deliver educational, informative, and meaningful content to its listeners. After careful consideration and review we have determined that Fresh Air does not meet this goal over time. Too often Fresh Air's interviews include gratuitous discussions on issues of an explicit sexual nature. We believe that most of these discussions do not contribute to or meaningfully enhance serious-minded public discourse on sexual issues."

Despite the statement's reference to "careful consideration and review," the cancellation appears to have been a prompt decision. The Jackson Free Press has obtained another e-mail Farrell sent to staff at 1:33 p.m. on July 8--less than 24 hours after the July 7 Louis C.K. interview aired--announcing that MPB was pulling the show immediately "due to content issues with the program."

A call to MPB executive director Judy Lewis was referred to the communications office. An MPB spokeswoman returned the call after the release of Lewis' statement but offered no further comment.

Other recent program topics for "Fresh Air" include, a July 8 program featuring an interview with filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko, whose new independent film, "The Kids Are Alright," features a lesbian couple portrayed by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. The program also saw Gross interviewing journalist Joel Achenbach about the nation's electricity grid. On July 7, in addition to Gross' interview with Louis C.K., the show featured a review of author David Mitchell's latest novel. The previous day, Gross talked to former national Poet Laureate Billy Collins about poet Emily Dickinson.

Previous Comments

ID
158641
Comment

This is not about the gays or conservative criticisms. I suggest we dig a little deeper. It might help to speak to ex-MPB employees. There are more than a few that could help us understand the roots of the problem. The employees of our *public* radio station need to stand up. It's not just MPB's reputation... This "theory" has gone viral. Our state is, once again, being painted as a bigoted state with NO factual evidence to back it. Correlation does not equal causation. I hope the JFP will investigate this a little more.. I also hope the rest of the country is as interested in the real reason vs the hyperbolic theory Gawker re-posted. The theory is juicy, but holds little-to-no water based on several emails I've received. Climb higher.

Author
kaust
Date
2010-07-15T15:06:39-06:00
ID
158642
Comment

What's going on here? Programs like Fresh Air are the reason alot of people (including myself) support MPB financially every year... They offer fair-minded content aimed not at stirring up emotions, but enlightening and allowing people to make up their own minds on issues... Thanks for following up on this JFP...

Author
rnpolen
Date
2010-07-15T15:11:16-06:00
ID
158643
Comment

Here's the jist... The "reason" is now clear. http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/07/15/4684985-louis-ck-gets-terry-gross-fresh-air-run-out-of-mississippi?threadId=1014674&commentId=15614482 I still suggest there's more.

Author
kaust
Date
2010-07-15T15:14:58-06:00
ID
158644
Comment

Knol, Ward has been on the phone all afternoon on it. If this was indeed the reason, I have two words for MPB: Grow. Up.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-07-15T15:31:50-06:00
ID
158647
Comment

Just in: (Verbatim) Statement from MPB Executive Director, Dr. Judith Lewis, regarding removal of Fresh Air from MPB Think Radio schedule: Mississippi Public Broadcasting “First, we want to thank all of our listeners who have provided us feedback regarding our decision to remove Fresh Air from our programming lineup. Your feedback is important to us and we hear you. We hope you understand – if not agree with – our perspective. “Mississippi Public Broadcasting strives to deliver educational, informative, and meaningful content to its listeners. After careful consideration and review we have determined that Fresh Air does not meet this goal over time. Too often Fresh Air’s interviews include gratuitous discussions on issues of an explicit sexual nature. We believe that most of these discussions do not contribute to or meaningfully enhance serious-minded public discourse on sexual issues. Our listeners who wish to hear Fresh Air may find it online.”

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-07-15T16:17:39-06:00
ID
158648
Comment

I just deleted MPB from the #1 spot on my car stereo. It's a rather sad moment because I listen to MPB more than I listen to my own iPod.

Author
kaust
Date
2010-07-15T16:22:15-06:00
ID
158649
Comment

I'm listening to WJSU as I type. How can *anyone* decide that "Fresh Air" isn't meaningful content? Does MPB want to contribute to the state's brain drain? This does nothing to help recruitment of educated professionals. Remarkable.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-07-15T16:27:25-06:00
ID
158650
Comment

The revolution will not be televised. The revolution will be no rerun brothers, the revolution will be live!

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-15T16:50:51-06:00
ID
158652
Comment

The revolution won't be on MPB...maybe banjo music?

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-07-15T17:36:42-06:00
ID
158655
Comment

I am appalled in a way I can't explain. I hadn't planned on giving a huge contribution to MPB but they won't get a dime of my money. I didn't give any money last year when they pulled Fresh Air without any explanation. Any contribution I make will go the NPR. Mark my words, they'll pull This American Life next. In the meantime, there's always the Fresh Air Podcast. http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_detail.php?siteId=7060034

Author
msgrits
Date
2010-07-15T18:53:58-06:00
ID
158656
Comment

MPB insiders have confirmed that Executive Director Judy Lewis made the call to cut "Fresh Air," indicating that it indeed was a fast decision, as the timeline Ward reports above implies. We will add Ms. Lewis' comments if and when she returns calls.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-07-15T18:58:10-06:00
ID
158657
Comment

"Speaking of Faith" also does a great podcast, all: http://www.speakingoffaith.org

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-07-15T19:01:40-06:00
ID
158658
Comment

"This morning, media blog Gawker linked to a July 13 blog post by Fred Hammond, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Alabama, in which Hammond criticized the move." Wait, I was going to make fun of this guy, but then I just realized I'm ordained as a Universalist minister too. It took about 5 minutes online.

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-15T19:07:48-06:00
ID
158662
Comment

When I think radio, I don't think MPB. At least not anymore. Although I didn't always love every edition of Fresh Air, I was frequently enlightened and entertained by it. With this latest debacle,I now have no reason to contribute (or even listen) to MPB.

Author
thespis
Date
2010-07-16T02:34:08-06:00
ID
158663
Comment

I have a habit of listening to and reading work from those I may not always agree with. (I'm not an atheist, but I follow one on Twitter and watch Bill Maher.) Many aren't that intellectually free.

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-07-16T07:31:09-06:00
ID
158664
Comment

This reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-07-16T07:34:36-06:00
ID
158672
Comment

Welll Welllll Welllll..... Zero-tolerance policies. Gotta love'em. More regulation=more problems. But please, please. Continue to vote the way you do. Maybe through censorship we'll achieve freedom of speech. I feel sorry for anyone who quits listening to MPB solely because of this wee setback. They offer a diverse selection of shows to enjoy especially if you are into gardening, cars, witty game shows, new age music, etc. Just turn on Kaz's show instead, right?

Author
jbreland
Date
2010-07-16T11:55:19-06:00
ID
158673
Comment

ugh. I fear for MPB. Woe is me. Woe, is me.

Author
nolalamb
Date
2010-07-16T12:03:59-06:00
ID
158675
Comment

Wait, I was going to make fun of this guy, but then I just realized I'm ordained as a Universalist minister too. It took about 5 minutes online - Drummin Just to clarify, the Unitarian Universalist denomination is different from the Universalists. The ministers in UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregations go to seminary and in my experience also have knowledge of history and US social justice movements, among other things. Some links: UU Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1616409692&ref=ts#!/TheUUA?ref=ts UUA (National organization): http://www.uua.org/homepage/index.shtml The blog for Rev Fred Hammond: http://serenityhome.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/mpb-and-fresh-air-closure/

Author
Izzy
Date
2010-07-16T13:31:42-06:00
ID
158678
Comment

just another reason i love having satellite radio

Author
eyerah
Date
2010-07-16T13:55:03-06:00
ID
158683
Comment

Some random comments I gleaned from AOL.com about this story (Note: The comments below do not reflect the opinions or views of Sir DrumminD21311): I love Louis. I have been to Mississippi and they have made the state the sorry state it is. There greatest culture died with the mound building indians and has gone downhill since-Dave The funny thing about Mississippi is that you can marry your sister or cousin there,have sex with a farm animal ,all legal,but you cant curse on the radio.Another thing is that 80% of the people that live there can't spell Mississippi-trmnatr2 yup. ima tell yew wut. dat dare mississippissippissippi iz shore a heckuva place. shoot hell far...its like yesterday weez 50th in the preevenshunna rickets. now weez 49th! woooooooo hooooooo. ima tell yew wut. (signed) X i dun made muh mark-FatCat JRG Oh my god, he has sex with his shirt on! Ban him forever. Hell, I didn't even know radio waves had made it to Mississippi yet.-Terry Yeah, I'm sure it's ok to have sex in Mississippi with a hood on, just not a t shirt.-Terry Speak for yourself B52DRVR,I live in misasipi and I have a herd of the most butifill sheeps and me and my sister has a diffrent momma,so its ok by the sherf and revrind .-elreyleon1962

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-16T14:57:15-06:00
ID
158685
Comment

Sigh. Is it just me or is it very cowardly (possibly even chickensh|t) of MPB to not announce this on their local programming or on their website? Anyway, I sent an e-mail to the programming address asking them to remove my wife and I from their membership rolls and mailing lists. I also said no donations go to them until Fresh Air returns. BTW, the comments do not work in IE 7 and keep generating errors. Might want to get your technical people on it.

Author
Pilgrim
Date
2010-07-16T15:50:55-06:00
ID
158706
Comment

Just read about this this morning, and looked at the Gawker and Maddow sites and the comments - the pent up attitudes toward Mississippi are just being let loose on this. It's embarrassing to live in the state where PUBLIC radio gets censored - but it's even more of a blow to see what it does to the state's image. I moved here six years ago and am still sensitive to outsider comments, maybe I'll get used to it. They often show a strong pre-judgment, and actions like MPB's just add fuel to that.

Author
sunshine
Date
2010-07-19T10:39:48-06:00
ID
158707
Comment

This is a case of an organization go to the extreme instead of taking a measured approach. If the issue was that someone heard something offensive while on hold at the University then why not just have the University stop using the MPB feed as the "on-hold music"? Problem solved.

Author
wolverine4469
Date
2010-07-19T11:18:59-06:00
ID
158712
Comment

MPB already pulled This American Life from their lineup once years ago. I had just sent a donation specifically because they aired that show--a fact I made clear to them. Right after the fundraiser they stopped airing it. They must have gotten more complaints from people who loved the show than the few who were offended but for some reason couldn't find the "off" button because they brought it back. Now one of the most informed and informative interviewers in the nation is no longer available to us because someone complained that they heard something about (shhhhhh) s-e-x. It seems MPB's Executive Director has a very different definition than I do of "explicit." I've never heard anything in the hundreds of times I have listened to that show that I would define as "of an explicit sexual nature." Needless to say, MPB won't get another dime from me until they get an Executive Director that is willing to suggest that people can turn it off if they don't like it--or complain to the people who use it as "hold music" rather than the broadcaster. And I will follow her advice and listen online--and contribute directly to NPR. Who needs MPB anyway?

Author
MBeloved
Date
2010-07-19T13:18:15-06:00
ID
158733
Comment

now there's even a Facebook page in protest, I just stumbled across from some other link http://www.facebook.com/pages/Im-Banning-Myself-From-Mississippi-Public-Radio/135353966498927?ref=ts

Author
sunshine
Date
2010-07-20T10:55:02-06:00

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment