One of two NPR stations in the Los Angeles area, KPCC-FM, suspended its regularly scheduled Planned Parenthood spots on Friday, in response to Republican demands that Congress eliminate federal funding for the family planning group.
Program director Craig Curtis explained in a Friday memo to staff members that “given that the budget debate in congress is focusing today on abortion in general and Planned Parenthood by extension,” running the spots “might raise questions in the mind of the reasonable listener regarding our editorial and sales practices.”
A “reasonable listener” might now have questions about the journalistic integrity of the station.
The memo was published in LAObserved.com, a media-watch website edited by Kevin Roderick.
“There is nothing wrong with the spots per se,” Curtis said in his memo. It’s just that the station doesn’t want to make Republicans unhappy.
Planned Parenthood has “a business relationship” with the NPR station, the memo said—which means the organization has a contract under which it pays the station as an underwriter to run the spots.
Did KPCC pull the Planned Parenthood spots in response to a directive from the NPR network, or was this strictly a local initiative? Bill Gray, director of communications for Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media, KPCC’s parent company, says KPCC “runs their own show, so no direction from us or anyone else on this.”
Was the station responding to Republican pressure on KPCC to drop its Planned Parenthood spots? Or were they responding to something they imagined might happen? KPCC’s Curtis said there was no outside political pressure. He called the decision “a routine procedural one.” The routine, he said, is that when an underwriter becomes “the center sof a major news story…our standard practice is to ‘bump’ or suspend credits to avoid the appearance of any conflict.”
That seems to mean that the next time Republicans go after Planned Parenthood—or any other group—KPCC will do the same thing.
Asked whether any other public radio stations had pulled Planned Parenthood spots this weekend, Curtis did not point to any. He said only that “many stations have similar policies.” Gray said that Minnesota Public Radio had no Planned Parenthood spots scheduled, so had not faced the issue.
There was comment elsewhere in Los Angeles: Marc Cooper, a faculty member at USC’s Annenberg School (and contributing editor of The Nation) wrote at his Facebook page, “The Role of The Journalist: To afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. And to cower in one’s own shadow.”
At his LA Weekly blog, Dennis Romero mocked the station, writing, “We’ve never even heard a Planned Parenthood spot on the station. Oops, maybe this one backfired. Now we know, KPCC, that you take money from Planned Parenthood…. Listen Craig, we wouldn’t have accused you of anything because we had no idea about your family planning ways.”
The station, broadcasting at 89.3 FM and www.scpr.org, is owned by the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio. Their license is held by Pasadena City College, which originally operated the station. It features an “intelligent talk” format.
KPCC afternoon host Patt Morrison was recently named “most valuable radio voice” of 2011 by The Nation’s John Nichols, who says she “raises the quality of the discourse with savvy and unexpected guests.” Morrison did not reply to an email asking for comment on pulling the Planned Parenthood spots.
In the leaked memo, Program Director Curtis told the staff, “let’s go ahead and plan to resume the Planned Parenthood spots on Monday. If we need to extend the suspension, I’ll let you know.”