By Pete Schartel
LIBERTY, Kan. — It is my patriotic duty alert fellow broadcasters that last week the new driver of the National Association of Broadcasters threw both our cherished First Amendment right of free speech and the preservation of independent broadcast voices under the bus by calling for the silencing of broadcasters that carry Russian-sponsored programming.
New NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt states that “the NAB is a fierce defender of the First Amendment.” Perhaps he should have used the word “farce” instead. Advocating to shut down independent radio stations, such as my own which has zealously practiced the American ideal of creating a fully informed electorate, doesn’t strike me as being a “fierce defender.” Since his statement came out during meetings with 300 lawmakers it seems more plausible that this was a knee-jerk attempt to make them like him by playing on public sympathy and emotion.
In reality, the only lawmakers who should support his lack of conviction to uphold our right of free speech are those of the foreign government that launched the reprehensible attack on the innocent citizens of the Ukraine. Many brave Americans have given their lives for the freedom to be an open and just society. It should not be so easily ignored.
By stating that ”airing of such programs are extremely limited,” LeGeyt demeans and minimizes the importance of preserving the voices of independent broadcasters. Although it would be naive to have ever believed that the NAB valued independent stations as much as large, powerful chains, I always felt that the NAB genuinely tried to be inclusive. Now, independent broadcasters need to be warned that the NAB is no longer there to cover your back.
On a personal note, the irresponsible action of sending out this press release to unfriendly media outlets has subjected my wife and I to an outpouring of hateful, profanity-laced letters, emails, and phone calls. Although it is actually encouraging that people still feel free to express their opinions without fear of reprisal, I pray that the NAB will do some soul searching and vow to fully think through future statements so as not to further the dangerous rise of cancel culture mentality which threatens to undermine the fundamental values of our still-great country.
Pete Schartel is owner of KXCL-AM, Liberty Kansas. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.