A coalition of environmental groups last month made a push towards Public Broadcasting System affiliates across the nation not to air "America's Heartland", a program that celebrates the farm and rural lifestyle, and that is sponsored in part by Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Their claims were two fold & the program would only represent large production ag based on the sponsorship, and it addresses issues it opposes such as genetically modified crops. The problem with the claims, according to "America's Heartland" Executive Producer Jim O'Donnell is that these groups have never even seen the program. That's because the program debuts this fall on many P.B.S. affiliates. The key word in that phrase is many.
O'DONNELL: An initial straw poll of forty eight public television licensees representing 116 stations who have said yes to the show. We anticipate that to grow. Already we have commitments from stations representing forty per cent of the nation's households.
And sure, that includes rural statewide systems such as North Dakota and West Virginia public television. But more importantly, "America's Heartland" has cleared to run in fifteen of the top twenty five markets&places like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Minneapolis just to name a few. That list is expected to grow. And according to O'Donnell, that is the goal of the program & to reach the masses about the importance of ag to the nation's economy and way of life. So what about the environmental coalition complaint that the sponsors will influence the show's content?
O'DONNELL: The fact is Public Television has specific guidelines both regulatory and legislative that preclude us from having any interaction with the sponsor regards content. We are a fully independent producer.
And based on an eight year track record of producing a regional program in California that serves as the model for "America's Heartland", O'Donnell says if the show would have any bias, it would be towards the people of agriculture, not the size or scope of operation. And yes, O Donnell says the program does include some Northwest ingredients.
O'DONNELL: You know, profile Basque sheep herders in the Far West, a rainbow trout farm in Idaho, we're doing a story on biodiesel and ethanol. We have several features on sustainable resources. We're doing a piece in later episodes about a fully organic farm in Idaho.
Information on local affiliates and times "America's Heartland" airs can be found at this web address & www.americasheartland.org/watch_heartland.