WASHINGTON DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) sent the following letter to recently appointed House and Senate National Defense Authorization Act Conferees drawing their attention to a letter Democrats sent last month to the Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members. The letter, signed by 8 leading Democrats, encouraged them to retain language (the “Harkin Amendment”) that would bring balance to the political programming of the tax-payer funded Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS):
Text of letter to recently appointed conferees is below:
As a conferee on the Fiscal Year 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, I bring to your attention the enclosed letter that was sent to Chairmen Hunter and Warner, and Ranking Members Skelton and Levin, related to the Harkin Amendment that was adopted by the Senate during consideration of the bill.
The Harkin Amendment would reaffirm the Department of Defense’s existing regulations, which call for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service to air political programming that is “characterized by its fairness and balance.” The amendment was accepted by the Senate without objection.
The Members who signed this letter believe that AFRTS programming should reflect the principles and values for which America stands, and strongly urge the Conferees to adopt the Harkin Amendment in the Conference Report.
Thanking you with kindest regards, I am
STENY H. HOYER
Text of Original Letter:
As you prepare to go to Conference, we are writing to express our strong support for the inclusion of the Harkin Amendment in the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report. This amendment addresses the political programming of the taxpayer-funded Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS).
AFRTS provides an invaluable service to American service members and their families stationed in more than 177 countries and U.S. territories around the world, as well as DOD civilians and their families. AFRTS is intended to broadcast a “touch of home” by providing programming that reflects a cross-section of what is available to stateside audiences.
Recently, AFRTS has been criticized for broadcasting only one political talk show on its uninterrupted voice, or talk radio, service without ensuring that differing viewpoints are adequately represented. The Harkin Amendment, which was accepted in the Senate DOD Authorization bill without objection, reaffirms DOD’s exisiting regulations, which call for AFRTS political programmming that is “characterized by its fairness and balance.”
Specifically, the Harkin Amendment declares that it is the sense of the Senate:
that the mission statement and policies of the American Forces Radio and Television Service appropriately state the goal of maintaining equal opportunity balance with respect to political programming and that the Secretary of Defense should therefore ensure that these policies are fully being implemented by developing appropriate methods of oversight to ensure presentation of all sides of important public questions with the fairness and balance envisioned by the Department of Defense throughout the American Forces Radio and Television Service system.
Fairness and balance are principles which are at the heart of American democracy, and we believe that they should be reflected in broadcasting to those who are protecting the values and principles for which America stands.
We strongly urge the Conferees to retain the Harkin Amendment in the DOD Authorization Conference Report.
Thank you and with kindest regards, we are
STENY H. HOYER ROSA DeLAURO
JOHN SPRATT ROBERT MENENDEZ
ELLEN TAUSCHER JOHN LEWIS
RAHM EMANUEL LOUISE M. SLAUGHTER