Friday, May 2, 2008

ACT-UP And PBS Historically

In 1991, Downtown asked Robin Haueter, a then-member of ACT-UP, whether ACT-UP was then satisfied with the public broadcasting system’s coverage of its activities.

“ACT-UP is displeased with all media coverage of the issues it raises. They aren’t really doing anything about the AIDS epidemic. On the whole, MacNeil/Lehrer has certainly done no more than all of the other television news programs, which is very little. The only exception is possibly [the now-deceased] Peter Jennings, who discussed AIDS issues on The World News Tonight,” Haueter replied in the Spring of 1991.

Haueter felt that the public broadcasting system was no better than the commercial broadcasting system in terms of raising the AIDS-related issues that ACT-UP deals with. Among the issues ACT-UP deals with are “research, basic science treatments, access to those treatments and education.”

The only time Haueter can recall that the NewsHour invited an ACT-UP representative to be on its news program before 1991 was once during the June 1990 conference on AIDS in San Francisco. Asked to compare the media coverage of ACT-UP in San Francisco with New York City’s media coverage of ACT-UP, Haueter noted that “the issue of AIDS is covered very well in San Francisco” but “very poorly” in New York.

Although ACT-UP just dealt with AIDS-related issues in the early 1990s, many of its members were then also active in the Queer Nation group which dealt with violence against lesbians and gay men and which was the group that organized a protest inside Channel 13’s studio in the middle of a NewsHour broadcast during the early 1991 “Kuwaitigate” Gulf War I, that interrupted the program for a few minutes.

(Downtown 5/8/91)

Next: PBS: A Publicly-Funded “Private Broadcasting Service?”

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