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Greg Martin 09/14/05 America`s Heartland, Finale
by Greg Martin, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: September 14, 2005

A coalition of environmental groups last month made a push towards Public Broadcasting System affiliates across the nation not to air Americas 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 Americas Heartland Executive Producer Jim ODonnell is that these groups have never even seen the program. Thats because the program debuts this fall on many P.B.S. affiliates. The key word in that phrase is many.

ODONNELL: 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 nations households.

And sure, that includes rural statewide systems such as North Dakota and West Virginia public television. But more importantly, Americas 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 ODonnell, that is the goal of the program & to reach the masses about the importance of ag to the nations economy and way of life. So what about the environmental coalition complaint that the sponsors will influence the shows content?

ODONNELL: 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 Americas Heartland, ODonnell 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.

ODONNELL: You know, profile Basque sheep herders in the Far West, a rainbow trout farm in Idaho, were doing a story on biodiesel and ethanol. We have several features on sustainable resources. Were doing a piece in later episodes about a fully organic farm in Idaho.

Information on local affiliates and times Americas Heartland airs can be found at this web address & www.americasheartland.org/watch_heartland.

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