Ongoing protest of WGBH Board member Koch to light up Boston landmarks

By Dru Sefton

Three progressive groups have organized a protest Friday night at Boston’s WGBH as they continue to pressure the station to drop conservative activist billionaire David Koch from its board.

The gathering at WGBH coincides with the station’s Smart Conversations series on climate change. The progressive organizations — Forecast the Facts, Daily Kos and the Courage Campaign — take issue with Koch because they say the philanthropist funds organizations that “miseducate the public” about climate change.

The campaign, which kicked off last October, has included advertisements at four bus stops in the Boston area, a large billboard outside the station and about 50 activists appearing outside a board meeting.

In addition to the protest at WGBH Friday, huge electronic projections will light up the exterior of the station’s studios. Similar projections will illuminate Fenway Park, the Massachusetts Statehouse and the Boston Globe‘s headquarters Thursday night. The projections will feature messages targeting WGBH’s board.

Forecast the Facts, Daily Kos and the Courage Campaign have also gathered more than 235,000 signatures on digital petitions opposing Koch’s involvement with WGBH.

Koch “is the arch-villain of climate-change deniers,” Forecast the Facts spokesperson Daniel Kessler told Current. Since 1997, the billionaire has provided more than $67 million of funding to groups that insist climate change does not exist, Kessler said.

The station supports Koch’s involvement on the board. “Just as our viewers and listeners reflect a full spectrum of pursuits and viewpoints, so do our board members,” WGBH spokesperson Jeanne Hopkins told Current. She added that WGBH has presented “the science and facts about climate change” through documentaries on Nova and Frontline, “and we will continue to cover the full dimensions of this topic.”

Kessler disagreed. “PBS and WGBH are beloved and trusted institutions, representing the best of American media,” he said. “Someone who actively funds misinformation is an odd choice for the station’s board trustees.”

Koch has served on the board since 1997, said Melissa Cohlmia, head of communications for the Wichita, Kan.–based Koch Industries. He’s also donated $18.6 million to WGBH since 1982, $10 million of which has gone to Nova.

Cohlmia said Koch has not commented on the protest campaign. “We are not exactly sure what Forecast the Facts’ allegations are,” she wrote in an email. “David Koch has never tried to influence WGBH or Nova programming.”

“David Koch has no intention to resign from the board of WGBH,” Cohlmia told Current.

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org
  • dccajun

    There is no lack of diversity of views represented on the WGBH Board. Nor is there a shred of evidence that Koch or any other Board Member has used his/her position to affect editorial content of any WGBH production or what it airs. Nor is there any evidence that Mr. Koch has failed in his fiduciary or other Board responsibilities. Black-listing someone because of their political views should be anathema to supporters of public media. While I reject most of Mr. Koch’s reported political positions, I sincerely hope he remains on the WGBH Board.

    • Voltairine de Cleyre

      As a publicly supported broadcasting company one would think that they have a vested interest promoting the truth and honesty regarding environmental and other issues.
      Your argument is disingenuous at best. But not surprising, considering the recent victories of Citizen United and McCutcheon. After all, if money buys politicians, why not PBS. After all, this is America. The bottom line is not people, its the dollar that counts most.

      • dccajun

        And will you be the judge as to what is ‘truth and honesty regarding environmental and other issues’? If not you, who? Can you provide any evidence that David Koch’s participation on WGBH has led to any deviation from truth and honesty? If so, it needs to be presented and then it can be dealt with. In the absence of any evidence, WGBH should act in accordance with its own charter and by-laws regarding the selection and service of board members. It may seem pretty easy for you to hold that Koch should not be given a position of trust with WGBH, because he he has well-documented business interests that drive his political activities. But having made that decision, where do you draw the line? No bankers, lawyers, private equity managers, labor union leaders, teachers need apply? Let Koch and others be judged by their stewardship and behavior on the board on which they have pledged to serve. At least his views and positions are known, unlike the anonymous board members who may be pursuing their own agenda in obscurity.

        • Voltairine de Cleyre

          Every business or corporation success or failure is determined in the marketplace.

          If WGBH believes that having a board member with debatable morality and
          activity is representative, than of course that is their choice.

          I myself have made also made a choice not to do business or support companies that are environmentally, politically and socially destructive. So have many others.

  • chagrined

    America has been very, very good to the Koch Brothers, grandchildren of Jewish immigrants. The Koch Brothers are not good for America!

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