Securing the Right to Be Heard

Mills, Kay
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p93
The article recounts a 1960s case about race in Mississippi that transformed television news broadcasting and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. In the 1950s, white Mississippians were resisting the desegregation of their schools after the historic Brown versus Board of Education ruling that separate schools for white and black children were inherently unequal. Medgar Evers, executive secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Mississippi, repeatedly tried to get WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi to give Afro-Americans time to respond to programs he felt presented only the white point of view on the issue. In 1963, he finally did appear on WLBT but only a few weeks later, Evers was ambushed and killed. The following year, Reverend Everett Parker and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ launched a 16-year legal battle over the Jackson station. Then Parker, joined by Afro-American leaders Aaron Henry and Reverend R.L.T. Smith, filed a challenge against the WLBT license, then up for renewal. They claimed that WLBT failed to serve the interest of the Afro-American audience and did not fairly present controversial issues, especially in the area of race relations. INSET: Weaving Together Stories Waiting to Be Told.


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