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Banks and broadcasting Austin On Mon. Nov. 9, the National Educational Television network aired the fifth program in its Realities series. The program, titled “The Banks and the Poor,” appeared on only two of the five N.E.T. outlets in Texas. Stations KUHT in Houston and KERA in Dallas showed the hour documentary, which runs down the relation between banks and slumlords, between banks and loan sharks and between banks and consumer credit practices that are particularly burdensome to the poor. The program was not seen on channels KLRN in Austin and San Antonio, KAMU in College Station, nor KTXT in Lubbock. All three stations had aired the previous segments of the Realities series. About one-week before the program was scheduled to appear, the executive vice-president of the Texas Bankers Association, Sam 0. Kimberlin, Jr., sent a letter to all five N.E.T. outlets in the state. The letter stated that the association believed the program to be inaccurate and biased against bankers. The letter did not, however, request that the program not be aired and in fact carefully avoided making any such suggestion. It did however suggest that the boards of the stations be called together to preview the show and decide for themselves whether or not it was fair. IN DALLAS, station manager Larry Welles said KERA received several calls of inquiry about the show before it appeared from local bankers and one letter from a local bank. He said all the callers and the letter writer believed that the show was biased against bankers. None of them had seen the show. Welles, who works in a town which is widely considered to be an oligarchy run by bankers, said he felt there was no pressure on him not to air the show and that there were no implied threats in the calls he received. He said station personnel previewed the program carefully and stood ready to offer the bankers equal time to present their point of view if they wished it. One irony in the Dallas situation: the same day that the T.B.A. sent out its letter on “Banks and the Poor,” KERA sent a letter out to members of the Dallas banking community asking them to support the station. Welles said he believed the bankers in Dallas had behaved more than fairly about the program. In Houston, Nat Rogers, an officer of the American Bankers Association and president of First City National Bank of Houston, who appears in the documentary to defend the bankers’ role, made what seems to have been the most intelligent response to the program. Rogers and several other Houston bankers did ask KUHT if they could preview the program, but when they came to the station to do so, they brought several representatives of Houston’s poor with them. Staffers from O.E.O. and the Houston Legal Foundation came with the bankers and participated in the discussion after the preview. Station manager Jim Bowers said there was never the slightest suggestion from the bankers that the program not be aired. The station offered the bankers equal time but they have not yet decided whether they will take it. Rogers said, “The only real complaint I have is that the program tarred the bankers and the savings and .loan people with the same brush. But we’re accustomed to oversimplification. When people see the contrasts we have in this country between great wealth and great poverty, they’re apt to think that the banks, with their great wealth, could solve the problem. And of course it’s just not that simple.” At KTXT in Lubbock, program director John Hanson said the station’s decision not to air the show was made even before Kimberlin’s letter arrived at the station and was made only by station personnel. According to Hanson, Lubbock bankers did not contact the station about the program but KTXT did ask five local bankers in to preview the program. “We felt the program was somewhat biased and didn’t go into depth on Texas banks. You know that some of the problems treated in the program, such as garnishment of wages and the power to claim and sell a house for a defaulted debt, simply do not apply in this state.” Hanson said the decision not to show the program was made solely by himself and by his boss, D. M. McElroy. McElroy was formerly assistant comptroller There was no indication that outside bankers intervened directly at KAMU at College Station. Norman Godwin, program director, said the decision not to air the program was made by with the counsel of the university’s administration and specifically with the counsel of Frank Hubert. Hubert is dean of the College of Education at A & M and as such is directly responsible for the educational television station. However, Hubert is also on the board of directors of the Bank of A & M at College Station. At station KLRN, which serves both Austin and San Antonio, the situation is less clear. The station’s general manager and president Robert Schenkkan said that the program has been “temporarily cancelled.” “Pressure is not the question at stake here,” he said. The station has offered the bankers three alternatives: a short time after the program for response, a 30-minute spot the following week, or an hour spot the following week. KLRN previewed the program for two T.B.A. officials in Austin and for a group of bankers in San Antonio. According to station sources other than Schenkkan, Schenkkan spent quite a bit of time after the preview convincing the bankers that it would be very bad public relations if they were to insist that the program not be shown at all, that it would, in effect, be an admission of guilt. THE ORIGINAL plan at KLRN was to have a meeting of the station’s board of trustees to decide on whether to air the program. The meeting had not been held as of Monday. Four of the 36 members of the board are officers of banks including Howard Cox, the board vice-chairman, who is also vice-chairman of the board of Capitol National Bank. Several other board members are big businessmen who deal with banks regularly. Nine banking and financial institutions contribute to KLRN, which, like most N.E.T. outlets, is in financial straits. None of the N.E.T. outlets reported hearing from any of the state’s U.S. representatives. Several of them appear on the program. Wright Patman, that crusty old bugbear of the bankers, is naturally featured. Interviews with Patman and David Rockefeller, chairman of the board of Chase Manhattan Bank, are neatly interspliced so that they appear to be rebutting one another. Five Texan congressmen are featured on an un-honor roll toward the end of the program: a list of congressmen who either have bank holdings or are bank directors and who have violated the House rule by taking part in votes on banking legislation. They are Jack Brooks, Bob Casey, J. J. Pickle, Ray Roberts, and Omar Burleson. Burleson, lucky fellow, got a star after his name on the list because he sits on a committee which is pertinent to banking legislation. Schenkkan told The Daily Texan that he considered the list unfair since it makes no distinction as to whether the men voted for or against banking interests in the roll calls in which they participated. The House rule makes no distinction either. It is difficult to judge the fairness of the documentary according to the Federal Communication Commission’s fairness doctrine, which is death to investigative reporting. Strictly interpreted, the doctrine would require a documentary on air pollution to spend half its time on why air pollution is good for people. “Banks and the Poor” is an investigation into oppressive banking practices. It does not spend half its time dwelling on all the worthy and charitable endeavors of bankers. November 27, 1970 3