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Chicago Public Television Channel #11

(Revised 2004-12-05. Also see the Media Issues Links site,

THE ISSUES: The bottom section of this page has GENERAL INFORMATION about WWCI and its use of Chicago's television channel #11. ('Moles' welcome: WWCI trustees, managers, and staff, please contact CMA by email or phone.)

Issue: The board and managers of Window To The World Communications, Incorporated (WWCI) do not have working people's values!
  • CMA has authored a major study showing how this especially affects WTTW's main program. Read our nationally-acclaimed report "Chicago Tonight: Elites, Affluence, and Advertising!"

  • Please send a CMA citizens rapid email! --

    Chicago Media Action's coalition has sent an important OPEN LETTER WITH 4 DEMANDS to Board of Trustees chairman Sandra Polk Guthman. Our demands are for firing WTTW chief executive Dan Schmidt; an audit; live town hall forums and other new programs for underserved communities; a trust fund to separate program content from advertisers' influence; and public elections for the Board of Trustees.

    1. Action: EMAIL. Use the easy CMA Rapid Response form for emailing Ms. Guthman. The form has a sample message that is fully editable. To jump to the Rapid Response form's page now, CLICK HERE

    2. Action: TELEPHONE. And please telephone Ms. Guthman's office, (312) 527-4684, to leave a message that you 'support the four Chicago Media Action demands.'

  • A self-appointing board of major corporations' representatives, some lawyers, other wealthy individuals, and a few academics now simply entrust station operations and policies to a hired chief executive officer. Dan Schmidt, the President and Chief Executive Officer, uses commercial television as his model. Advertisers control what is programmed. Program content is designed for certain desirable 'demographics'. Executive salaries are extreme. And public broadcasting's special mission is abandoned. The public television trustees have private meetings.

  • The Board of Trustees' other jobs show just who controls WWCI (Boeing, the biggest banks, Sara Lee, wealthy individuals, ...). WWCI's web site lists the current board, but without their credentials or contact information.

  • A radical analysis shows the relationship between the board's power and the programs that are broadcast.

  • The last available WWCI IRS Form 990 (This is a huge, 39 page, 928KB .pdf file) shows financial and board details (page 32) reported for '11/2/01'.

Issue: There are no television forums with local working class leaders!

Forums update: Even with an embarassment of income from advertising, charities, the government, and local families, and with new channel riches available soon, we may never see these Chicago forums. Read in a December 2004 Chicago Reader article about how PBS and WTTW would rather defend against right-wing political pressure and make more money.

Acclaimed documentaries continue to be refused as lead-in material for forums. The total is now eight excellent documentaries that we have brought to the station for previewing. All have been turned down! The most recent was "Aftermath: Unanswered Questions From 9/11."

WWCI stalled negotiations and does not respond to our professional proposal for town hall forums! The 4/25/03 rationale: With the war over, there is no point because you need a raging issue to attract viewers. Besides, "Chicago Tonight" already covers the issues proposed for forums.

We are taking matters to the Board of Trustees, the directors of Window To The World Communications, Incorporated (WWCI), who are fully responsible to the public by law for Chicago's channel #11 broadcast license and for hiring Daniel Schmidt as CEO to manage the station. CMA is taking action. See the Board of Trustees issue on this page.

Issue: For-profit corporations determine the programming! And there is advertising!
  • For-profit corporations sponsor highly-promoted expensive series (but labor organizations are not allowed to sponsor shows because they are seen as 'special interests'). Commercial products, polished public relations images, and world views are promoted for specific companies, even using cartoon characters and child-voice announcers to influence our very young children. WWCI and PBS turn our government funds, viewer donations, tax breaks for charity, programming opportunities, and precious broadcast licenses into subsidies for 'underwriter' corporations.

    And local nonprofit interests are told they cannot propose programs because they would first need to find new sponsors since the current support funds are already committed. WWCI got $10 million to create "CEO Exchange" a national series of fawning interviews of certain corporations' cheif executives. And it has created several new series since it told us there was no money for any new shows. But WWCI says it cannot find a few thousand dollars for modest town hall forums with Chicagoans discussing issues such as going to war in Iraq!

  • "It's a misnomer to call us public television," says Dan Schmidt, the chief of Windows to the World, the parent company of Chicago's WTTW and WFMT-FM. "We're a non-profit cultural institution like the Chicago Symphony." The quote is from a 1999 Chicago Tribune report on Schmidt's ambitious plan to reinvent public television in Chicago, a time when Chicago had what some felt was "the best local programming on public TV, if not all of television." [Chicago Tribune Magazine (p.10) 6/6/99, AUTHOR: Steve Johnson].

  • Schmidt's 'Network Chicago' concept is "a tool for increasing corporate control of WTTW's programming -- a fact known since the plan was unveiled, and detailed in a report published in 2000 by the Benton Foundation, an advocacy organization devoted to public broadcasting policy. That report said that key commercial and government interests (who already command the media landscape) would play active roles in programming, defining "real success" by "bring[ing] on board partners from the business, commercial, and government sectors of the community". And what does the public get in this "public" broadcasting? Damned little. ("Struggling for the Soul of WTTW: Public Broadcasting Going Private", February, 2004, Mitchell Szczepanczyk, Third Coast Press)

  • Soon after scandal-ridden Boeing Company moved its world headquarters to Chicago, the WWCI Trustees elected a Boeing vice president to join them. Now Boeing underwrites and is advertised on "GLOBAL CHICAGO" segments of "Chicago Tonight." Boeing's planetwide sales of weapons and military and commercial transportation systems are worth billions more if the public is dissuaded from requiring limits on 'free trade.' The well-produced tv segments are to educate the public about chosen Chicago area interests in global matters. (We might have expected that journalistic self-respect, if not public broadcasting's special mission, would prevent WWCI from being more brazen even than commercial broadcasting in giving advertisers influence over news content. Since Boeing's pockets are the deepest there are, WTTW is clearing the way for more Boeing shows on WTTW and the entire PBS network.

  • The commercials on Channel 11 are not decreasing, but are again increasing in frequency, length, sales pitch level, interruptive placement, and relation to program subjects. WTTW is infamous for having been fined by the FCC in the past and explicitly warned to be careful not to violate 'enhanced underwriter acknowledgment' (advertisement) limitations any more!

    WWCI now has an advertising sales department, just like the commercial media. See WTTW's web page for advertisers and the amazing WTTW Advertisers Kit boldly offering the full commercialization of WTTW and PBS programs (17 pages, .pdf format).

  • Some important Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) issues are documented in F.A.I.R. research papers.

  • Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting (CIPB) promotes making the commercial licensees of our broadcast frequencies now begin to pay license fees, in order to create a trust fund intended to support truly independent noncommercial programming.

Issue: "NOW with Bill Moyers" has been put in bad time slots!
  • WTTW's broadcasts have been on Sunday mornings (was 11 a.m., now Noon) and Monday mornings (4 a.m.). These are times when the potential audience is very small. Other cities' PBS stations broadcast "NOW" days sooner, and in prime time, and several times during the week. PBS provides promos that presume stations broadcast the show Fridays in prime-time.

    See NOW's PBS web site for pictures and transcripts from programs on topics such as U.S. war policies and world wide media monopolization. There have been many execllent shows about the media.

  • WWCI management ignores the Community Advisory Board's high regard for the Moyers show (CAB issues are also discussed on this page.)

Issue: The Community Advisory Board required by law is manipulated and ignored!
  • Overview and former Chairperson Durkin.

  • A recent appeal to the head of CPB to intervene has had some amazing effects. 1) The station is investigating the whistleblower. And 2) WTTW's CAB description has been carefully rewritten to make it seem more consequential. Still, the CAB seems to exist more to help management advise the public (about the station's achievements) than to advise management (about the public's needs and desires). The CAB is to work in support of WTTW management, and strictly through CAB Chairperson Durkin.

  • (Replacement of sealed personal envelopes from CMA with an anti-CMA packet was not mentioned because chairman Eileen Durkin may have been the only CAB person who even knew we had tried to send personal envelopes.)

    CMA To WTTW's Community Advisory Board
    Four CMAers (Karen Bond, Scott Sanders, Ron Kunde, and Bob Gallie)
    went to WTTW's Community Advisory Board meeting on December 9, 2003.
    We gave a 25 minute presentation of CMA's '4  demands' for
    fundamental WTTW reform.
    Note: Read about the demands and how you can easily help. Find the
    'public television' topic and the rapid response email form at
    CABs are required by law for receiving public funding. WTTW's CAB,
    like most around the nation, is carefully constructed and managed, so
    it is a very tough crowd for reformers to work with. The general
    working class public that CMA is activating on media issues is much
    friendlier. Before our 'public comment' time, we saw the CAB vote
    down every recommendation to actually give advice to station
    management. (CAB gadfly Todd Wexman had proposed recommending that
    Bill Moyers' NOW be in the national Friday prime time slot, that local
    children's shows be produced, and that some new shows be based on
    ideas from CMA and environmentalists.)  At the end we walked out when
    a CAB member said we were just wasting their time. CMA had never
    expected to convert the CAB. We had only hoped to try it out and to
    find some allies there. Some members of WTTW's CAB did seek us out
    afterwards for future contacts.

Issue: Public money and donations are being mismanaged!
General Information:

(Remember that the 'spin' and even the 'facts' must be challenged when companies entrusted with broadcast licenses describe their own operations.)
  • Channel 11 is worth fighting for.

  • Overview: The license for federally-enforced exclusive rights to broadcast on the 'Chicago-Gary Market Area" television channel #11, designated for noncommercial educational services, has been entrusted, with uninterrupted renewals, by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the private nonprofit corporation Window To The World Communications, Incorporated (WWCI, previously known as Chicago Educational Television Association, CETA).

  • WWCI's businesses, including WTTW-TV operations, WFMT-FM (using the Chicago area's 98.7FM frequency), television studio production services, classical and jazz satellite-distributed national programming services, and some publications and web sites are managed by a chief executive who is hired by, and presides over, an unelected board with a chairperson and other directors/trustees. WTTW participates in consortia that produce and distribute programs for national syndication, and is a major voice within the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) which gets Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) production funding. WWCI also gets some CPB money directly.

  • Channel 11's programming is mostly a selection of PBS national "public television" syndicated series. Many shows are directed to children. A link to the huge list of PBS series from which WTTW chooses is HERE. Certain local operations are now branded as "Network Chicago" with the local "Chicago Tonight" shows getting most of the station's resources.

    You can examine the SCHEDULE FOR THIS MONTH. Use your browser's Find command to locate any show title. To see a past month, edit the URL address ending: "...&d=2003-10-01".) (Some people expect more 'business' shows to be launched soon. "La$alle $treet Week With La$alle Bank"? Meanwhile, station managers have told us all year that it would be very difficult to find funding for the new expenses that working class forums would cause.)

  • Window to the World Communications, Incorporated has its own web site at "". The site has information about WTTW-TV, Network Chicago, and the other WWCI businesses.

  • "Chicago Tonight" (Some say 'Chicago Too Light') show descriptions by the producers for the current and past weeks are posted HERE. You can use your browser's Find command to search for specific words or phrases within the segments' descriptions.

  • "A History of Efforts to Reform Window to the World Communications Inc." (2004) by CMA's Scott Sanders. Selected past and current WTTW issues.

  • "A History of Democratic Reform Efforts to Improve Chicago Public Broadcasting" (2003) by Scott Sanders.

  • Mitchell Szczepanczyk has more articles on WTTW issues on his public tv page.

  • Some WWCI / WTTW issues as picket signs.

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