Indians Complain About Media Depictions


Federal Communications Commission members Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps presided over the agency's third hearing on broadcast localism in Rapid City, S.D., Wednesday.

Nearly 300 people attended the hearing in Adelstein's hometown. Besides the now familiar refrains of concern about media consolidation and kudos from the local charities for broadcasters' charitable deeds, the biggest row was made by members of the Oglala Lakota tribe.

Representatives from the tribe complained about the depiction of native Americans on both local and national television.  "The media has an obligation to dispel the stereotypes held by many non-Indians," said Thomas Short Bull, president of Oglala Lakota College in Kyle. Short Bull's comments were first reported by the Rapid City Journal.

Instead of dispelling myths, however, the media focus on stories that reinforce the image of Indians as drunks and criminals, he said. He said they could balance that with stories about nurses, teachers and other positive role models. Bull also complained that stories of election fraud in 2002 overplayed isolated cases and cast Indian voters in a poor light.

Bill Duhamel, owner of Rapid City station KEVN and a long-time Adelstein friend, said local news operations are doing their best to cover their communities but are hampered by stiff competition, diminished compensation from networks, satellite competition, and the expense of converting to digital transmission.