Monday, April 28, 2008

Brownfield losing his radio show over differences with owner about his treatment of Monsanto Co.

Derry Brownfield, right, who founded a radio network for Midwest agricultural and rural news, is being taken off that and sister networks because he rails against major agribusiness interests, including Monsanto Co., on his "Common Sense Coalition" program that airs on about 60 stations. Clyde Lear, who co-founded Brownfield Network and now heads the parent Learfield Communications, confirmed his reasons in an interview tonight with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

Lear said Brownfield also goes after the Missouri Farm Bureau, but "He's really gotten on a tear abut Monsanto," Lear said. Asked for examples, he said "I just don't listen too much" and was acting on complaints to his news department from his sales staff, which feared a reduction in business from Monsanto. Lear said he asked Brownfield last week to "lay off" the chemical and seed company "or at the very least get someone from Monsanto on the air," but Brownfield, 76, told him that fellow Missouri native Rush Limbaugh didn't run his talk show that way and said "Clyde, these people are evil." Brownfield has not returned a call seeking comment. (UPDATE, May 1: Brownfield told Corporate Crime Reporter that he couldn't comment until after May 30, when his show will be dropped. CCR's 1,850-word story quotes Lear as saying Brownfield agreed to have Monsanto on the show, but Lear gave in to pressure from his subordinates.)

Lear said he decided during the conversation with Brownfield to stop carrying his former partner's program, but is trying to help him find another outlet. "I wish I had given this one a little more time," he said. "As a journalist, there's a part of me that wishes I had gone the other way." But Lear is also a businessman and majority owner of his company (he bought out Brownfield in 1985), and he said three of his sales people have Monsanto as a client. Asked if they thought Monsanto would reduce its advertising because of Brownfield, Lear said, "I think there was that fear."

While Lear couldn't cite any examples, Michael Stumo of the Organization for Competitive Markets wrote on the OCM Blog that he and OCM President Fred Stokes were guests on one of the two recent Brownfield programs that were critical of Monsanto. "We discussed the tactics of Monsanto in the marketplace, their abuse of producers, their litigiousness, their quashing of competition, and the recent Vanity Fair article, "Monsanto's Harvest of Fear," Stumo wrote.

Lear announced the termination on his own Grow Learfield blog, initially in gentle terms. "He's good. And, he's a dear friend," Lear wrote. "He didn't mind controversy or taking on giants like the Monsanto Corp. He thought they were bad for farmers, too big for their britches and generally bad for America. Increasingly he's been saying so, without seeking balance, in my opinion." Replying to commenters who complained about his decision, he said, "We've parted ways because accusations being made about not only advertisers, but individuals, corporations, government, (fill in the blank) were based on fear and lies with absolutely no truth to back them up."

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