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Ron Geaves

Public Access Television - Lack of Legitimacy

Prem Rawat's supporting organizations, Elan Vital in the United States, the United Kingdom, and in Australia are engaged in a sustained campaign of arrogating Public Access Television - P.A.T and Public, Educational, Government - P.E.G, programming.

Public Access Television is predicated on providing access for those who could not otherwise gain broadcast opportunity, and who have broadcast material that provides some form of public benefit. It is on the basis of these twin pillars of Access and Benefit that the public and Local and National Governments provide material support, and upon which Commercial Broadcasters provide facilities and airtime to assure the success of both P.A.T and P.E.G TV.

Elan Vital in its various guises claims a right to P.A.T and P.E.G broadcast opportunities on the basis that it is 'non profit', yet the matter of profit may not be the fundamental question when considering whether P.A.T and P.E.G broadcast opportunity is legitimate. A fundamental question is "what is the public benefit matched against any special or personal benefit that accrues to those who produce or feature in any broadcast?"

Prem Rawat is, in direct contractual terms, distanced from the operation of Elan Vital. Nevertheless Prem Rawat receives substantial indirect benefit in the form of funding that is provided by Elan Vital to support the acquisition and running of private jets and helicopters, the cost of maintaining those acquisitions and the costs of a very expensive travelling lifestyle. Any promotion of Prem Rawat which results in increased income to Elan Vital or other Prem Rawat supporting organizations increases the funds available to provide indirect benefit to Prem Rawat.

Matched against this huge personal benefit that accrues to Prem Rawat, the public benefit from the arrogation of P.A.T and P.E.G resources by Prem Rawat supporting producers, is negligible. The most commonly available programming provided by Elan Vital is the "Words of Peace" series which features Prem Rawat talking. While any talking head program may be 'interesting', in terms of P.A.T and P.E.G TV something more than curiosity value should be expected to be delivered, there should be some obvious 'public benefit'.

Why then (as Elan Vital claims) have over 100 P.A.T and P.E.G providers around the world, given airtime to programs that promote Prem Rawat? One explanation is the way in which Elan Vital's proxy producers operate. The techniques involved are well demonstrated by two documented instances both based in the US, the first involves P.A.T Station WYOU operating in Wisconsin, the second concerns programming on the Adelphia network, P.E.G allocated Channel 8.
 

1. Williamsom-Marquette Gazette

2. Dartmouth College DMS Student Government

The Williamson-Marquette Gazette Report reveals the common strategy of Prem Rawat's supporters in becoming the 'producer' for the 'off the shelf' programming of the "Words of Peace" series, which is made by Visions International, the trading subsidiary of the Elan Vital Church, for broadcast by a P.A.T station.

The Dartmouth College situation reveals a somewhat different arrangement whereby broadcast time on P.E.G (Public, Education, Government) allocated Channels of a Commercial Cable provider, is accessed under the guise of local residents 'sponsoring' the "Words of Peace" programs. In the Dartmouth case Prem Rawat's supporters have even the audacity to seek the suborning of the College's funds for this purpose.

The deficiency of the Elan Vital operation is that it is opaque. In the US where the "Words Of Peace" programs are produced, Elan Vital is registered as a Church, yet the bulk of Elan Vital material presents it and Prem Rawat as being non religious. The entire basis of Prem Rawat's teaching is derived from Hindu and Sikh tradition and is closely identified with the Sant Mat religious doctrine, at no point do the programs explain this history. Further although the whole of the "Words Of Peace" programming features Prem Rawat, the relationship between Prem Rawat and Elan Vital is never made clear, particularly that Prem Rawat is accorded an exceptional level of expense to support his world travels.

P.A.T and P.E.G broadcasting is often provided on a first-come first-serve basis, this gives a huge advantage to organizations that have, as is the case with Elan Vital, a commercial subsidiary providing production and financial support. It is anything but a fair, that community level programming should be competing with the resources available to Elan Vital, whose UK operation alone raises 2 million (US$3.5 million) per annum and which expends over $4 million per annum on Prem Rawat's private jet and his international travel.

Most P.A.T providers are desperate for high production value content. When presented with a ready-made product that seems to accord with a moral concern about world peace and to provide free lifestyle 'self improvement' opportunities, it is not surprising that Station managers and Cable executives accept Elan Vital and Prem Rawat at face value. P.A.T and P.E.G providers however have a public duty to thoroughly scrutinize what it is they are endorsing. Because no matter what disclaimers may be carried, every time a P.A.T or P.E.G provider permits the screening of a program, they are saying to the public they serve "this program and its producers and creators are of value".

P.A.T and P.E.G Providers giving airtime to Prem Rawat.

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