AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   December 1996

Taking Control   

By Shannon Robertson

For four years no one wanted to touch Bonnie Erbe 's idea for a woman-oriented news show. One network she pitched the idea to said the show was sexist and would "ghettoize" women.

But Erbe, 42, persisted and eventually found an audience for her show on Maryland Public Television (MPT), where she developed her idea into a weekly public affairs program called "To the Contrary." The show was eventually picked up by PBS and airs on 260 stations nationwide.

Before crusading to get her show on the air, Erbe was a correspondent for NBC News . Currently covering legal affairs for Mutual NBC Radio , she writes columns for Scripps Howard in addition to producing "To the Contrary."

And a recent decision by MPT to overhaul the station and have it focus more on local issues has put Erbe in the role of revolutionary once again. Opposed to efforts to change the format of her ground-breaking program, Erbe has just made television history by joining forces with other women to take over the five-year-old program, making it the first national news program ever owned by women.

Erbe promises that, in light of the takeover, "To the Contrary" will be more daring in the future. Without having to answer to a higher authority, she says, it will be "freer."

The show will continue to take on issues hardly mentioned on mainstream public affairs programs. Some previous topics have included the role of women in the '96 election, women in the ever-controversial Book of Genesis, and the declining number of global female leaders.

"I used to think that in a couple of years 'To the Contrary' wouldn't be necessary," she says, adding that she now knows better. "There will always be a need for this show – certainly in my lifetime."