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Reform the Media
by Tom Klammer
Email: fairtrader2002 (at) aol.com (unverified!)
Current rating: 0
09 Nov 2003
Saturday Keynote at the Orpheum Theater in Madison WI
The Orpheum Theater is an aging beauty, and it shows, but it was a lively place last night. I think I am safe in saying that the Orpheum was the first venue ever to have an FCC commissioner playing mouth harp in a set with Billy Bragg and Blues Singer Lester Chambers. A fitting cap to a series of rousing speeches, with Bill Moyers as the keynote.
Bob McChesney and the Nation's John Nichols introduced speakers. Senator Russ Feingold, one of only 5 senators to vote against the telecommunications act spoke of how odd it felt to be standing up with Trent Lott against the FCC rollbacks. He said it was the first time they had stood together in this way, but that on this issue he was glad to do it. This was a theme oft repeated in various sessions of the conference - how the consolidation of media is a fundamental issue of preserving democracy, not just some pet project of the "left."
FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein spoke of challenges facing the FCC - we have had a taste of incredible victory, but the fight is FAR from over - media consolidation, internet access, radio licenses, etc, etc.
Amy Goodman, highly visible throughout the conference, received a huge ovation when she was announced, and gave another great speech. Currently time is short, but I will post some content from these talks later.
Studs Terkel spoke before Moyers, and told of being asked once what qualities he would want to see in a President. He said he would like to see someone like Bill Moyers. Moyers then took the podium and said he would run only if Studs was his vice president. Moyers said he would take the oath of office and then resign the next day and watch as the fun began under President Terkel.
After a long and stirring speech by Moyers, Al Franken recounted his experiences with crybaby Bill O'Reilly.
And finally, Billy Bragg and Lester Chambers were accompanied by FCC Commissioner Adelstein on harmonica on
as Chambers sang "you got me doin' what you want me to do."
Quite a night
Media reform movement comes of age (PWW)
(No verified email address)
Current rating: 0
17 Nov 2003
MADISON, Wis. – As the audience overflowed the 1,800-capacity Orpheum Theatre here last weekend, Commissioner Michael Copps of the Federal Communications Commission told them they were “the most important meeting occurring in America today,” and veteran newsman Bill Moyers said they were engaged in “a struggle for the soul of democracy.”
The occasion was the National Conference on Media Reform, Nov. 7-9. About 2,000 people from 47 states and a dozen countries, including high-profile figures like AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, and several members of Congress, attended the conference with the aim of reversing the trend of the mass media becoming corporate titans with their own biased agendas.
In the opening session, journalist John Nichols compared the media reform movement to the environmental movement on the eve of the first Earth Day. While media issues have elicited more public comment to the government than any other issue besides the war in Iraq, there’s been surprisingly little attention to them in the mainstream media or the presidential debates.
“You are the grassroots activists who will put this issue on the agenda,” said Nichols.
Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois professor whose books and activism have energized and made him a star of the media reform movement, told the conference how the original hope was to bring together maybe 200 people. He said the main catalyst for the explosion of those expectations was the grassroots battle of the U.S. people against media concentration.
More than 2.5 million Americans voiced opposition to a new rule passed by the FCC on June 2 that would have allowed a single corporation to control up to three television stations, eight radio stations, a daily newspaper and all the billboards in any given city. The courts have blocked the rule from going into effect, and the battle in Congress is 13 votes away from reversing the rule permanently.
Dozens of workshops at the conference focused on the shortcomings of the media and how to fight back. The concentrated ownership of media – 90 percent of all print and electronic content is now controlled by just five corporate giants – has limited public access and participation, squelched authentic localism, deluged Americans with advertising, and disenfranchised voices of color.
One workshop leader noted that media concentration has degraded the information environment to the point where many people – sometimes majorities of the U.S. population – hold demonstrably false beliefs about George Bush, the war in Iraq, and taxation, for example.
Comedian and author Al Franken agreed. Summing up a scientific study by the Annenberg School of Journalism, Franken said, “The more you watch Fox News, the dumber you get.”
Structural changes in the media have also damaged the interests of workers more directly. Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley pointed out that media bias comes from institutions more than from reporters.
“The vast majority of reporters enter journalism because they want to make a difference,” Foley said. “That’s why so many of those who are good are leaving these days, because it’s very demoralizing. … These are ruthless employers, as ruthless as any corporate bully you can imagine.”
Foley offered the example of Mike Gallagher, a star investigative reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer until in the summer of 1998, when his major investigative report on bribery and other wrongdoing by Chiquita Brands led him to be fired as a scapegoat for stepping on the wrong toes.
John Sweeney called the events described by Foley part of the “attempt to eliminate what’s left of our country’s free press.”
Rahul Majahan, a writer and antiwar activist, noted a report from Reporters Without Borders that rates the United States 31st in the world in terms of press freedom. As if to prove the reformers’ point about media bias, almost no mainstream media showed up at the conference.
When Amy Goodman of Pacifica’s “Democracy Now!” program asked what mainstream media were present, only one group identified themselves. “Where are you from?” she asked. They shouted back, “Canada.”
The authors can be reached at pww (at) pww.org