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  • Sylvia Moore 3:54 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arizona, assassination, , , , Clarence Dupnik, , , , , extremism, , , First Amendment, , , , Gabrielle Giffords, genocide, , , Jared Lee Loughner, , license, , , media monopolies, , , political, political violence, , public broadcasting, , , , , Roger Ailes, , Telecommunications Act,   

    How Many More Have to Die Before Big Media Stops Peddling Hate? 

    Last Saturday, when I saw the headlines blaring from Internet that a Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, had been nearly assassinated in Tucson, my blood ran cold. My initial shock turned to anger as I read that the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, allegedly gunned down another 18 people, killing six of them, including a young child. I had been fearing this day ever since President Obama’s inauguration two years ago, when incidences of threats and actual political violence suddenly exploded, amid a noxious stew of violent rightwing rhetoric emanating from our public airwaves.

    For years, I kept hoping that the President and Congress would do something to rein in the corporate media companies who continue to showcase hatemongering radio and TV commentators, and rake in millions of dollars at the expense of reasoned debate and civil public discourse. I wrote letters about my concerns to my congressional representatives. I blogged about it. I wanted our public officials to take this abuse of free speech on our public airwaves much more seriously.

    I wasn’t as worried about President Obama’s safety, because of the fortress-like security apparatus afforded to American commanders-in-chief. No, I had a feeling that the first attempted political assassination of a government official in many years would be on a member of Congress. Now it’s happened. And so many other innocent lives were lost or ruined in the attack.

    None of these extremist broadcast commentators told Loughner, or anybody else, to go and massacre people. But they and the companies who employ them have perpetuated an environment where violent rhetoric is deemed an acceptable form of entertainment, where media personalities steer close to or even commit incitement, and where alternative viewpoints are scarce. Unfortunately, our public leaders – Democrats as well as Republicans – have acquiesced to the wishes of Big Media by allowing deregulation and corporate consolidation. Our government has also gotten rid of equal time rules, and declawed the Federal Communications Commission, which is supposed to oversee broadcast outlets and protect the public interest. On top of that, the United States, unlike other Western countries, lacks a robust public broadcast system that can provide an antidote to corporate media’s worst programming. So we see large portions of the population whose only source of news and information comes from extremist radio figures and lightweight local TV news broadcasts. Add to this large-scale ignorance, a toxic brew of massive income inequality, racism and bigotry, and easy access to guns. It took Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who oversees Tucson, to finally say to the mainstream what many of us in the media reform movement have been screaming about for years:

    “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government,” he said. “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

    “It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business. People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences.”

    Many are calling on the haters to tamp down the vitriol. Interestingly, Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News, the cable network that is now synonymous with rightwing flamethrowing and propaganda, is asking “both sides” – meaning left and right – to tone it down. Other mainstream media outlets are also continuing to put out this false meme that liberals and conservatives are equally responsible for the venom polluting the public airwaves. Ailes and his ilk know perfectly well that it is conservative leaders, media pundits, TV and radio personalities who are primarily the ones spreading hate speech and violent rhetoric. Liberals just don’t have the kind of money or access to as many broadcast stations as do conservatives. And what liberals have said in public, while provocative, just doesn’t reach the same level of bloodthirstiness that we’ve seen from conservatives.

    But the real point here is that no amount of pleading for calm will stop the behavior. There may be a pause for a while, but I doubt it will last. The media conglomerates are just making too much money from hate speech. That has to change. Unless and until laws with teeth are put back on the books to regulate the media companies, the invective will escalate and more tragedies will happen. What should be done?

    1. Break up the media monopolies: There are only a handful of companies that control almost everything Americans see and hear. That means only a handful of executives (typically white and male) are dictating what kind of information is available to an increasingly diverse public. This also means that a handful of executives are using toxic radio and TV personalities to sow divisions among the citizenry just so they can try to sell us their corporate propaganda. That must end. Allowing Comcast and NBC Universal to merge is taking American media in the wrong direction.
    2. Give the FCC and the public more enforcement power: When President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act in 1996, the interval between renewing broadcast licenses increased from five to eight years. That should be reversed. (FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wants to reduce the period to four) In addition, broadcasters whose media personalities routinely incite violence and threaten people or groups with bodily harm should have their licenses revoked. In addition, it should be just as easy to file a challenge against a station for hate speech as it is for profane speech. We may have free speech rights, but no one has the right to own or broadcast on a radio or TV station. Broadcasting on our limited public airwaves is a privilege, and broadcasters must be held to certain standards.
    3. The United States must implement an independent, 100%-taxpayer-funded public broadcasting system with TV and radio stations available in every community – urban and rural. PBS and NPR, with their paltry taxpayer subsidies and commercial underwriters, just don’t cut it. We need something on par with the BBC. This new public system must have access to frequencies equally as powerful as the ones available to commercial stations. Public broadcasting systems in other Western countries have a much more expansive array of high-quality produced shows featuring culture, politics, science and documentaries. Citizens in countries with robust public broadcasting systems are exposed to a wider variety of political views and are therefore, more informed than Americans. Toxic speech must be counteracted with more diverse and better speech.
    4. All Americans deserve equal access to fast, affordable and high-quality broadband that is free of corporate manipulation and control.

    Thanks to our First Amendment, Americans probably enjoy the most permissive free speech rights of any modern democracy. But this right is not absolute. Some are abusing the First Amendment by using the public’s airwaves to stir up hatred and division. They are profiting off the public trough and giving out only garbage in return. Extremist radio and TV commentators are not directly responsible for the political violence plaguing America today, but they have contributed to the creation of an environment of nastiness in our public discourse that can influence disturbed individuals like Jared Loughner. If this extremist speech isn’t soon ostracized from public life in the U.S., the lone, crazed gunman will morph into organized mobs hell bent on murdering political opponents and even committing genocide.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 7:07 pm on December 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , local, , , , , ,   

    Local Radio to Get New Life 

    Amid all the uproar last week about the Federal Communication Commission’s new not-so-net neutrality rules, Congress passed important new legislation that will further democratize the airwaves. The Local Community Radio Act will allow thousands of new low power FM stations to be created across the country for use by non-profits and community groups. Once President Obama signs the legislation, supported by Democrats and Republicans, organizations will be able to broadcast news and information of interest to their specific communities.

    This law will definitely provide communities a much needed alternative to the cookie-cutter programming and shout fests that characterize much of radio today. Communities will be able to tailor programming to their specific needs and cultural tastes, and won’t just be stuck with shows streaming in from big cities like New York. And the law could also prevent the kind of tragedy that occurred in Minot, MN, in 2002.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 6:28 pm on September 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , lobbyists, , , , , , , ,   

    Waxman Compromise on Net Neutrality DOA 

    When word leaked a few days ago that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman had drafted compromise legislation that would effectively neuter strong net neutrality rules, media reformers erupted in protest. Waxman has been a strong proponent of net neutrality, and had reaffirmed his support in a meeting with citizens and members of L.A. Media Reform and Free Press earlier this month. So the news came as a shock. Or perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Lobbyists from the telecommunications industry have literally been inundating members of Congress like flies swarming a piece of meat. I’m quite sure they were breathing down Waxman’s back.

    Theories abound as to why Waxman decided to cut a deal with the telecoms – one possible reason being resolving the issue in the best way possible in case the GOP takes over the House in November. But, no matter. The Washington Post reported today that the GOP shot down the bill anyway, and Waxman is urging the Federal Communications Commission to reassert its authority over broadband. Waxman is still pinning his hopes on a bipartisan approach to this issue, but he realizes it probably ain’t likely.

    The fight over keeping corporations from treating the Internet like their own personal fiefdom illustrates the sorry state of America’s electoral system. The fact that Waxman feels that he even has to compromise with a bunch of amoral profitmongers, who, I believe, wouldn’t hesitate to put Web users in digital straitjackets if that will pad their bottom line, shows that the needs of ordinary Americans count for less and less in Congress. If we Americans want different behavior from our political representatives, we’re going to have to support politicians who are going to work to take away corporations’ ability to meddle in our democracy.

    I wonder if the Democratic Party leadership realizes how a free and open Internet is the only thing right now that is keeping the party competitive with the Republicans in the wake of Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that practically handed the electoral store to the monied interests. It was the blogosphere that enabled the Democrats to retake Congress in 2006, and it was the legions of small donors who used the Web to help put Barack Obama in the White House.

    The corporate media cabal made up of network and cable television, print newspapers and talk radio simply does not put the progressive point of view on an even playing field with the conservative one.  The Internet is the only place one can turn to for an alternative to the conventional, corporate-dominated Beltway thinking of the traditional media.

     
    • Michael E. Russell 7:00 am on October 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great post, Sylvia, keep up the good work. I’ll re post it.

      • Sylvia Moore 12:38 pm on October 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Michael!

    • maximus 8:07 am on October 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Email press@google.com and tell the people at google that you have stopped using the google search engine and all other google products until Google decides to break the deal with verizon to end net neutrality.

  • Sylvia Moore 3:58 pm on September 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Ed Markey, , , , , , House of Representatives, , L.A. Media Reform, , , Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, ,   

    Net Neutrality Supporters Visit Rep. Henry Waxman 

    When a group of ordinary citizens go together to lobby a lawmaker in his or her home district, that’s always a big deal. Visits like these should be done frequently, because corporate shills are pressuring congresspeople all the time. Repeated visits, phone calls and letters are the weapons we have to counteract them.

    On Wednesday, members of the L.A. Media Reform Group joined representatives of Free Press, the Writers Guild of America West, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles and citizen activists met with west L.A.-area Rep. Henry Waxman to speak about net neutrality. Waxman is the powerful chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees issues having to do with communications and technology. He is also a co-sponsor of H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

    Now that Google and Verizon have pretty much kicked open the door toward corporate control of the Internet, the need for Congress to act is all the more urgent. Aparna Sridhar, policy counsel for Free Press, explained to Waxman what the three most troubling concerns are to net neutrality advocates: 1) that the big telecommunications companies’ opposition to net neutrality has become more entrenched, 2) that there is increasing desire for the telecom industry to write its own rules, and 3) that carriers are using a recent unfavorable court decision against the Federal Communications Commission as leverage to get what they want.

    Each person in our group then expressed to Waxman why having a free, open and non-discriminatory Internet is so important in his or her life. For example, Waxman constituent and progressive activist Lauren Steiner spoke about her career in local cable television, specifically public access. Steiner explained how public access was the “first electronic soapbox,” which enabled anyone with an opinion to express themselves without the filter of an editor or having to put up a lot of money to own a station. She said that now in an era where equal time rules and the Fairness Doctrine have long since been eliminated, the Internet is the only democratic media outlet for people.

    “If we lose net neutrality, our democracy will suffer irreparable harm” said Steiner, who set up and facilitated the meeting with Waxman.

    Others in the group talked about the importance of net neutrality to keeping the public informed about election fraud, keeping people civically engaged, and enabling writers and musicians to create their works openly and without interference. Concerns about censorship, media consolidation and no longer having an even electoral playing field were also expressed. Writer, musician and activist Brad Parker stressed that the Internet is a public utility like interstate highways, and that without net neutrality, it will be harder for entrepreneurs to create new businesses.

    Sridhar asked Waxman if he would lend his stature as chairman of House Energy & Commerce to a net neutrality bill that would contain meaningful enforcement mechanisms, as well as a complete ban on making content providers pay for priority status on the Web. Although Waxman re-affirmed his support for net neutrality, he did not say he would sponsor a separate bill to the Markey legislation.

    Waxman said he wants the FCC to be able to reclassify broadband as a “telephone service” subject to more regulation, but that the court decision has complicated matters. The Bush-era FCC had changed broadband classification to a looser regulated “information service.” Waxman said there’s not enough support right now in Congress to pressure the FCC to do the reclassification. He suggested that net neutrality supporters lobby Republicans and those conservative Democrats who are opposed to any kind of legislation. Waxman added that what would help is getting conservative groups who do favor net neutrality, such as the Christian Coalition, to lobby Republicans.

    It’s terrific that Waxman remains on the right side of this issue. For those of us hoping that he would use his position to make net neutrality a higher priority in the House, we were disappointed. Although the Markey bill is a good one, it’s currently stalled. But Waxman is right. Activists need to start putting the heat on those members of Congress who are obstructing progress on net neutrality. These particular lawmakers and their constituents need to be educated as to how a free and open Internet would benefit them, the economy and our society. And it wouldn’t hurt of course to let the opposing lawmakers’ constituents know just how much money their representatives are taking from the telecoms.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 11:53 am on June 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , house judiciary committee, ,   

    Proposed Comcast Takeover of NBC Universal Will Hurt Diversity, Critics Say 

    It was a telling moment. At a public hearing this past Monday, Rep. Maxine Waters, whose district encompasses a predominantly minority area of south Los Angeles, ticked off the names of NBC’s new fall season shows and the number of actors and producers of color on each. The paucity of representation was pretty obvious.

    Waters and other members of the House Judiciary Committee held the hearing at the California Science Center in Los Angeles to hear from Hollywood producers, cable executives, academics and others about Comcast’s proposed merger with NBC Universal. Some of the panelists expressed fear that the merger would result in fewer opportunities for minorities in the entertainment business and therefore, fewer outlets to have their stories told. Other panelists, mainly television executives, were supportive of the merger, saying that Comcast has a proven commitment to diverse programming. It was a standing room only crowd inside the center’s Donald P. Loker Conference Center, where lawmakers took testimony from 11 witnesses. Interestingly, although NBCU sent several representatives to the hearing, Comcast sent none. Besides Waters, the lawmakers included her fellow Democrats, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers from Michigan, Rep. Judy Chu of San Gabriel, and Rep. Steve Cohen from Tennessee, and Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert from Texas.

    “I think this an historic moment in the economic life of this country,” said Conyers, after commenting on the surge in mergers and takeovers in the last 30 years of rapid deregulation. I don’t know if this is an historic moment. It’ll probably be more like business as usual. I got the feeling that this hearing was more of a dog and pony show than anything meaningful, because I fear this deal is going to go through, no matter what the public thinks. Only the 11 witnesses got to speak and interact with the lawmakers; there was no session for members of the public to comment. One witness, Samuel Kang of the non-profit public policy organization, The Greenlining Insitute, was critical of what he felt was a dearth of public input about the proposed merger. Kang, an opponent of the merger, said that the Federal Communications Commission itself has yet to have a public hearing about the deal. However, Waters said that at the urging of lawmakers, the FCC extended the public comment period for 45 more days.

    Waters’ spotlight on the near white-wash of the NBC fall shows was a highlight of Monday’s hearing, which was heavily focused on how the proposed merger may affect diversity within the entertainment business. I realize being in Los Angeles that we’re in the middle of Hollywood, but I still would’ve like to have heard more witnesses touch on how further consolidation could negatively affect newsgathering. Yes, we like our entertainment in L.A., and I’m not happy that a lot of television shows don’t reflect America’s demographics. But there are also a lot of us who are also concerned about how local news stations in this city aren’t serving residents very well, and that this merger may make things worse. Kang spoke about the news a little bit, asserting that media consolidation has resulted in a gutting of local news coverage and staff in several major cities, particularly in Spanish-speaking markets.

    Nevertheless, the conversation was eye-opening. Chu stated that the 8-9PM so-called “family hour” on television is the least ethnically diverse. She added that 40% of primetime series have only Caucasian characters, and that 80% of series are white-themed. This compares with a nation that is roughly one-third minorities, and California that is 53% people of color. The number of minorities behind the camera and in management are pretty dismal. Waters stated that in 2007, minorities owned 3.2% of U.S. television stations and only 7% of full power radio stations. When questioned by Waters, Paula Madison, Executive Vice President for Diversity at NBCU, said there are only seven minority co-executive producers associated with five of the 18 new fall shows. Of all of NBC’s showrunners – a series’ lead producer – none are African-American. Gee, no wonder my viewing habits have begun shifting away from scripted dramas and comedies.

    Several participants talked a lot about how many shows with predominantly minority cast members have disappeared over the last decade as consolidation stripped creative control away from once powerful independent producers. Former Motown executive Suzanne de Passe, who is currently co-chair of de Passe Jones Entertainment, said consolidation has slowed down opportunities for minority program development.

    “We have gone backwards,” de Passe said. “The question is why?” She said that unlike in the past, independent producers are now required by mega-media conglomerates to give up ownership and creative control of the shows they pitch. Plus, they’re paid less than they used to be. De Passe added that black executives have never had the power to “greenlight” – give permission to proceed on a project. “We need greenlight power. The power to say ‘yes,’” she said. She said Comcast has the opportunity and resources to change this kind of institutional racism.

    Other witnesses rejected the merger plan outright. Stanley Washington, chairman and CEO of the National Coalition of African American Owned Media, said that none of the 250+ channels on Comcast’s platform are 100% minority-owned, and called for a boycott of the company. Accusing Comcast of perpetuating a virtual apartheid, Washington said, “African-Americans are no longer interested in living on the Comcast plantation.” Washington verbally jousted with merger supporters Alfred C. Liggins III, President and CEO of Radio One Inc., and Will Griffin, President and COO of Hip Hop On Demand. Griffin defended Comcast by saying that minorities have the best leverage with the company. He added that the reason why shows with predominantly African-American casts have gone away is because advertisers aren’t willing to pay for a lot of slots on black-themed shows. Liggins and Griffin, who are both black, took issue with Washington’s assertion that for a company to be considered “minority-owned,” a person of color must own 100% of said company, rather than simply a majority stake.

    Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Kathryn Galan, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, said they wanted to see Comcast be more proactive in addressing the problem of minority underrepresentation. Calling Comcast’s record on diversity “spotty,” Nogales specifically wanted the merger deal to contain “enforceable conditions” regarding employment, procurement, governance, programming and philanthropy. Madison, the NBCU exec, said that Comcast has a plan in place to improve workforce recruitment, supplier diversity and community investment. She also said she has received letters from 230 organizations in support of the merger. I’d like to know how many of those organizations received money from Comcast.

    None of the lawmakers – especially free-market fanatic, Gohmert – expressed overt opposition to Comcast’s proposed takeover of NBCU. But some maintained a large dose of skepticism about the deal, especially Waters, who insisted that the merger not be rushed through without close scrutiny. Watch her speak below:

    It remains to be seen whether testimony from opponents will have any sway over the FCC, the Justice Department or Congress. Conyers said there will be more hearings in the future. The question should be whether we want fewer and fewer people running ever bigger companies deciding what we see and hear on our television sets, radios and on the Web. Common sense will tell you that the fewer people making decisions, the more homogenous the output. The new fall shows across the broadcast networks continue to follow the same pattern of medical, cop and legal dramas. Even a lot of cable channels don’t seem to have the unique signature they once had, as more of the programming seem to copy one another. For example, Bravo (owned by NBCU) used to be the classical arts channel, and TLC (owned by Discovery) used to be an educational channel. Both have completely abandoned those original missions in favor of 24-hour reality TV. They should just combine to become The Reality Channel. I thought the new Planet Green channel (owned by Discovery) was supposed to be all about ecological programming, but it includes in its lineup a show about a restaurant that trains former felons in new skills to help them turn their lives around. It’s an inspiring show, but what does it have to do with the environment? Even the History Channel (owned by A&E Television Networks) has shows that have nothing to do with history, like Ice Road Truckers and Pawn Stars.

    People, including entertainers of color in Hollywood, have a right to be alarmed about this merger. Comcast’s supporters would like us to believe that they are fully committed to diversity, but it’s a business like any other whose primary goal is to make a profit. And the larger the company, the bigger the profit motive. The bigger the profit motive, the more incentive there is to cater to the broadest tastes possible, to downplay what makes human beings different, and to avoid taking risks on the unique and the original. Shows that can get the most amount of eyeballs in order to attract the most amount of advertising dollars usually get the green light. Chasing profits doesn’t bode well for diversity.

    You can access the hearing’s full witness list along with links to their written testimony here. To comment on the proposed merger, go to the FCC’s public comments web page. The proceeding number is 10-56: “In the Matter of Application of Comcast Corporation General Electric Company and NBC Universal Inc. for consent to assign license or transfer control of licensees.”

     
  • Sylvia Moore 6:38 pm on February 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    More Q & A With Obama 

    If you haven’t seen President Obama’s much talked about tangle with House Republicans at a question and answer session last Friday, you can watch it below courtesy of C-SPAN. The event – reminiscent of the British Parliament’s regular questioning of the Prime Minister – was an amazing piece of political theater, and revealed a lot more than the soundbites the mainstream media throws at us.

    Now, Sam Stein of The Huffington Post reports that Obama will do a similar Q & A tomorrow morning with Senate Democrats. It obviously won’t be nearly as confrontational, and therefore, maybe not as exciting. Word has it that the administration wants to hold these Q &A sessions with Congress more regularly. I hope so. I’d especially like to see Obama get some tough questions from House progressives.

     
    • brandy2424 10:01 pm on February 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great post! Thanks for sharing with us the video of President Obama. I am excited to see the President in the hot seat answering tough questions from House of Representative.

  • Sylvia Moore 3:15 pm on January 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: campaigns, corporations, , , , , supreme court   

    They Can’t Buy Democracy If It’s Free 

    Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in candidate elections presents a sea change in American politics and is a direct threat to our democracy. According to the court, money is speech, corporations are people. We can now imagine a world where Big Business can spend billions of dollars in advertising against candidates and legislation that threaten their bottom line. Legislators who take all this new corporate cash literally become wholly owned subsidiaries. Those legislators who want to do the right thing in favor of the public may be too afraid now to do so. However, the backlash has already started. Immediately after the 5-4 ruling, called Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress announced plans for legislation to mitigate the damage.

    Opponents of the court’s decision are pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban corporate personhood – a tall hurdle to leap. But in the meantime, there are legislative remedies being proposed, such as allowing shareholders a say in any political spending, and renewing the push for voluntary public financing of campaigns. Laudable goals, but I have some concerns about the effectiveness of these. At least one congressperson says shareholders already have the right to veto political spending. As for public financing, taxpayers could never hope to match the billions a corporate-financed candidate could generate.

    The major problem is the amount of money campaigns pay to media outlets to get their messages out. Advertising is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – expense in a campaign’s budget. Spend gobs of money on deceptive commercials against your opponent, and you can drown them out if they don’t have enough money to fight back. And everyone knows that many voters – overworked and uninformed – tend to make decisions based on political ads. But what if Congress and the President require that broadcast television and radio outlets offer spots for political ads for free? This would immediately level the playing field somewhat. After all, television and radio should be operating in the public interest because the airwaves belong to the public.

    The details would have to be worked out, but I envision that candidates wanting the free airtime would have to show some base of support (via signatures or whatever), and each candidate – people backed and corporate backed – would get an equal amount of time. Candidates would no longer have to worry about opponents drowning them out with a bombardment of issue ads. Average working people can get the same shot at running for office as rich people. Voters can finally decide between candidates based on their merits. Call it The Fair Elections Doctrine.

    I can already hear howling from the four or five companies that own our media outlets. Free airtime for political candidates means a lot less money for them. But I really don’t care. Preserving democracy is far more important than the mainstream media’s profits. Besides, free airtime may have the beneficial effect of creating shorter campaign seasons, like they have in Europe. Media companies certainly won’t like to have to give away so much airtime over the 1-2 years it currently takes to run most federal campaigns, when they can fill that time with paid commercials. Congress can set, say, a three month bloc of time before the election for the free ads. If Big Business thinks even that is unfairly regulating their speech, then let them access more airtime. But it must be free, and equal airtime must be offered to all opponents in response. Giving everyone free, equal airtime might also discourage much longer ads, specifically the anti-Hillary Clinton documentary at the center of the Supreme Court case. I haven’t yet read the entire 183-page court ruling, but  I wonder if corporations can also now spend unlimited amounts of money on other campaign expenses, like volunteers and staff, signs, T-shirts, buttons, flyers, mailers, bumper stickers, posters, robocalls and candidate events. Anyway, the free media time would go a long way toward evening the playing field, and the rest of a candidate’s expenses could then be made up for with public financing.

    Finally, with the Fair Elections Doctrine, nobody’s free speech rights would be trampled because everyone will be given the same chance at the same time to present their message to the voters at the same price – zero. After all, what good is free speech if it isn’t free?

     
  • Sylvia Moore 2:51 am on January 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: byron dorgan, center for digital democracy, , jeff chester, , ,   

    Senate Loses Key Media Reformer 

    The Center for Digital Democracy’s Jeff Chester talked to Democracy Now! on Thursday about the impending departure of North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a leading opponent of media consolidation and proponent of net neutrality. An excerpt:

    See the entire video here.

    Dorgan’s departure is definitely a blow. Hopefully, someone else in the Senate (maybe Al Franken?) will take up the cause. Even better if the movement had more than one champion in the Senate.

    Chester’s concern about progressives not creating enough content on the Web is surprising. I thought liberal activists had been way ahead of conservatives in utilizing the blogosphere and web video, especially since progressive voices have nearly been shut out of the mainstream media. So, I’m not sure what Chester envisions. Maybe he means progressive activists should create more outlets on the Web that look like traditional newspapers and television newscasts? The biggest hurdle, of course, is having enough money to start up a news organization. There just aren’t enough wealthy benefactors funding progressive/diverse media these days. In the meantime, progressive activists are going to have to come up with creative ways to raise the cash needed to create the content.

     
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