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  • Sylvia Moore 12:47 pm on January 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , deregulation, , , , , , public airwaves, , , Sue Wilson, ,   

    Broadcast Blues’ Sue Wilson Talks About Hate Speech 

    How did so much of American radio and television turn from a marketplace of diverse political ideas into a cesspool of Wall Street propaganda and violent-tinged ranting? In the aftermath of the deadly shootings in Tucson, Arizona, filmmaker Sue Wilson appeared Jan. 12 on Nicole Sandler’s Radio or Not show to talk about how media consolidation destroyed the ability of communities to control local programming and led to the rise of hate speech on the public airwaves. Sue also talks about her plans to start an organized effort to legally challenge the radio licenses of broadcasters who abuse the public trust. Sue’s excellent film, Broadcast Blues, outlines the history and consequences of the deregulation of radio and television. The interview starts at 1:16:55. Click here to listen.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 3:54 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arizona, assassination, , , , Clarence Dupnik, , , , deregulation, 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 6:28 pm on September 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , deregulation, , , , , , , 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: , , , , , deregulation, 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 5:16 pm on August 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , deregulation, , , , , , , , , ,   

    Al Franken Calls Net Neutrality “Biggest Issue Since Freedom of Religion” 

    Video of Sen. Al Franken’s speech at last week’s Federal Communications Commission hearing on net neutrality:

     
  • Sylvia Moore 10:53 am on August 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , deregulation, , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Will the Public Finally Get Energized About Net Neutrality? 

    Sometimes I wonder what it was going to take to get the public more galvanized on the issue of protecting Net Neutrality. As if the Supreme Court’s enthusiastic approval of oligarchy wasn’t enough, we’re facing another one of the biggest threats to free speech and democracy – corporate control of the Web.

    Basically, the telecommunications industry wants to erect tollbooths on the Internet. They want to make content creators pay top dollar for their web sites to download faster. They want to choose winners and losers, get rid of competition and make consumers cough up more money. Gutting net neutrality is great if you’re a certain cable company, like, say, Comcast, who wants to merge with a certain entertainment company, like, say, NBC Universal, and combined, you wish to crush any troublesome Internet entertainment startup. Gutting net neutrality would also be great news for the giant television news outlets and bad news for any of the myriad of web sites that criticize them.

    Unfortunately, net neutrality was never the sexiest political issue. So maybe the announcement last week that Google and Verizon were proposing to put up the tollbooths on the wireless Internet (your smartphone) would wake people up. Google was initially the premier corporate champion of net neutrality, so the company’s about-face shocked and angered many. Apparently, since Google is now getting into the cell phone business, suddenly net neutrality was no longer good for the bottom line.

    Google and Verizon swear they want to keep the wired Internet (your PC) free and open, but the proverbial camel’s nose is sniffing under that tent. Consumer and media reform groups and some lawmakers have been the most vocal advocates for net neutrality. But greater support for net neutrality has to come from average Joes and Janes who use the Web. Too many people I fear are still apathetic on this issue. If you don’t start bugging your representatives, you may one day find that your favorite web sites are taking five minutes or more to load. Or you may find you have to pay extra for content you once got for free.

    Comedian and now U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, has been at the forefront in fighting for net neutrality in Congress. Today, at 4PM PST (6PM Central), the Federal Communications Commission is holding a hearing in Minneapolis on the issue. The proceedings will be streamed live.

    In the video below, Franken talks on local Minnesota television about the importance of net neutrality.

    Below are some good opinion pieces about net neutrality:

    Google-Verizon Deal: The End of The Internet as We Know It

    Our view on ‘net neutrality’: Don’t erect tollbooths on information superhighway


    To show your support for net neutrality, sign Sen. Franken’s petition and send your comments to the FCC by going to Save the Internet. And also, call, write and fax your congressperson and senators. If you don’t know your representatives, you can look them up by entering your zip code on Congress.org.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 5:20 pm on July 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , consolidation, , deregulation, , , , , , , merger, , , , ownership, ,   

    Big Media At It Again: Broadcasters Want FCC to Let Them Own Even More 

    As if the proposed Comcast/NBC Universal merger just wasn’t enough, the nation’s big broadcasters are strapping on the feed bag, ready to engorge themselves with more tasty snacks of the public’s television and radio airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing its media ownership rules for the fourth time since 2000, and the National Association of Broadcasters is again asking the commission to ease up on the regulation.

    Specifically, the NAB wants the FCC to eliminate rules restricting cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations, relax radio station ownership rules as well as rules restricting ownership of television stations in certain markets. Media watchdog group, Free Press, immediately petitioned the FCC, criticizing the NAB’s request, and noting that the commission has gone too far already in allowing more media company consolidation. Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright:

    “The FCC’s media ownership rules are critical to ensuring that the public’s primary news and information sources do not become consolidated in the hands of a few companies. Moreover, the so-called efficiencies of consolidation have not materialized. Instead, the cost of consolidating has placed a number of companies that might otherwise be profitable in dire straits, resulting in disinvestment in newsgathering and job losses for journalists.

    “We urge the Commission to resist industry pressures to further weaken ownership limits. Companies that have made poor business decisions should not be rewarded with permission to engage in even more media consolidation that would further injure competition and diversity among local media outlets. It is not the Commission’s job to protect industry profit margins. Rather, its role is to promulgate and enforce regulations designed to promote competition, diversity and localism so that the public interest is served.”

    If the FCC lets broadcasters own just about every newspaper, television and radio station in one market, quality journalism will continue to suffer. We’ll have even fewer – if any – news stories about how the City Council is spending taxpayer money, and more gossip about Lindsay Lohan’s legal troubles. After all, to a media company looking after its bottom line, gossip sells – government doesn’t. And there will be fewer alternatives available for the kind of reliable information one needs to make good decisions in a democracy. The Internet has yet to become a sufficient destination for local news. Besides, most people still get their news from television. Instead of informing viewers, broadcasters are spoon-feeding them entertainment disguised as “news,” with the result being too many people who know next to nothing about how their government works. That’s what rampant consolidation has brought us.

    These broadcasters have stuffed themselves enough. Isn’t it time the FCC put them on a diet?

     
  • Sylvia Moore 9:44 pm on October 12, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , deregulation, fairness doctrine, , , ,   

    Movie Review – Broadcast Blues 

    Take a road trip on any stretch of highway across the United States and flip on the AM dial. The airwaves are rife with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham and any other of a number of conservative talk show hosts. Try finding anyone left of center, and well, you’re mostly out of luck. Only 10% of all radio talkers are liberal or progressive, mostly concentrated on the blue coasts. When one in five Americans say their primary source of news is talk radio, the lopsided media landscape in favor of right-wing talk is nothing short of alarming.

    In the new Public Interest Pictures documentary, Broadcast Blues, Emmy-award winning filmmaker Sue Wilson analyzes how television and radio Picture 48became less diverse in the last 30 years and how corporate deregulation of the media is threatening American democracy. Wilson also exposes the consequences of a media environment where one company can own 1,200 radio stations nationwide, and where some large cities have virtually no competition from alternative voices on the dial.

    Wilson serves as Broadcast Blues narrator, and her light-hearted delivery, along with a snappy soundtrack, makes her serious subject matter easy to digest. The film takes a straightforward look into the history of radio and television – from the founding of the Federal Communications Commission and the Fairness Doctrine, to Reagan and Clinton-era deregulation, and the rise of the 24-hour cable news cycle and “infotainment.” The consolidation of the radio and television market into fewer owners, Wilson contends, has led to a distortion of the news where rumor and innuendo is sometimes presented as fact, and ratings, not the public interest, dictate what gets on the air.

    Misinformation can lead to dangerous public policy, as when the parade of TV talking heads failed to challenge the Bush administration’s trumped up charge that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, a ploy to sell the Iraq War. . Other times, a lack of information can be deadly as when a Clear Channel-owned radio station in a North Dakota town failed to transmit emergency information during a chemical spill in 2002. And when large swaths of the public don’t have access to a wide range of information that help them separate truth from flim-flam, political shenanigans can run rampant and elections can quite literally be rigged in favor of the powerful.

    Although political blogs and news publications on the Internet have taken over much of the investigative reporting that were once the bread and butter of the broadcast outlets, the broadcast media still influences much of America’s political discourse. And not necessarily in a good way. Since it’s cheaper to put on a talking head spewing an opinion than it is to hire a reporter to dig through documents in search of the truth, the news itself has devolved into a collection of “he said- she said” faux objectivity. Political discourse has coarsened to the point of irrelevancy. At a time when Americans are being clobbered by the worst recession in 70 years and skyrocketing healthcare costs, and when the planet is being threatened by climate change, it’s now more important than ever for citizens to be informed about what their government is doing. Instead, we get deluged with coverage about Michael Jackson’s death and endless pontificating from questionable sources about whether President Obama was born in the United States.

    Broadcast Blues is an important film that should be seen by every citizen concerned about the quality of the news they are getting, or the lack thereof. As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps says in the film – if poverty, the environment or the economy is your first important issue, then media reform should be your second. The first issues won’t be solved if the media doesn’t properly address them.

     
    • harry cowan 7:39 pm on January 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for your great review

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