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We Want the Airwaves blog!
Watching the degradation of our media...
Monday, March 31, 2003
Political is on the lookout for Free Speech Terrorists - a commentary inspired, I think, by the firing of Peter Arnett.

Avedon (7:13 PM) permalink

I had been unaware somehow that Seth Finklestein, possibly the Internet's most impressive free speech activist, has a weblog, Infothought. In a recent article, Conference representatives not speaking if a reporter is present, Seth says:

In an article discussing conferences and reporters, Edward Felten writes concerning companies not wanting conference representatives to speak to the press:

I have to admit that I find these companies' policies hard to understand. A company trusts somebody to speak on its behalf in a public forum, where many of the company's competitors and customers are present, and where everybody is welcome to take notes. And yet somehow it is too dangerous to let that employee say the same things if a reporter is also present.

I don't find it hard to understand at all. While one can disagree with the decision, and argue a different cost-benefit tradeoff, it is rational. If a reporter is present, the chances go way up that minor flub or misstatement by a speaker, one which competitors and customers would let pass in context, may be blown-up into a huge scandal by a reporter looking for a hobby-horse story to write. I just collected a bunch of resources for the infamous Al Gore "Invented the Internet" smear. It was something basically fabricated by a reporter who deliberately decided to spin a few words of very reasonable reply from Al Gore about his achievements, into an absurd technical claim. The company is probably thinking, "All we need is for one of our people to reply sarcastically, to make a joke about something, and then there's the headline ``Company admits plans for world domination''".

Heck, I could write it:

Disassociated Press: Speaking at the Blather Conference, engineers from InsertNameHere candidly admitted that BuzzWord was really a secret plot for world domination. The shocking admission came during a question-and-answer period, where an audience member asked "Aren't you trying to take over the world here?". Engineer Patsy was clearly heard to reply "Yeah, you betcha we are". This represents the first outright admission of what has been criticism for months, by industry insiders and political outsiders ...

And of course, the defense of the article would be that Engineer Patsy really said those words - necessarily passing over the fact that in context, they were a sarcastic reply to a not entirely serious question. In fact, I based the above item on the attack on Gore for telling a "Union Label" joke, which I saw again when digging up some references for the above Invented-The-Internet page.

More discussion of this contines in a later post.

Avedon (6:48 PM) permalink

NBC Fires Peter Arnett Over Iraqi TV Interview (

American television network NBC said on Monday it had severed its relations with veteran reporter Peter Arnett after he told Iraqi television that the U.S. war plan against Saddam Hussein had failed.

"Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC," NBC said in a joint statement with National Geographic, for whom the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter was also working.

"I said in that interview essentially what we all know about the war, that there have been delays in implementing policy, there have been surprises," Arnett told NBC's "Today" show.

Avedon (3:56 PM) permalink

War coverage could alter US media policy


Just this past Thursday, [FCC Chairman Michael] Powell told the Media Institute, a nonprofit First Amendment watchdog group, that he found it "thrilling to see the power of the media and its reach, and shocking to see war brought so close." The Iraq invasion exemplifies the need to allow media companies to expand to have the resources and efficiencies to cover global events, he said.

James L. Gattuso, a research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, recently wrote in a newsletter for the Competitive Enterprise Institute: "The debate will be filled with endless factoids and pleadings. But ... when the commissioners finally sit down to assess the media marketplace, they will remember these days in March, and the cornucopia of information and perspectives that the market provided."

Viacom Corp., which owns CBS, Paramount Pictures, MTV and Black Entertainment Television; Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.; and Chicago-based Tribune Co., whose three dozen TV, radio stations and newspapers include The Sun, are among the conglomerates lobbying to change the rules.

They are opposed by an assortment of public interest groups, organized labor, movie stars and screenwriters who fear condensed power in Hollywood and other media companies that don't own multiple stations or intend cross-ownership of TV and newspapers.

The opponents argue that news outlets in fewer hands threatens the public's ability to know about news, especially on local issues.


Lisa (1:52 PM) permalink

NBC News Fires Arnett Over Iraqi TV Interview


NBC News today fired Peter Arnett, a correspondent based in Baghdad, saying it was wrong for him to have given an interview with the state-run Iraqi TV in which he said coalition forces had "failed because of Iraqi resistance."

Mr. Arnett, on NBC's "Today" show, said he was sorry for his statement, but added, "I said over the weekend what we all know about the war."

He went on, "I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment."

NBC and National Geographic defended Mr. Arnett on Sunday, saying he gave the interview, which he saw as analysis, "out of professional courtesy."

But today, after speaking with the president of NBC News, Neal Shapiro, the network said it could no longer work with Mr. Arnett, The Associated Press reported.

"It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war," an NBC spokeswoman, Allison Gollust, said. "And it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview."


Lisa (1:44 PM) permalink

On Minot, N.D., Radio, a Single Corporate Voice


As the Federal Communications Commissions reconsiders media ownership rules for television and newspapers, many are examining the effects of the radio industry's consolidation, speeded by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Opponents may try to drive the debate over media consolidation to the edges. Minot is one of those edges.

Clear Channel's stronghold in Minot has become a political lightning rod. In January 2002, a train derailment at 1 a.m. spilled a vast white cloud of suffocating anhydrous ammonia fertilizer over Minot. One person died.

The police were unable to reach anyone by phone at the local radio station, KCJB, that is the designated emergency broadcaster. Station employees had to be roused from their homes, causing a big delay.

The police said that because Clear Channel was piping in a satellite feed from elsewhere, human presence at the station was dispensable — an assertion that Senator Byron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, repeated in hearings on media consolidation. Clear Channel said that someone was always on duty during the night, but busy phone lines and technological misunderstandings resulted in the emergency failure.

Local officials now acknowledge that may have been true, but the event seems to have crystalized a sense of anxiety here and elsewhere over Clear Channel's grip on Minot and many other small cities and towns around the country, where the effects of consolidation can be disproportionately felt.

"Over time, concentration of markets means less competition and we know that less competition is always bad for consumers," Senator Dorgan said. "The question is, Where does this stop?"

Lisa (12:13 PM) permalink

Sunday, March 30, 2003
History News Network:

Apparently the U.S. media has apparently decided to begin doing their jobs and examine the warplan. So that's what it takes to wake the media up, huh? After the conflict starts and it isn't working out at all as advertised, as in it's not the "cakewalk" the Cheney-Perle-Wolfowitz cabal promised, that's when folks in the media suddenly decides to start asking questions.

As I've said numerous times, I hold our incompetent and flag-waving media as responsible for this damn war as the administration. If they'd been doing their jobs the last six months, all of the lies in the case for war would've been exposed and we wouldn't be here in the first place. Americans would've rose up in demonstrations by the millions and public opinion would've reflected it, thus being evenly split on the war between those who couldn't believe the folks in the administration were lying to them about the war and those who knew they was lying to them.

Oh wait, I'm sorry, come to think of it, those last few things did happen even without a competent media (which then chose to ignore the enormous protests of course). W and the boys also chose to ignore the protests and dismiss them as just representing the opinions of a few rabble-rousers. Now we're in this war and there's no telling how long it's going to last or how many lives it's going to claim.

Avedon (2:13 PM) permalink

Powell Wants June Vote on Media Ownership
FCC Chairman Not Interested in More Hearings


WASHINGTON -- ( FCC Chairman Michael Powell said Thursday the Federal Communications Commission expects to vote June 2 on overhauling the nation's media-ownership laws.

Powell said the agency had tentatively set an open meeting for that date to decide the rules, which limit the size of TV networks, limit the degree of TV and radio concentration in local markets, and keep daily newspapers from owning nearby broadcast stations.

After a series of court setbacks, the agency is reviewing whether to retain, modify, or eliminate the rules.

Powell, a Republican, has been pushing to finish the media ownership review by late spring. Some, including FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, have said the agency should gather more information before deciding the rules.

Powell indicated he disagreed with calls for the FCC to seek additional comment, saying he was "not inclined" to do so.

Powell's comments came in a wide-ranging speech to an audience in Washington at a luncheon sponsored by The Media Institute, an industry think tank. He said he doubts the wisdom of continuing to bar newspapers from owning TV or radio stations, and he warned against using FCC rules to regulate indecent or violent content. Copps has called for FCC action to restrain indecency.

Source: Editor & Publisher Online

Lisa (1:42 PM) permalink

Saturday, March 29, 2003
Freedom of speech threatened, Gore says


MURFREESBORO — With fewer companies owning more media outlets, the lack of tolerance for opposing views increases, former Vice President Al Gore told a college audience here last night.
Using recent attacks on the Dixie Chicks that followed anti-war comments by one group member as an example, Gore said big corporations threaten the true meaning of democracy because representatives — through various media outlets — try to stamp out opposing views with financial retaliation.

Earlier this month, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush for the war on Iraq while she was performing in Britain. As a result, many radio stations across the country stopped playing the group's songs.

''They were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said,'' Gore said. ''Our democracy has taken a hit. Our best protection is free and open debate.''

Gore's concern over limiting opposition was one of the topics in his lecture at Middle Tennessee State University to about 250 students, faculty and community members. As head of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, Gore talked about how the mass entertainment media has affected the American family and democracy.

''Mass media has had a pervasive impact on families. Most families don't have dinner together — and of those that do, a television is on during the entire dinner.''

Besides substituting ffor family communication, Gore said the entertainment industry has contributed to immobility, debts, lower voter participation and increased cynicism.

He said his biggest concern is people's inability to hear and express an opposing view. He called it ''an extremely serious problem.''

MTSU student Ada Egenji agreed. She said she noticed that peace rallies haven't gotten much coverage since the war started last week.

Avedon (9:25 PM) permalink

Joan Ryan: 'Don't touch that dial'

Topic: Hate Radio

By Joan Ryan, San Francisco Chronicle

GOOD MORNING. I'm Pat Riotic, your host on the Excess in Broadcasting network. Regular listeners know I am not an angry person. But this morning every red-blooded cell in my star-spangled body is trembling with indignation at what I've been hearing and seeing.

You know what I'm talking about, folks: the rightist, conservative traitors who pollute our public airwaves with un-American rhetoric.

Let's not mince words. Let's call these so-called talk-show hosts what they are: anti-American subversives. They are extremists who claim to love America but clearly hate it and all it stands for.

Avedon (8:43 PM) permalink

Thursday, March 27, 2003
The Media Companies' FCC Wishlist

The public deserves to know exactly what the industry is asking for. Here's a thumbnail guide to the lobbying aims by some of the news media's most important companies with regard to the upcoming FCC decision. It doesn't include the many other political favors that the cable and broadcast industry are now seeking, including rules that will determine the future of broadband and the Internet.

Viacom/CBS; NBC/Telemundo; Fox (in partnership): Eliminate "cap" on the number of TV stations a single company can control nationally. End the "dual network" safeguard that prevents one TV network from acquiring another network. End the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rule that prevents a broadcaster from owning the major daily in the same market. Finally, remove current limits on local radio station ownership.

Disney/ABC: Eliminate all existing FCC rules on broadcast ownership. Oppose a proposed new policy that would open network prime-time to independent producers.

New York Times Company (includes Boston Globe, and eight TV stations): Eliminate the rule that prevents broadcast and newspaper cross-ownership.

Gannett Company (includes USA Today and 22 TV stations): Eliminate the rule that prevents broadcast and newspaper cross-ownership.

Cox Enterprises (includes the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and a number of TV and radio stations): Repeal the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rule. Maintain current limit on TV network station ownership (as opposed to what the four networks want).

Tribune Company (LA Times, Chicago Tribune): Total elimination of the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership safeguard.

Belo (Dallas Morning News, 19 TV stations): Eliminate the broadcast- newspaper cross-ownership rule, and "relax" the rule that now limits ownership of multiple local TV stations.

Clear Channel Communications: Eliminate local radio ownership limits.

Lisa (7:55 PM) permalink

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Channels of Influence Channels of Influence

By and large, recent pro-war rallies haven't drawn nearly as many people as antiwar rallies, but they have certainly been vehement. One of the most striking took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush: a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia. To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it can't happen here.
Who has been organizing those pro-war rallies? The answer, it turns out, is that they are being promoted by key players in the radio industry — with close links to the Bush administration.
The CD-smashing rally was organized by KRMD, part of Cumulus Media, a radio chain that has banned the Dixie Chicks from its playlists. Most of the pro-war demonstrations around the country have, however, been organized by stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, a behemoth based in San Antonio that controls more than 1,200 stations and increasingly dominates the airwaves.

Avedon (8:41 PM) permalink

Monday, March 24, 2003
Shut your mouth

by Tim Grieve

That with-us-or-against-us message may be starting to take root in the entertainment industry as well. According to Matt Drudge, CBS warned musicians not to speak out against the war during the Grammy Awards last month. Last week, radio and concert giant Clear Channel barred protest groups from distributing literature at an Ani DiFranco concert in New Jersey -- and threatened to pull the plug on DiFranco or anyone else who made antiwar comments from the stage. Sean Penn has filed suit against director Steven Bing, claiming that he lost a role for speaking out against the war. And Martin Sheen, whose real-life politics put him to the left of the president he plays on TV, says that NBC executives have expressed their discomfort about his public antiwar stand. A story on the Oscars in the New York Times this week hinted at the possibility that outspoken war critics may find themselves blacklisted in Hollywood.

Tamara Saviano learned something about that this month. A producer for the Great American Country music video channel, Saviano was flipping through her personal e-mail account at home one night when she came across a message from Charlie "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" Daniels. It was an open letter to Hollywood -- all of those "pitiful, hypocritical, idiotic, spoiled mugwumps" who had raised their voices against the impending war on Iraq. Echoing the words of the president, Daniels argued that "the war against Saddam Hussein is the war on terrorism," that America is in "imminent danger," that "you're either for her or against her" and that there is "no middle ground."

Saviano responded -- again, on her private e-mail account -- with a message in which she called Daniels' screed "anti-American." Daniels' publicist complained to GAC, and the next morning Saviano was fired.

"I'm a little too young to remember McCarthyism, but I've got the feeling that it might be happening again," Saviano told Salon. "I wonder where it came from, this idea that anybody who wants to question this administration or debate things publicly is labeled unpatriotic?"

Avedon (11:16 PM) permalink


We've all been there. Standing for ages in a security line at an inconsequential office building only to be given a security pass that a high school student could have faked. Or being forced to take off our shoes at an airport that can't even screen its luggage.
If you thought the accounting profession was bad news, just wait till you hear how stupid the security industry has become. Even before 9/11 a whole army of bumbling amateurs has taken it upon themselves to figure out pointless, annoying, intrusive, illusory and just plain stupid measures to "protect" our security.
It's become a global menace. From the nightclub in Berlin that demands the home address of its patrons, to the phone company in Britain that won't let anyone pay more than fifty pounds a month from a bank account, the world has become infested with bumptious administrators competing to hinder or harass you. And often for no good reason whatever.
The sensitive and sensible folk at Privacy International have endured enough of this treatment. So until March 15th 2003 we are running an international competition to discover the world's most pointless, intrusive, stupid and self-serving security measures.
The competition is open to anyone. Winners will be announced at the 13th Computers, Freedom & Privacy conference in New York on April 3rd.

Avedon (8:09 PM) permalink

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Avedon (7:36 PM) permalink

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