Click here and here for additional background on Reese Erlich.
Media Matters airs on Sunday afternoons 1-2 p.m. Central Time on WILL-AM 580, straight from the studios of the the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Click here to access the broadcast via Internet RealPlayer software.
If you happen to miss the broadcast, click on one of the archived episodes of McChesney's interviews with some of the best in American media.
Bob McChesney is one of the nation's foremost media critics. He's an author and a research professor in the Institute of Communications Research and Graduate School of Information and Library Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Click here for his website.
This story from The Times is apparently only in the print edition, but the headline is: "As ITN reporter Terry Lloyd is laid to rest, the Americans finally admit they fired on his car." Lloyd is the only ITN reporter to die in the network's history. But he's not the only reporter to die at the hands of American forces in Iraq. Proportionately speaking, a hell of a lot of reporters seem to have been killed by the US in this invasion. I wonder what causes that?
Now, within several days of each other, the country's two largest houses have announced their first incisions. Penguin says it will do fifteen new conservative-leaning titles in a yet-to-be-named imprint under Adrian Zackheim, who's been concentrating on business titles at Portfolio but also has notched Newt Gingrich's bestseller and other titles from Republican celebrities. The company calls the titles "books of political opinion and dissent with a conservative perspective." At the moment, no new editors have been hired for the line.
Toolan recently told Courant Travel Editor Denis Horgan that he could no longer publish commentary on his Web log, DenisHorgan.com. Horgan is a former columnist for the paper who was transferred to the travel writing position earlier this year.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Ted Turner said on Thursday too few people owned too many media organizations and called rival media baron Rupert Murdoch a warmonger for what he said was Murdoch's promotion of the U.S. war in Iraq.
"He's a warmonger," Turner said in an evening speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco of Murdoch, whose News Corp. Ltd. owns the fast-growing Fox News Channel. "He promoted it."
Fox News Channel has been the most popular U.S. cable news network during the conflict, trumping AOL Time Warner Inc.'s CNN, which Turner started more than two decades ago and came to prominence with its blanket coverage of the 1991 Gulf War.
Asked by an audience member for his thoughts on Fox's larger ratings share than CNN's, Turner said, "Just because your ratings are bigger doesn't mean you're better."
"It's not how big you are, it's how good you are that really counts," Turner said, drawing hoots from the audience.
Turner, who has pledged to give $1 billion to the United Nations (news - web sites) and is a vocal proponent of population control and nuclear-arms elimination, criticized the concentration of ownership of the vast majority of U.S. television networks, radio and TV stations and newspapers in a few corporations.
BBC Director General Greg Dyke singled out for criticism the fast growing News Corp. Ltd.'s Fox News Channel, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, and Clear Channel Communications Inc., the largest operator of radio stations in the United States, with over 1,200 stations, for special criticism.
"Personally, I was shocked while in the United States by how unquestioning the broadcast news media was during this war," Dyke said in a speech at a University of London conference.
"If Iraq proved anything, it was that the BBC cannot afford to mix patriotism and journalism. This is happening in the United States and if it continues, will undermine the credibility of the U.S. electronic news media."
Absolutely must-read piece by Kip Manley at Long story; short pier about radio, in which he introduces (at length) an article he wrote a few years ago about pirate radio. From the introductory section:
Subterradio’s gone; Dunifer lost; Clear Channel won the Oklahoma land rush Clinton sparked when he signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act into law. Decades of law and regulation designed to keep broadcasters mindful of their responsibilities to local communities were undone, and stations could suddenly be traded like million-dollar baseball cards, and radio now sucks worse than ever. The micropower struggle I wrote about in 1996 had one notable victory, of sorts: the FCC grudgingly set up a low-powered FM broadcasting license that was compromised enough to make no one at all happy. (In a shocking display of indecorous hardball, NPR fought strenuously against it.) —You might also remember a flap over internet radio, which is still trying to make some noise.
Pirate radio still flies its Jolly Rogers, and LPFM community stations are doing some good, but the fight has moved on: to television, now. FCC Chairman Michael Powell wants to do to television what the 1996 Telecommunications Act did to radio. And it might seem like there’s nothing to save on television—after all, the news is all winnowed down to a couple of points of view, the right and the far right, and whole chunks of the upper channels are blasted wastelands, some Big Content corp leveraging its back catalog of panned and scanned movies and clipped TV reruns down its own boutique cable pipeline into your house—but keep in mind: things can always get worse. And they will.
What’s disheartening to note is the shift in the battleground: with radio, it was a fight for the chance to say what we want, over who had a hold on the transmitters, and whose voices got a chance to be heard. With television, for God’s sake, it’s a fight for the chance to watch what we want. We’ve given up on the means of production. It’s out of our league and out of our hands. We’re struggling to record what we want when we want, to find shows that aren’t numbingly dumb or bowdlerized not for content but to make room for new ads, to dredge up some news that looks like it came from the planet we’re currently living on. We’re being lectured by network execs about minimizing our bathroom breaks when commercials are on.
Things can always get worse.
An illuminating paragraph from the article itself, about the pirate station that had so few resources that much of the time it ran on "autopilot":
Think about it: this CD player, loaded with somebody’s favorite CDs and set on random shuffle, has been delivering what some folks think is the best radio Portland has to offer.
Like the man says, music radio hasn't been much good for a long, long time.
Kentucky journalism and broadcasting have changed drastically since I left here 33 years ago. Back then, you owned it. Your major newspapers, television and radio stations were owned and operated by Kentuckians. Today home ownership is pretty much confined to small-town weeklies, KET and the public radio stations. Your major daily newspapers are now provincial outposts for absentee corporate owners who expect profit margins of 20 to 30 percent. The managers of your TV stations report to bosses far away who care less about the stations’ community service and journalistic exposés than they care about how those stations are contributing to the share price of corporate stock.
Your radio stations, which once took pride in covering local news, just don’t do that anymore because they don’t have to. As for your friendly local radio personalities, a few of them still are — local, that is. A great many are not local, but they’re pretending to be. It’s called voice-tracking. A fellow sits in a studio in Birmingham and does the same show for dozens of stations, occasionally dropping in some weather and other tidbits about your town that he’s plucked off the Internet. Half a dozen or more stations in a single town are owned by the same company. An individual or a corporation used to be limited to five stations nationally and no two in the same town. Today, a single company, Clear Channel, owns more than 1,250 stations across the country and is out buying more. One of the stations it owns is WHAS, the clear-channel, 50,000-watt boomer that I can hear in Washington when the atmospherics are right. I used to listen on my way to work at 1:30 in the morning, just to hear a little bit of home. But now the man doing the overnight program on WHAS is nowhere near Louisville, and he may never have stepped foot on Kentucky soil in his life. He’s doing a program — from somewhere — for all the Clear Channel stations. So unless the Cards are playing late at night, there is no reason for me to ever again listen to WHAS.
It’s kind of a cruel, ironic joke. The rise of cable TV and the Internet were supposed to democratize the media and give us many voices and numerous points of view. Instead, market forces and deregulation have clobbered diversity. The networks and cable channels have the same owners — Hollywood studios, mainly — and the most popular Web sites for news are those of news organizations firmly established before the Web was spun.
The recent admission by CNN executive Eason Jordan that journalists in their Baghdad bureau didn't report on some instances of brutality in order to protect themselves and their sources set off a rather predictable round of moral posturing. CNN was almost universally condemned for this elsewhere in the media. Some claimed, perhaps justifiably, that this had violated journalistic ethics. The rectal-cranial inversion crowd shrieked that this was proof of CNN's "liberal bias," as if covering up the human rights atrocities of dictators was a liberal pastime and the recent war debate had been gripping the country over the entire decade Jordan was discussing.
I do not have much of an opinion either way about CNN's actions, though I do about the utter lack of either honesty or self-awareness by many in the media who have commented on it. Only a fool could think that major news outlets didn't regularly choose to not report information either to protect themselves or to preserve their access to and viability of their sources. At least in the situation Jordan discussed those consequences were torture and death - a significant incentive. Outside of reporting under tyrannical regimes, journalists are simply trying to preserve their careers. For the Beltway crowd, the consequence of printing things which deviate from the Rove-approved, Fleischer-spun storyline for the week is to lose your prized access to "senior administration officials" who provide them with anonymous quotes to provide legitimacy for that storyline.
Donald Rumsfeld understands how this game works, and one has to wonder why his provactive statements at a recent briefing haven't prompted a bit of soul-searching by our media. In response to a question about what he could do to turn around the media's "overwhelmingly negative coverage of the war," he candidly responded that given that pesky freedom of the press, all he could do was "penalize the papers and the television and the newspapers that don't give good advice, and reward those people that do give good advice." He finished by saying, "That's about all we can do, and that's probably enough."
He doesn't even have to threaten them with the comfy chair.
And in the midst of all this madness, where is the political opposition? Where have all the Democrats gone? Long time passing, long time ago. (Applause.) With apologies to Robert Byrd, I have to say it is pretty embarrassing to live in a country where a five-foot- one comedian has more guts than most politicians. (Applause.) We need leaders, not pragmatists that cower before the spin zones of former entertainment journalists. We need leaders who can understand the Constitution, congressman who don't in a moment of fear abdicate their most important power, the right to declare war to the executive branch. And, please, can we please stop the congressional sing-a- longs? (Laughter.)
In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as it lives in fear of its own freedom, when an administration official releases an attack ad questioning the patriotism of a legless Vietnam veteran running for Congress, when people all over the country fear reprisal if they use their right to free speech, it is time to get angry. It is time to get fierce. And it doesn't take much to shift the tide. My 11-year-old nephew, mentioned earlier, a shy kid who never talks in class, stood up to his history teacher who was questioning Susan's patriotism. "That's my aunt you're talking about. Stop it." And the stunned teacher backtracks and began stammering compliments in embarrassment.
Sportswriters across the country reacted with such overwhelming fury at the Hall of Fame that the president of the Hall admitted he made a mistake and Major League Baseball disavowed any connection to the actions of the Hall's president. A bully can be stopped, and so can a mob. It takes one person with the courage and a resolute voice.
The journalists in this country can battle back at those who would rewrite our Constitution in Patriot Act II, or "Patriot, The Sequel," as we would call it in Hollywood. We are counting on you to star in that movie. Journalists can insist that they not be used as publicists by this administration. (Applause.) The next White House correspondent to be called on by Ari Fleischer should defer their question to the back of the room, to the banished journalist du jour. (Applause.) And any instance of intimidation to free speech should be battled against. Any acquiescence or intimidation at this point will only lead to more intimidation. You have, whether you like it or not, an awesome responsibility and an awesome power: the fate of discourse, the health of this republic is in your hands, whether you write on the left or the right. This is your time, and the destiny you have chosen.
We lay the continuance of our democracy on your desks, and count on your pens to be mightier. Millions are watching and waiting in mute frustration and hope - hoping for someone to defend the spirit and letter of our Constitution, and to defy the intimidation that is visited upon us daily in the name of national security and warped notions of patriotism.
Our ability to disagree, and our inherent right to question our leaders and criticize their actions define who we are. To allow those rights to be taken away out of fear, to punish people for their beliefs, to limit access in the news media to differing opinions is to acknowledge our democracy's defeat. These are challenging times. There is a wave of hate that seeks to divide us -- right and left, pro-war and anti-war. In the name of my 11-year-old nephew, and all the other unreported victims of this hostile and unproductive environment of fear, let us try to find our common ground as a nation. Let us celebrate this grand and glorious experiment that has survived for 227 years. To do so we must honor and fight vigilantly for the things that unite us -- like freedom, the First Amendment and, yes, baseball. (Applause.)
Throughout the war in Iraq, al-Jazeera has been accused, both by U.S. and Mideast officials, of being a propaganda tool. But continued attacks on the Arab satellite network, most dramatically exemplified by the recent U.S. bombing of a newsroom in Baghdad that killed a correspondent, shows that al-Jazeera's approach to covering the war - both critical and multidimensional, with an ideological commitment to democracy, openness and pluralism - has seriously threatened the political projects of the world's most powerful.
Al-Jazeera's extended, uncensored, on-the-ground coverage of the invasion has demonstrated, contrary to U.S. and British claims, that this has not been a bloodless, costless and clean war. The coverage has reflected the Arab recognition that the Saddam Hussein dictatorship was a tragedy, but it has also questioned the claim that the war has been motivated by interest in regional democracy and liberation.
In addition to showing images largely censored by the U.S. media of the death, destruction and pain of war on all sides, al-Jazeera has conducted interviews with Kurdish leaders who have explained their alliance with the United States and Britain on the basis of the historic violence of Baathist Arabism, visited a small town in Iran that is the haven of Iraqi Shia refugees who fled Hussein's rule and shown the anger, as well as political sophistication, of anti-war demonstrators in the region.
Al-Jazeera viewers have also received live, full coverage of press statements and conferences held by U.S., Iraqi, United Nations, Arab League, European Union, French, British, Egyptian, Saudi and other officials, thus always reflecting multiple realities throughout the war that are once again not covered routinely by the U.S. news networks.
In covering the war, al-Jazeera was unique in the number of independent reporting teams distributed throughout the region, some of whom have been beaten by Kurdish forces, banned by Iraqi government officials, and reprimanded almost daily by U.S., Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi, Jordanian and other state and military officials at press conferences. These states recognize the destabilizing potential of al-Jazeera's brash willingness to ask difficult questions and give voice to the marginalized majority.
Charges of al-Jazeera Arab and Muslim bias ring untrue given the U.S. television media's crass nationalist apologetics, best demonstrated by Fox News and CNN, and their heavy reliance on superficial sound bites, interviews with current or former government officials, and expertise from a narrow ideological range. Rather than being an anti-Western propaganda tool, al-Jazeera is popular in the Arab world because it addresses issues that are already on the minds of people in the region: U.S. foreign policy and militarism, Israeli occupation, poverty, democratization, gender inequality, and the role of religion in public life.
Wouldn't it be great if America had a news station like that?
So where's the follow-up by the media? Will any of the elite Washington press corps ask Ari Fleischer about the president's culpability if clueless citizens are hospitalized, or die, because of this government secrecy? Or, at one of the president's own rare press conferences, will a reporter demand whether the president plans to attend any of the resulting funerals?
Occasionally, a shard of information that can impact the way we conduct our daily lives appears in the press. But again, where's the follow-up? In the March 15 Daily News, there was an Associated Press report from Washington that more than 80 FBI planes and helicopters are being used to "track and collect intelligence on suspected terrorists and other criminals." Note the key word, "suspected."
Among the FBI's aircraft, the AP story continues, "are several planes, known as Nightstalkers, equipped with infrared devices that allow agents to track people and vehicles in the dark.
"Other aircraft are outfitted with electronic surveillance equipment so agents can access listening devices placed in cars, in buildings, and even along streets, or listen to cell phone calls. . . . All 56 FBI field offices have access to aircraft. . . . [Legally,] no warrants are necessary for the FBI to track cars or people from the air." The good news, as it were, is that the FBI does need warrants to monitor cell-phone calls, even if from a plane.
With Congress now in recess, FCC Chairman Michael Powell responded to that Senate Commerce Committee letter he received last week. Powell's announced that he'll not allow any delays that threaten to stand in the way of an FCC June 2 vote - a vote that for all practical puposes will mean the handing over of American media to a few large conglomerates. I wonder what John McCain's response to this latest Powell snub will be when Congress resumes business (the House returns on April 29th, the Senate on the 28th). McCain is one of a growing group of lawmakers who recognize big problems with corporate media's lust for monopoly. Until we pick up the congressional reaction, here's a clip from Todd Shield's Media Week piece, Powell to Congress: No Delay in Ownership Review
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell in correspondence released Wednesday told Congress he would not delay his planned June 2 vote on major media ownership rules, saying it is "time to make judgments."
Powell's statement came in correspondence replying to eight recent letters from federal lawmakers split on whether the agency should proceed quickly, or propose rule changes and submit them to more public comment. The five commissioners are deliberating privately on what changes to present for the June vote.
Powell in his letter dated April 11 said the agency is tardy in complying with a congressional mandate to review ownership rules every two years. He said the FCC has received "significant input from the American public," compiling a record of more than 18,000 comments. "The time to make judgments based on that record is before us," Powell wrote.
Media Matters is the weekly radio broadcast hosted by Bob McChesney, one of the nation's foremost analysts and writers on the subject of what else...media matters. McChesney is also a research professor at the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Information and Library Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
One of the issues that most matters these days is the FCC's push for media consolidation, an idea that threatens diversity on our airwaves and in print. A handful of large conglomerate owners of our newspapers, cable and radio means less local responsibility and fewer voices and viewpoints. Not much of a problem? Well, think about all the same voices handing over all the editorial endorsements during election season. Doesn't sound like diversity to me. But you know, as important as the subject is, it's not a sexy subject, and let's face it, the ever-consolidated corporate media has a vested interest in reporting as little on the issue as possible. That's why the alternative media is so vitally important in getting this message out.
Be sure to catch McChesney's recent interview with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. It's a terrific episode in which Copps tackles the issue of media ownership and how the public interest is effected by the continued deregulation and drive to eliminate media rules. To access this program, you'll need to scroll down the page to find the "archives" section and choose the February 23rd episode. While there, check out who all else has been talking media issues with McChesney (Eric Alterman sound familiar?).
Near to the door to his office in the building where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is housed, Commissioner Michael J. Copps has posted a framed letter from Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the great chronicler of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidency. When Copps joined the FCC in 2001, following a distinguished career on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton Administration, he made a comment about the New Deal's legacy of regulation in the public interest. Schlesinger wrote to express his delight at learning that someone in Washington was still willing to assert the principle that government ought to do more than simply get out of the way and let big business and its lobbies call the shots.
Schlesinger still knows how to spot the heroes.
At a time when the White House and Congress are fully in the grips of corporate America, and when most of the federal bureaucracy seems to be determined to bend every rule to serve the interests of the largest campaign contributors, Copps is raising the flag of public interest. And while he may not be winning every fight, he has already succeeded in changing the character of one of the most significant public policy debates in the history of media regulation. He is a central player in the burgeoning media reform movement that has risen to challenge corporate control over media and media policymaking.
This spring, the FCC is considering proposals to eliminate the handful of longstanding restrictions on media ownership that still remain. The rules under threat prohibit firms from owning newspapers and TV stations in the same town, or cable TV systems and TV stations in the same town, and they limit the number of TV stations and cable TV systems a firm can own nationally. With the largest media firms salivating at the thought of being able to gobble up more properties, and with a Republican majority on the five-member FCC, it appeared until just a few months ago that these media ownership rules were goners. FCC Chairman Michael Powell is an outspoken opponent of such rules and eager to let the so-called free market work its magic. All signs indicated that the deregulation would go through in much the same manner as the sweeping 1996 Telecommunications Act--with virtually no opposition or awareness by the general public. The fix, it would seem, was in.
But the big media had not figured in the Copps effect.
Steven Marshall has a terrific piece over at In These Times It's one that focuses on uber-right wing radio monopolizer, Clear Channel, "corporate-sponsored nationalism," and the drive toward media consolidation. Here's a clip from Prime Time Payola...
Just days after the 9/11 attacks, slates of blacklisted songs, including Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” and John Lennon’s “Imagine,” were leaked to the public. But it was not until the invasion of Iraq that Clear Channel really kicked into high gear. Facing the massive public outcry and protests against the war, the network began sponsoring pro-war rallies called “Rally for America.” Using its 1,200 stations, Clear Channel pummeled listeners with a mind-numbing stream of uncritical “patriotism.” Finally, there was the recent and gleeful banning of Dixie Chicks songs from several prominent Clear Channel stations after singer Natalie Maines made derogatory remarks about George W. Bush.
Perhaps Clear Channel is simply exercising its right to free expression and supporting the foreign policy initiatives of the current administration. This is hardly the first time that a major media network used its power to marginalize political beliefs that contradict those of its owners. However, one cannot deny the potential for a conflict of interest. Clear Channel is currently facing a major congressional investigation of its business practices. The FCC has blocked two of its most recent requests for station transfers, something that the commission has not done since 1969. Clear Channel’s share price is down nearly 50 percent from the value it held before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. All this is coming at a time when the FCC is about to rule on the existing barriers to consolidation, a decision that could dramatically affect Clear Channel’s ability to further collateralize its massive debt by expanding its holdings.
Led by committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the US Senate Commerce Committee is pushing for greater public debate on the issue of media consolidation. From Reuters...
At issue are decades-old rules that prevent a company from owning television stations that reach more than 35 percent of the national television audience as well as a ban on common ownership of a newspaper and either a television or radio station in a market.
Also under review are rules that limit how many radio and television stations in a market one entity can own. The rules are expected to be eased a bit and are under review by order of Congress as well as a federal appeals court which found the FCC's justification for some of the regulations faulty.
Twelve Senate Commerce Committee members and three others signed the letter. Some had already written the FCC asking for further review before new rules were adopted.
Six other panel members have urged the FCC to act without further comment and Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce telecommunications subcommittee, said in an April 10 letter that a further delay would be "inexcusable."
Elsewhere on blog, you'll also find Jimm's thoughts on Italy, Silvio Berlusconi and a secret vote that might have put a temporary kabosh on this prime minister's goal of monopolizing the national media. Not surprisingly, Berlusconi is fit to be tied.
Media consolidation isn't just an American problem - not by a longshot. In Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns 92% of television (yes, you read that right...92%), opposition has been mounting to his party's recent moves toward increasing that control. From the New York Times:
"In no other democratic country in the world does one person control so much," said Paolo Gentiloni, a center-left member of Parliament. "Now he's trying for radio and newspapers. This is the prime minister, not just any tycoon."
Conflict-of-interest accusations have hounded Mr. Berlusconi since he took office in 2001. The last scare came early this year from within the public broadcaster RAI. After a management crisis, a left-leaning president was appointed in what seemed to be an effort to quell criticism that the government purposefully ran RAI poorly to benefit Mediaset, its main competitor.
It's good to have friends in high places, and those looking to limit the stranglehold of a few media conglomerates have a friend in Barry Diller, former chairman of Vivendi Universal.
In his keynote address at this week's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting in Las Vegas, NV, Diller called on media conglomerates to support continued FCC regulation of their industry, and spoke of the danger posed to independent production companies by media concentration. Here's a clip from Gary Gentile's Assocated Press piece, Diller Criticizes Media Deregulation:
"The big four networks have in fact reconstituted themselves into the oligopoly that the FCC (news - web sites) originally set out to curb in the 1960s," Diller said during his keynote speech at the association's annual convention. "Five corporations, with their broadcast television networks and cable, are not on the verge of controlling the same number of households that the big three did 40 years ago."
Diller said today's "vertically integrated giant media conglomerates," are driven only to gain "world media dominance," a motive that will gain support if current regulations are relaxed.
Independent producers such as Universal, with no network of their own, rely on the networks buying their programs. Networks such as CBS and ABC, have been buying more shows from their own production arms, a strategy that keeps profits within the media company but shuts out independent producers, critics have charged.
"Ten years ago, independents produced 16 new series," Diller said. "Last year, they produced just one. The independents are dying in droves." Click here to pick up Gentile's article in its entirety.
Monday, April 07, 2003 Benton Foundation Home Page Benton to Host Media Ownership Forum on April 7;
Event Will be Streamed Live on the Net
On Monday, April 7, the Benton Foundation will host a public forum on the FCC's review of US media ownership rules. The event will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and is being organized with The ASU Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Maricopa Community College Center for Civic Participation.
Internet users with RealPlayer software may listen to the event live on Monday starting at 4pm EDT, 1pm AZ time. (If the previous link doesn't open the stream automatically, launch RealPlayer manually and paste the address http://stream.lpbn.org:8002/icy_1 into the software's location window.)
News Corp. is expected to formalize its bid for DirecTV as early as this week. It is expected to offer about $7 billion for the 20-percent stake that General Motors holds in the tracking stock of DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics plus between 15 percent and 20 percent held by the public.
Tim Porter's First Draft is a useful look at "Newspapering, Readership & Relevance". Tim is away from his blog at the moment but you might want to catch up on items like Retooling the News Factory that analyze the current state of affairs.
NOW has addressed the issue of media consolidation several times in the past year — in "Virtual Radio," and Bill Moyers Journal on FCC Deregulation we presented information about how consolidation in the media industry may change what you hear and see. With "Big Media" NOW updates the story of the proposed relaxation of media ownership rules as the time for a final decision comes closer. According to Senator John McCain, the changes being contemplated by the FCC right now are monumental and "will shape the future of communications forever."
This permalink for The Scope doesn't seem to work at the moment but there are two articles on the main page about the Los Angeles Times having made some interesting alterations to an article about "friendly fire". The later piece is an update after Our Hero actually made like a real reporter should and tried to find out why.
"I can't trace this directly to Connie Chung being fired, but I'm willing to bet that it sure didn't hurt. I know it's crazy, but viewers seem to be rewarding the Cable News Network for doing... News!"
So says Commissioner Michael Copps, one of two Democratic appointees on the Federal Communications Commission. Much of the ruffling of feathers you might be witnessing now, as FCC Chair Michael Powell moves to consolidate the American media, can be attributed to Copps. He has advocated informing the public interest and gauging public opinion on the subject of further media deregulation. It is thanks to Copps that a small handful of public hearings on the issue have been conducted in recent months. Here's a smidge from Alicia Mundy's Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) Q&A with Copps. I recommend you pick up the remainder of this piece by clicking here.
The appeals court has smacked the FCC several times in the last two years, demanding that the agency show why there’s a need for any ownership caps at all, and asking for quantitative evidence to support ownership limits. How can public hearings, with average consumers testifying, help the FCC develop serious evidence for the court? Won’t it all just be anecdotal complaints from common viewers?
I don’t buy into that argument. I think when the FCC says we’re here for a hearing, that you’ll get new, quantifiable information — maybe even more from what I call nontraditional stakeholders — rather than the usual folks who have lawyers and know their way around the FCC.
One of the things you are pushing for is protection of localism in news coverage by Big Media.
Absolutely. That’s fundamental. I want to understand the effects in our everyday life, day in, day out, of what’s happened to localism, what’s happened to local organizations, local schools, local sports team and athletics. But it goes beyond that to the coverage of small-d democratic issues, and political issues and to the kind of programming that people in their locality might be interested in. Which is not necessarily what the 18-34-year-old-oriented advertisers on Madison Avenue may be thinking that people need.
The thuggish element of the far right that has taken up residence with the mainstream GOP is being called into action on the home front. They are being sicced on anyone who questions George W. Bush's dirty little war. And with them, they are drawing in formerly mainstream conservatives likewise moved by the bonfires of jingoism.
Not all at once, but pack by pack: quietly, locally.
Listen to talk radio for awhile and you'll know what I mean.
Wednesday, April 02, 2003 CONSOLIDATION DEBATE FRACTURES CONSERVATIVE MEDIA AGENDA
The lines were drawn in the conservative media sand last week. That's when a handful of moderate Republicans came forward in favor of extending the timetable of public debate on the issue of media consolidation. This week, a dozen of their conservative colleagues, and one Democrat - the right-leaning John Breaux of Lousiana - are making the case for a clamp-down on debate, effective June 2, 2003. Here, from Todd Shields of Mediaweek are clips from two articles outlining both sides of the conservative media debate:
The GOP senators -- Wayne Allard of Colorado and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine -- in their Wednesday letter expressed concern over the impact consolidated ownership could have on the range of news and opinion offered to communities.
"A fully functioning democracy depends on media sources with diverse voices and opinions as well as content relevant to local communities," the senators wrote. "It would be inappropriate to make significant changes that could have a sweeping impact on how our society engages in public debate without first having a complete public airing of these changes."
The senators called for the FCC to summon public comment on specific changes to the ownership rules.
Powell has pledged to complete his agency's sweeping review of major media ownership rules by late spring. That timetable could be difficult to meet if a round of comment follows the agency's proposed changes.
Skeptics of relaxing the rules have been pushing for broader public debate before the FCC moves.
Rules under review at the agency include those that limit the size of TV networks, that forbid ownership of broadcast stations and daily newspapers in the same community, and that limit the number of TV and radio stations a single owner can hold in a market.
Twelve members of Congress, in a letter released on Tuesday [April 1, 2003], urged the Federal Communications Commission not to delay its review of media ownership rules beyond June.
"Permitting this important proceeding to slip into summer or fall will not make the issues involved any easier to resolve," said the March 28 letter from four senators and seven representatives to FCC Chairman Michael Powell.
The letter was signed by one Democrat, Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, and11 Republicans, including the House Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.).
ACTIVIST ALERT: Dial up the congressional toll-free number at 1-800-839-5276 and let Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Wayne Allard know you support their efforts to extend the window of public debate on this important issue. That same phone number will put you in contact with your representatives. Find out where they stand on the issue of media consolidation, and be sure to advise them of your position.