The Media Consortium, a national network of independent media outlets, represents the new landscape in journalism that a recent Pew Report attempts to describe. If the twentieth century was defined largely by corporate media, the twenty-first century media sector that our Consortium represents comprises outlets that are fiercely independent, committed to accuracy in reporting, and dedicated to making the world a better place.
What model of journalism do these independent outlets embrace? It is not the so-called objective journalism of the past. As a number of historians have pointed out, objectivity was itself an ideology rather than a practice. Instead of rising above the political fray, corporate media , responding to their shareholders, have not hesitated to push their market interests in the political arena, as we see so clearly in the cozy relationships News Corporation owners and employees built with prime minsters, police, and the British political establishment.
Independent media are not responsible to the market. Whether organized as for-profits with diverse revenue streams or as nonprofits, independent media are mission-driven. We serve our audiences. By reflecting our audiences’ concerns (which may be nonpartisan or partisan, left or right), independent media ensure that the public will have access to a diversity of views. That is why the health of an independent press is so critical for a democracy.
Independent media cover issues that are critical to people’s health, well-being, and political rights but that are not on the mainstream media’s radar. And, unlike the corporate media with its cud-chewed content, the independent media is unafraid to tell the full story even when doing so threatens the market or those in power.
We care most about getting at the real story. We are not predictable. We do not pretend to give both sides equal time. And our sector is growing because, increasingly, we provide the kind of media the American public wants.
The Wavelength: Court To FCC: Do Your Freakin’ Job! Plus: How the NewsCorps Scandal Impacts U.S. Media
Welcome to the final edition of The Wavelength, a bi-weekly roundup of news and analysis focused on media policy. Stay tuned for more reporting on the ongoing impact of media policy from members of The Media Consortium.
By Eric K. Arnold, Media Consortium Blogger
Just when it seemed that the wave of media consolidation had reached tsunami proportions, a new court ruling is easing the troubled waters.
As Amy Miller and Lori Abbot of Public News Service report, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to block revisions to current FCC regulations which would further relax media cross-ownership rules. This ruling is a major victory for media reform advocates who say any further consolidation could severely challenge the notion of a free, independent press.
As previously reported, the new regulations would have likely had an adverse affect on local news reporting and diversity. Making the situation even more awkward is the FCC’s own recently issued media review, which posits the need for more localism and more diversity.
The upshot, write Miller and Abbot, is this: “In addition to preventing one company from owning both print and broadcast stations in the same market, the rulings mean more competition and more opportunity for women and minority ownership of media companies.”
The decision sends a clear message to the FCC that it has a mandate to prioritize public interest over corporate interests, a point it’s been somewhat confused on in the past.
News of the World Scandal Continues
In a case of media behaving badly, the UK’s News of the World—a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the US’s Fox News—ceased publication after being caught red-handed in an embarrassing scandal. Reportedly, the paper, which was founded in 1843 and has a circulation of 2.8 million, hacked the cellphones of families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, murder victims (including 13 year-old Milly Dowler), and celebrities. NoTW reportedly deleted voicemails from Dowler’s cellphone, causing her family to believe she hadn’t been killed.
Hitting where it hurts
Blowback from the scandal is hitting Murdoch hard. As blogger John Nichols writes in The Nation, “the damage is running deep, as members of Parliament… have called for placing a hold on the anticipated purchase by News Corp. of British Sky Broadcasting, a hugely-profitable satellite TV enterprise that Murdoch has coveted for years.”
The inquiry by Scotland Yard and the British government is just getting started, Nichols says, adding the sordid episode should raise questions about the Murdoch media empire’s practices in America: “Should Americans be appalled by a scandal in Britain? Certainly.”
Also in The Nation, D.D. Guttenplan blogs about the scandal, which, he notes, “wiped some $2.5 billion off the value of News Corporation, [Murdoch's] US-based holding company.” The larger issue, however, is that “Rupert Murdoch has been operating what amounts to a private intelligence service” which “gives News Corporation a kind of leverage over inquisitive regulators or troublesome politicians wielded by no other company on earth.”
But wait, it gets worse. As Adele Stan writes for AlterNet, Wall Street Journal CEO Les Hinton, a former executive chairman of Murdoch’s UK operation, has been implicated in the scandal. In 2006, Hinton told Parliament that the hacking was the work of one rogue reporter — a claim which has been revealed to be a lie. The WSJ, Stan says, did not disclose “the role its chief executive played in delivering misleading testimony before the British parliament” — which raises troubling questions about the paper’s ethics, especially considering its ties to the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity foundation.
In other media policy-related news:
- Truthout has launched a new column, Ladydrawers, which addresses gender bias in comic book.
- New America Media reports on controversial Pulitzer-winning-journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who recently revealed his illegal immigrant status.
This week’s blog marks the final edition of the Wavelength, which started last March—right around the time AT&T announced its proposed $39 Billion merger with T-Mobile.
Over the past four months, the implications of the proposed mega-merger have reverberated through both the Beltway and the blogosphere, dominating much of the reportage around media policy. Other top stories included the Microsoft-Skype merger; the outcry over the latest instance of the FCC’s infamous “revolving door”; the ongoing debate over Net Neutrality; and a growing concern over privacy issues with regard to popular social media websites and mobile phones.
We’ve also taken a look at the state of media with regards to freedom of the press, independent journalism and censorship, both in the U.S. and abroad. While this picture has often been depressing – especially when detailing the connections between right-wing media, conservative political agendas, and corporate influence — there’s also plenty of reason for optimism and hope. Bright spots include the potential of alternatives to mainstream media like Low-Power TV to become a home for digital diversity; the ongoing exposes of WikiLeaks; the role of social media in Arab Spring; and reports of new collaborative efforts between international press outlets reporting on corruption and violence in foreign countries.
As we wrap up the Wavelength, we’d like to give a big shout-out goes out to the Media Consortium member organizations who released informative and revealing reporting week after week. As the Murdoch scandal illustrates, this coverage is invaluable, since the notion of “fair and balanced” journalism practiced by Fox News, the WSJ, and other mainstream outlets appears to be as much a hoax as the false hope perpetuated by NoTW that Dowler was still alive.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy and media-related matters by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here. You can also follow us on Twitter.
Local coverage and diversity are in short supply in today’s media landscape–especially when it comes to broadcast and cable TV. But there is hope. In markets like the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, Low Power TV (LPTV) has emerged as a viable alternative to network and cable TV, offering 24-hour programming and locally-produced news shows for ethnic communities in their own languages.
While LPTV offers incredible opportunities for ethnic communities, as I reported here and here for New America Media, these stations face considerable challenges, including an unfriendly regulatory landscape and the weighty influence of the big-bucks telecommunications industry, which just wants LPTV to go away so it can claim the full digital spectrum.
Moreover, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers LPTV a secondary service with no legal protection from interference or displacement by broadcasters – which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for LPTV to thrive, since its future is uncertain.
Localism Lacking, FCC Study Says
Ironically, the very same FCC that is preventing LPTV from gaining a stronger foothold recently issued a report, titled “The Information Needs of Communities,” which lays out how localism has suffered from media consolidation. In her analysis of the FCC study, Truthout’s Nadia Prupis found that “Local journalism has not been able to keep up with a changing media landscape, leading to a significant drop in quality in-depth reporting.”
Shared News is Bad News for Localism
Futhermore, according to Free Press, a nonpartisan media advocacy group, “Across the country, hundreds of TV stations have quietly merged newsrooms, circumventing the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership limits at the expense of independent, local journalism.” As noted in the FCC study, almost one-third of local news airing on full-power TV stations is actually produced by other stations. According to Free Press, there are nearly 80 markets “where these deals are in place, involving more than 200 stations.”
Free Press’ newest campaign, “Change the Channels,” includes an interactive map highlighting eight markets where this practice is especially egregious.
Echoing Corporate Media-Speak
AlterNet’s Don Hazen spotlights products of the right-wing echo chamber—and how those messages impact public conversations. Hazen gives two examples: “The first message is: ‘We must raise the retirement age or the economy will collapse.’ And two: ‘Social security is bankrupt.’ These two statements have been repeated thousands of times in and on American media. Yet there is not one scintilla of evidence that either one is accurate. But they have lodged themselves into the mainstream of American thought, constantly repeated by corporate media, as if they are obvious truths.”
The men behind the curtain are the Koch brothers, conservative billionaires who have usurped America’s political agenda by using the media as an echo chamber – themes that are explored in a new documentary produced by Brave New Films.
More Scrutiny For AT&T Merger
State agencies are increasingly concerned about the potential harm the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger would wreak on consumers. As Public News Service’s Mark Scheerer writes, “In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has asked the government to ‘carefully evaluate’ whether it will harm the public interest by stifling competition.”
A PSC spokesman says this is a “significant” concern to the agency.
Less competition, Scheerer explains, “could lead to higher rates or a lack of incentive to improve wireless broadband service.” The article also notes that the merger is under investigation in three states, including New York.
Merger Supporters Paid Off With Corporate Cash
AlterNet’s David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick analyze GLAADgate, which erupted after GLAAD’s president Jarrett Barrios was forced to resign after signing a statement of GLAAD’s support for the AT&T/T-Mobile deal with the FCC despite GLAAD’s board voicing opposition to the merger. After the statement was released, it was revealed that AT&T contributed $50,000 to GLAAD in what’s looking like a quid pro quo.
But that’s just the tip of the cash-for-shills iceberg. Rosen and Kushnick note that AT&T has leveraged more than 300 nonprofit groups, including “labor unions, trade associations, state and local politicians, and private corporations” into supporting the merger. These groups include the American Foundation for the Blind, National Conference of Black Mayors, National Puerto Rican Coalition, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Communications Workers of America and the AFL-CIO. The NAACP, for instance, received over $1 million from AT&T in 2009 alone.
AT&T can do this because they have “deep pockets,” as Rosen and Kushnick explain:
In 2009, the AT&T Foundation doled out over $60 million to nonprofits and other causes. In addition, in 2010, AT&T paid out nearly $20 million to influence the political process and legislative decisions; it contributed $3.7 million to America’s two major political parties (56% to Republicans) and another $15.4 million to lobbying activities. During the first three months of 2011, AT&T spent $6.8 million on lobbyists and in to lawyers related to the T-Mobile deal.
But, Rosen and Kushnick write, a larger question remains: by taking AT&T’s cash, and then singing the company’s praises, are these organizations violating guidelines which state a tax-exempt entity “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities”?
Is Facebook Censoring Political Speech?
Social media network Facebook has been widely praised for its role in Arab Spring—the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that have brought political change to the Middle East—but it may be engaging in censorship in the United Kingdom.
As Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann reports, “Labor unions and student activists in the United Kingdom are organizing a massive strike of public workers to protest cuts planned by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led government. They’re hoping to draw tens or even hundreds of thousands of supporters into the streets to join the workers in an across-the-pond version of the Wisconsin demonstrations that captured national attention in March.
“But over the past few days, as activists worked to promote their plan, they ran into a problem: Facebook… was blocking the strike organizers’ website, www.j30strike.org.”
Facebook has since responded with an official “oops, we didn’t mean it.” But, as Baumann points out, “as an increasingly important means of communication and social and political organizing, it’s important—for Facebook and its users—that the company be seen as a neutral party in debates over political issues.”
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy and media-related matters by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here. You can also follow us on Twitter.
While mainstream media news cycles have been dominated by political sex scandals, important global stories have gone under-reported. According to AlterNet’s Rania Khalek, many of these stories were broken by WikiLeaks. Khalek spotlights five key revelations of 2011, including:
- How WikiLeaks spurred on the Tunisian uprising, which in turn led to similar uprisings in Egypt and Libya and has been dubbed “Arab Spring.”
- The “Guantanamo Files,” 700 classified documents that “paint a stunning picture of an oppressive detention system riddled with incoherence and cruelty at every stage.”
- The “Pakistan Papers,” which show that U.S. allies are “among the leading funders of international terrorism.”
- A series of cables documenting “a race to carve up the Arctic for resource exploitation” — released just as Secretary Clinton met with the Arctic Council to discuss oil exploration.
- Some 2,000 cables exposing “how the United States, with pressure from Exxon and Chevron, tried to interfere with an oil agreement between Haiti and Venezuela that would save Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, $100 million per year or 10 percent of the country’s budget.”
This startling information, Khalek concludes, is “just the tip of the iceberg.” Yet, apart from The Nation, which is running a series on the Haitian cables – read it here and here – these stories “have received little attention in the US press.”
FCC Delays Ruling on Media Ownership
Over the past 15 years, numerous federal deregulatory actions have paved the way for unprecedented consolidation, which has severely impacted both competition and diversity. It all started with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has been at the epicenter.
In the current climate, any further consolidation – such as the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile and Microsoft/Skype mergers – could affect consumers in drastic ways. Yet without legal intervention, we might be headed for a new era of massive media consolidation.
As Truthout’s Nadia Prupis writes, in 2007, the FCC “loosened the restrictions on a 35-year-old ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, giving new allowance for a single company to buy and operate both a major newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market.” If the new cross-ownership rules are upheld, there would be nothing stopping a single media company from owning an unlimited number of radio, TV, and print media outlets in the same market—a move that could effectively gut the notion of a free, independent press, as well as any separation between giant media conglomerates.
Last February, a coalition of media advocacy groups (including Prometheus Radio Project, Media Alliance, Media Access Project, and Free Press) challenged the FCC in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Among their concerns, Prupis notes: “loopholes in the commission’s rules could allow newspapers to own TV stations of any size” and “media consolidation could prevent an increase in minority-owned stations and stifle the creation of local news programs.”
The FCC’s Media Ownership review was expected June 6, but it appears to have been delayed indefinitely. Commissioner Robert McDowell said it would be “awkward” for the FCC to rule prior to the outcome of the court’s decision. McDowell has been a proponent of further deregulation, which he believes could prop up the flagging newspaper industry.
The FCC Kills the Fairness Doctrine – Again.
“How many times does it take to kill a federal rule before it’s really dead?,” wonders Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer. The rule in question is the “Fairness Doctrine,” a Truman-era policy enforced by the FCC “to ensure broadcasters presented balanced views in their coverage of controversial subjects.”
The policy was abolished in 1987, but conservatives have feared it would be resurrected by the Obama administration and liberal Democrats. No worries, according to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who stated he fully supports “deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations.”
AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Roundup
The AT&T/T-Mobile merger continues to be a much-discussed topic in both media and regulatory circles. As Truthout’s Prupis reports, Sprint and media advocacy group Free Press have separately filed “Petition to Deny” papers with the FCC, arguing that approval of the $39 billion deal would lead to higher prices and fewer choices and doesn’t serve the public’s interest. AT&T denied the allegations, calling the opponents “the usual suspects.”
In other AT&T/T-Mobile-related news, Media Alliance Executive Director Tracy Rosenberg wrote about a recent California Public Utilities Commission hearing on the merger for Oakland Local. Despite Rosenberg being outnumbered by shills from “Astroturf” organizations, the commission voted to investigate the deal, signaling that concerns over its impact are serious enough not to simply rubber-stamp it.
Finally, AlterNet’s David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick debunk myths AT&T has been perpetuating about broadband, including:
- “In the 22 states that AT&T controls, consumers will never get true broadband service.” This is because AT&T’s U-Verse runs on copper wires, not optical-fiber cables, and thus isn’t capable of speeds faster than 25 Mbps.
- “As it builds out its wireless network, AT&T is systematically undercutting its higher-performing wireline broadband network.”
- “There will only be a marginal improvement in service, far less than what is taking place in other advanced countries and championed as “4G,” and customers will be paying more.”
WSJ Board Member’s Questionable–and Profitable–Alliances
The collusion between news organizations and partisan political groups has resulted in some eyebrow-raising partnerships, and raised questions about whether the mainstream media is truly fair, balanced – and unbiased.
The Nation Institute and AlterNet recently published an article about Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore’s questionable affiliations with right-wing activists. Adele Stan reports, “The paper is matched only by Fox News in its unabashed alliance with political advocacy organizations associated with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers and noted conservative funders who run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States.”
Moore has been profiting handsomely from speaking at events organized by Americans For Prosperity and other conservative groups, which raises ethical concerns, Stan writes: “Moore’s involvement with such a blatantly political organization — one whose agenda aligns so obviously with that of the GOP — is an anomaly for an editorial board member of a national newspaper.”
Moyers: Media Seduction Has Become Toxic
The WSJ and Fox aren’t the only MSM outlets with questionable ties to the private sector. Speaking on Democracy Now, legendary journalist Bill Moyers points to relationship between defense contractor General Electric and television network NBC — which broadcasts political commentary show “Meet the Press” — as an example of “the consensual seduction of the mainstream media.” He calls this “one of the most dangerous toxins at work in America today.”
Moyers goes on to say that “The intimate relationship intertwining “mainstream media with power, corporate power, government power… is something that, without the antidote of independent reporting and analysis… we would be in a dark, dark pit with no light shining on us.”
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy and media-related matters by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here. You can also follow us on Twitter.
Smart phones are hip, trendy, and loaded with user-friendly apps. But these devices also collect and store your personal information, leaving huge security gaps.
The prevalence of spyware in mobile technology and social networking sites has huge implications as a privacy issue, since users have no way of knowing who’s peeping, or for what purpose. New concerns over mobile and Internet privacy have been raised at the federal and state level, and there’s already push-back from some of the major players in the tech industry.
As Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) writes for Care2, recent studies indicate smart phones and other mobile apps are being used as remote spyware. Franken, one of the leading advocates for Net Neutrality and other media policy issues on Capitol Hill, notes that researchers found that “both iPhones and Android phones were automatically collecting certain location information from users’ phones and sending it back to Apple and Google—even when people weren’t using location applications.”
One particularly disturbing aspect of these revelations is that location information could be used by cyberstalkers. Franken notes he’s been contacted by battered women’s organizations on this issue, but as the senator states, there are “a range of harms that can come from privacy breaches.”
Stronger federal law concerning mobile broadband security is needed, Franken argues.
“Right now, once the maker of a mobile app, a company like Apple or Google, or even your wireless company gets your location information, in many cases, under current federal law, these companies are free to disclose your location information and other sensitive information to almost anyone they please — without telling you. And then the companies they share your information with can share and sell it to yet others — again, without letting you know.”
Social Networking Privacy Bill Faces Opposition from Facebook and Twitter
The widespread popularity of social networking has also resulted in widespread concerns over privacy. Yet, as Truthout’s Nadia Prupis reports, “Facebook, Google, Skype, and Twitter have joined forces to oppose an online privacy bill in California that would prevent the companies from displaying users’ personal information without explicit permission.”
The bill in question is SB 242, a.k.a. the Social Networking Privacy Act. Introduced by California State Senator Ellen Corbett (D), the bill would create stronger privacy guidelines, and also require social networking sites to remove personal information, if the user requests, within 48 hours. A failure to do so would result in a $10,000 fine per instance.
Facebook and other sites say such privacy protections could harm their business. But legislators weren’t so sure. California’s Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed the measure on May 16, called the threat to privacy “serious,” adding, “[It] is unclear how requiring that default settings be set to private would unduly restrict the free expression of users who elect to disseminate their information.”
Tweeting Back at Comcast
Former FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell-Baker’s pending move to Comcast has been met with loud cries over conflict of interest. As Public News Service’s Mark Scheerer reports, more controversy has erupted, this time over Reel Grrls, a Seattle media training summer camp for young women, which sent out a tweet denouncing Attwell-Baker’s new job.
“Following Reel Grrls’ Twitter post,” Scheerer says, “a local Comcast vice-president immediately rescinded its annual $18,000 donation to the girls’ program. Comcast then apologized, calling it an action by an ‘unauthorized employee.’ By then, says Reel Grrls director Mallory Graham, the media had picked up the story and support came pouring in.”
The story goes on to note that non-profits like the Center For Media Justice (CMJ) helped to raise more than $14,000 for the program, allowing Reel Grrls to politely decline Comcast’s offer to restore the funding. The upshot of the whole episode: Reel Grrls’ will focus its summer program on free speech issues.
An Open Internet, Communities of Color, and Astroturf Orgs
Afro-Netizen recently picked up an op-ed by CMJ’s Malkia Cyril on digital diversity as it relates to Net Neutrality. Cyril writes:
In the fight over who will control the Internet, big companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are hoping they will win a pass on FCC oversight and public interest protection leaving them free to make as much profit as they can even if the service they provide is gated and discriminatory. Some civil rights groups are legitimately concerned that protecting the public from discrimination online -especially the poor and people of color- from the proven abuses of Big Media companies will result in those companies refusing to build out high speed broadband to rural communities and poor urban communities.
She goes on to express her concern over media advocacy organization the Minority Media and Telecommunication Council (MMTC), calling it an “Astroturf” outfit whose positions on the open Internet issue happen to coincide with those of the telecommunication companies, while appearing to champion increased minority broadband access.
As Cyril points out, there’s a perplexing disconnect there. “What doesn’t make sense is that groups like MMTC would deny that the financial relationship between them and the same media companies that are blackmailing the communities MMTC claims to represent, has an impact on their position on open Internet protections.”
Who You Callin’ a Slut?
On May 24, MSNBC talk-show host Ed Schultz referred to conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham as a “right-wing slut.” Though Schultz was publicly rebuked and quickly suspended by MSNBC after his remark, Yana Walton of the Women’s Media Center blogged that sexism isn’t OK, even when it’s directed at someone whose politics you don’t agree with. Though Walton says Schultz has historically been a supporter of women’s issues, she also notes:
In a media climate where Talkers Magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” list of the top talk radio hosts only included 12 women with their own programs, (plus two women co-hosts), such comments dissuade women from entering into political talk radio careers. Thus, such comments widen gender disparities in media even further and contribute to a climate where half of America’s voices and priorities are not heard.
Walton also praised MSNBC for their handling of the issue, saying the cable network’s “decision to place the issue of media sexism front and center was commendable, and today they set the example for other networks who are often guilty of media sexism, yet aren’t even beginning to address the problem.”
by Eric Arnold, Media Consortium blogger
So exactly what does the Skyprosoft deal mean for consumers? That’s the eight-point-five billion-dollar question. Public News Service’s Mark Scheerer says the deal could be beneficial if – and this is a big ‘if’ – “Microsoft will more strongly embrace network neutrality and other policies aimed at keeping the Web free.”
Net neutrality is a key component to the merger because, according to the Media Access Project’s Mark Wood, “without an open internet, large and anti-competitive carriers like AT&T and Verizon will have the power to cripple potentially competitive services such as Skype’s that will depend on access to existing networks.”
Should Telecoms Break Up?
AlterNet’s David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick make a case for the break-ups of the telecommunications trust, which provides “overpriced and inferior service, and [is] systematically overcharging the hapless American consumer.”
Citing crusading muckraker Ida Tarbell, who went after the Standard Oil monopoly a century ago, as an inspiration for the project, Rosen and Kushnick argue that the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions has put the telecom industry on a similar course of anti-competitive behavior. The answer, they say, is divestiture, which “will lead to increased competition, lower costs and better service.”
FCC’s Revolving Door Keeps on Spinning
Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is the latest FCC official to land a cushy job at—you guessed it—a telecommunications company. In June, Baker will be moving to work as Comcast’s senior vice-president for government affairs. As Truthout’s Nadia Prupis notes, Baker advocated strongly in favor of Comcast during the commission’s review of the $30 billion merger with NBC Universal earlier this year.
Specifically, Baker objected to proposed FCC requirements for Comcast-NBC “to maintain fair and competitive operations over the airwaves and online, show a minimum amount of local and children’s programming and make high-speed Internet access available to 2.5 million low-income households.”
Senate Probe Focuses on Mobile Security
Truthout’s Prupis also reports that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is leading a Senate probe into privacy issues raised by smart phones and other mobile broadband-enabled devices.
Recent concerns over privacy issues have put companies like Google and Apple—whose officials testified Tuesday in Washington—on the hot seat. As Prupis notes, “Legislators on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law said that without sufficient privacy measures, mobile devices carry the genuine potential for security breaches.” However, the Senate panel’s intent isn’t to limit innovation, but “create strong consumer protections as mobile technology continues to evolve.”
Post-merger, Comcast Lags on Localism
According to a recent study by Free Press (PDF available here), Comcast-owned Telemundo stations haven’t kept promises made to feature more local news – a key condition of the Comcast-NBC merger. While the study suggests that a poor commitment to localism for Telemundo stations was a pre-existing condition, dating back to NBC Universal’s 2002 purchase of the Spanish-language network, it also found that “Comcast has committed to increasing local news production in only six of the 15 communities served by its Telemundo owned-and-operated stations (O&Os).”
The report also found numerous discrepancies in Comcast’s FCC localism filings, including falsely claiming that advertising constituted local news and failing to include descriptions of programs it claimed were local, making it “difficult for the public and the FCC to determine with any accuracy whether the programming listed actually meets the merger commitment.”
Revisiting Protest Music
What does protest music have to do with media policy? Well, when’s the last time you heard Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” on the radio?
Protest music has all but disappeared from the commercial music landscape, unless you count Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Yet, in an age of media consolidation and corporate-controlled media, it’s good to remember the music scene wasn’t always so timid. Recently, The Nation asked readers to list their Top Ten Protest Songs. They received an overwhelming response, with more than 3,000 entries, and even more streaming in daily.
As the editors note, “five seminal songs [vied] for consideration for the top slot: Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Florence Reese’s “Which Side Are You On,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.””
The first list posted online—more are planned—includes music by Public Enemy, Marvin Gaye, Paul Robeson, John Prine, Anti-Flag, The Jam, Malvina Reynolds, Iris DeMent, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.
World Press Freedom Day
“Press freedom is at its lowest level in 12 years,” according to Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones. In honor of World Press Freedom Day, Bauerlein and Jeffery called attention to the 16 journalists currently held in Libya, as well as the two American journalists still detained in Iran (one of whom is a MoJo reporter).
Inter Press Service created a Facebook page to celebrate WPFD and compile reports on the state of freedom of the press from around the globe. It’s a fascinating list that outlines the dangers reporters face—which sometimes results in self-censorship—as well as the prevalence of censorship of political topics in other countries, especially those engaged in bloody civil conflicts. Here are a few choice stories:
- As Amantha Perera reports from Sri Lanka, one casualty of that country’s decades-long civil war (which ended in 2009) was journalistic independence. “The media became a part of the military operation… No one was able to report objectively, there was pressure on them from all parties.”
- In Egypt, Cam McGrath writes, the rebellion which toppled the Mubarak government has brought significant changes for reporters. “Before Feb. 11, we had strict orders not to discuss certain topics, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or (Mubarak’s political opponent) Mohamed El Baradei,” says Ashraf El-Leithy, deputy editor of Middle East News Agency (MENA), Egypt’s official news wire. “Now we have complete freedom to write about anything – without any restriction.”
- In Mexico City, says Daniela Pastrana, the influence of drug cartels has presented distinct challenges to reporting in a state where corruption and violence are widespread, and journalists, police, and government officials are routinely murdered – resulting in collective efforts, meticulous fact-checking, and an emphasis on obtaining public records.
Ethnic Press Grapples With Media Policy Issues
New York Community Media Alliance’s Jehangir Khattak reports for New America Media that a recent information exchange between journalists and advocates held in Boston at the National Conference for Media Reform in April helped the ethnic press address ways to better cover media policy issues for their audiences.
As Khattak notes, the exchange “addressed steps ethnic and community media can take to increase coverage of media policy issues and how to improve the quality of current reporting. [It] also examined the role of media policy advocates in crafting the best course for effective messaging on these issues and what steps they should take.”
Understanding media policy issues can help close the digital divide, which affects underserved, ethnic and minority communities the most.
The Wavelength is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. This post features the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here.You can also follow us on Twitter.
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
Ed. note: This is the final edition of the Mulch. To keep up with the best environmental coverage the progressive media has to offer, follow The Media Consortium on Twitter or connect with us on Facebook.
House Republicans passed a bill yesterday afternoon that would require the Obama administration to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. As oil prices shoot up, Republicans have pushing for more domestic drilling, even as oil companies report record profits.
As Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports, oil companies have used those profits in record buybacks of company stock. “This spending spree comes not only as the gas price debate has resurged in Congress, but also as companies lobby to keep the $40 billion in tax breaks and loopholes that President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats want slashed from the 2012 budget,” Sheppard writes.
The long war
The most recent debates over off-shore drilling, oil profits, and oil subsidies are just one front in the long war to preserve the environment and push back against climate change. There are strategies available here that have yet to be deployed. At Grist, David Roberts offers four that could help fight climate change: put a price on carbon; deploy existing clean energy technology on a much more massive scale; invest large amounts of money in research and development; and invest in infrastructure.
As far as these four policy proposals go, he says, right now, “The U.S. is doing all of them poorly,” and he does not believe that it is possible any more to reverse climate change. As he writes, “Climate change won’t be solved, it will be managed, by us, by our kids, by our grandkids.”
Those kids, however, are not ready to accept their fate without a fight. Yesterday, a group of teenagers filed suit against the federal government for failing to guard a public trust—the atmosphere. As Alec Loorz, who is sixteen years old and a plaintiff in one suit, writes at Earth Island Journal, “The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children. So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.”
Loorz explains why he’s fighting the government on climate policy:
Our addiction to fossil fuels is messing up the perfect balance of nature and threatening the survival of my generation. If we continue to hide in denial and avoid taking action, my and I generation will be forced to grow up in a world where hurricanes as big as Katrina are normal, people die every year because of heat waves, droughts, and floods, and entire species of animals we’ve come to know disappear right before our eyes.
The future vs. now
That’s not a world that I’d want to live in. But the current state of affairs isn’t so pleasant, either. No matter what we do, it seems, we wreak havoc on the world around us. At Care2, for instance, Miranda Perry reports that sonar technology, which was known to harm sea mammals like whales and dolphins, also can damage invertebrate animals, like squid found dead on the shore:
Biologists speculated that the giant squid were affected by the sonar, which can range from 157 and 175 decibels and frequencies between 50 to 400 Hertz in marine activities such as oil and natural gas prospecting.
“[W]e hypothesized that the giant squid died in one of two ways: either by direct impact from the sound waves or by having their statocysts practically destroyed and [the squid] becoming disoriented,” marine biologist Angel Guerra told National Geographic. Now, that hypothesis is backed by proof.
And it’s not only animals that are damaged by human activities: it’s us, too. The toxins constantly filtering into the air, for instance, contribute to health problems like asthma. As Susan Lyon and Jorge Madrid write at Campus Progress:
Asthma rates are higher in places with bad air quality, and though asthma has no known cure it can be controlled by limiting exposure to asthma triggers such as smog and particulate air pollutants. Poor air quality caused by exhaust from cars, factory emissions, smoke, and dust can aggravate the lungs and can worsen chronic lung diseases, according to the EPA. Coal-fired power plants are also a big part of the problem.
Rolling back protections
It is clear that our way of living in the world is damaging it. But when governments all over the country should be pushing harder than ever to protect the environment, in many cases, they’re trying to roll back protections already in place.
Public News Service’s Glen Gardner reports that in Florida, a program called Florida Forever, which helped conserve water resources and wildlife habitat, may be sacrificed to the state budget crunch. And The Florida Independent’s Travis Pillow reports that, at the same time, “The Florida House of Representatives just gutted the power of ordinary citizens to challenge decisions made by environmental regulators….[C]hallengers would have less of a say in permitting decisions that affect water quality. The person or company seeking the permit would be able to rebut any of their arguments, with new evidence, without giving the challenger a chance to respond.”
On both the state and federal level, policy makers have failed to safeguard the environment and are leaving a mess for younger generations to clean up.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger
Nearly a decade ago, America’s War on Terror began as a manhunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But over the next nine years, that anti-terrorism effort evolved into a multi-faceted crusade: birthing a new national security agency, blossoming into two bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, institutionalizing the racial profiling and surveillance of Muslim Americans and even redefining unauthorized Latin American immigration as—of all things—a national security issue. Now, in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s death, which elements of that crusade will persist or expand and which—if any—will dissolve?
Muslim Americans celebrate bin Laden’s death…
Following the announcement of bin Laden’s death last Sunday, Americans feverishly rejoiced at the news that a mission actually was accomplished in the War on Terror. Profoundly, the celebrants included scores of individuals who had unwittingly become targets of that crusade—Pakistani immigrants and American Muslims.
Mohsin Zaheer of Feet in Two Worlds reports that Islamic groups in the United States wasted no time applauding President Barack Obama for Bin Laden’s death, taking the opportunity to distance themselves and Islam from the legacy of the slain terrorist. And while many Americans forget that the 9/11 terror attacks killed nationals from 70 different countries, Zaheer notes that the many immigrants who lost loved ones that day took some comfort in knowing that justice has been done.
But Muslims in the U.S. also had another cause for celebration. Bin Laden’s death coincided with the termination of a grossly discriminatory federal program that has targeted, tracked and deported thousands of immigrants from predominately Muslim countries since 2002. ColorLines.com’s Channing Kennedy describes the program (called NSEERS or the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System) as “one of the most explicitly racist, underreported initiatives in post-9/11 America” which “functioned like Arizona’s SB 1070, with working-class Muslims as the target.” The Department of Homeland Security has been vague about its reasons for ending the program, but the decision amounts to a victory for immigrant rights groups that have been protesting the effort since its launch nine years ago.
…but still face an uncertain fate
That said, the fate of Muslims in America is far from rosy. As Seth Freed Wessler notes at ColorLines.com, the Department of Homeland Security continues to target, detain and deport Muslims “in equally insidious, but less formal ways” than the NSEERS program.
Pointing to investigations by “Democracy Now!” and the Washington Monthly, Wessler explains that the Department of Justice “has repeatedly used secret informant-instigators to manufacture terrorist plots” and advocated religious intolerance, racial profiling and harassment in its search for homegrown terrorists. Through these means, the quest for security has degenerated into the systemic persecution of American Muslims and countless other immigrants deemed threats to national security becaue their race, religion or nationality. And that didn’t die with bin Laden.
As recently as last March, in fact, Republican Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a hearing on the radicalization of Muslim Americans—during which numerous witnesses repeatedly reiterated the dire threat posed by radical Muslims in the U.S. At the time, Behrouz Saba of New America Media noted that the hearing lacked any discussion of U.S. military presence in the Middle East and its impact on radicalization. Rather than critically examine the many ways in which U.S. foreign policy and military conflict breeds the monster it aims to destroy, the hearing instead served to demonize a growing, well-educated and largely law-abiding population of the United States.
The Latin American link
But the War on Terror has deeply impacted other marginalized communities as well. Even the circumstances of bin Laden’s death bears an alleged connection to the frought issue of Latin American immigration to the U.S.—an issue that has, itself, undergone massive scrutiny and regulation following 9/11.
ThinkProgress reports that one of the Navy Seals involved in Bin Laden’s extermination is, purportedly, the son of Mexican migrants. While the veracity of that claim has been contested by some, Colorlines.com’s Jamilah King argues that the rumor nevertheless “raises serious questions around the military’s recruitment of Latino youth, the staggering numbers of Latino war causalities, and the Obama administration’s often contradictory messages on immigration reform.” She continues:
Casualties among Latino soldiers in Iraq rank highest compared to other groups of soldiers of color. Yet while the military actively courts Latino youth and immigrants with one hand, it’s aggressively deporting them and their families with the other.
It’s worth noting that, within the government, the most vocal proponents of the DREAM Act supported the legislation because they expected it to dramatically increase Latino enrollment in the military. While the DREAM Act ultimately died in the Senate, proponents of its military provision are perpetuating a troubling and persistent dichotomy that is only reinforced in the wake of bin Laden’s demise: immigrants are welcome on our battlefields, but not in our neighborhoods.
It’s comforting, albeit naïve, to believe that Osama bin Laden’s death will cap a decade of military conflict and draw a torturously long anti-terrorism crusade to a close. More likely, our multiple wars will persist longer than they should, and our domestic security apparatus will continue targeting the most vulnerable members of our society under the misguided notion that such enforcement strengthens rather than divides us.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
This week marks the final edition of the Weekly Pulse. I have been writing the newsletter since 2008 and it has certainly been an exciting time to be covering health care in the United States. Thanks to all the Media Consortium journalists whose work I’ve featured over the years, and thanks to our loyal readers, tipsters, Tweeters, and Facebook fans.
As the Pulse winds down, we look ahead to some of the most pressing health care issues facing the nation: The Republican war on Medicare and Medicaid and the anti-choice onslaught.
89 arrested over Ryan plan
Eighty-nine disability activists were arrested following their occupation of the Cannon House Office Building rotunda, Alison Kilkenny reports in The Nation:
The disability rights group ADAPT staged the event to protest Representative Paul Ryan’s Medicaid cuts, which would force people with disabilities to live in nursing homes rather than in their own houses.
Additionally, the House-passed budget resolution would turn Medicaid into block grants and reduce the program’s spending by more than $700 billion over ten years.
Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones reports that the Republicans in Congress are putting forward some “kinder, gentler” proposed Medicaid cuts in the hopes that these less extreme proposals will have a better chance of passing that the more extreme cuts Ryan has been touting.
Kinder and gentler by Republican standards is still pretty radical. Republicans in both houses of Congress introduced bills that would make it easier for states to kick people off of Medicaid or erect new barriers to entry. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) claims that “only” 300,000 patients would be kicked off Medicaid rolls under his proposal, many fewer than those would be under the Ryan plan. Gingrey, however, admitted that he didn’t have an independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to back up his claim.
The war on choice
Sadie Doyle of In These Times takes a closer look at proposed legislation in Ohio that bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable:
Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” is part of a barrage of anti-choice legislation designed to circumvent the fact that abortion is legal by making it nearly impossible to obtain one. But, whereas other bills focus on cutting funding or creating obstacles to abortion, H.B. 125 takes a relatively new tactic: It aims to ban abortions outright if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat—which happens at around six weeks, before many women even realize they’re pregnant.
This bill is one of hundreds of pieces of anti-choice legislation percolating at the state level. Many of these bills seem deliberately engineered to provoke a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Anti-choicers seem eager to get their challenge to the Supreme Court as soon as possible, before Obama can appoint any more justices.
Meet the H.R. 3 ten
At RH Reality Check, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to another one of the 10 Democrats who co-sponsored the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). The bill, H.R. 3 would effectively end private abortion insurance coverage in the United States by imposing such onerous bureaucratic regulations on insurers that they would more likely to drop abortion coverage altogether rather than comply.
Michigan vs. teen moms
Pregnant teenagers are bearing the brunt of Michigan’s draconian new “fiscal martial law” bill that authorizes cities to appoint emergency managers with sweeping powers to take over cash-strapped cities, towns, and school boards. Students at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a high school for expectant mothers, were arrested and manhandled by police as they protested the impending closure of their school.
Amanda Marcotte writes in AlterNet that the move to close the academy epitomizes the contemptuous attitude that so many conservative anti-choicers have toward teen girls who choose to give birth:
The imminent shut down of Catherine Ferguson demonstrates the emptiness of Republican claims that they oppose reproductive rights because they value life. Instead, Republican policies are rooted in a sadistic desire to punish and control, and to deprive women—especially young women, poor women, and women of color—of any opportunities whatsoever.
Archives from The Weekly Pulse can be found here and will remain posted at this site. If you’d like see more top news and headlines from independent media outlets, please follow us on Twitter, or fan The Media Consortium on Facebook.
This week marks the final edition of the Weekly Audit. It has been a pleasure compiling the best financial and economic writing in the Media Consortium. Thanks to all the contributors whose work we’ve showcased and to all the loyal readers who have shared in this experience.
Debt Ceiling 101
As the Weekly Audit wraps up, we’re looking ahead to some critical economic issues facing the country. Christen Simeral and Veronica Beebe of The American Prospect explain what the debt ceiling is and why the debate over raising it is shaping up to be the political battle of the year.
In short, the debt ceiling is the maximum amount the government can borrow. The debt ceiling is currently $14.294 trillion. At the current rate of spending, we’re due to hit the wall around May 16, if Congress doesn’t vote to raise it. Usually, raising the debt ceiling is a formality. Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling 10 times in the last 10 years.
If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the government can’t take on any new spending commitments. Worse still, the government may not have the cash it needs to pay tax refunds, Social Security payments, and other critical disbursements. Failing to raise the debt ceiling would hurt the U.S.’s credibility in global markets, making it more expensive for us to borrow money in the future.
The war on unions
All across the country, right wingers are trying to turn union workers into scapegoats for the nation’s economic woes.
Right wing media baron Andrew Breitbart tried to frame some labor history instructors at the university of Missouri by deceptively splicing together hours of classroom footage to make it look like the professors were advocating violence and sabotage, Dave Gilson of Mother Jones reports. The unedited video shows that the instructors are discussing the bloody history of the American labor movement, in which violence has overwhelmingly been perpetrated by management against workers.
Multinational corporations are renewing their lobbying push for more NAFTA-like trade deals, Michelle Chen reports for Colorlines.com:
The construction giant Caterpillar is reportedly planning to treat its workers to steaming cups of Colombian coffee in the coming weeks, to warm them to the benefits of doing business with their “partners” in Latin America. While employees enjoy their break, lobbyists will be working hard, in their name, to peddle so-called “open markets” in Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Chen reports that lobbyists for multinationals are besieging Congress to push for three new accords. The Panama deal is expected to be first on the agenda. Advocates for fair trade have been fighting these deals since the George W. Bush administration.
The push for deregulated international trade is on at the state level, too. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is handing out boilerplate resolutions to state representatives urging Congress to approve the trade deals. Chen notes that the Koch Foundation is among the major backers of ALEC.
High gas prices
Gas prices have long been seen as a bellweather of the electorate’s state of mind. When gas is cheap, incumbents rest a little easier. When gas prices rise, challengers start licking their chops. Daniel J. Weiss and Valeri Vasquez report in Campus Progress that rising gas prices are frustrating consumers and enriching speculators:
This year “it’s like déjà vu all over again.” Oil prices are rising to heights not seen since 2008. Oil rose from $85 per barrel to $112 per barrel in a little more than two months—a whopping one-third leap. Gasoline prices have followed along, rising by 70 cents per gallon—or 23 percent—during this same time. As our economy struggles to recover from the Great Recession, Americans are again forced to pinch pennies to afford their commute to work, school, and worship. Meanwhile, oil companies prepare to reap record profits in the first quarter of 2011.
The authors note this combination of rising pump prices and soaring corporate profits looks an awful lot like the oil shock of 2008, which helped push the economy into recession.
Archives from The Weekly Audit can be found here and will remain posted at this site. If you’d like see more top news and headlines from independent media outlets, please follow us on Twitter, or fan The Media Consortium on Facebook.