Reclaim the Media

September 14, 2009

Michael Moore gave his "two cents" on the state of the daily newspaper at Monday morning's press conference for his latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story. Moore revealed an earlier cut of the film explored the hard times facing the industry, but ultimately decided the issue was too large to fit into the film, adding it may warrant a film of its own down the road. "If you want to give me 90 seconds," he told the press, "I'll give you my two cents about why I think a year from now, or two years from now, we're not going to have daily newspapers, and that we're in the last year of reading the daily newspaper. And for those of you who are from daily newspapers, I thought about, before I came here, I though this the last time I'm going to talk to some of these papers, which is kind of a sad feeling - that I won't see you again unless you're on the Internet after this. This is it. So, do you want to hear that?" Read more.
Public trust in the US media is eroding and increasing numbers of Americans believe news coverage is inaccurate and biased, according to a study released on Monday. Just 29 percent of the 1,506 adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press between July 22-26 said news organizations generally get the facts straight. Sixty-three percent said news stories are often inaccurate, up from 34 percent in a 1985 study, Pew said. Sixty percent of those polled said the press is biased, up from 45 percent in 1985. Just 26 percent in the latest survey said that news organizations are careful their reporting is not politically biased. Seventy-four percent said news organizations tend to favor one side in dealing with political and social issues. Eighteen percent said they deal fairly with all sides. Pew said Republicans tend to be more critical of the news media than Democrats although negative attitudes toward the news media were also increasing among Democrats. Fifty-nine percent of those who identified themselves as Democrats said news organizations are often inaccurate, up from 43 percent just two years ago. Two-thirds of the Democrats polled said the press tends to favor one side rather than to treat all sides fairly, up from 54 percent in 2007. Just 20 percent of those polled said news organizations are independent of powerful people and organizations and only 21 percent said they are willing to admit their mistakes. The poll found television remained the dominant news source for the public, with 71 percent saying they get most of their national and international news from television. Forty-two percent said they get most of their news from the Internet compared with 33 percent who cited newspapers. Fifty-nine percent rated news organizations as "highly professional," down from 66 percent two years ago and 72 percent in 1985. Sixty-two percent of those polled said news organizations are being fair to the Obama administration while 23 percent said media coverage has been unfair. Forty percent said the major cable news outlets -- CNN, Fox News and MSNBC -- were their main source for national and international news with 22 percent saying they relied on CNN, 19 percent on Fox and six percent on MSNBC. Seventy-two percent of Republicans view Fox News positively compared with just 43 percent of Democrats. Read more.
The advertising boycott of Glenn Beck has cost the controversial host over half of his estimated advertising revenue since it was launched by a month ago. This according to data analyzed from industry sources. Estimated advertising revenue [the total amount of advertising money being spent during a block of commercial time for a program] was collected on a week-by-week basis for a period of two months. According to the data collected, the amount of money spent by national advertisers on Beck’s program per week was at its highest at approximately $1,060,000, for the week ending August 2, 2009. launched their campaign at the end of that week and since then, 62 advertisers have distanced themselves from Beck. Data collected for the week ending September 6, 2009 shows Beck’s estimated ad revenue at $492,000, equal to a loss of $568,000. Read more.
The Toronto International Film Festival is renowned as one of the world’s top cinematic events, the staging ground for the top films in any given year. But since the festival’s opening last week, a protest over the Israel-Palestine conflict has taken center-stage. At issue is the festival"s decision to host a showcase on Israeli films from Tel Aviv for its inaugural City to City program. Palestinian activists say the TIFF spotlight plays into Israel’s attempt to improve its global image in the wake of the assault on the Gaza Strip and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. In the weeks before the festival, a group of artists and writers drafted a letter of protest against the Tel Aviv spotlight. The letter is called The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation. It says in part: “…Whether intentionally or not, [TIFF] has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine… We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers… nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year’s brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of… an apartheid regime.” Read more.
t is not surprising that the organisers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) chose to turn a spotlight on Tel Aviv this year, the city's centennial. The city has featured prominently in many important Israeli films, and is home to what has become the archetypical Israeli identity: modern, hip, liberal and even progressive. But a great film festival, like great art more broadly, is not supposed to uncritically mirror uncritical depictions of subjects and spaces. Rather, it is supposed to sponsor films that interrogate the most basic perceptions of reality, particularly when that reality is grounded in intense and long-term conflicts, in which various narratives of what is the 'true' history and present circumstances are in contrast. By turning a spotlight on Tel Aviv, the festival intervened in an ongoing and deeply divisive conflict. Organisers had a responsibility to ensure that their intervention would encourage soul-searching and the search for a more accurate representation of the city's, and country's, past and present. Read more.
In light of Lou Dobbs' reported plans to help lead the upcoming lobbying campaign of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- an organization designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- Media Matters for America reviews some of the most egregious conspiracy theories, hate speech, and undisclosed conflicts of interest in Dobbs' immigration reporting. Dobbs fails to disclose ties to "hate group" FAIR while citing it as credible immigration source Dobbs has close ties to "hate group" FAIR. In August, FAIR -- an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a "hate group" -- announced that Dobbs is scheduled to help lead its annual "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" radio host rally. A year earlier, Dobbs broadcast his CNN show from the FAIR rally and announced on the air that "the Federation for American Immigration Reform is to be commended." In addition, the group has given Dobbs an award for "his continued efforts in leading the immigration reform movement through both his talk radio show and his television show." In the past year, Dobbs has cited FAIR as a credible source on immigration issues at least six times and has routinely failed to disclose his close association with the group. Read more.

September 13, 2009

When my teenage son ignores me while tapping away furiously on his cell phone, I have the consolation of knowing that he has joined the quickest-growing form of two-way communication in human history. A decade ago, just about no one in the U.S. sent these messages, known as Short Message Service (SMS) texts. This year, we will zing out 1.2 trillion of them, predicts market-intelligence firm IDC. That translates to a barrage of messages from each user, especially teens, who seem to be receiving new text messages — a.k.a. "blowing up" — more than they take new breaths. The average U.S. mobile teen now sends or receives an average of 2,899 text messages per month, according to Nielsen Mobile. "With teens, the act of picking up a phone and calling someone is dropping away," notes Christopher Collins, a senior analyst with Yankee Group. What's most amazing about the texting craze is just how inexpensive it is for mobile carriers to provide this wildly popular service. SMS messages are not only extremely short (maxing out at 160 characters), but they also cleverly exploit today's digital phone networks, leveraging transmission channels between phone and cell tower that were originally designed to coordinate voice calls. "They cost the mobile carriers so little that you could argue that they're free," says Collins. Read more.
There are several rather astounding things about the current campaign of Glenn Beck against various Administration appointees. Most astounding, however, has been the Obama Administration reaction to date: quick capitulation in the face of relatively small pressure. Indeed, one of the reasons there was so little initial defense of Van Jones in progressive circles was because most of us were unaware of the attack until the Van Jone's “resignation.” As compared to previous campaigns in the Clinton years or Bush years to oust various officials, pressure to fire Van Jones had not even approached noticeable, let alone “scary.” Indeed, I am sufficiently cynical wrt the DLC/Rahm Emmanuel faction of the Ds that I cannot help but wonder if the Beck-led anti-Jones campaign was merely a convenient excuse for pushing out a smart and effective progressive. Read more.

September 10, 2009

Are you mad yet? You should be. Glenn Beck has now taken down Yosi Sergant, the second hip-hop activist to be forced to leave the Obama administration in a week. Last night the 34-year old communications director at the National Endowment for the Arts was asked to resign. Why? Because he was trying to organize artists to support President Obama’s national service program, United We Serve. If your next question is: so what? That was ours too. But Glenn Beck compared the effort to "Nazi propaganda." (Just sick–especially since Sergant, a Jewish American, has worked as an activist for peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.) This was the same logic paleocons used to batter Obama’s school speech. If he does it, it’s indoctrination. If they do it, it’s "journalism." But there’s much more to this story… Read more.
We interrupt our normal discussions of broadband policy, mapping, copyright law, intellectual property and our other topics of interest for a special public service announcement. "Are you Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, one of the Facebookers who joined the Demand the TERMINATION of Communist Czars in our White House: Mark Lloyd campaign. Are you one of the #firemarklloyd Twitter brigade? If so, this message is for you. Your attacks on Mark Lloyd are groundless, i.e. at variance with actual facts. They are stupid. They are embarrassing. Knock it off. Thank you." We understand the language may be a bit crude and direct, but in order to communicate properly, one must use the language the targets of the message understand and are familiar with. Think of any number of cowboy movies (The Magnificent Seven) or even motorcycle gang movies, (The Wild One with Marlon Brando but without Brando's attempt at redemption) in which the ignorant, low-rent, know-nothing thugs bad guys ride into town and randomly wreak havoc on a generally peaceful populace for no good reason other than that they can. That's what's happening here. Read more.
ount Vernon might be planning to give Glenn Beck the key to the city, but Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike thinks the city to the north can do better. Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's satirical news program "The Daily Show," is being offered the same honor here, and Pike says he thinks it's appropriate. Pike and Stewart graduated from the same high school in New Jersey, though they didn't know each other, the mayor said. The mayor's invitation comes after Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris announced that conservative Fox News commentator and radio show host Glenn Beck would come Sept. 26 to receive the key to that city. Read more.
When he is not calling the president a racist or finding some other way to infuriate plenty of Americans, Glenn Beck, the provocative and popular conservative broadcaster, occasionally drifts into reverie. “I know it’s easy to romanticize the past, especially if you grew up in a small town like I did,” Mr. Beck told listeners of his radio program one day in March 2007. “But it seems to me that my hometown of Mount Vernon was full of leaders.” Read more.
Andrea Batista Schlesinger's book, The Death of Why, could not come out at a more appropriate time. It's premise has unfortunately become a truism - in the American Idiocracy, we have stopped asking even the simplest questions, much less the tough ones like "why." Instead of offering up examples that prove Andrea's thesis, let's just take a moment and ask a meta question - why the death of why? In other words, why have we stopped asking questions in a democracy that gives citizens the historically rare chance to inquire? Read more.

September 9, 2009

The FCC recently asked for comments about how broadband should be defined. There was a marked difference between those who put community needs first and those who put profits first. Companies like AT&T and Comcast were quick to argue that the FCC should not change the definition of broadband for reasons ranging from too much paperwork to the suggestion that rural people have no need for VoIP. The honest approach would have been for these companies to say they do not want a higher definition because it will change their business plans, likely requiring them to invest in better networks for communities, and that will hurt their short term profits. On the other side were groups that argued for a more robust definition of broadband - something considerably less ambitious than our international peers but an improvement over the current FCC definition. Read more.

September 8, 2009

Starting this week (Sept. 10), the House Telecom Subcommittee is going to start looking at the broadband stimulus program and, perhaps next week, examine how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is doing under the new management. The national broadband plan, required under the Federal stimulus program, should also be a topic of discussion when the Subcommittee holds an oversight hearing. It would be a shame if the stimulus mapping/grant program and the broadband plan were considered in isolation, because they are, together, pieces of the same puzzle. Certainly the telephone and cable industries are considering them together, and using the leverage on one to influence the other to reach the inevitable conclusion that no new broadband policies are needed and that everything will be just fine if we leave the companies in control. Ignore our slumping world rankings for broadband. Ignore the lack of choice. Let’s try to connect the dots into a long silver thread. Read more.
After a brief respite, the most accessible American political discourse --the national broadcast media--has returned to fearful, hate-filled, ignorant rants of a high-volume, low-intellect minority. In such an environment, how does one govern? Does one try to “balance” such concepts as contradictory as a “public option” on one hand and “fear of death panels” on the other? Or does one realize that this is a false spectrum and to try to find a center in such a sea is a worthless and foolhardy expedition? Read more.
[this is a rough translation from the Spanish original] In Spain, information about Venezuela always arrives with an unusual political slant. Looking at the way it presents what is going on shows that if it were a nation other than the one governed Hugo Chávez, the bias would be different. Events that appear uncontroversial elsewhere are presented as exceptional when dealing with Venezuela. Read more.
The floor of the broadcast booth at KXZI radio, which is, truth be told, really just Scott Johnston’s front porch, slopes gently down toward the yard, as 90-year-old farmhouse porches tend to do. Mr. Johnston, once a folksinger, says that small stations like his, if royalty payments for Web-streaming remain affordable, could have equal footing to compete with the biggest stations in the world. Mr. Johnston’s antenna, out by the big cottonwood trees that line the road, is not as fortified as it might be either. Unsupported by wires, it sways in the wind, so that when a storm front strikes northwest Montana, the station’s signal fluctuates. And even in the best of times, 100 watts go only so far — the music cannot be heard even in nearby homes because the signal does not penetrate walls very well. Mainstream media it is not. Read more.

September 6, 2009

I just read the news that Van Jones was forced out of the Obama administration (and let's be real clear, despite the "resignation" billing, the White House's pathetic behavior this week makes clear Jones was forced out by the higher ups). This is a serious tragedy on three levels. First and foremost, Jones was one of the only movement progressives in a policymaking position in the Obama White House. By that I mean, he was one of the only people in the White House who came out of grassroots movement work and not just political/partisan hack work, and one of the only movement progressives put in a policymaking job, and not ghettoized into a political/tactical job. Whenever I got sick to my stomach at the thought of Obama's Team of Corporate Zombies - people like Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Jim Messina - running the show, I was able to at least tell myself that hey, someone like Van Jones is at least in there somewhere fighting the good fight as he always has. No more - and that's a damn shame. Read more.
Van Jones had to resign. It became inevitable when Gibbs offered no support. Much of the blame for this incident lies squarely on the White House. The information used against Jones was freely available on the web. All it took was a search. I thought by hiring Jones they intended to take a chance on a real left progressive, but now it appears they were simply caught flat-footed. Either Valerie Jarrett—Jones’ champion in the upper echelons of the administration—didn’t know much about him or didn’t widely share what she knew. They certainly seemed disinclined to mount a vigorous defense with Glenn Beck gnoshing on his favorite new chew toy and the health care reform battle about to heat up again. No distractions. Read more.