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Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio

The Medium and the message - 

This conference was fantastic!  For all the details of what went on, and what you can do, see the link directly above.  

Dr. Starr, of the Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, gave the Keynote address-
"Media Merger Mania and the Movement for Media Democracy"  Please see his speech below


One more click!  
The Uncompromising Liberal Media
Media Advocacy for Change Links
Center for Public Integrity
Media Consolidation Links
A Timeline of Media Consolidation
(Please see story and info below)
In a dictatorship, censorship in used; in a democracy, manipulation."       -
Ryszard Kapuscinski, journalist

" The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent."

Gore Vidal, novelist and critic

Bush's Best Friends
February 4, 2003
By SoCalDem and Jen6

A Timeline of Media Consolidation

Media Consolidation - Fifty major media entities in 1983 is now six. (2000)

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. This was greeted with skepticism at the time. When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market.

The Big Six Media
General Electric
AOL Time-Warner
Walt Disney
News Corp


TV, Radio, Books, Newspapers, Videos, records, Magazines, Movie Studios, Wire Services, and Media Satellite Technology

Other large media:



Vivendi Universal - was created in December, 2000 out of a merger agreement between Vivendi, The Seagram Company Ltd., and Canal+. The international merger combined Vivendi's telecommunications assets with Seagram's film, television and music holdings (including Universal Studios) and Canal+'s programming and broadcast capacity.

Media Consolidation - the following web page links will help tell the story

The largest ten (Jan. 2002):

Other sources:

The Center for Public Integrity has conducted an exhaustive report about media concentration and ownership and the media's influence on the FCC.  Go to: Report

Media Watch and Advocacy for Change: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Take Back the Media Project Censured
The  Center for P. I. - media database Media Education Foundation
Free Press: Media Reform
Local Media Watch: Right Cortex
Mediaocracy  (A Chris Shumway Project) Neighborhood Network

The Death of Local News  By Paul Schmelzer 

CONTACT NEWS ORGANIZATIONS - Let them know you want unfiltered news.  Calls are far  more effective than E-mail

ABC NEWS CHIEF David Westin. 212.456.6200. fax: 212.456.4292.. ABC
SWITCHBOARD (ASK FOR NEWSROOM) 212.456.6813 NEWSROOM fax 212.456.2795

MSNBC AND NBC. MSNBC NEWS CHIEF Mark Effron. 201.583.510. fax:
201.583.5199 MSNBC SWITCHBOARD (ASK FOR NEWSROOM) 201.583.5000 fax: 201.583.5590

NBC NEWS CHIEF Neil Shapiro. 212.664.4773. fax: 212.664.2264[ NBC SWITCHBOARD (ASK FOR NEWSROOM) 212.664.4444. fax:

CBS NEWS CHIEF Andrew Hayward. 212.975.7825. fax: 212.975.7429. CBS SWITCHBOARD (ASK FOR NEWSROOM) 212.975.4321 fax:

CNN NEWS CHIEF Walter Isaacson. 404.827.5111. fax: 404.827.4215. CNN SWITCHBOARD (ASK FOR NEWSROOM). 404.827.1500.


FOX NEWS CHIEF: John Moody. 212.301.8560. fax: 212.398.8726. FOX SWITCHBOARD (ASK FOR NEWSROOM) 212.575.4670. fax: 212.301.8274


There is plenty every day to call about. Calls are best because they must halt misinforming the public while they deal with you. If you cannot reach policy makers, then fax or e-mail.



 Dr. Jerry Starr

Executive Director, Citizens for independent Public Broadcasting

President, Pittsburgh Educational Television

Prepared for Citizens Grassroots Media Conference

Columbus, Ohio, April 16-17, 2004

Mass communications are the lifeblood of our democracy. If citizens cannot communicate with each other, they can’t organize. If they can’t organize, they can’t defend themselves from those who would threaten the public interest.

In the U.S. today there are approximately 1,800 newspapers, 3,000 book publishers, 11,000 magazines, 11,000 radio stations, and 1,700 television stations.

Behind this illusion of great choice, however, lies a collusion of interest that serves the giant media corporations at the expense of American democracy and cultural diversity.

In 1994, a mere 50 companies owned a controlling interest in all of these media. By 2002, this was down to six companies. That’s right, just six companies.

Between 1975 and 2000, the number of TV stations increased by 75 percent, but the number of TV station owners actually declined by 33 percent.

In recorded music, just five companies control more than 80 percent of the U.S. market.

More than 60 percent of daily newspapers are part of chains and only a handful of cities have a competing daily.  

Comcast and Time Warner (TW) dominate the cable market where the average system makes a 30 percent profit. The FCC is actively considering lifting the cap on one company’s share of the market from 30 percent to 45 percent of all households.

Direct Broadcast Satellite has cut into the market for cable and now accounts for 18 million subscribers. However, only two companies, DirecTV and Echo Star, control the market. DirecTV is owned by a General Motors subsidiary and soon to be sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Every single one of the top 20 Internet web sites is controlled by a media giant. Time Warner properties account for nearly 30 percent of all user time spent online. Add Microsoft and Yahoo! And it’s 50 percent.

Time Warner, General Electric (GE) and News Corp, own all of the cable news networks. Almost all of these cable news programs offer a conservative slant.

In October 2003, the University of Maryland surveyed 3,000 people, measuring their knowledge of three simple facts about the War in Iraq. They asked whether Iraq was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or proven to be supporting al-Quaeda; whether weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq; and whether international opinion favored the U.S. in the war against Iraq.

They found that 60 percent of the public had one or more misperceptions and eight percent had all three. Misperceptions correlated strongly with support for the war. Those who got their news primarily from Fox News had more misperceptions than anyone: 80 percent had at least one and 45 percent had all three.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act lifted all caps on national radio station group ownership and increased the number of stations one company can own in a single market up to four in the smaller markets and eight in the largest.

This triggered a tidal wave of mergers and acquisitions. Industry concentration increased by 34 percent. The number of radio station owners with 20 or more stations doubled to a total of 50. The largest two firms in each market average 74 percent of the market’s radio advertising revenue.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Walter Copps has commented: “Diversity of programming suffered. Homogenized music and standardized programming crowded out local and regional talent. Creative artists found it evermore difficult to obtain playtime. Editorial opinion polarized. Competition in many towns became non-existent as a few companies bought up virtually every station in the market.”

The leading radio group, San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications grew from 43 stations to 1,250, accounting for more than 10 percent of all commercial radio stations in the U.S.

Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays is a close friend of President Bush. After 9/11, Clear Channel instituted a ban on about 150 songs that it felt mighty undermine public support for President Bush’s declared “war on terrorism.” After Dixie Chick lead singer Natalie Maynes told a British audience she was “ashamed to be from the same state” as the President, Clear Channel banned the group’s songs on all their stations. After the invasion of Iraq, Clear Channel used its resources to organize and promote pro-war rallies. Other radio groups followed suit.

To extend its influence, Clear Channel began buying music venues. It now has 135 amphitheaters, arenas, theaters and clubs and sells 27 million concert tickets a year, accounting for 70 percent of the entire industry. A letter to the FCC from 700 popular musicians accused Clear Channel of refusing to play the songs of artists who don’t use its concert promotion services and of accepting payola from music company promoters.

Local music directors and disc jockeys no longer have discretion over their playlists. Rather, it’s all done by consultants and committees and put on computer files to be distributed nationally from headquarters.

Five Media groups—CBS/Viacom, NBC, Disney, Time Warner and Fox control 85 percent of prime time TV viewing.

According to Amy Harmon of the New York Times:  “…media analysts and executives are convinced that the most efficient business plan is to own as many outlets as possible to deliver the movies, television, music and books that they themselves produce.”

Controlling both content and distribution eliminates the potential threat that your own productions will not see the best positioning on a competitor’s distribution system. It also is a method to avoid huge licensing fees for popular programs, like Friends, ER or West Wing.

Unfortunately for the public, internally produced programs typically lack originality and are diluted by bureaucratic compromise. Networks cut corners in the production. If the show is a flop, it’s cheap enough that they can afford to leave it on longer than they otherwise would. No matter how bad, the show can still be “repurposed” into syndication on cable networks owned by the same company. This, of course, makes it harder for new shows to break in. To make matters worse, suppliers use their existing hit shows to pressure broadcasters into buying more of their programming.

One entertainment attorney has suggested that in five years even the major producers, like SONY and Universal, will be out of the prime time producing business because the networks will shut out any studio with which they are not affiliated.

A recent poll of television critics by Television Week asked the question, “ Does network ownership of shows stifle creativity?” 18 said yes, seven maybe, and only five no.

There are other specific advantages to greater vertical integration for the media corporations. It permits extensive cross-production, for example, joining film releases with CDs, music videos, toys, games, books and other merchandising.

It permits cross-promotion, that is advertising through other media controlled by the company, even advertising TV programs to movie-goers who have paid for their ticket.

Greater vertical integration also leads to being able to offer multi-media packages to advertisers that undercut the competition.

It also leads to a strategy of emphasizing blockbuster hits in the global marketplace that can cover losses on other projects. Because they play easier across language differences, such productions typically feature sex, violence and special effects at the expense of plot, dialogue and character development.

Since 1990, Time Warner and Disney have more than doubled their share of revenue from overseas sales, from 15 percent to 35 percent. Both firms expect to do a majority of their business abroad sometime this decade.

In music this means that companies do not want, say, ten CDs that may gross $12 million each, but one monster album that will gross ten times as much. They have spent tons on older stars, through “megadeals” that have yielded many duds; money not spent on several artists just as good, but still unknown. Artists who buy into this end up dedicating all their energies to videos, touring and label promotion at the expense of writing new music.

There are many other consequences of increasing media concentration that impact negatively on the public interest.

New mergers and acquisitions are premised on meeting enhanced profit projections by raising revenue and cutting costs. This means more commercial sales adding up to more program clutter for viewers, more ads and promos. Clutter now accounts for about nine minutes in the average half hour TV show, a three-fold increase since the 1950s.

It also means more staff layoffs. One consequence is that print and broadcast newsrooms lack the staff to do investigative reporting and cover breaking stories. In the past 20 years in radio, the number of full-time station news staff has fallen almost 40 percent, from 19,600 to 12,000. PR-generated material now accounts for between 40 and 70 percent of what is called news.

A 2002 survey of 103 television news directors by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism found almost half citing “not enough staff” as the “most serious obstacle to producing quality news.” No other reason attracted more than 11 percent. Seventy five percent said they try to do investigative reporting, but only twenty five percent have full-time investigative units.

According to Walter Cronkite, television’s corporate chieftains expect news departments to generate the same sort of profits that entertainment programs do. He calls that an impossible task and observes: “Instead of offering tough documentaries and background on the issues that so deeply affect all of us, they’re turning those programs into television copies of Photoplay magazine. News executives are helpless when top management demands an increase in ratings to protect profits.”

A Pew Research Center survey of 287 journalists found up to 41 percent acknowledging reshaping and softening their stories due to perceived pressures from corporate owners or the market.

Tom Brokaw states: “What people truly want is the serious news of war, race, immigration, business, health, education and environment, but “in too many newsrooms, those stories are regarded as too boring…too risky.”

Even coverage of elections has practically disappeared. During the 2000 presidential campaign, news programs devoted an average of 45 seconds per show to the race. A 2002 study of the top fifty markets found that under half contained any local election coverage. Of these, only 20 percent contained any sound bites from the candidates. Ninety-two percent of the coverage focused on campaign strategy and only three percent on policy.

As a consequence, candidates spend up to a billion dollars an election on paid political advertising. The media corporations contribute millions to the campaigns of the big party candidates who, in turn, use the money to buy ad time on the media. Worse, research has found that the candidates are charged premium rates, rather than the discounted rates required by law.

Finally, the negative tone of these paid attack ads ultimately serves to depress voter turnout in a nation that already has the lowest level of voter participation in the modern world.

Another significant casualty of media consolidation has been the loss of local programming. Media scholar Susan Douglas notes that satellite transmission and national syndication has led to more radio carriage of shows like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. She predicts: “If this trend in radio continues,” that “discussion of local issues will be driven out completely.”

Cheryl Lianza of the Media Access Project warns: “Citizens must have some recourse to coverage of local issues from different vantage points” because, in her view, the real questions are “who sits on the school board and who is elected mayor. It’s about whether the garbage gets picked up, whether we can rely on our local hospitals and whether our local employees are secure.”

Here is what we have come to: Sinclair Broadcasting Group, based in Maryland, distributes to all its 62 affiliates a program called “News Central.” A one hour mix of local and national news, New Central leads with a segment produced locally and then follows with national and international news, sports and weather pieced together from other Sinclair affiliates or CNN and anchored in Maryland. News staff at the affiliates have been trimmed by about a third. Half of Sinclair affiliates currently have no news staff at all.

About half of the Fox affiliates and only a handful of Warner Brothers (WB) and UPN affiliates produce local news. In fact, several top 10 market WB and UPN stations don’t air any local news.

Another casualty has been the loss of cultural diversity. Increasing media consolidation has resulted in a 26 percent drop in the already small number of black-owned stations.  People of color are now less than four percent of radio and TV owners. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-Push Coalition, has made this a major focus of its political work in Washington. In fact, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council appealed to the FCC for help. Unfortunately, it didn’t get any.

Even media companies that program for Hispanics may not be run by Hispanics. The CEO’s of Univision and HBC are both non-Hispanic Republicans and both organizations are largely controlled by non-Hispanics. As the journalist Allison Gregor says, “the words may be in Spanish, but authentic Hispanic voices may eventually be drowned out altogether by those of non-Hispanic owners.

So who is the beneficiary of all this media merger mania? If you say the shareholders, guess again. According to a report by the consulting firm KPMG, as reported by the London-based Reuters news service in 1999, 83 percent of mergers failed to produce any benefits for the shareholders and, even more alarming, over half actually destroyed value. In the communications industry, think of AOL/Time Warner, Comcast and Vivendi Universal.

If you want to know who the winners, are check out the multi-million dollar salaries of network executives and stars.

One cannot fault these companies for following the logic of a profit driven system. But the airwaves are owned by the public and only held in trust by the media companies. Where is the government agency to represent the public interest in localism, diversity, and democratic discussion?

Like all regulatory agencies, the FCC has significantly more contact with lobbyists and officials representing corporate America than it does with public interest groups and ordinary citizens. Moreover, FCC commissioners and bureau leaders typically count on such professional contacts in negotiating their post-FCC careers.

Between 1995 and 2003, FCC officials were showered with nearly $2.8 million in travel and entertainment, most of it from the telecommunications and broadcast industries the agency is supposed to regulate. All told, agency officials took more than 2,500 industry-sponsored trips over that period.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell says that the “market is his religion” and that he has no idea of what is meant by the public interest. However, the Chairman’s passion for the market does not mean removing all rules and regulations. Republicans at the FCC want to regulate corporate conflicts of interest, picking winners and losers. They just do not want to have to acknowledge, let alone represent, the public interest in such conflicts.

In February 2003 Chairman Powell made it clear there would be plenty of rules when he is finished: “I don’t know what anybody is talking about when they say this is deregulation. We are talking about a paradigm of competition, but in a very regulatory way. This is not an Adam Smith market. This is industrial management.”

There are two prominent areas where this is most apparent. First, the FCC appears to be ready to drop its frequently repeated concerns for the first amendment rights of broadcasters to impose significantly larger fines for indecency. Second, the Chair has legislated a transition to digital television by 2007, despite the lack of interest of networks, stations and consumers and resistance of equipment manufacturers.

The latest assault by the forces of media consolidation on the public interest was the FCC’s June 2, 2003 ruling. Among other things, the June 2nd ruling considered raising the cap on national TV station ownership from 35 percent to 45 percent of the population, significantly lowering the barriers to duopolies or two station combinations in the same market, for the first time permitting triopolies in the big markets, and lifting the ban on cross-ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers in markets with at least four stations.

According to observers, there are specific business advantages to networks owning more stations: they can force smaller stations to eliminate local programming to make room for network shows. In the recent past, this has included such things as preempting a gubernatorial debate for the network’s regular commercial programming. Also, networks can buy syndicated programs on better terms; and networks are free to increase cross-promotion. Many stations have profit margins over 50 percent. The more stations a network owns, the bigger its profits.

The FCC banned newspaper-broadcast station cross-ownerships in 1976. In 1978, the Supreme Court supported this action with the statement: “It is unrealistic to expect true diversity from a commonly owned station-newspaper combination. The divergence of their viewpoints cannot be expected to be the same as if they were antagonistically run.”

In recent years, The Newspaper Association of America (which accounts for 90 percent of circulation) filed to eliminate the ban. The Tribune Company and Gannett had a deep financial interest in getting approval.

Frank Blethen, publisher of the Seattle Times, stated that cross-ownership is good for the company’s advertising rates, but not good for the public. He charged: “We’re creating a whole generation of publishers and editors who don’t have the independence to speak out on these issues on behalf of the public.”

Chairman Powell, known to favor all the rule changes, contended that new communications technologies had rendered the old rules obsolete. Of course this argument ignores the fact that technology is simply process and potential whose actual form and use is determined by those who control it. And, as we have seen, control of these new technologies rests in very few hands.

In October 2002, more than 40 groups signed a letter requesting that the FCC hold public hearings on the proposed rule changes.  The letter included the results of a poll by the Consumer Federation of America showing that, 70 percent of the public thought that media companies were getting too big, 63 percent expected that broadcasters would be concerned only with maximizing profits, and by margins of almost 3-1, people thought that cross-mergers would create less diversity and were bad for the country.

In February 2003, some 13,000 groups and individuals filed legal briefs opposing the rule changes, including the NAB, Newspaper Guild, NOW, Sony, AFTRA, and the National PTA.

That same month, the Project for Excellence in Journalism issued the results of a five-year study of 172 stations that concluded that network affiliates generally produced higher quality newscasts than network owned and operated stations and smaller station groups were inclined to produce higher quality newscasts than those owned by larger companies by “a significant margin.”

Despite calls by Democratic Commissioner Walter Copps and others, FCC Chair Powell refused to call public hearings. Television Week columnist Alex Ben later observed: “The rush to judgment was because the longer it took, the more time there would be for opposition to muster arguments, resources and political power…That is why a decision of significant magnitude was made without proper public hearings, without adequate time for outside comment, without taking into account all points of view.”

Copps himself stepped up and presided over fifteen informal hearings around the country, often accompanied by the other Democratic Commissioner, Jonathan Adelstein.

The news media, acting in their own self-interest, systematically ignored this story. A survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that three-quarters of Americans had heard nothing about the debate over media ownership.

Nevertheless, public opposition was huge and impressive. The coalition opposed included religious groups, labor groups, public interest groups, consumer groups, and political groups ranging from Common Cause, the Communication Workers of America and the Rainbow-Push Coalition to the National Rifle Association, Catholic Conference and Parents Television Council.

By the date of the decision, some 2.3 million people had written to the FCC, almost all opposed to the rule changes. This number would continue to grow through the summer.

The Center for Public Integrity revealed that Powell, his Republican colleagues and their aides held dozens of closed-door meetings with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. In response to the public opposition, Powell complained that the normal rule-making process was upset by “a concerted grassroots effort to attack the commission from the outside in.” At the least, public interest groups know now that the Chair was at least aware of the opposition.

Bipartisan concerns were expressed from more than 150 members of Congress, including the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congressional Pacific American Caucus. Also the state of Vermont and city councils across the country passed resolutions opposing the rule changes, including Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Buffalo.

Nevertheless, on June 2nd, the FCC gave the industry everything it wanted. The New York Times called the decision “among the most far-reaching deregulatory steps taken during the Bush Administration.”

According to JP Morgan analyst Spencer Wang, the June 2nd ruling could lead to multiple station ownerships in 158 markets, a four-fold increase. This could create more than one billion dollars in additional revenue for the media companies. It also could mean that in large cities, like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, one corporation could control the cable operator, three television stations, eight radio stations and a daily newspaper.

Television Week columnist Alex Ben predicts this latest deregulation will result in even more “blandness and sameness” because “business doesn’t like controversy.”

Television Week editorialized: “The bigger the company, the less likely it is to be an independent voice that makes highly individual choices based on what is best for the local market.”

By now, the movement of opposition had gained its own momentum in Congress. Some 211 Democratic and Republican members of the House signed a letter calling for a vote to overturn the FCC rule changes. Speaker Dennis Hastert and majority leader Tom DeLay stalled this initiative in committee. If the opposition could have mustered 218 votes, they would have had a majority of the House and could have forced a floor vote on the roll back. Apparently, they could not.

The more the public became informed, the more it was opposed to greater consolidation. In the summer, a nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center found that half of all respondents believed the decision will have a negative impact on the country, up from 34 percent in February. Only ten percent thought the impact would be positive.

On July 23, the House voted 400 to 21 to roll back the ownership cap to 35 percent without addressing the other provisions. On September 16, the Senate used an extremely rare parliamentary procedure to pass a bill repealing all the new regulations. The bill was co-sponsored by Republican Senator Trent Lott and passed by a margin of 55-40, including the support of 12 Republicans.

President Bush supported all the rule changes and threatened to veto any efforts by Congress to roll them back. Because the roll back was so popular with the public, however, the Congressional Republican leadership conspired to spare him that risk.

In November, a federal appeals court responded to a filing by public interest groups and blocked the changes until a full judicial review could determine whether the public interest was being damaged.

On the first of December, GOP lawmakers and the White House stunned everyone by announcing that they had cut a deal to set the TV station ownership cap at 39 percent without even consulting Congressional Democrats. This cap was to be made permanent. Also, FCC reviews were spread out to every four years and not two. The deal was made possible when Alaska Republican Senator abandoned his previous opposition.

Sources said 39 percent was settled on as a concession to CBS and Fox, whose holdings already exceeded the old cap at about 38 percent each. In fact, the law also provides a two-year waiver for companies that go over 39 percent, which is how Fox and CBS came to exceed the old cap in the first place.

Democrats were furious, but it was not clear what they could do. Television Week editorialized: “The 39 percent cap is a win for the networks…we are disturbed by the politicking that wrested the issue from Congress and put it in the hands of a few Washington power brokers.”

In the midst of this struggle a new umbrella group emerged to coordinate the efforts of various movements for media reform. Based in Western Massachusetts, the first act of the new Free Press was to organize a major conference in Madison Wisconsin in November 2003. They planned initially for 200 participants and 1,800 showed up. The energy for the conference was high. Participants heard from Commissioner Adelstein, journalists Studs Terkle and Bill Moyers, labor leaders John Sweeney and Linda Foley, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson, PBS’s Pat Mitchell, humorist Al Franken and many members of Congress.

The fight goes on. The Free Press tracks progress and coordinates efforts on its web site We have won some victories. Because of the attention brought to bear on Clear Channel and the terrible consequences of radio consolidation, new limits on radio station ownership have been imposed. Clear Channel actually will have to divest itself of a few of its stations. Corporate sponsored junkets for FCC commissioners have been stopped. Fines for indecency have been increased to the point where they might actually discourage gratuitously offensive material.

Low power FM broadcasting, that is small, nonprofit radio broadcasting stations with a reach of just a few miles, recently received a huge boost. Based on new research, the FCC recommended to Congress that it eliminate restrictions that deprive communities of their own locally oriented radio stations. If Congress writes this into law, it will clear the way for hundreds, if not thousands, of communities to begin to broadcast. The newspaper-broadcast station cross-ownership issue is still unresolved and remains a focus of public interest activism.

At present the movement for media democracy operates on three broad fronts. There are organizations that work on media policy issues through the Congress, the FCC and the courts, like the Media Access Project, Institute for Public Representation of the Georgetown University Law Center, Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Federation of America. They are invaluable to the struggle.

There are those who produce and distribute media that offer alternative perspectives to that of the corporate controlled media. This includes independent or “indie” media centers that make videos about controversial issues, like global capitalism’s impact on the third world, and bear witness to the work of progressive movements. This also includes independent film and video makers who keep alive the documentary form. Their organization is called the Association of Independent Video and Film Makers.

Others produce public affairs programs for distribution to public and public access stations. This would include programs like Livelihood and In The Life. My own Pittsburgh Educational Television ( produces a public affairs series called “Homefront” that plays on public and public access stations around the country.

These producers are helped by alternative distribution services, like public access stations, grassroots community radio and direct broadcast satellite. Leaders here include the Alliance for Community Media, Grassroots Radio Conference, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Free Speech Channel of The Dish Satellite Network, and WorldLink TV.

And there are those who organize themselves to support and reform public broadcasting in their own communities, like the group Keep WYSO Local that, because of its activism, now has a chance for vastly improving community radio in Yellow Springs and surrounding areas.

My workshop to follow on Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting ( will advise those interested on how they can improve national and local public broadcasting to create space for greater cultural diversity and democratic discussion.

I close with the words of distinguished journalist Edward R. Murrow, spoken in 1958 and still valid almost 50 years later:  “There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or the Communications Act that says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse…This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box…”

These are our media. We need to take them back and we can.