Media

1926 Milliken radio tower
1926 Milliken radio tower

It dawned on me, earlier today, that current decline in radio and all traditional media in general, is no coincidence.  When the radio consolidations took place ten or so years ago, the first thing that was almost always cut or eliminated was the news room.  Along with that, local programming in general was reduced or replaced with automation.

This, in turn, leads to a bland, uninformative product that the general public doesn’t really care about.

Local newspapers have all but disappeared too.  The remaining ones are owned by one of several large newspaper holding companies like Gannett, Newscorp,  Hearst, and Tribune.   In a similar to radio scenario, local papers were bought up by these companies, news room staffs were cut, quality of content declined, readership declined accordingly.  Rinse, repeat until the paper is nothing but a shell of it’s former self, filled with mostly used car ads.

But isn’t the internet the cause of all this?  No, the internet and the so called “new media” are filling a void left by the hollowed out old media.  New media, which often relies on people who may be well intended, but do not have the training in investigative journalism, often lacks credibility when it really counts.  Unfortunately, it is easy to search the internet and find articles that lack any type of referenced source material or have other technical problems that call into question the authenticity of the material.  Much of this could be corrected with the right links or posting of original documents to back up the story.  This is an often pointed to weakness with internet sources of information.  There are, however, some outstanding new media outlets, from some surprising locations.

Media outlets (as well as most other businesses) in this country are mostly controlled by big Wall Street banks.  Here is how that works:

  • Media company A wants to buy some or all of media company B.
  • They go to a bank to get a loan.
  • After much negotiating and back and forth, the bank agrees to give A the loan, under certain conditions.
  • Those conditions include continued performance, annual revenue growth and periodic audits.
  • In a buy or be bought world, their is no other alternative for A, but to agree with those conditions.
  • Media company A now needs continued credit to continue to operate their business, this is what happened during the great consolidation, not only of radio, but TV and Newspapers as well.
  • If and when the conditions of the loan look like they are not being met, the bank sends out it’s representatives to talk to the owners of media company A.
  • They “suggest” moves to improve the bottom line, often offering to make concessions if certain conditions are met, such as installing voice tracking and laying off workers or selling properties
  • News rooms are cut first as news is labor intensive and does not make any money.
  • Slowly, the rest of the staff is reduced or has their pay and hours reduced.

It is thus that the large banksters have gained control of much of the “traditional” media in this country.  They have sought to steer the free press into oblivion, substituting, instead, the corporatist media outlets we see today in NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNBC, Foxnews, as well as the above mentioned newspaper holding companies.  While skimming over general news items, much of the important news of the day goes unreported.  Things like the Fed’s latest round of quantitative easing (QE3), the ever expanding role of TSA, the unauthorized nature of the Libyan adventure and the possible ties to Goldman Sachs, the continuing nuclear release at Fukushima, FDA approval of GMO seeds, the FCC’s revolving door employees, ever increasing amounts of police brutality, etc are under reported or not reported at all.

Why are those particular stories important?  Because the implications impact every one of us, only most people don’t know or understand that.  Citizens of this country have no idea why things are getting so expensive, why their jobs have disappeared, why their houses are worth less than they paid for them, why the current crop of politicians look worse than the last crop, why police are dressing like storm troopers and gunning people down in their own homes, etc.  It all reminds me of the Pink Floyd song, Sheep:

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air

We are being fed with little bits of over simplified, unconnected and or incomplete information which only fits the narrative the so called news organization is putting forward.  Deviation from the narrative rarely occurs and only under the most unusual circumstances or by accident.

The answer is, of course, to support those independent media outlets that are still around.  The independent radio stations, TV stations and newspapers as well as those on line news sources and aggregators that do a good job getting the story out need to stick around.  It would also help to increase the numbers of independent, non-conflicted (interest wise) sources of information.  I would suggest that everyone do a little bit of digging around and find out who, in their own neck of the woods, is an honest source of local news.

If there is not a local independent media outlet, consider starting one.  The new LPFM rules are still being worked on, the FCC has promised to speed this along, which means we should see something in the next five years or so.  While we wait, consider blogging or teaming up with a group of people to launch an online news site.  While I have been blogging for several years, I have learned one very important fact: People love the truth.  That is the surest formula for success, tell the truth and back it up with valid sources and documentation.  I know many people in the radio news business that, if asked, would be happy to give some pointers on local news gathering.

One thing is for sure, we can no longer sit around and wait for someone to do something.  If we are to change the course of this country, each and every one of us needs to contribute.

Comcast Buys FCC? or Business as Usual

I received this rather humorous, hyperventilating email from some group called “Freepress.net.”

Outrageous!

FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is leaving the FCC to become a lobbyist for Comcast – just four months after she voted to approve the Comcast-NBC merger.

This is nothing new under the sun and has, in fact, been going on for years.  It’s called “The Payoff.”  Conflict of interest?  On the surface, it sure seems that way, but perhaps there is some other innocent explanation for this move.   I can’t, for the life of me, think of what that might be, but I’m sure somebody will come up with something.

The email continues on with a plea to call some congressman to investigate the FCC.  Perhaps I have grown a little cynical but I have my doubts about the effectiveness of such an effort.

In spite of my cynicism, as their motivations seem to be in the right place, I applaud Free Press for their efforts.  Other like minded groups need to keep the pressure on and keep this in the spotlight.  Naturally, NBC and other networks have uttered not a peep about it.  The public blindly goes along while big business and wall street banksters continue their efforts to return to Feudalism.

Soon, one company will own the entire country.  Everyone will shop at the company store, Wal-something or another, live in company housing, go to the company medical clinic and worship at the company church.

The answer, of course, is independent voices, independent investigations, in depth reporting, in short, everything that is currently missing from the media landscape today.  That, and some kind of electric shock or something to get people off of their fat asses and care about something.

Update: Several people have taken notice; The New York Times, TIME magazine, and The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Well, That Was Fast – Comcast/NBC Merger
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

More like this please.

Rants

Keeping Public Radio Public has a good one.

And the lame-stream press — how dare they be called the “liberal media”! — only parrot the script prepared by the puppet masters, as corporate “largesse” and control has turned the media into toothless old watchdogs. They make good company for the regulatory agencies once charged with protecting the public from the excesses of corporate greed. They’re good dogs now, too.

Exactly why independent media outlets are not just a nice feature of a democracy.  If one where to read the entire constitution of the United States, a theme, loosely known as “checks and balances” becomes apparent.  You could also call that theme “Trust Not.”  I recommend anyone who is interested in freedom read the Federalist Papers.  Even with the watered down press, US Congress has a 9% (Rasmussen, April 2011) approval rating.  Surely, the public understands that something is amiss and needs to be fixed.

While the internet and new media is great, it is too easy to mess with the internet.  True independent media needs to have independent distribution, not beholden to corporate ISP’s, search engines, data centers and so forth.  Radio fits that bill, to the extent that it is not broadcasting homogenized safe, automated, faceless music formats programmed from afar or content from  The Borg like collective of NPR.  Independent radio still exists in small pockets scattered here and there.  Where it exists, it often thrives in spite of corporate conglomerate.

Of course, consolidation has reduced the radio business to a shell of it’s former self.  The FCC has no interest in reigning in those corporations, or, so it seems, enforcing many of it’s own existing regulations.  Money talks, screw the public.

What is the answer?  Get involved. Don’t buy into the lies.  Use your God-given senses and do some research.  Draw your own conclusions.  Make noise.  Confront the corporatists with the facts.  Use every means possible to get the word out.  Write your representative or senator (after you register to vote).  Talk to co-workers, friends, family people on the street, etc.  It’s time, in fact, it’s now or never.

Michael Copps talks the talk

The rest remains to be seen, of course.  I found this speech given by Commissioner Copps on April 9, at the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston, MA interesting.  He gets this part exactly right:

We see investigative journalism on the endangered species list, hundreds of newsrooms shuttered, reporters fired by the thousands, walking the street looking for a job instead of a story. And it didn’t start with the Internet because the process of media being high-jacked by the profit-at-all cost gang has been going on for decades. For the consolidated owners of radio and TV, the license to broadcast became a license to despoil. Visions of sugarplums danced in their heads–spectrum that belonged, they decided, to them rather than to the people.

And this:

Left to their own devices, these absentee landlords would put local and independent programming on a starvation
diet and feed us instead monotonous homogenized music and mindless infotainment masquerading as “news.”

And that has already happened in many places.  The issue with traditional media in general is that the public can smell a rat.  Watered down, syndicated “news” whether on the TV, radio, newspaper or news-magazine is not fooling anybody.  When he was the president, Bill Clinton chided the American public for being cynical.  I’d suggest that it wasn’t cynicism but fatigue due to lies.  The degree to which licensees have ceded control of their stations to bankster masters is not known.  I would hazard that it is far more common than not.

To some extent, “new media” has filled the vacuum.  People in search of information and things they have, in the past, found on radio and TV now look to the internet.  Youtube has become the launching platform for new music.  News from all over the world is available with the click of a mouse.  The problem with the internet is miss-information, either by ignorance or design.  The other issue is it can be hard to come upon local news.  I can read all about the tsunami in Japan, but try and find out what happened at the local school board meeting, good luck with that.

The question is; how to unscrew this mess, return competitive and credible media to this country.  Further, this should be done without increasing administrative burden to licensees or increased enforcement and other expenses to the FCC.  It should be a simple idea, like requiring a certain number of programming hours be live, from the main studio, putting the main studio back within the city grade contour, beginning to walk back the ownership limits, etc. The FCC is going to have to have the wherewithal to carry through.  In this day and age of political expediency, wherewithal seems to be in short supply.

So, we’ve at least acknowledged the problem, now back to the fiddling.