Media Reform: Taming Corporate Media

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NOT SO LONG AGO, mainstream media provided
a valuable and reasonable source of
news and information. News organizations
large and small supported independent
journalism and held the public trust to
empower citizens with knowledge and
protect against government corruption and
abuse of power. Over time, rich and powerful
corporations partnered with politicians
to gain increasing legal and economic
influence. Large corporations began to
gobble up independent news organizations
at an alarming rate, eventually creating the
giant, multi-headed media beast that now
dominates broadcast and print media. Corporate
media controls much of the flow of
information, filtering and distorting the
news to suit its own purposes, frequently
offering mindless infotainment in the place
of substantive content, and subverting the
role of media watchdog that is essential to
a free society.
Distinguished journalist Bill Moyers has
said, “Democracy without honest information
creates the illusion of popular consent
while enhancing the power of the state and
the privileged interests protected by it.
Democracy without accountability creates
the illusion of popular control while offering
ordinary Americans cheap tickets to
the balcony, too far away to see that the
public stage is just a reality TV set. This
leaves you (the public) with a heavy burden—
it’s up to you to fight for the freedom
that makes all other freedoms possible.”
This summer, 3500 media activists and
concerned citizens demonstrated their
willingness to take up that burden when
they converged on Minneapolis in early
June for the 2008 National Conference for
Media Reform. People came with a passion
for the cause. From the opening plenary to
the conference close, a sense of mission
and community charged the environment.
Well-known activists, writers, and media
personalities filled the roster of presenters,
along with many not-so-well-known progressive
leaders, all dedicated to preserving
a free and democratic society through free
and independent media.
In the opening plenary session, Prof.
Lawrence Lessig, founder of the Stanford
Law School’s Center for Internet and Society,
inspired a packed auditorium with an
exposé on the Constitutional foundations
of a free press and a free and open Internet.
Following a day full of workshops and presentations,
attendees had the opportunity
to view and discuss Body of War, a
poignant documentary produced and
directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro.
It tells the story of twenty-five year-old
Thomas Young who was inspired to join
the military after watching George W. Bush
speak amid the rubble of 9/11. Thomas
went to Iraq. In less than one week, he was
shot and paralyzed. The documentary
chronicles Thomas’ return home and the
struggles he faces as a paralyzed vet and
outspoken critic of the war.
Bill Moyers opened day two of the conference
with a grand Keynote presentation
addressing the critical nature of the grassroots
media reform movement and its historical
and social significance. Workshops
of the day covered issues such as the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, Internet freedom,
Hip Hop culture, feminist media activism,
and many practical workshops on topics
such as lobbying and effective communication.
The day closed with a fast-paced gala
of multi-media presentations, music,
dance and moving speeches by visionaries
and leaders such as Naomi Klein, Senator
Byron Dorgan, Arianna Huffington, and
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps—a
principled public servant who continues to
stand courageously against the swell of
corporate influence on federal communications
By the opening of the final day, everyone
was exhausted, exhilarated, informed,
and inspired, but there was still more to
come. After morning breakout sessions,
the conference closed with messages from
Amy Goodman, FCC Commissioner
Jonathan Adelstein, and a forceful presentation
by visionary and social activist Van
Jones, who called upon attendees to carry
the passion and the message of the movement
into their own communities, leading
the charge for media reform and positive
social change.
Who else will fight for the freedom that,
as Moyers said, makes all other freedoms
possible? Who else will dare to tame the
beast? There is no one but us, the people—
citizens who must protect and preserve the
public interest and our right to a free and
independent press. If you find your local
news station is not accurately reporting the
news, file a complaint with the station or
with the FCC at
htm. Corporate influence led to a
change in FCC license regulations from
reasonably rigorous reviews once every
three years to a “rubberstamp” review once
every eight years; so, lobby your representatives
for changes in FCC regulations that
would increase media accountability. Educate
yourself on the issues.
offers a wealth of information to get you

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