Media Reform Conference Notes

Seamus Holman

Several people from business, web and editorial departments at In These Times attended the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, WI over the weekend of Nov. 7-9. To raise our profile among media activists and producers, we ran several ads for the conference, distributed a copy of our special media issue in the conference packets and staffed an exhibition table. Two messages seemed to drive purpose of the conference: A concern about the consolidation of media companies. This topic was primarily motivated by a FCC ruling that allows one large media conglomerate to stake out near monopolies in regional markets. For instance, in Atlanta, AOL/Time Warner (or whatever they're calling themselves now) would be able to own multiple newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, internet portals, etc. The manipulation of public discourse by these powerful media corporations. Widely held misperceptions about Saddam Hussein's involvement in 9/11 was mentioned several times as an example of mainstream media companies failing to adequately inform the public. Some of my random notes and factoids taken down during sessions: 58% of Americans believe George Bush is trustworthy 22% of Palestinians are malnourished 60% of Palestinians are in acute poverty From Amy Goodman's opening address: George Pataki wants to integrate part of the Saddam Hussein statue felled by U.S. troops (and heavily orchestrated to show Iraqi support for the operation) into the foundation of the rebuilt World Trade Center, despite the lack of evidence linking Hussein and the hijackers. Free Speech TV, on the Dish Network has a budget of less than $2,000,000 per year with 20 paid staff. Most business plans for developing a cable station say the budget should be in excess of $35,000,000 per year. The representative at the conference says that this should prove that it is possible to get progressive programming out to Americans with a committed fundraising effort Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley says that most mainstream journalists are just as appalled as progressives and they need to be reached out to. She cites: 38% of national reporters, and 26% of local reporters don't believe their bosses share their values. In a panel on digital broadcasting and policy, a panelist encouraged internet providers to bypass telephone and cable companies by hooking wireless systems directly into the backbone of the internet. In the closing keynotes, Jesse Jackson, Jr. compared U.S. involvement in Nicaragua 20 years ago to U.S. involvement in Iraq now. He says that we can see what might happen to Iraq this way. Currently, Nicaragua has 50% unemployment and government leaders stealing money from the citizens. He asked why this hasn't been covered in mainstream press.

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After three years of art directing In These Times--and nine years of living and studying in the Midwest--I returned to the northwest in 2005 to start Gridwork and focus solely on web design.

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