Hannah Sassaman — Banned from the National Association of Broadcasters Since 2002


consequences of the corporate media blackout
November 7, 2006, 5:28 am
Filed under: 'media justice', 'media reform', fcc, rants, the revolution

The Federal Communications Commission has just collected its first round of comments on its most recent set of proposed rules attempting to consolidate media ownership. Comments are coming in from all over the place. You can do a quick scan for yourself by visiting the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System, inputting 06-121 as the docket number, and then get ready to review the over 120,000 comments available on the docket.

I am very glad that I am taking the time tonight to read through a smattering, just some of these comments, because spending time with the voices of the mothers and fathers, musicians and laborers, all these people who are writing in to the FCC, and taking the time to write personal (sometimes handwritten!) comments — is reminding me of one more reason why I continue to be passionate about this work to change our media system.

Just before Halloween, an independent media journalist named Brad Will, working with the New York City Indymedia Center, was murdered by paramilitaries in Oaxaca City. I found out when I got a call from an old friend, an independent media organizer in San Diego, who asked me if I knew any radio stations I could call to get the word out about this terrible and sad event.

At the time I was backstage, volunteering for an amazing pro-choice haunted house/benefit for the Philadelphia Women’s Medical Fund. I couldn’t leave, couldn’t jump online to try to help in whatever limited way I could, so I started text messaging anyone I knew with a connection to a community radio station, or with a press list they could hit.

Many, many Indymedia organizers began coordinating together to fight what they knew would come — the misrepresentation of not just Brad’s murder, but the misrepresentation of the context of why he was killed, and the stories and messages of the organizers and community members in Oaxaca who had been fighting for so long.

Reporters like Romero, author of the article in the last link, seems to be one of, if not the most prolifically disseminated reporter on Oaxaca in both local and national papers in America. A recent search shows communities in Lawrence as well as Olberlin, Kansas; Houston, Texas; rural New Mexico; not to mention Miami, Florida and North Dakota.

Why are these papers all using the same news feed? Because consolidation has forced them to shrink their newsrooms. (Notice the similarities in the style of our hometown New Mexico and North Dakota papers?) Why does it matter to the community members struggling in Oaxaca that our media is consolidating? Because the world depends on an accountable and diverse news media to fight to tell all sides to a story, and no matter what former FCC Chairman Michael Powell might say about the powers of the internet to disseminate information, most people in the United States and around the world are reading the corporate media’s — Rebeca Romero’s — version of why thousands of Oaxacans were encamped in the Zocalo, rather than listening to Radio Appo, for example, which offers up-to-the-second reporting from the streets of Oaxaca, or following the reports from Indymedia itself, which has provided a backbone of excellent reporting for so many struggles, for so many years.

I found this very recent editorial by Mary Sanchez , lambasting response to the media’s coverage of Brad Will. I couldn’t find it anywhere else but the Mercury News, a paper that will lose at least 47 newsroom positions now that it has been acquired by the Media Group. Newspapers, radio stations, and many more media outlets in the United States are poised to suffer deep job cuts if the next round of consolidation goes through. If the United States media consolidates further, for so many millions, and for the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, it will be that much harder to speak to a global public that can levy the pressure necessary to support popular movements, and to bring those who commit atrocities to justice.

I should have written about this weeks ago, but here at the Prometheus Radio Project we’ve been pretty busy with some things (most notably the full power FM window — also known as the last time in a generation that social justice groups will be able to apply for their own radio stations). We want to work with all of you to help thousands of independent groups apply for their own radio stations this spring, because each new station is a victory not just for our local stories in America, but stories that are fighting for our solidarity from all over the world.

I don’t have the expertise to offer an accurate critique of the consolidated-media reporting around the struggle in Oaxaca — and many others are already doing an amazing job at that. But if you live in the United States, you can take the time to write a comment to the FCC, and tell them that there’s more at stake than profits, contour maps, vertical or horizontal integration at stake as they set up these new rules. As is always the case with our freedom of speech, lives are on the line.

You can send your comments to the FCC here — http://www.stopbigmedia.com.




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