Thursday, May 29, 2003

1000 Words

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Media Monopoly - A Dangerous Game

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those that own one." This quote by A.J. Leibling and could not be more timely. This is my second speech for Toastmasters and, according to the Toastmaster's handbook, should be on a topic of which I have conviction and evoke an emotional response from the audience such that they are moved to action. Indeed I do feel strongly about this topic and, although it may seem dry at the onset, hope to ignite such a concern in you, my audience, that you will be moved to take a small stand in order to preserve diversity of our culture, promote the independent spirit, protect our democratic process, and establish the way in which you, your family, and your children see the world, literally.

On June 2nd, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission is set to pass sweeping changes to rules that regulate the ownership of media outlets: television, radio, and newspapers. The FCC Commissioner, Michael Powell, yes there is a relation, he is Colin's son, has insinuated that he will advocate the loosening or discarding all together of many rules that thwart attempts to create a media monopoly. Some of these rules include:
• Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule. Prevents the owners of a broadcast station from owning daily newspapers in the same market, and vice versa.
• National Broadcast Ownership Cap. Is meant to prevent one company from owning broadcast stations that reach more than 35 percent of U.S. households.
• Local Radio Ownership Rule. Caps the number of radio stations a company can own in a single listening area to eight or less, depending on the area's size.
• Duopoly Rule. Limits a company to owning two broadcast TV stations in a given market.
• Dual Network Rule. Bars the major TV networks-- ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC-- from merging with each other.
These are just a few rules set to be loosened or abolished. Some may argue that rules such as this are an example of yet another meddling hand of government in the system of free enterprise. However, we must keep in mind that news, entertainment, and information are not widgets, and do not serve the public well by being uniformly mass produced by one or a few sources. Quite to the contrary. Cheap news is not good news. The Supreme Court addressed this, referencing the 1st Amendment (the right to freedom of press) in their 1945 decision against Associated Press vs. United States, stating:

"That Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society."

The lifting or loosening of these rules will lead to a shrinking source that disseminates information. Some may argue that independent television and newspapers will hold steadfast against Big Media, but we only need to look toward the deregulation of radio, that occurred after the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications act, to see that this assumption is optimistically naïve at best. One example: Clear Channel Communications went from owning 40 stations in 1996 to owning 1,225 stations today. With a smaller set of owners of the airwaves, there is less chance for independent artists to get their music to the public, which in turn proves less success for new and dynamic forms of music and musicians, which hampers the individual spirit and ultimately makes our culture more stagnant. Did you think you were imagining Christina Aguilera playing every fifteen minutes on every station? You weren't, and this is why.

Along with a less diverse culture, more dangerously, the consolidation of media could lead to a less efficient and fair democracy. Diverse sources of information leads to alternate viewpoints which leads to critical thought about issues which leads to healthy debate which is a basis for our democracy. If these diverse sources of news, information, and opinion are fused into one, formed by the wishes of mega media executives, then American opinion stands to become homogenized.

Finally, if a stagnant culture and weakened democracy don't drive you to action, how about bad television? Time and again I've heard people complain that there are hundreds of channels, and not one good show to watch. The consolidation of media will only worsen the quality of television, not make it better, as there is less competition for viewers.

So, a less diverse culture, Christina Aguilera, democracy based on canned and homogenized opinion, bad television, what's a citizen to do? I'm passing out a flyer that on one side has a cartoon that I think perfectly illustrates the plight of a person living in a world informed by Big Media, and on the other side has a website that you may go to and register your comments and demands for a diverse and democratic media directly to the FCC. Please go to these websites and tell the FCC you want a buffet of information to choose from not a limited menu. Because, a country having only one source of information is a very dangerous arrangement, simply because you never know if the Town Crier, is also the Village Idiot.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Don't let it happen. Take action.

Thursday, May 15, 2003


Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism. Explains how societies and nations can be measured by the degree that power is concentrated and respect for the individual is restricted. Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales? Filmed in 1946.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Dentistry and Other Natural Disasters
I live in Oklahoma - where the wind comes sweeping down the plain - forming funnel clouds that destroy everything in their path.... We had massive tornados last week, and thankfully me and mine remained unscathed, but I did have an interesting experience...

I was sitting in the chair at my new dentist's office, happy her eyes were not straying from the view of my mouth to peruse my scalp for silver hairs ripe for the plucking, a tendency my estranged dentist subscribed to, hence being estranged (but that's a whole 'nother story!). Anyway, I sat relaxed and happy, very happy, primarily because I asked for the double dose, Novocain and nitrous oxide. Yup, I get the gas, making terrible trips the tooth doctor a little more bearable. As I breathed deep and tried to ignore the shrill drilling of someone's ill-kept molar, a sound that was wah-wahing in my ears, and the essence of burning enamel that hung in the air, a scent that would go gangbusters as an incense flavor for the masochist market I'm sure, I started to hear the whine of the tornado siren, and wondered if the noise was just in my head. Nope. The drilling stopped and in my peripheral vision, just past the clear gas tube, I spied some commotion.
"There's a funnel over the prison! We have to go to the basement now!" A frantic dental hygienist screamed as my dentist was just starting to widdle the chunk of plaster that overflowed over the edge of my tooth .
"But, she's on the nitrous. We need to get her some oxygen."
"It's over the prison. We need to go NOW." Indeed, the proximity of dentist office to prison and prison to funnel cloud did merit the drama.
And with this they pulled off my mask, steadied me on a pair of heels that, even on a good day, are not terribly conducive to walking, let alone walking high on nitrous! (I know, I know..vanity before functionality, the sacrifice of pragmatism for beauty, and all that jazz).
We were on the third floor and, of course, had to forgo the elevator and travel four flights of stairs down to the basement. As I clung to the railing, each step downward seemed surreal, my inches long heels clanking an echo with every wobbly step. I made it to the basement and meandered amongst all the scared and sympathetic shelter seekers with my pea green bib still attached, limp lipped, tooth full of plaster, cheek puffed with gauze, and head full of happy gas!

Mental note: Consult seven day forecast before making next dentist appointment!
Bush Clear Channel Connection

Story from Take Back the Media from Atrios from this New York Press article.
Thank goodness for that uncompromising liberal media!

Also, if you have some time, this interview with Arundhati Roy is an inspiring example of how one person can make a monumental difference.