June 23, 2003
The Greens—Free, Diverse, and Uncensored Media

(See this post for background on this series.)

Infodiversity: An uninformed people is not free. Create a vital, democratic, diverse media system, delinked from corporate profit objectives and able to present a wide range of issues and ideas in their full complexity, free from censorship by government or by private corporate power.

Private corporate powers cannot impose censorship. They may "spike" a story (such as Newsweek's treatment of the Michael Isikoff story about Monica Lewinsky, which would have been a scoop, or the New York Times' decision not to publish the stories that did not support their agenda re: Augusta National), but they cannot compel other outlets to bury them as well. In fact, the competitive nature of the for-profit media business makes it almost impossible to bury news, as any news sells, and there are plenty of outlets with which to work. If Fox News doesn't want it, perhaps CNN does. If MSNBC passes, then ABC might be interested. And that covers just the TV medium. Between radio, newspapers, magazines, and the internet, there is a thriving, lively debate out there. Even if one is exposed to only one medium, there is a dazzling array of choices within that medium. Mother Jones and National Review are both magazines, the Washington Post and the Washington Times are both newspapers, Rush Limbaugh and the guests on the Pacifica Network are all radio, and Fox News and CNN are both cable television.

Support Nonprofit and Noncommercial Media: A decentralized, democratic system of public funding of diverse nonprofit, noncommercial media, including broadcast, print, film, website, and other cultural production. Funding to exceed existing support for for-profit media, including lower mailing rates and tax deductions for donors. Guarantee free, universal Internet access.

There is already support for nonprofit media, although it is nowhere near what the Greens feel we need. In regards to internet access, does that include a computer for every home, and a phone line to go with it? Universal internet access is available in almost every public library, at least in the places where I have lived.

Real Public Broadcasting: Complete public funding for real public radio and television broadcasting, with no advertising or grants from private corporations or foundations. Support a decentralized, pluralistic system of multiple national networks and local stations, all independently controlled by boards elected by their publics and their workers.

There is nothing that is preventing more networks from forming; indeed, 15 years ago we only had four (including PBS); we now have eight (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PAX, PBS, UPN and WB). None of this was via government mandate; all was accomplished by way of the free market.

Regulate Public Airwaves in the Public Interest: Reassert the public's right as owners of the electromagnetic spectrum used as broadcast airwaves to regulate their use in the public interest. Re-appropriate 6 prime-time hours a day of commercial broadcast time on each station for real public service broadcasting: ad-free children's and news/public affairs programming. Fund this liberated time by charging commercial broadcasters rents for the bandwidths they use, a tax on sales of commercial stations, and a tax on advertising. Program this ad-free time under the control of artists' and educators for the children's programs and journalists for the news and public affairs programs. Restore the Fairness Doctrine. Free time for all candidates for public office. Prohibit paid political ads or require free ads of equal time for opponents. Redistribute substantial bandwidth concessions to public, nonprofit, and locally owned commercial stations, including low-power stations. Increase stakeholder representation on and public accountability of the Federal Communications Commission.

The fairness doctrine is inherently unfair, and undemocratic. Its abolition was one of the more significant moments in the history of broadcast media, and allows for true opinions to be expressed. Prohibiting free ads is a violation of the first amendment; requiring free ads for an opponent is a violation of common sense. Redistributing bandwidth is going to restrict the options of those who no longer receive a station that has been replaced by a low-power public access channel filled with programs that they do not like or with which they disagree.

The biggest problem with mandating certain types of programming is who controls the content of mandated broadcasts? As we've seen from PBS and NPR, government overseers are either negligent or biased themselves, as these "public" fora carry a distinctly liberal bent. Somehow, I think the greens would be horrified by a robust public radio system with Rush Limbaugh at the helm. Be careful what you wish for...

Antitrust Actions to Break Up Media Conglomerates: Reform antitrust legislation to require the break up of corporate giants because their concentrated power threatens democracy, not just competitive pricing, especially with regard to media concentration where a few media conglomerates control the public's access to information. Require separate, independent firms for all TV stations, TV networks, TV show producers, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, book publishers, film producers, music recorders, Internet service providers, cable TV systems, cable TV stations, amusement parks, retail stores, and so forth. Repeal the pro-conglomeration Telecommunications Act of 1996. Subsidize the existence of multiple newspapers and magazines to express a diversity of opinion in all communities.

Media concentration is not the be-all and end-all of life as we know it, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth emanating from the outer darkness. The biggest obstacle is the simple fact that nobody can prevent another newspaper from starting up in a given town. Another (relevant to radio and TV) is that sameness of content will breed a desire for change; if there are fifteen stations all playing the same format, one or two stations with a different format are likely to garner higher ratings, IF THEY ARE SUFFICIENTLY INTERESTING. By mandating the dissemination of material that is neither popular nor interesting on media consumers, the greens are attempting to impose their moral standards upon everyone else.

posted on June 23, 2003 06:02 PM


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