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[LAAMN-ANN] Speak Out for Media Democracy

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    Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) ACTION ALERT: NAB 2000: Speak Out for Media Democracy August 30, 2000 Commercial broadcasting has gone through stunning
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2000
      Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

      ACTION ALERT:
      NAB 2000: Speak Out for Media Democracy

      August 30, 2000

      Commercial broadcasting has gone through stunning changes in
      recent years, as deregulation and consolidation have shifted
      the balance of power to a small handful of companies with
      interests and investments spread across the media landscape.
      Ironically, the changes have been most profound in radio, a
      medium ideally suited to local ownership and diverse
      content.

      That historic shift has inspired citizens to gather in San
      Francisco in September for the annual radio convention of
      the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the
      principal lobbying and membership organization of the
      commercial broadcasting industry. Activists will take to the
      streets to voice their opposition to corporate management of
      the public's airwaves, and to reopen the debate over who
      exactly should get access to this vital public resource.


      How Did NAB Nab the Airwaves?

      Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 -- which was
      essentially bought and paid for by the NAB and other
      corporate media lobbies -- there has been a parade of media
      mergers. The most dramatic consolidation has occurred in the
      radio industry, creating a handful of huge radio empires
      like Viacom/Infinity and Clear Channel.

      The damage to radio diversity is staggering: Over 4,000
      radio stations have been bought up since the Telecom Act,
      and minority ownership of media declined about 9 percent in
      the two years following the Telecom Act, the largest drop
      since the federal government began tracking such data (USA
      Today, 7/7/98).

      The changes wrought by Telecom '96 should come as no
      surprise: The NAB is one of the top lobbying groups on
      Capitol Hill, and was intimately involved in crafting some
      of the legislation themselves.

      But the NAB still isn't satisfied, with broadcasters looking
      to deregulate the market even further. They're now pushing
      the FCC for an end to cross-ownership rules, which are all
      that prevent newspapers from being absorbed by the broadcast
      industry. They have already successfully lobbied to
      eliminate rules that prohibited a network from owning two
      stations in the same city.


      What's at Stake?

      --Low Power Radio

      Against this backdrop of an increasingly consolidated media,
      low power radio activists have been working for years to
      free the airwaves from the large broadcast companies.
      Through years of civil disobedience, activists eventually
      won a partial victory in January 2000, when the Federal
      Communications Commission (FCC) announced its plans to begin
      licensing low power stations in much of the country.

      Quick to counterattack, the NAB led a lobbying effort to get
      the FCC to reverse course. What was originally a plan to
      bring literally hundreds of new, non-commercial voices to
      the airwaves now faces an uphill battle on Capitol Hill.

      --Campaign Finance Reform

      Just like low power radio, campaign finance reform is an
      issue that has garnered support across the political
      spectrum. Because much of the money raised for political
      campaigns is given to corporate media to buy campaign
      advertising, the NAB has consistently opposed common sense
      campaign finance reform measures like free airtime for
      candidates.

      The gravy train for broadcasters keeps getting richer: One
      study found that House incumbents were spending 60 percent
      more on television and radio advertising in 1994 than they
      had just four years prior. Broadcasters work the other side
      of the political money game as well, donating millions of
      dollars in "soft money" to the major political parties.

      --"Public Interest" PR

      While long-standing FCC provisions mandate that broadcasters
      serve the public "interest, convenience or necessity," few
      licenses have been revoked for failure to provide public
      service. For their part, the broadcast industry wants you to
      know that they indeed perform a valuable service to the
      community.

      To prove their point, the NAB commissions an annual study
      that assigns a dollar figure to their public service. In
      1998, the NAB's "Bringing Community Service Home" figured
      that commercial broadcasters provided public services to the
      tune of $7 billion a year. Over half of that total, however,
      is based on the dubious assumption that all the airtime
      given to PSAs could have been sold to paying advertisers;
      many PSAs air in hard-to-sell timeslots, like the middle of
      the night.

      A more concrete measurement of community service, by the
      Benton Foundation and Media Access Project, evaluated the
      programming offered by commercial media. They found that
      local public affairs shows made up less than one half of one
      percent of the fare offered by commercial broadcasters.
      Thirty-five percent of the stations had no local news, and
      25 percent had no local public affairs programming
      whatsoever.


      Fight Back!

      From the perspective of corporate media, the future looks
      brighter than ever. Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin (1/2/00,
      CNN) foresees a world where the media business is "more
      important than government... more important than educational
      institutions and non-profits." He added that corporate
      dominance "is going to be forced anyhow because when you
      have a system that is instantly available everywhere in the
      world immediately, then the old-fashioned regulatory system
      has to give way."


      ACTION:

      Activists from around the country are heading to San
      Francisco in September to make their voices heard. If you
      can't make it, you can still contribute to the efforts to
      free the public airwaves from corporate domination.

      --Write to the Federal Communications Commission and demand
      that they create common sense public interest requirements
      for broadcasters operating on the public airwaves.

      Chair William Kennard
      Federal Communications Commission
      445 12th St. SW
      Washington, D.C. 20554
      1-888-225-5322 (1-888-CALL FCC)
      mailto:bkennard@...

      --Write to the National Association of Broadcasters to let
      them know that citizens of a democracy demand more substance
      from the broadcasting conglomerates than they are currently
      delivering. The broadcasters get free access to the airwaves
      -- what does the public get in return?

      National Association of Broadcasters
      Edward O. Fritts, President and CEO
      1771 N Street, NW
      Washington, DC 20036
      Phone: 202-429-5300
      Fax: 202-775-3520
      mailto:ssiroky@...


      For more background on the NAB and the broadcast industry, see:
      http://www.fair.org/nab.html

      For more about the demonstrations in San Francisco, see:
      http://www.mediademocracynow.org

      -30-

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