The self-annointed Conference for Media Reform has been underway in Memphis, spitting out all sorts of invective about big, bad media and pushing for more government regulation, all of which I think is damned dangerous. Big, old media is dying before our eyes and it will take with it local newspapers and broadcast outlets unless it is given the means to survive by more — yes, more — consolidation. And government regulation of speech is always, always dangerous.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps — one of the big, bad censors of government — issues his manifesto, quoted in the press release sent out about him:
Half a trillion dollars. That’s a conservative valuation of the airwaves that our country lets TV and radio broadcasters use – for free. Any way you slice it, that’s an awful lot of money. In fact, it’s just about the biggest chunk of change that our government gives to any private industry.
And what do the American people – who own the public airwaves, by the way – get in return? Too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. Too little local and regional music, too much brain-numbing national play-lists. Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. That’s what we get for half a trillion dollars. It’s one hell of a bad bargain, don’t you think?
Except that with only 12 percent of Americans not getting their TV via cable or satellite — and now the internet — the value of those broadcast licenses is falling to nil before our very eyes. Why the hell do you think that the networks are taking to distributing their wares on iTunes and YouTube? This is a man in charge of our media landscape? God help us. He continues:
I’m here to propose that we replace the bad old bargain that past FCCs struck with the media moguls with a new American Media Contract. It goes like this. We, the American people have given broadcasters free use of the nation’s most valuable spectrum, and we expect something in return. We expect this:
1. A right to media that strengthens our democracy
2. A right to local stations that are actually local
3. A right to media that looks and sounds like America
4. A right to news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale
5. A right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often
So you’re going to start programming those stations, Commissioner Copps? You’re going to define democracy-strengthening programming, local programming, programing that looks like America, programming that isn’t canned, programming that isn’t bad? Who the fuck are you to determine any of that? You are of the government. And the last thing government should do is meddle in our speech. Besides, all you’re going to do is drive these companies out of business or drive them away from broadcast, just as you did Howard Stern. And what happened next? We got worse programming. Duller programming. Crap and pap. Money-losing programming that only forces the company quicker to the can you decry. Next, we’ll end up with home-shopping on our broadcast towers. That’ll be all that’s left.
Next, we have Bill Moyers spouting downright offensive language, dimishing slavery to make his point. Says the press release sent out about his speech:
Evoking the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Moyers compared big media corporations to plantation owners and American media consumers to their slaves. “What happened to radio, happened to television, and then it happened to cable. If we are not diligent, then it will happen to the Internet, [creating] a media plantation for the 21st century dominated by the same corporate and ideological forces that have controlled the media for the last 50 years.”
Dennis Kucinich isn’t stopping at reforming American media. He is after world domination:
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D- Ohio) paid a surprise visit to the National Conference for Media Reform and announced to hundreds of cheering activists that the U.S. House will created a committee on media reform and that Kucinich will be its chair. He promised reform in media and said it would drive national reform and world reform.
I’m all in favor of openness. But government regulation of what we can say is not open. That is media oppression.
Big media is dying, don’t you see? Knight Ridder’s dead. Tribune’s dying. Scripps is getting out of the newspaper business. Classified revenue is gone from newspapers and leaving online sites. Evil Clear Channel sold itself. CBS Radio is a mess. The TV networks are desperate to find new distribution. Local TV news stations are about to hit the wall. Cable is not far behind. Even Yahoo is struggling. These people are making big, bad media a boogeyman and in doing so they are setting up government to come in and regulate our speech for no good reason. Fools. Damned dangerous fools.
: The conference blog quotes this:
This conference is life-changing. I cannot even breathe right now. Life-changing. I’ll have a series of pictures from Memphis in just a few minutes. What I’ve seen so far has been awe-inspiring. I really feel validated for the feelings I’ve had for the last few years.