Day 2.1 at the National Conference for Media Reform

Day 2

The day started, early at 8 AM, with a plenary session by Bill Moyers who is a hero to many in the media reform movement. You can see his whole 38 minute speech here.

Broadcast to Broadband: The Next Frontier of the Media Reform

After the opening session, while others were rushing to get their books signed by Bill Moyers in the exhibit hall, I was grabbing a front row seat in the large room for the morning breakouts. First up was From Broadcast to Broadband: The Next Frontier of the Media Reform, with Amy Goodman moderating and panelists, Robert McChesney, Tim Wu (it really is his website, the net neutrality FAQ link is the give away), and Malkia Cyril.

Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press with John Nichols, he has just stepped down as Chair of Free Press with Tim Wu the new Chair, author of many books, including the one that got me interested in this area, Rich Media, Poor Democracy, started the session. He touched on how the first amendment covered both free speech and a free press, but pointed out that free speech doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have a free press. He continued on this theme talking about how a quality journalism is necessary for an informed and self-governing democracy. He also warned of the hyper commercialism in the media which marinates the brain with advertisements every day of our life.

Tim Wu, Columbia Law Professor, new Chair of Free Press, and former evil doer who worked for companies that were looking at ways to control the general public’s access to content on the internet, was next up. I can’t recall if it was Goodman or McChesney that forced the mea culpa out of him, but he did cover his sordid past. During this past the clients of his company were:

  1. Corporations-who wanted to control employee access, block websites (ESPN-March Madness), and monitor employee access.
  2. Telecomms, the phone and cable companies-based on their old business models, cable wants to control content, and phone companies want to nickel and dime you for each little service.
  3. Foreign governments-limit internet access to stifle dissent and control information.

The overall premise to this work was that the internet was broken because people had the gall to do whatever they wanted with no outside control of what they were viewing, how dare they!

Wu is working on a new book looking at the history of communication in the US and how policy gets formed. He described the media being like the Terminator in T2, it would get blown up from time to time, but would eventually pull itself together into a scary monster. The question is can we as a society prevent this cycle from repeating, kind of like how we want families to break the cycle of domestic violence.

Cyril, tied the ideas that McChesney and Wu presented to social justice. Talking about how will the new internet policy look, will it be equitable and just, will those members of society that are marginalized have the same access, like non-citizens and prisoners to the media.

In the questions and answer period, Wu mentioned that AT&T was broken up by Reagan, not exactly the anti-trust crusader, but pointed out that AT&T was that big and scary that even Reagan thought they need to be dismantled.

Wu further talked about how the Constitution was designed to check the power the king, or president, not the abuse of private power.

Media and the War: An Unembedded View

In a conference whose registrant list was dominated by progressive activists, this was the biggest session of the day. The room expanded from 6 to 8 combined break out rooms and it was still standing room only. The session started late and to get our 90 minutes, ended late too.

Norman Solomon moderated the session, with Phil Donahue, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Sonali Kolhatkar, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood as the panelists.

Before the session, I was able to get this picture with Naomi Klein, who attended the University of Toronto at the same time I did.

So the session started off with Rev. Yearwood, who is president of the Hip Hop Caucus and former office with the Air Force Reserve. He was the most passionate of the panelists, and definitely got the crowd fired up. He talked about how we in the media reform movement must take the information that we are privileged to have to the greater society, it is our duty. That we must communicate with communities in ways that are culturally competent, to incorporate their communication styles to get the word out. And that we need to reach to the younger blue collar members of society, those between 18-30 years of age that have not attended college and may not be tuned into some of the assumed communication networks that we normally think of.

Naomi Klein was up next. She talked about the media’s absence of coverage. She talked about the lack of press of the Winter Soldier hearings this year, Democracy Now being an exception. She talked about how the coverage in Iraq is being willfully disappeared-no mention about the disaster of the situation, and how dangerous it is for journalists and that danger isn’t widely reported in the media.

Klein further went on to talk about how privatized warfare and homeland security industry is now more than $200 billion a year and we haven’t discussed how or why we pay for it. Also the media doesn’t discuss the economic connections that some of their experts have, like George Schultz is always listed as former Secretary of State, not as a former Betchel board member who stands to profit from their contracts.

Phil Donahue was next, he talked about his new film Body of War briefly, and focused on issue of free speech and the tactics of war promoters. He talked about the how war resisters, those who challenged the premise for an illegal invasion and questioned the unending occupation, are said to not believe in America. Like some jingoistic macho war stance is what is need to be a true American. He pointed out that our questioning of the leaders is proving that not only do we believe in America, but that we also are honoring those who have lost there lives in service to America by exercising our free speech rights.

Amy Goodman followed on this by focusing on the fact that the public airways are our, the public’s airwaves, not some corporations.

Sonali Kolhatkar talked about Afghanistan which has largely been forgotten in the press and in America’s consciousness. She talked about how the run up to the attack on Afghanistan was sold as a war of liberation, helping brown people, which makes it easier to sell to the American public.

Because of the lack of coverage we don’t learn things like violence is up 50% in the last year (not sure if nationwide or by region), that soldiers are dying at a higher rate than in Iraq, or that NATO has killed more civilians than the Taliban.

During questions and answers:

Kolhatkar also talked about how NPR didn’t run an interview of Malalai Joya, an Afghan lawmaker, who is  labeled by some as the bravest woman in Afghanistan, because her accent was too strong.  Goodman who has had Joya on Democracy Now wondered if they ever applied that standard to Henry Kissinger.

Klein talked about the horrible coverage, including the NY Times, about what is going on in Latin America, especially referencing the discredited laptop that ties FARC to Venezuela.  Yet, this is what has since been reported, but not picked up on the topic.  In fact Hugo Chavez has called for FARC to lay down arms and release hostages, as Mark Weisbrot of CEPR has just reported (highly recommended), and this isn’t the first time Chavez has called for an end to the hostilities, but you wouldn’t know that from US media coverage.  While the policies in left of center governments in Latin America aren’t perfect, they are better than what most of the world has for governance and economic self-determination.  But yet, the media coverage often vilifies or misrepresents the reality on the ground.

Donahue talked about the shock that we would face if the media improved, it would be like a woman who married a drunk and didn’t realize it until the night he came home sober.

Rev. Yearwood got things exciting later with an verbal lashing at a Fox News cameraman, blaming Fox News and the media in general for selling us this illegal war.

Then we had lunch.  The rest of the day will be in a second post.




  1. libhomo said,

    June 15, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Naomi Klein is definitely making some good points about corporate media censorship of the Winter Soldier hearings and of the Iraq war in general.

    It’s truly frightening that the homeland security industry has grown to $200 billion a year. I doubt we are getting much security from all that money.

  2. Pine Desk said,

    November 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    cable companies are also offering broadband internet these days and the cost is cheap too .””

  3. Fish Oil said,

    January 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

    “.- I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information ~”`

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