About the Imus issue, media scholar and Free Press co-founder Robert McChesney recently wrote:
Imus still is a free person. He can start a blog or, in all likelihood, find another media company willing to employ him. He has as many free speech rights as you or me. If someone suggests the government should remove his free speech rights, I will be the first to defend him.It's clear to McChesney and others that this is not a fight over the First Amendment. We are rather concerned with the government policies that establish the media system. We believe that this incident points to a systemic problem in our media: Most of our TV and radio stations are owned by giant corporate conglomerates. They don't represent the views of most Americans -- and they make huge profits off the public airwaves.
But that does not mean Imus has a First Amendment right to a national radio or TV program, any more than you and I have a right to demand we get a national program on a TV network or radio network. When it comes to freedom of the press, the right and responsibility for what is produced, published and broadcast rests with the institution. MSNBC and CBS hold that First Amendment privilege, for the most part. The government cannot and should not force MSNBC or CBS to hire or fire a specific person. And if you feel strongly that MSNBC and CBS should retain Imus, or hire someone else to provide his style of humor, you should tell them.
What Imus said is just the tip of the iceberg. Scores of other TV and radio hosts regularly make racist and sexist comments. The best way to stop this race to the bottom is to change who's sitting at the top -- and making the decisions about who's behind the mic.
Right now, less than 10% of radio and television stations are owned by people of color or women. And, according to one industry study, only 2.5% of radio stations have a person of color in the role of general manager, and only 4.4% have a racial or ethnic minority in the role of news director. The percentage of women in these jobs isn't much higher. No wonder shock jocks like Imus have been able to keep their jobs for so long.
But instead of addressing this national disgrace, the Federal Communications Commission is actually trying to let the largest companies buy up even more stations!
According to McChesney:
Women of color, like those Rutgers basketball players, own almost nothing. The FCC has refused to follow its congressional mandate to advance minority media ownership; indeed, we have been going in the wrong direction for a good decade. This is not the only reason we end up with someone like Imus broadcast coast to coast, but it is a factor. It is one we can and must change.One of the best ways to get new voices on television and radio is by addressing the lack of diversity in media ownership. Promoting diverse media ownership and protecting freedom of speech are not mutually exclusive or contradictory. In fact, we can and must aggressively fight for both simultaneously.
If you agree, work with the StopBigMedia.com Coalition to demand media ownership that better reflects the diversity that makes our nation great.
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