Thursday, August 09, 2007

The One Campaign Issue Ignored By Big Media? Themselves.

That more presidential candidates are speaking out against media consolidation should signal the importance of this issue in 2008 election cycle. But it's a signal that's not getting a clear reception in the newsrooms of the nation's largest media companies.

The issue bubbled forth during a raucous presidential forum at Saturday's Yearly Kos Convention in Chicago, blogger Jason Rosenbaum rose before seven Democratic candidates to ask:

Dodd and Clinton Speak Out
"With only a handful of companies controlling the majority of news and information Americans consume, media consolidation and a lack of diverse viewpoints in the news is threatening American democracy. How do you plan to support equal access to broadcast media?"

Senators Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton took the bait. Dodd said that "consolidation ought to be one of the great concerns of every person in this country … I'll do everything I can to see that that is broken up, as president of the United States."

Clinton followed: "I think that we have got to do everything we can to open up our media environment ... We have to have more competition, more voices and [keep] the Internet open so that we don't put it in the domain of any one or a couple of the media or utility owners."

Sending a Signal to Big Media: Pay Attention

Over the past four years, millions of people have spoken out to Congress and the FCC against letting a few companies control so much of the national news agenda. These concerns became more acute over the summer as Rupert Murdoch circled Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal.

As so much media continues to fall into the hands of people with an overt political agenda, it's no wonder candidates are seeking to push the problem into the limelight. But is the message really getting through?

We surveyed the 40 mainstream media outlets that covered the Saturday forum -- including MSNBC, ABC, CBS, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, Associated Press and local and regional conglomerate-owned newspapers -- and not one mentioned the media consolidation question or the candidates' reply.

"I thought it was the right question for the Yearly Kos because it's not going to get asked at any mainstream network debate," Rosenbaum said about his decision to question candidates during the blogger convention. "This event was the right format."

Blitzer Tries to Change the Channel

John Edwards: Malkin and Blitzer Dodge the Real Issue
It seemed to resonate -- at least with the candidates. On Tuesday, Sen. John Edwards brought the issue before the cameras again. During an appearance on CNN opposite a jumpy Wolf Blitzer, Edwards said:

"I don't want to see Rupert Murdoch -- or anybody else for that matter -- owning every newspaper in America. What we have seen with consolidation of the media is not healthy for this country. We need divergent opinion expressed in this country and if the media is consolidated that runs completely contrary to that."

Blitzer dodged the issue by shifting the discussion from policy to questions about proceeds from a book Edwards wrote for HarperCollins, a News Corp subsidiary. Elsewhere, on Fox News, host Michelle Malkin disparaged Edwards' concerns about her parent company by calling the candidate a "hypocrite" for accepting Murdoch money to publish the book. Neither Spitzer or Malkin cared to respond to Edwards specific concerns or to mention that the North Carolina Senator contributed all proceeds from the deal to charity.

"If you stand up to them and say consolidating the media is a bad thing, it's an unhealthy thing, what they do is attack you," Edwards replied. "They can continue to attack. They will not silence me. We are right about this. The media should not be consolidated and Rupert Murdoch should not own every newspaper in the United States of America"

Blitzer shifted gears again trying to close rank with CNN's cable news rival and defend News Corp's line of attack -- ignoring the larger point about "unhealthy" consolidation at the hands of companies like CNN's own parent Time Warner.

Crossing Party Lines

Rumblings about the threat of powerful media have been heard all along the campaign trail -- from both Democratic and Republican contenders.

Over the past year, nearly every Democratic presidential candidate, including Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, have spoken out against efforts by phone and cable companies to stifle an open Internet and gut "Net Neutrality" -- the fundamental principle that prevents network providers from discriminating against online content and services.

They have been joined by Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, who told Republican bloggers in May that Net Neutrality must be preserved. Candidates including Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ron Paul have also expressed support for a more democratic media, backing initiatives to protect Low Power FM and Internet radio.

But mainstream media has remained mute, perhaps loath to focus on issues that butt against the narrow interests of their owners.

MediaVote 2008

In 2008 though we have a more media-savvy citizens -- people like Rosenbaum -- who find new ways to jam mainstream media and push this issue before the lens. More candidates should follow our lead and take a loud public stand that media conglomerates can't ignore.

Big Media may try to keep this issue in the shadows. With more public activism, before the cameras and the candidates, we can be spark a broader public conversation in 2008 -- one that exposes the many ways the special interests of Big Media owners infiltrates the news that they serve up to millions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link here. This is a huge issue that needs to be taken on in 2008 with full force.