Monday, January 15, 2007

The Spirit of Dr. King Lives in Burgeoning Media and Democracy Movement

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy was celebrated and evoked throughout the weekend in Memphis, often challenged the U.S. media to do a better job covering all aspects of the civil rights movement.

Many of his disciples honored Dr. King during the National Conference for Media Reform, by taking up his complaint and calling on activists and organizers to "keep fighting back" against a media that turns it's back on the disenfranchised.

On Friday afternoon, Reverend Jesse Jackson told 3,000 activists and organizers that American establishment media only valued Dr. King as long as he advocated non-violent protest. But when King began to critique American institutions, he "disturbed the status quo."

"When dogs bit and horses kicked and he said, 'Don't fight back,' they said: 'This is the type of leader we've been looking for.' But when he challenged the assumption of white male supremacy, its institutions and war policy, the government then began to attack him."

Light a Flame in the Darkness

Jackson said "[King] brings us to this point today, 40 years later, to define the great issues of our time -- the broken promises, the new schemes of denials, the impact of a media that freezes out democracy, the media that looks at the world through a key hole and not the door."Jackson expressed concern that the media has the capacity "to play a bigger role to make America better. And that's why this idea of media concentration is a bad proposition."Jackson urged the Memphis audience to push for more diversity in media ownership, and more access to media making and independent news in their communities "no matter the difficulty or cost."

Take Back the Pen

While in Memphis, award winning television journalist Bill Moyers spoke of the legacy of Dr. King's struggle when he 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 Interent [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.""[When a slave says] the boss man has been lying to me. Something is wrong with this system," Moyers said. "This is the moment when freedom begins. The moment you realize someone else has been writing your story and it's time you took the pen from his hand and started writing it yourself."

"When the garbage workers struck here in 1968 and the walls of these buildings echoed with the cry: 'I am a man,' they were writing their story. Martin Luther King came here to help them tell it, only to be shot dead on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. The bullet killed him, but it couldn't kill the story because once the people start telling their own story you can't kill it anymore."

Build from the Ground Up

Malkia Cyril
of the Youth Media Council asked people to consider what it would take to build a movement with the power to tell our own stories and overcome the injustices of the media system.

"Our movement must have leadership from the ground up," she said, advocating that more resources and attention be devoted to supporting local constituencies and genuine grassroots efforts."Our movement is both long and strong," Cyril said. "Backwards and forwards, and our memories and our strategies must be long as well."

In the Conference's closing keynote address, Van Jones asked people if they were prepared to succeed in the media and democracy movement."Can we write that story?" he asked. "We have to begin to say what is our agenda and is our agenda inclusive enough? Will it lift up enough people?"

Dream Hopeful Dreams

Jones, who is the founding director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, called for a "city-by-city access agenda" outlining a vision to make high speed Internet free to everyone.

We have to think big, Jones said.

"Martin Luther King Jr didn't get famous giving a speech called, 'I have a complaint.' That wasn't the speech … The brother had a dream and we have dreams, beautiful dreams, hopeful dreams, helpful dreams, dreams about a country coming back together."

"The reason we have this pro-democracy movement is because we believe this country can lead the world," Jones said. "We need to be able to have a movement that stands for that."

Markey Pledges to Keep Net Neutrality Wave Rolling

It's not the fear of God, it's the fear of voters that scares politicians in Washington, Congressman Ed Markey said Saturday, during the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis.


Click Here To Watch Markey's YouTube Speech

The Massachusetts Democrat, who now chairs the House Subcommittee that will oversee all telecommunications legislation, promised to protect Internet freedom in his elevated role within Congress.

"We are going to in Washington have a historic debate over the next two years and I will chair the committee that is having those hearings," Markey told the audience.

"I can promise you this, that unlike the last two years it just won't be the CEOs of the telephone and cable companies who are there. You will be selecting witnesses to testify right next to them on the same day before the same Congressmen so that the voices of the American people will be heard as well."

Markey spoke before a crowded convention hall including many hundred Coalition members. The Congressman praised our Coalition's grassroots campaign, which delivered nearly 1.5 million petitions to Capitol Hill.

"Let me tell you something about Congress," Markey said. "Congress is a stimulus response institution. There is nothing more stimulating than having 1.5 million people who say I don't think I want you to keep your job if you won't keep your hands off the Internet."

Markey blasted the phone and cable company assault on Net Neutrality, pledging to foster openness, innovation and neutrality during his tenure. But, said markey, he couldn't safeguard Internet freedom on his own.

According to Markey, the digital revolution has the potential to change our society only if we "animate these technologies with the human values that represent our highest aspirations for our society."

"The wave of the future is a wave of technological empowerment and innovation. It is a wave of grassroots activism that can make a difference in Washington, D.C. down to every single community in our country. It's a wave of digital democracy the likes of which we have never seen in the history of our country."

Markey closed by promising to work with the public to keep this Net Neutrality wave rolling.

Thomas Grills POTUS

Saturday night's plenary featured an unscheduled visit from George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America.

After brief introductory remarks on plans to "stay the course in Iraq ... no matter where it may change," the Commander in Chief took questions from veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas.

>> Watch it on YouTube

HT: You have enthusiastically supported the mergers of the largest media companies. Why do you support letting big media get even bigger?

: We live in the biggest country in the world and one of the most powerful. That means we have to have a media that's as big as this beautiful country. If we lived in Canada or France we would have a smaller media. But the way the world works is that there are always new folks being born ... And when new folks is being born they need to have louder things talking to them so they have the same understandings.

HT: You have mentioned the problem of the "media filter." What is the media filter and why is it a problem?

: The "media filter" is what is in-between me and truth. Let me explain to you how the media works. There's a level you have here that is … uhh ... POTUS ... After POTUS you have Congress where my laws go to. Then after that there is a message, and the message has to get out there. Then there is the media filter. After the "media filter" there is a drip funnel.HT: You said in the past that you don't read newspapers. Has that changed in the last few months ... What are you reading now?

: I been reading a lot lately. Last summer I read three Shakespeares and a Camus. Right now I'm reading the Constitution. It's pretty good so far. There's a couple of things I'd change. ... I have always believed that the future remains in front. But now with the help of these new medias, we no longer have to get to the future by reading.

HT: What do you say to those who claim that your presidency has amounted to a giveaway to this country's wealthy citizens and corporations?

: What do I say to those people? I say, 'get a job.' And then I say the word freedom over and over again.

Adelstein Calls on Congress to Deep Six Consolidation

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on Friday told thousands of people gathered at the National Conference for Media Reform to bury "six feet deep" any attempts by the FCC to roll back media ownership rules.

Adelstein Rocks
Adelstein called for a congressional veto procedure known as a "resolution of disapproval," which was originally designed to allow a Republican Congress to quickly repeal regulations by then President Clinton.

"But the winds of change have now swept through Washington," he said. "This time, in 2007, if the FCC passes an Order to increase media consolidation, there's nothing to stop Congress from vetoing it. If it comes to a vote on the Hill, we'll see bipartisan support that's been bottled up come pouring out."

Adelstein said:

"If a bad Order comes out of the FCC, let's not just bury it. Let's bury it six feet deep! When the FCC goes too far in rolling back media ownership limits, if you demand it, Congress can send it right to the dumpster of history where it belongs!

"Even better, let's keep bad rules from coming out in the first place. We have a new Commission, one that has seen the damage you can do to policies that neglect the people we're supposed to serve. You need to send the message loud and clear: if the FCC dramatically rolls back the media ownership protections, it will get vetoed by Congress. So don't even bother trying."

>> Watch Adelstein's full speech on YouTube

Adelstein addressed a series of challenges for media reformers in addition to fighting media consolidation. He mentioned as priorities defeating payola, exposing fake news, stopping Internet gatekeepers, and tuning out "rapacious advertisers preying on the unsuspecting minds of our young children."

"You've already won some key early skirmishes," Adelstein told those assembled in Memphis. "Now you're the battle-hardened veterans about to achieve even bigger victories."

As during previous conferences, Commissioner Adelstein (pictured above) followed his speech with an impromptu jam session with the North Mississippi All-Stars -- with the commissioner on harmonica.

On Saturday morning Adelstein joined Commissioner Michael Copps on a panel on media consolidation and Net Neutrality.

Blogged It:
>> Wicked Blog
>> Ed Mierzwinski
>> Where Are the Candidates
>> Working Class Heretic

Rev. Jackson Honors King, Blast the 'Mass Media Lock Out'

The Rev. Jesse Jackson invoked the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he challenged the U.S. media to do a better job covering the movement for social justice.

Rev jackson
In a speech before 3,000 activists and organizers, Jackson said that U.S. establishment media only valued Dr. King as long as he advocated non violent protest. But when King began to critique American institutions, he "disturbed the status quo" and then the establishment turned against the civil rights leader.
"He was idolized by the white media when he absolved the blows. When whites bombed his home in Montgomery and he told blacks not to shoot back, (the media) said, ‘This is our guy.’

"When dogs bit and horses kicked and he said, ‘Don’t fight back,’ they said, ‘This is the type of leader we’ve been looking for.’ But when he challenged the assumption of white male supremacy, its institutions and war policy, the government then began to attack him."

Jackson said "[King] brings us to this point today, 40 years later, to define the great issues of our time — the broken promises, the new schemes of denials, the impact of a media that freezes out democracy, the media that looks at the world through a key hole and not the door.”

"I'm concerned that the media has the capacity to play a bigger role to make America better. And that's why this idea of media concentration is a bad proposition," He said. "We must fight to open up airwaves for all the people."

He told the assembled crowd to "keep fighting back" against a media system that turns it's back on the disenfranchised. He urged people to push for more access to media and independent news media in their communities "no matter the difficulty or cost."

Jackson decried what he called a "mass media lock out" of people of color. "So you go to CNN and you see huge picture of Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper and Larry [King] and Nancy Graves and Entertainment Tonight. And you go over and you see O'Reilly and all of that at. All day, all night, all white."

"Because hosts have determined context and subjects, content, guests, bookers, promoters. And so we demand the right to open up access to media."

Jackson urged people to tell the story of racial injustice in mainstream media, "because it's not right and it's not fair."

Jackson concluded his speech by calling on activists to confront the lack of mainstream media reporting on social justice issues. "Challenge the darkness," Jackson said. "Light your match and let it glow."

Blogged It:
>> Venus View
>> SWOPblogger
>> Wicked Blog

Copps Unveils New America Media Contract

On Friday Night FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps challenged thousands of media reformers to set a bold new agenda for America's media system and "get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place."

Speaking at the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis, Commissioner Copps released the "New America Media Contract" to, as he put it, "guarantee that our airwaves serve their masters -- we, the people."

Copps then urged Free Press and the other activists and organizers present at the event to "shift from the defense to the offense" and mobilize millions of Americans to make corporate media sign on to the Contract:

"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.

First, a right to media that strengthens our democracy;

Second, a right to local stations that are actually local;

Third, a right to media that looks and sounds like America;

Fourth, a right to news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale; and

Fifth, a right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often"
Copps told the audience that it was only right for Americans to strike this bargain with media companies that use publicly-owned airwaves valued conservatively at half a trillion dollars.

"Any way you slice it, that’s an awful lot of money," he said. "In fact, it’s just about the biggest chunk of change that our government gives to any private industry."

Ending the Bad Bargain

Copps called this a bad bargain that returns too little news and useful information and too much "baloney" to the American people.

"Let’s get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place," he said. "And let’s go on from there to bring tough—I’m talking really tough here—public interest obligations back to those who use the spectrum you own."

Prescription for Real Reform

To get there, Copps offered Americans a prescription for media reform. It began with forcing the FCC to stop chipping away at the last standing limits to runaway media consolidation.

Copps' formula also included ending rubberstamp broadcast license renewals, increasing minority ownership of the media, expanding alternative media outlets in each community and protecting Net Neutrality.

'You Are the Instruments'

"Take that Contract down to your broadcasters and let them know you expect them to follow it," He said. " Go out and talk about it, write about it, sing about it, blog about it. Sign up everyone you can and let your representatives know how much this means to you."

"You are the instruments to make it happen," Copps concluded. "And when Free Press and all of us come together again in a forum like this, we can have something really sweet."

Commissioner Copps will elaborate further on the Contract during a Conference panel, Saturday, at 9 a.m. in Memphis.

Blogged It:
>> Newshounds
>> Wicked Blog
>> People Get Ready
>> Willy Ritch
>> Erich Vieth

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bill Moyers: We ‘Lit a Fire’ in Washington

Veteran television journalist Bill Moyers opened the National Conference for Media Reform Friday with praise for's grassroots campaign to keep the Internet open and fair for all comers.

"You lit a fire under people to put Washington on Notice," Moyers said before a packed house of more than 3,000 conference goers.


Click Here To Watch Moyers' YouTube Speech

Net Neutrality, which Moyers dubbed the "Equal Access Provision of the Internet," became a broad public issue "that once again reminded the powers that be that people want the media to foster democracy not to quench it."

Moyers called our campaign critical, as soon virtually all media will be delivered to homes via a single high speed broadband connection.

“This is the great gift of the digital revolution and you must never let them take it away from you,” he said.

"Without equality of access the Net will become just like cable television where the provider decides what you see and what you pay."

Moyers highlighted's grassroots organizing and online lobbying efforts, saying that Washington "hadn't reckoned with this movement."

"Free Press and orchestrated 800 organizations, a million and a half petitions, countless local events, legions of home-made videos, smart collaboration with allies in industry and a top-shelf communications campaign," he said.
"Who would have imagined that sitting together in the same democratic broadband pew would be the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, Common Cause and And who would have imagined that these would link arms with some of the powerful new media companies to fight for the Internet's First Amendment."
Speaking about the recent agreement by AT&T executive Ed Whitacre to adhere to strict Net Neutrality as a condition of his company's $86 billion merger with BellSouth, Moyers said, "AT&T had to cry uncle."

"The agreement marks the first time that the federal government has imposed true neutrality -- oops equality -- on an Internet Access Provider since the debate erupted almost two years ago."

Regarding our prospects for 2007 and beyond, Moyers said this:
"I believe you changed the terms of the debate It is no longer about whether equality of access will govern the future of the Internet, it's about when and how.

"It also signals a change from defense to offense for the backers of the open Net. Arguably, the biggest most effective online organizing campaign ever conducted on a media issue can now turn to passing good laws rather than always having to fight to block the bad ones."
>> Watch the video at:

>> For full video of Moyers' speech, visit the Media Reform Conference Blog.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Plan for a Better Internet Unveiled at Memphis Bash

Last night in Memphis, the Coalition unveiled a visionary plan for a faster, more open and accessible Internet for all Americans.

While Net Neutrality forms the foundation of the "Internet Freedom Declaration of 2007," the plan goes much further, setting forth a broader, more inclusive public agenda for the future of the Internet.

Party To Save the Internet
This agenda is built around three fundamental "Internet rights": 1. Universal, Affordable Access; 2. An Open and Neutral Network; and 3. World Class Quality through Competition.

As the SavetheInternet Coalition gets to work with the new Congress, it plans to marry these principles to a broad grassroots lobbying effort in support of legislation that fosters a communications infrastructure that better serves the common good.

Prior to its broad release, the Declaration was signed by Free Press, Consumers Union, Common Cause, the National Association of State Pirgs, Consumer Federation of America, Civic Action, Media Access Project, Educause and several other charter Coalition members.

>> Click here to sign on your group to Declaration.

The Declaration was released before a crowd of 750 supporters at last night's "Party for the Future" at Memphis' Gibson Guitar Factory. The event kicked off this weekend's National Conference for Media Reform, which will feature workshops and panels on Net Neutrality and discussions of's plan."As the new Congress gets to the business of making law in 2007, we're going to make sure that they stand with us and against any corporate gatekeepers who seek to turn OUR Internet into their private fiefdoms," Josh Silver, Free Press' executive director, said during the Memphis party."

"Thanks to many of you who spoke out in 2006, Congress is now listening."

The party was co-sponsored by Coalition members Free Press and Civic Action.

Bill Moyers Fires Salvo Against Big Media

Award winning journalist Bill Moyers opened the National Conference for Media Reform Friday with a pointed speech about the negative influence of corporations on American media and democracy.

Watch Moyers' speech on YouTube:
>> Part One
>> Part Two

Before a packed house of more than 3,000 conference goers, Moyers said that the independent press is under sustained attack with a few corporations conspiring with political leaders to create an Orwellian world "in which language conceals reality and the pursuit of personal gain and partisan power are wrapped in rhetoric that turns truth to lies and lies to truth.

These forces "have even managed to turn the escalation of a failed war into a surge, as if it were electricity through a wire instead of blood spurting through veins," Moyers said.

Moyers decried the decline of hard hitting journalism. “The question of whether or not our economic system is truly just is off the table for investigation and discussion, so that alternative ideas, alternative critiques, alternative visions never get a hearing,” he said.

Invoking the legacy of 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 Interent [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."

The government cut a deal with the industry and soon the public lost control of its media, he said."Something is wrong with this system," Moyers added. "This is the moment freedom begins, the moment you realize someone else has been writing your story, and it’s time you took the pen from his hand and started writing it yourself."

"We now have it in our means to tell a different story than big media. Our story," he concluded. "This is the great gift of the digital revolution and you must never let them take it away from you."

Blogged It:

>> So Many Other Dreams
>> Willy Ritch
>> Mary Mancini
>> Paul Riismandel
>> Ed Mierzwinski
>> KingOneEye
>> Jesse Russell
>> SWOPblogger
>> bxlight
>> Ben Adler

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bipartisan Net Neutrality Legislation Introduced

The fight for Net Neutrality has resumed in the opening days of the 110th Congress as Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) today introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2007.

Olympia Snowe

Olympia Snowe

The bill reopens the debate in Congress over Net Neutrality -- the fundamental principle that prevents Internet service providers from discriminating online -- and comes less than two weeks after AT&T’s concession to Net Neutrality conditions in its planned merger with BellSouth. applauds Senators Dorgan and Snowe for reigniting the essential Net Neutrality debate on Capitol Hill. Our elected officials now must act to keep the Internet free of gatekeepers who would destroy this revolutionary platform for free speech and economic innovation.

The American public has an overwhelming interest in seeing this bill pass into law, ensuring that the online marketplace of ideas remains open and vibrant.

"This bill represents the appropriate next step following the Net Neutrality condition the Federal Communications Commission placed on AT&T’s merger with BellSouth," said Mark Cooper, the Consumer Federation of America's director of research.

Byron Dorgan

Byron Dorgan
(D - N. Dakota)

“With the leadership of Senators Dorgan and Snowe, the Congress should act swiftly to make permanent the Net Neutrality conditions of the AT&T merger and apply them to all broadband providers," added Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union. "The legislation is the first step towards a national policy that will ensure that all consumers, not just the most affluent, have affordable access to high-speed Internet services."

The Dorgan-Snowe bill also has the support of Senators Patrick Leahy (chairman of judiciary), John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Tom Harkin.

In the House, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is expected to reintroduce a Net Neutrality proposal, which seeks similar requirements. An aide to the incoming chairman of a House Internet and telecommunications subcommittee, told Anne Broache of CNET News that it was not immediately clear when Markey would take this action. Meanwhile, House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said on Wednesday that passing Net Neutrality legislation would be a "high priority" this year.

= = = = =
Recommended: Harold Feld's legal analysis of the Bill

Monday, January 08, 2007

Un-Spinning the Net Naysayers

The telecommunications giant AT&T, whose chief Edward Whitacre once called Net Neutrality indefinable and its supporters “nuts,” has now signed off on the principle as a condition of its mega merger with BellSouth.

But that hasn't stemmed the flow of rhetoric from Net Neutrality's naysayers, who are readying their lawyers, think tanks and lobbyists for another assault on our position.

Ed and Kevin

AT&T's Ed Whitacre chats up FCC Chairman Kevin Martin

AT&T’s agreement put aside their executive's own argument that Net Neutrality didn’t really exist.

It also puts to rest his bogus notion that Net Neutrality will cripple the phone company's plans to build out broadband services. AT&T agreed to this condition -- and also to offer cheaper broadband services – and yet they continue to expand their networks and offer services to the tune of $24.5 billion in gross profits in 2006.

Net Neutrality is good for smaller businesses as well. Writes the Bangor Daily News on Monday:
"That temporary concession could set a framework for Internet democracy that would benefit not only such huge users as Google and eBay but also small businesses like Maine wreath makers and crafters, protecting them against future discrimination as they market products and services online. It also would keep open the way for new startups to flourish, as YouTube and MySpace have zoomed out of nowhere."
While we’ve cheered AT&T’s temporary concessions as a step in the right direction, and are now looking to make them permanent, Washington's "Astroturfs" and coin-operated think tanks are mounting a new campaign against a free and open Internet.

The AT&T agreement “was a shakedown, no question,” Patrick Ross of the Progress & Freedom Foundation told the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend.

What Mr. Ross fails to tell the Chronicle's reporter is that his D.C. think tank has been taking AT&T and Verizon money hand over fist to generate phony studies that trumpet as good for consumers the Internet market grab by these same virtual monopolies.

The supreme irony, of course, is that a paid operative of the phone lobby is now labeling "a shakedown" legitimate efforts to put the public before the interests of his corporate benefactors.

Ross seems to have forgotten whom this government is supposed to work for.

Meanwhile, Wall Street has ignored AT&T’s dim predictions that Net Neutrality would choke off investment in their efforts to speed Internet wires to the home. Since the merger was announced the company's stock value has held steady.

“By and large the market did not view (AT&T's concessions) as particularly onerous or even material,” one financial expert told the Chronicle.

To that end, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board got it only half right when they wrote ("Net Discrimination," Jan. 2) that Beltway lobbyists exerted an unfair influence over the Net Neutrality debate.

But they blamed Net Neutrality supporters for wielding a bigger stick in Washington when by far the largest sum of money being poured into PACs, campaign contributions and high spending D.C. law firms comes from the phone and cable companies themselves.

The political contributions of Net Neutrality supporters pales by comparison to AT&T's. Rather our influence is expressed by the number of real people -- more than 1.4 million by my last count -- who have urged their elected representatives to protect Net Neutrality and put the interest of the public before those of the nation's largest phone and cable companies.

The Journal editors added, "the one thing no one should be deceived about is that this ambush has anything to do with 'consumers,'" mischaracterizing Net Neutrality as a war between corporate titans. That all of the nation's major consumer protection groups support Net Neutrality strongly suggests otherwise.

But you won't be hearing that from the Net naysayers.