This article is part of a series of articles by Media Mouse covering the 2007 National Conference for Media Reform. We believe that these will be of value to those organizing for social change in the Grand Rapids and West Michigan area.
Eric Klineberg, author of the new book Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media moderated this session. He began by asking the questions “Can you remember the time or the moment when you knew you didn’t have to accept the toxic media? How do we get people in our communities organized around media justice?” He went on to say “I wrote my book to tell 2 big stories: 1) the history of de-regulation, and 2) our story, the story of this movement for media justice.”
The first panelist was Pete Tridish, with the Prometheus Radio Project. Pete said he used to be a carpenter and lived in a co-op, that he used to have to do crazy things to get attention from the media. “We knew we were never gonna get a fair shake, so we started a pirate radio station. As soon as people started hearing us on the radio, people started coming out of the woodwork to make programming.” They held their first press conference in front of Ben Franklin’s printing press and released a 7 point platform on how to they were going to make the lives of the media suck. “We then got in 3500 comments on radio and the FCC changed its rules on LPFM, the most comments ever to the FCC on any subject. Then we got sideswiped by a rider, which took away 3/4ths of the stations that we had won. So for the past 7 years we have been building stations around the country.” Now they are working on helping communities set up their own radio station as the FCC is giving away free licenses for the next several months. To see if your community would qualify in the areas where there is available broadcast spectrum go to this link.
The next panelist was Betty Yu, with the Manhattan Neighborhood Network and the Save Access Coalition. Betty said that all the PEG (Public, Educational and Government) channels combined produce 20,000 new shows each week in the US–more than commercial TV. She then spoke about the legislation that is now undermining PEG TV. The major force behind this is the new digital technologies that threaten all access TV. She talked about how franchise fee elimination could impact funding and channel capacity. It also could allow companies to red-line low income communities where they can’t make much of a profit. 12 states are all ready on that path and the FCC is getting ready to introduce a policy that supports the phone companies. Betty said “we have been organizing in marginalized communities and we have forced the Senate to pass a bill that would have some provision, but not enough. We felt a strong sense of accountability to our communities, but we must build alliances around lots of issues if we are strengthening media justice.”
The third panelist was Josh Silver, with Free Press http://www.freepress.net He began by asking the question “Why are we growing? It’s because the mainstream media just completely sucks! Let’s be realistic that we are about indy media, media monitoring, media policy and media justice. We also need to think about how to meet people where they are.” Josh then went on to summarize the past gains — the 2003 campaign against FCC ownership rules, war coverage, and internet neutrality battles. He then said “What is important is that this is a long term goal — policy change, and there is gonna be a big effort to restructure public broadcasting in the US. Everything other than the printed page will be delivered by broadband. This is the big battle! If we win, every single website can be a TV network/station.”
The last panelist was Amy Goodman, with Democracy Now. She began by saying “it was important to be in Memphis, in the south, where so many voices are not heard and communities are not reached. TV stations in Seattle would not cover anyone who was engaged in illegal activity during the Battle in Seattle.” Democracy Now, she said, 1999 was on Pacifica and worked with Paper Tiger and Deep Dish to do some video, but then worked with indymedia.org in Seattle. Amy also talked about Democracy Now’s history with putting their radio show on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. “After 9/11 people in New York were saying our grief is not a cry for war,” a voice that was not heard in the corporate media. Amy continued by saying, “Then we began sending out video to other Access channels, then to Free Speech TV, then podcasting, and then in East Timor in 2002 to report on celebrating independence. We were getting the show out with lots of help, sending out DVDs and video files through e-mail. Then there was the invasion of Iraq, with Democracy Now producers going to Iraq and sending stories and voices of Iraqis on the show. We also did the Protests at Cancun, with footage of the suicide of the Korean farmer in protest of global trade policies. More recently the police shooting in New York. We got a copy of the Port Authority video tape on Democracy Now and all the networks were asking for the footage. This has been the power of a movement that wants to tell the truth about the most important issues of the day.”