FCC to Vote on Use of Public Airwaves for Rural America

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is making an important vote next week on the use of open spectrum available through the conversion to digital television. Corporations don’t want that spectrum to be used for the public benefit, but citizens groups think it could be used to bring the Internet to rural communities.

With the bulk of media attention on the last week of the presidential elections, almost no reporting has been done about a very important vote the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will make next week.

In February of 2009, when the digital conversion takes place for TV, there will be lots of open spectrum available for public use, particularly in rural communities. All across the United States, there are communities that do not have access to high speed Internet. One possibility for more of rural America to gain access to the Internet would be to provide broadband Internet access by using the available digital spectrum that will be available once the digital conversion takes place.

Companies like Comcast and AT&T leave out many rural communities, because they are not considered “profitable.” Utilizing the spectrum that is unused in many rural communities, digital space that is referred to as “white space,” could provide those communities with an important and viable service. However, the very companies who don’t want to service rural communities also don’t want the available TV spectrum to be used to serve the public.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the powerful lobbying entity for broadcasters nationwide, is hoping to get the FCC to vote against opening the TV spectrum for public use.

Fortunately the Main Street Project, Center for Rural Strategies, the

Mountain Area Information Network, and Free Press have joined forces to pressure the FCC to vote in favor of greater access to the media for the public.

You can let your voice be heard by contacting the FCC before their November 4 vote and tell them that making the TV spectrum known as white space available for public use would greatly benefit rural America. You can send an e-mail to your members of Congress by going to an online media alert put together by Free Press.

Grand Rapids Press Contributes to Anti-Islamic Climate

On Sunday, The Grand Rapids Press included an advertising supplement for a DVD that contributes to an anti-Islamic climate in the United States. The DVD is ideologically slanted toward painting Muslims as evil and bent on the destruction of the United States and Israel.

You may have noticed an advertising supplement in Sunday’s Grand Rapids Press, a DVD called “Obsession, Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” This was produced by individuals with an anti-Islamic, anti-Arab agenda and I consider it to be harmful hate speech. They are sending this out at no cost to 28 million households, often thru a supplement to local newspapers. If you don’t live in Grand Rapids, check to see if your newspaper is distributing this DVD.

The film is ideologically slanted toward painting Muslims as evil and bent on the destruction of the United States and Israel. It combines inciting commentary with images of Nazis, 9/11 and suicide bombing indoctrination. The DVD purports to be informative but is instead inflammatory and ugly in its intent. There are indeed extremist elements within Islam as there are within Judaism and Christianity and other religions. But to use the extremists to describe a religion is inexcusable. It would be entirely inappropriate to look at Judaism thru the lens of Kach or Christianity thru the lens of the White Christian Patriots. Why then should we look at Islam through the lens of the extremist minority?

The film has a disclaimer in the beginning that says most Muslims are peaceful. But the next 60 minutes consist of violent bloody images, the collapse of the twin towers, and the atrocities of Nazi Germany. The film is clearly meant to play on our emotions; it is no mistake that this DVD was sent out the Sunday after September 11 and just before a presidential election. There is no political context in the film and no explanation of Islam thus making it difficult for the viewer to intellectually understand the message. The producers cleverly use a couple of Arab voices to lend credence to their concerns but the vast majority of the film paints Islam as a fanatical religion that breeds a culture of hatred. The danger is that the proliferation of emotion-laden misrepresentations will become the prevailing viewpoint and prevent us from gaining a better world understanding.

If you have time to view it, please do and respond to the Press, either by writing to the Public Pulse (pulse@grpress.com) – you must include your name, address and phone number – or by calling Mike Lloyd (616) 222-5455 directly to express your concerns about the Press’ decision to distribute this racist DVD.

Take Action to Get Democracy Now on the Local Airwaves

Many of you have already signed a petition to get Democracy Now! on both 88.1 FM WYCE radio and WGVU TV Channel 35 in Grand Rapids. This media alert is the last push in this campaign to get the award winning show with Amy Goodman on the local airwaves in our community.

Here is what you can do in the next few days:

1) Sign the Petition online and get others to do the same no later than May 19:


2) We need as many people as possible to come to the May 20 Board of Directors meeting of the Community Media Center to lobby for them to air Democracy Now! on 88.1 FM WYCE. The meeting is at 6pm at the Wealthy Theatre, 1130 Wealthy. Everyone will have a chance during public comment to speak on why you want Democracy Now! to air on this community radio station.

3) If you cannot make the meeting on May 20, you can send an e-mail to the Executive Director of the Community Media Center Laurie Cirivello laurie@grcmc.org. We are also delivering petitions to WGVU TV Channel 35 next week, so we encourage you to send an e-mail to Michael T. Walenta, the station manager of WGVU:


Also, please encourage others to sign up for future Media Alerts by going to:


– The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID)


Pentagon Caught Infiltrating the Media with Pro-war Propaganda

The national media reform organization Free Press has issued a new action alert demanding that Congress to take action against what they call a “domestic covert propaganda campaign:”

“Yesterday, the New York Times exposed a secret Pentagon campaign to infiltrate the media with pro-war propaganda.

The scheme reaches all the way to the Bush White House, where top officials recruited dozens of “military analysts” to spread favorable views of the war via every major news channel — without revealing they were working from Pentagon scripts and often lobbying for major military contractors.

Spreading “covert propaganda” is illegal under federal law. Congress must investigate these military pundits and their ties to the Bush administration, defense contractors and our national news media.

If we can get 50,000 people to join this call to Congress, they will likely take action to stop government propaganda.

The more than 75 analysts exposed by the New York Times have become fixtures of war coverage on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. The front-page article reveals the many ways that the Pentagon fed them pro-war talking points and misinformation. The White House even has a name for these covert propagandists – message force multipliers.

The pundits trade on their access to the media and the White House to secure high-paying jobs as lobbyists, consultants and contractors — vying for hundreds of billions of dollars in military business generated by the war.

An administration secretly forcing favorable views via the press is not a partisan issue. This is a violation of every conceivable standard of journalism — and possibly of federal law.”

Free Press is asking that people send an email to their Congressional Representative demanding action.

Free Press has also produced a video providing background information on the issue:

Local TV Stations don’t want to Adopt New FCC Rules

In 2005, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) organized a campaign to educate people about the License Renewal process that radio and TV station must go through every eight years in order to use the public airwaves. We told you how stations only have to pay $75 to renew their license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and how limited their obligations are to the public. Now the local TV stations are fighting new FCC requirements.

According to a new media alert from the group Stop Big Media, the FCC has voted to make TV stations more accountable to their viewers by disclosing basic information about the ways they serve the public.

The new rules will help you monitor the media and make your voice heard. They require stations to form community advisory boards and have someone in the studio at all times for public safety alerts.

In addition, stations would have to post information on station ownership, educational and community programming, and public complaints on their Web sites. This information helps communities’ pressure stations to improve their programming — and even challenge their licenses at the FCC if they’re not meeting local needs.

Big Media’s lawyers and lobbyists are fighting rules like these. They are telling the FCC that no one cares about how their stations do business.

Prove the lobbyists wrong: tell the FCC you care about local media by participating in this campaign. Click here to send a message to the FCC.

Stop Big Media from Getting Bigger

A few days ago Sen. Byron Dorgan introduced a bill (SJ Res. 28) in the Senate that would overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) disastrous December vote to gut media ownership rules. But there is a catch. The bill will expire unless it is passed in 60 legislative days.

The national media reform group Free Press is asking people to send e-mails to their Senators to tell them that media consolidation is bad for local communities, that it limits opinions and perspectives, and that it is anti-democratic. The activist branch of Free Press, StopBigMedia.com also has this to say about how the public stopped the media giveaway in 2003:

“In 2003, when the FCC tried to do away with all media ownership rules, nearly 3 million people took action, writing their members of Congress, telling their friends and organizing their communities to speak out on this important issue. With that kind of momentum, lawmakers had no choice but to listen. The Senate voted to overturn the FCC decision, before the courts tossed them out altogether.”

“The situation isn’t going to repair itself,” proclaimed Commissioner Copps on the day of the FCC vote last December. “Big media is not going to repair it. This Commission is not going to repair it. But the people, their elected representatives, and attentive courts can repair it. Last time the Commission went down this road, the majority heard and felt the outrage of millions of citizens and Congress and then the court. … Last time a lot of insiders were surprised by the country’s reaction. This time they should be forewarned.”

Send an Email to your Senators

The Grand Rapids Press Reports on NAFTA and Gets it Wrong

On Saturday, March 1 the Grand Rapids Press ran a front-page story entitled “Is NAFTA not so bad for us?” This story is very typical of how this issue has been reported on for years. The main issue in the article whether or not the North American Free Trade Agreement has been “good” or “bad,” not who has benefited and who has suffered.

The article cites four people who think NAFTA has been a good policy and only one that thinks it has been bad. Of the four pro-NAFTA sources, two are with area corporations, one with the US Department of Commerce, and one is with the Michigan District Export Council West. One of these sources claims, “Conditions for some Mexican workers and their plants’ environment are improving because socially conscious corporations are demanding it.” This claim is never verified by the reporter, nor are any other claims made by sources in the story. The only anti-NAFTA perspective is a local UAW union representative, but her comments are clouded because she says that the UAW endorsed the Peru Trade Agreement.

The story is oversimplified since it only explores job creation and job loss. There is no discussion about environmental issues, immigration or quality of life issues. Lastly, there are no real independent perspectives presented nor reference to the tremendous amount of research that has documented the impact that NAFTA has had on the US, Mexico, and Canada for thirteen years.

We urge you to write to the Grand Rapids Press and demand better coverage on such a crucial issue.


Send a letter to News Editor Andy Angelo:

Pre-Written Email Action







Tell the Press to Improves its Coverage of Iraq and Iran

The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) has just completed a 4-week investigation into the Grand Rapids Press coverage of Iraq and Iran. In both cases the primary sources cited were those of the US administration or US military personnel. The human cost of the war, both in terms of Iraqi civilians and US soldiers received minimal coverage, and the perspectives of anti-war activists and organizations were non-existent. The content analysis of the study shows that the stories that ran in the Grand Rapids Press tended to reflect the perspective of the US administration and take the position that US policy towards Iraq and Iran were promoting democracy.

Send a letter to the Grand Rapids Press demanding better coverage of these major foreign policy issues:


Read the study:

Click to access 010208-gr_press_iraq_iran.pdf

Tell Congress To Make Our Media System More Democratic

The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) and Media Mouse endorse the Free Press campaign to pressure Congress to support making our media system more democratic.

Please take the time to sign the online petition to prevent fewer companies from owning more of the media:


For more information on this topic, consult the following two Media Mouse articles:



As always, for more independent media and analysis, visit http://www.mediamouse.org

Disappointing Story on Military Recruiting

On November 12, WOOD TV 8 ran a story on a local man who has been trying to join the military but has been unable to because of his criminal record. In light of recruiting shortages, the military has been relaxing its rules to allow people to enlist if they have a criminal record. Despite this, the local man in the story has been unable to join the military because of a domestic violence arrest against his girlfriend. The story only spoke with the man and two military representatives and failed to get an alternative perspective on the issue. Such a story could have placed the issue of domestic violence into the larger context of sexual assault in the military.

Send a Letter Telling WOOD TV you are Disappointed with the Story

View the Story (includes video and transcript)