This weekend, the 2013 National Conference for Media Reform brings together activists and media-makers from across the country for a vital discussion of today’s most pressing media and technology issues. Nation writers—including Dave Zirin and Aura Bogado—will be presenting alongside other luminaries of the independent media landscape. Watch the live feed here (courtesy of Free SpeechTV).
At a Friday panel, Nation correspondent John Nichols and media scholar Robert W. McChesney, co-founders of Free Press, delivered an eye-opening address on the dangers of media consolidation based on their new report in this week’s print issue of The Nation, “Will Obama Defend Media Democracy?” Nichols and McChesney ask whether President Obama can be counted on to protect democracy in his appointment of the next FCC chair and they examine the consequences of the money, media and election complex.
“In a communications landscape where everything is up for grabs, the most powerful—and self-serving—players are grabbing for everything,” write Nichols and McChesney. “The decisions that President Obama and his next appointee to chair the Federal Communications Commission will make in the coming months could well decide whether new media robber barons will dominate the local, state and national discourse.”
The new battleground for power lies in the regulation of broadband, and former FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps, who served at the agency from 2001 to 2011, is all too familiar with the political challenges of defending "net neutrality." In “The New Telecom Oligarchs,” in this week's issue of The Nation, he speaks out about his front row seat to the capitulation of the FCC in the market-altering Comcast-NBCU merger. As the sole dissenting voice in a four-to-one vote, he recalls the deal that made the US the only country on earth that short-circuited broadband development. For too long, protection of consumers and advancement of the public’s interest has been subsumed by big telecom and big media… and it’s time for a change.
Advocates of media democracy have coalesced around a pick for Julius Genachowski’s replacement as chair: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law professor Susan Crawford. Praising her recent book, Captive Audience, in his article, Copps details how Crawford’s eyewitness accounting of how the media giants exert a stranglehold over consumers and government reveals the exhaustive reach of their monopolies.
As I argued several months back, Crawford is a leading telecommunications policy expert and proponent of democratizing access to broadband and high speed Internet. In promoting a reasonably priced, globally competitive, ubiquitous communications infrastructure that enables American competition and innovation, she has demonstrated her commitment to making high-speed Internet access a universal, affordable resource. The increasing digital divide between those who can afford access to high-speed Internet service, and the fully one-third of Americans who cannot afford it, is a profound inequity. The conspicuous absence of the FCC in redressing this digital injustice is denying the American people the vibrant and truth-telling media critical for a functioning democracy.