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Guess who is popping the champagne cork over this week's Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon vs. FEC, which will allow wealthy individuals to donate virtually unlimited dollars to candidates, political parties, and political action groups?
Why, broadcasters, of course. The same companies which operate on our publicly owned airwaves stand to gain the most from McCutcheon and its earlier obscene counterpart, Citizens United.
On Thursday, the radio industry newsletter Inside Radio wrote [subscription req'd] that the McCutcheon decision was "likely to boost [ad] spending" in 2014. They explain that the 2010 Citizens United decision "opened the floodgates to more dollars in politics and the result was record campaign spending on radio in 2012." They predict that the Court's ruling this week "could help spur even more spending."
More competitive races, combined with a greater number of outside groups that don't qualify for the lowest unit rate, have the potential to make the 2014 mid-term election cycle more ad intensive than first thought. So much so, that the analysts at Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), have boosted their political spending forecast. Kantar estimates radio could see $180 million in political ad spending by Election Day."
$180 million? That's chump change when it comes to what the television industry stands to make. Bloomberg reports that TV stations will make in excess of $2.5 billion --- with a "B" --- from political ad sales in 2014. And that's nothing compared to what they expect to make in 2016 during a Presidential race.
And of course, many, if not most of those ads mislead or outright lie to the very public in whose interest the broadcasters are licensed to serve.
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?
Overturning Citizens United and McCutcheon may take years, decades even, if it ever happens at all. But given that We the People have real power as the owners of the airwaves, I see some ways we can reduce at least some of the political ad spending, and perhaps take a lot of money out of politics...
On this week KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast I was joined by Heather Parton --- much better known as the great blogger "Digby" of Hullabaloo --- to discuss the complete collapse of CBS 60 Minutes' bogus Benghazi exclusive and their pathetic "correction". Moreover, we take a look at what Digby has uncovered about the apparent Rightwing, Fox "News"-like predilections of correspondent Lara Logan and how that (and a few other disturbing Fox "News" connections) resulted in Benghazi hoax disaster at the once-great CBS News.
Next, I bring everyone up to date on the insane roller coaster that has been the last week of the insanely close Virginia Attorney General's race and the surreal pitfalls to come in the likely "recount" and potential election contest thereafter.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report on the Super Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines, its connection to climate change and the new all-time low for global warming deniers in its wake...
Premiere Networks on Wednesday announced it is dropping liberal talker Randi Rhodes' radio show at the end of the year, the syndicator confirmed to POLITICO.
Rhodes, whose nationally syndicated show airs Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m., had suggested to her listeners since October that her days on radio were "totally numbered." Premiere said today it will no longer carry her show after the year ends.
"Premiere Networks will no longer produce and distribute The Randi Rhodes Show after Tuesday, December 31, 2013," Premiere's public relations director Rachel Nelson told POLITICO in an email.
While Wednesday's confirmation from Premiere is the first official news about the end of Rhodes' contract, the liberal talker had alluded to listeners in October that "my ability to talk to you is going away."
"The only way you'll be able to find me in a little while is if you have my personal phone number," she said on her Oct. 18 show.
Rhodes' regular guest host Nicole Sandler will fill in for Rhodes from Dec. 16-31, Sandler told POLITICO, making Rhodes' likely last day on air this year Dec. 13.
Clear Channel owns some 850 AM and FM stations across the country. They are allowed to operate them via virtually free public licenses to broadcast over our public airwaves, as granted to them by the FCC in exchange, largely, for little more than their agreement to "operate in the public interest". You're welcome.
They also control what will be played over those stations via their syndication arm Premiere, in what appears to me at least, as I have argued over the years, to be a violation of United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., the 1948 Supreme Court antitrust ruling that ended monopolies by movie studios which controlled both theater ownership and the products which were displayed in them.
Though they are axing the Randi Rhodes program, I suspect they will continue syndicating and broadcasting their other shows across the nation's public airwaves in 2014, as hosted in the public's interest by folks like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Tens of millions will continue to listen to each of them --- for free, over our public airwaves --- on their way to and from work each day. Finding non-Rightwing voices, for free, over our public airwaves will become even more difficult than it already is and completely impossible for the vast majority of Americans.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have guest-hosted The Randi Rhodes show in the past, and have been a frequent guest over the years, with both her and her regular guest-host, my friend Nicole Sandler.
* * *
UPDATE 11/15/2013: In a suprising about-face, Premiere Networks has now decided to keep Rhodes on air into 2014, after all! Full details now here...
Never mind that Democrats had already compromised by agreeing to "Sequestration" level budget cuts, the only question was how would the two sides "compromise" on the Affordable Care Act which had nothing to do with the budget resolution itself, but has long been a bete noir for Republicans.
Meanwhile, the non-U.S. news outlet, The Guardian in the UK, accurately reported that the U.S. government shutdown occurred because Democrats refused to give into the Tea Party's extortion-like demands. Specifically, they wrote, it occurred after "Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance."
Was that so hard? Apparently so, for the U.S. corporate media anyway...
Posting may be light over the next several days, as I make my way to Northern California for the Netroots Nation 2013 conference in San Jose and other related-ish missions.
Tonight (Thursday) I'll be at a screening of Jean-Phillipe Tremblay's fantastic Shadows of Liberty, a documentary about the menace of the corporate media monopoly in the U.S.. The screening is at the California Theatre in Berkeley, benefiting KPFA, the Pacifica Radio affiliate in San Francisco, the Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored. More details on that screening, and the related after-events right here.
On Saturday night at Netroots Nation, there is another screening of Shadows of Liberty and a panel following (details here). Also on Saturday night, there is a screening of John Ennis' new film Pay 2 Play, on the menace of post-Citizens United corporate money in politics (details here).
I appear in both of the documentary films, but they are each excellent anyway. If you are at #NN13, or otherwise in or near the Bay Area, I hope you'll stop by one of the events above and say hello!
As might be expected by an industry with a long track record of willfully misinforming the public, perhaps it is not surprising that Radio Ink --- which bills itself as "Radio's Premier Management & Marketing Magazine" --- would wildly mischaracterize not only the piece I wrote, but the legal underpinnings of the case which is helping to bring the question of what comprises "Bonafide News" to the forefront.
In other words, rather than challenge my actual argument or what I actually wrote or what is in our published legal filings, the unbylined Radio Ink article simply made up a straw man --- she wants to "stifle" and "silence" and "censor" Talk Radio by "government mandate"! --- and then knocked it handily down. That is, of course, what they do in Talk Radio.
Let's start with Radio Ink's first words (I wish I could tell you the author, but he/she remains anonymous): "The Huffington Post is helping the Media Action Center promote the organizations [sic] attempt to stifle the long success of Talk Radio, mainly Rush Limbaugh, and put pressure on radio stations to let them on the air via government mandate."
What a loaded sentence. But let's start unpacking.
Yes, Huffington Post printed my oped on their pages, (as did The BRAD BLOG). Printing well-researched stories is what online news outlets do. But Radio Ink is apparently not an online news outlet, in that sense, so they may not be familiar with how they work. Instead, they insinuate some kind of collusion between my organization, Media Action Center (MAC) and HuffPo. They do it with good cause: they are creating a meme for the entire talk radio industry --- and its helpful sycophant echo chamber on the Right --- to follow. First, they name a left wing bogey man (HuffPo!), then they completely misstate my organization's objective, which is not to "silence" anyone, but rather, to fight to not allow anyone to be silenced over our public airwaves. Finally, they bring forward the oft-repeated, knee-jerk cant that we want a "government mandate" to allow the collective us onto the airwaves --- the airwaves that we all own.
Absolutely none of that is accurate or true, or even close to what my article was about. But that's "talk radio" in written form apparently. Which leads me to ask this: Why does Radio Ink and its followers hate the rule of law?...
President Obama recently nominated Tom Wheeler as the new Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the federal agency tasked with protecting the public interest in broadcasting, particularly over our public airwaves.
One of the first questions Wheeler's FCC will have to (reluctantly?) decide: Is Talk Radio the same as "bonafide news"?
More than three quarters of the American public say no, according to Pew Research, and one would think an agency sworn to protect the public interest and its airwaves would agree with that vast majority. But will Wheeler choose to put the public interest first, or will his FCC continue to simply turn a blind eye, as the agency has done since the Reagan administration?
After what we documented last year in Wisconsin, and after official complaints were filed in turn with the FCC about how corporate radio stations there appear to have abused their licensed privilege to broadcast over our public airwaves, that question may finally have to be answered by the federal agency tasked with enforcing the law over those very airwaves...
It's a beautiful and maddening film, featuring many voices --- such as Julian Assange, John Nichols, Dan Rather, Amy Goodman, Robert Parry, Robert McChesney, Dan Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds and many more, including even yours truly --- who will be familiar to readers of The BRAD BLOG. While aspects of a number of the stories told in the film may be familiar, there were elements that even I hadn't heard about it, in just about every one of them.
I had planned to ask Tremblay about his struggles finding commercial theatrical distribution for the film in the U.S. I'd presumed that, at least, would be next to impossible, given the subject matter of the film (the corporate takeover/merger of the near-entirety of our mainstream media in collusion with the highest levels of the U.S. government.) What I hadn't counted on --- what caught me completely off-guard --- was that Tremblay said that, while the film has been featured at prestigious film festivals around the world, the bulk of the major festivals in the U.S. had turned the film down. Yes, those supposedly "independent" film festivals are, apparently, not quite as independent as they used to be, it seems.
Our conversation, today, was the first, as I understand it, that Tremblay has been able to have in the U.S. media about this important film which has been several years in the making. (I was interviewed for the film about three years ago as I recall.)
The good news: We were able to talk about all of that today, unencumbered by any corporate filter and over our public airwaves on Pacifica Radio in L.A. (and over 110,000 blazing FM watts across much of Southern and Central California!)
The even better news: You can watch the film, in its entirety, streaming on the Internet as of tomorrow, Thursday, April 4 at Shadows.KCETlink.org. (You can watch a number of clips from the film there already.)
And, the even better news still: Shadows of Liberty will air on actual television, beginning Friday, April 5th at 8pm ET and PT on independent KCET in Los Angeles and nationwide on Link TV (DISH Channel 9410, DIRECTTV Channel 375).
Until then, you can listen to my conversation with Tremblay from today's BradCast, which includes a number of clips from the film --- along with a few more items of note in the news week (such as concerns about the 100% unverifiable voting systems set for use in the race of Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, in her run for the U.S. House in S. Carolina against former Gov. Mark Sanford; the Virginia GOP voter registration worker who was caught tossing registration forms into a dumpster just before the Presidential Election last year, but who seems to now be getting off the hook, and, of course, a visit from our own Desi Doyen, as usual, with the latest Green News Report) --- all right now here.
P.S. Please be the media and spread the word. Thanks. P.P.S. If I haven't "sold" you enough on the film here and in the radio show above, see the official trailer embedded below. Those of you who know my voice will recognize it a few times...
"First I want to say thank you, if you tuned in this past Monday to watch the new MSNBC documentary about how the last administration tricked the U.S. into the Iraq War," she said. The film garnered the highest ratings of any documentary in the history of the channel.
"The success is really exciting. It means there will be more of where that came from in coming months and years," Maddow explained before announcing that the film will re-air on Friday, March 15th at 9pm ET. (You can watch the entire documentary online before that right here, if you like.)
Congratulations are certainly due. While there were several new revelations in the film, much of the story of the string of blatant lies and scams culled together to hoax the country into war had already been known to those of us news geeks who follow this stuff too closely. Nonetheless, it was very helpful, and an excellent reminder, to see the entire case laid out in a single, simple, watchable presentation. We're delighted to hear it was a ratings success.
Revisiting that disaster also helped encourage The BRAD BLOG to examine several still-existing loose ends --- beyond the fact that, shamefully, nobody in the Bush Administration has ever been brought to account in any way for what happened, including what are clearly a series of very serious war crimes. Among the points we've been looking into, in the wake of the Hubris documentary, is the questions of whether or not Colin Powell "knowingly lied" in his presentation of what turned out to be blatantly false evidence for the case against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, when the then-Secretary of State spoke to the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003 and helped turn the tide of public opinion in favor of an invasion.
Powell's Chief of Staff at the time, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, admits during the film that he and Powell "did participate in a hoax." But, in a statement in response to our request for comment, Wilkerson vigorously denied that either he or his boss knowingly did so. He sent his statement after we'd published anti-war author and activist David Swanson's critique of the Hubris film, on the day after it initially aired. In the critique, Swanson cites his own 2011 essay which offers evidence to argue that Powell "knowingly lied" during his presentation to the U.N. (Both Swanson and 27-year Sr. CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who was cited in Wilkerson's response, each replied to him in turn. You can read all of their responses here.)
While Swanson "applauded" the MSNBC documentary for helping to "prolong Americans' awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq," he also offered a number of pointed critiques for the cable news channel itself. His observations are on-point in both regards, and help to raise a suggestion for an important and necessary follow-up documentary that, we suspect, would likely garner ratings at least as high as those earned for Hubris.
After all, though Hubris:Selling the Iraq War focused on the lies told by the Bush Administration in the run-up to war, unfortunately, they were not the only ones "selling the Iraq War"...
I am extremely proud that The BRAD BLOG is now a part of Pacifica Radio's nearly 65-year legacy, as highlighted in the new, very cool video above.
My own show, The BradCast, airs on Pacifica's Los Angeles affiliate, KPFK 90.7 FM on Wednesdays at 3pm PT, and it's an honor that our broadcasts are now part of Pacifica's long and crucial legacy of broadcasting in the public interest over our public airwaves.