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.
While both Brad Friedman and Sue Wilson have written in detail here at The BRAD BLOG about the recent closure of progressive talk radio stations in cities such as Portland and Seattle, along with the FCC's failure to enforce the public interest obligations of the conglomerates that own those stations, there's an interesting development on the other side of the dial, at least in Boston, where the demise of right-wing talk radio --- in a region where the format once dominated --- hints at a downward spiral for a key element of the conservative entertainment complex.
The latest sign of right-wing radio's malaise may be seen in the apparent demise of Boston's WTKK-FM.
Friedman and Wilson have shown conclusively that good progressive radio is not being allowed to succeed --- that the national corporate interests of these large media conglomerates (just as predicted by some media observers decades ago, following the passage of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996) are being placed ahead of the local public interest obligations which broadcast licensees are required to meet in exchange for their use of our public airwaves.
With the challenges now being faced by good progressive talkers facing obstacles stacked against their success, is there anything wrong with enjoying the spectacle of seeing bad right-wing radio fail, as appears to be the case in Boston at year's end?...
The cover for the final print edition of Newsweek was released earlier today via Newsweek's Twitter feed, noting "Newsweek's last print issue before we go all-digital features a hashtag on the cover: #LastPrintIssue!"
Chris Sacca observes in response (also via Twitter, naturally): "Newsweek's last print issue has just a hashtag on the cover. Like using your final breath to ID the killer."
On Friday, as the news was breaking, and even as the unannounced flip was occurring before it had otherwise been planned, I detailed the outrage of Bain Capital-owned Clear Channel killing KPOJ, the only commercial Progressive talk radio station in Portland, one of the nation's most progressive cities, while leaving their two "competing" Clear Channel-owned Rightwing stations in the same market intact.
They flipped the station, one of the first and most successful Progressive talk stations in the nation, over to the Fox Sports format, which, I have since learned, is also syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio, further underscoring the unenforced anti-trust issues that seem to be in violation of, among other things, the 1948 U.S. v. Paramount Supreme Court decision I also briefly discussed in my Friday night coverage.
In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Paramount Pictures was in violation of anti-trust laws because it was unfairly leveraging its chain of movie theaters around the country to keep films made by competing movie studios from being exhibited. The vertical integration, controlling both the production and means of distribution, was the very definition of a monopoly. In this case, as I've argued, Clear Channel is using the very limited public airwaves broadcast licenses that it receives for free from the government --- in exchange, supposedly, for serving in the public interest --- in order to push its own Premiere syndicated programming, even when other, non-Clear Channel owned shows and formats both garner higher ratings and, arguable, are far more in the public's interest than a third sports talk station in the very same market.
More to the point, as I have noted many times in the past, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed companies like Clear Channel and a handful of other mega-corporations to buy up control of licensing rights to theoretically "competing" stations in the same market --- Clear Channel, for example, owns both the Rightwing and Progressive talk radio stations in many major markets --- assures that there is no real free-market competition in the Talk Radio business. While Rightwing talk radio is allowed to propagandize over our public airwaves in favor of supposed "free-market" competition, there is no such free-market competition in the talk radio business itself. The game is as rigged as it would be if Coca-Cola had the sole distribution rights to both Coke and Pepsi in the same major market.
Shortly after running my piece on Friday, I was informed by someone inside the business, in a very good position to know, that "the Seattle station is next." They were referring to Seattle, Washington's KPTK am1090 Progressive Talk station, owned by CBS-Viacom. On Monday morning, Stephanie Miller, whose very successful show is heard on that station, and many others, along with appearing on Current TV, told listeners the same thing, that the progressive Seattle talk station, in another very progressive market (in a state that just approved the recreational use of marijuana, for chrissakes) was expected to flip to the newly introduces CBS Sports format on January 1...
NPR is as much the problem as the rest of the corporate MSM. Here's how Wade Goodwyn, of NPR's On Point, summarized their "Battle Over Voter ID" show from last Wednesday on their website...
Republicans say the new laws are necessary to prevent possible voter fraud.
Democrats respond it’s a solution in search of a problem, there’s no evidence of fraud except on the smallest of scales.
Well, gosh! Who knows what the truth is?! Both side lie, so the truth must be somewhere in the middle or something! Who can tell?
To make matters still worse, one of their guests was the notorious Hans von Spakovsky, the GOP con-man who has long-ago, and many times, been debunked as a "voter fraud" fraudster. He was there to offer the argument in favor of Republican voter disenfranchisement laws, meant to combat pretend, non-existent, in-person polling place impersonation "voter fraud" --- you know, the type of "voter fraud" that even Republicans, when pressed in a court of law, are forced to admit doesn't actually exist.
I dispatched with von Spakovsky's nonsense on NPR four years ago, when we were both guests on the Tavis Smiley Show. But, I guess NPR needs to keep pretending that his discredited bullshit back then isn't still discredited bullshit now. Or something.
Of course, On Point is hardly alone in their misinformative l he-said/she-said description of this un-American, anti-democratic shame. Their summary of the pretend "problem" is almost identical to the ones you'll read in the New York Times, or from the AP, and everywhere else in the mainstream media. Ya know, from pretty much the very same irresponsible news outlets which also pretended there might be WMD in Iraq, because Republicans said so, when the actual evidence was clear from the jump that there were none.
The cost in that case? Thousands of dead Americans, perhaps more than a million innocent, dead Iraqis. The cost this November? That remains to be seen. But, as before, the media is failing their job of informing the electorate with demonstrable facts.
In a piece this week at the Nieman Watchdog Blog headlined "You Know What the ‘Voter ID’ Push Is All About, So Say So", Dan Froomkin, formerly of Washington Post, currently of Huffington Post and Managing Editor of the blog at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, called out the corporate MSM, and called on them to start telling the truth about the GOP's purposely disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions, rather than report it, as they most frequently do, as little more than Left/Right "politics as usual".
His piece begins: "Does any journalist who is not an overt shill for the right actually believe that Republicans are pushing voter ID laws because they’re concerned about· voter fraud?"...
Whatever questions remain about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recall election, there is no question that his campaign was built on big money, the likes of which we've never seen in a gubernatorial campaign before. And where did all that money go? Right into thin air - OUR air.
And as owners of the air - our public airwaves, to be precise - there is plenty we can do to combat the corrosive effect of big money on our elections, by holding our partners in broadcasting, local TV and radio stations, accountable to the communities they serve.
Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions, is the reason huge amounts of money poured into the Walker camp from third parties like the billionaire Koch Brothers and others, (compared to the relatively paltry sum given to his opponent Mayor Tom Barrett by unions and others.)
Focus will turn to the unprecedented amount of dark money raised and spent in the election, with Walker's campaign raising at least $30.5 million (a majority of it coming from out of state) to Barrett's $3.9 million. That, of course, is just the money raised by the two campaigns themselves. It doesn't take into affect the extraordinary amount of money spent by outside groups on behalf of the candidates, largely in support of Walker by a reportedly outsized ratio of 25 to 1.
So the Walker recall gave us the first glimpse at how the infamous Supreme Court ruling will affect campaigns for years to come unless something changes. . There is a large and growing movement now from organizations such as Move to Amend, to amend the Constitution to help put the brakes on the unlimited spending allowed by Citizens United. Such an effort, however, will take years to accomplish, if it ever happens at all.
But what's not being talked about is where most of this unrestricted money goes: about half of all campaign dollars go directly into your local radio and TV stations' wallets --- local broadcast stations which get licensed in the public/private partnership of broadcasting ONLY IF they "serve the public convenience, interest, and necessity."
As to the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has also ruled, in Red Lion v. FCC that "it is the right of the viewing and listening public, and not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."
Nonetheless, until Citizens United is changed or overridden in some fashion, things are only going to get worse --- unless we the people do something about it now with a few, still-unused tools that remain at our disposal...
Anyone remember a time when radio seemed friendly and informative, rather than hostile and manipulative?
I do. And I remember when it changed in 1996, after Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act into law, and suddenly, huge corporations like Clear Channel began using our public airwaves --- those scarce radio frequencies which are owned by us ALL --- as a hammer to pummel Clinton and all other Democrats.
I've been working to correct the problem ever since 1998. I've advocated rewriting the Telecommunications Act, made the film Broadcast Blues to educate people about the problem, founded the Media Action Center to get local groups communicating with their local broadcasters, filed petitions to deny stations' licenses, and more.
But now, I believe I have found the legal means to put Talk Radio on trial at the FCC --- and perhaps eventually at the Supreme Court --- and, ironically enough, we just may have embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to thank for it...
On today's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters joined me to discuss that remarkable news, his sobering column yesterday on "Murdoch's Nixonian Demise", what it all means for NewsCorp properties here in the U.S. (like Fox "News", the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal) and how the story is being covered by the media in this country both on the Right and non-Right.
As usual, we're also joined by Desi Doyen for some Green News Report and a few listener phone calls round out the hour.