Sep 15 2000

Activists Take to the Streets to Take Back the Airwaves

Citizens spotlight anti-democratic NAB-- "the WTO of broadcasting"

Media activists, artists and scholars from across the country will gather in San Francisco Sept. 20-23 for a historic demonstration against corporate control of the public airwaves.

The non-violent actions and teach-ins are scheduled to coincide with the 2000 NAB Radio Show, a convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, the main lobbying arm of the broadcast industry and one of the most powerful influences on Capitol Hill.

Endorsed by a broad slate of media, labor and human rights groups, including FAIR, the demonstrations will call attention to the massive consolidation in the media industry, and the damaging effects this has on democratic communication. Laws like the Telecommunications Act of 1996– strongly backed by the NAB– have drastically changed the rules of media ownership, encouraging the creation of massive media empires with enormous reach and alarming control over the content, distribution and ownership of individual outlets.

“There’s nothing natural or inevitable about corporate control of media,” says FAIR’s Janine Jackson. “In fact, it’s a cornerstone of our democracy that the American people own the airwaves; they’re loaned to corporations on the condition that they be used to serve the public interest. Media corporations have clearly violated that trust, and people have had enough.”

Activists in San Francisco will also highlight the NAB’s efforts to expand corporate control of the public airwaves at the expense of common sense political initiatives like campaign finance reform. The broadcast industry has spent millions of dollars over the past few years to defeat campaign finance reform, since provisions that would require free airtime for political candidates are anathema to the commercial media. The incentive for broadcasters to support the political status quo is a powerful one– TV stations stand to earn an estimated $600 million from campaign advertisements this year alone.

The NAB’s lobbying against the public interest doesn’t stop there. “Whether it’s attacking low power radio, pushing through the Telecommunications Act of 1996 or arranging the $70 billion giveaway of the digital television spectrum to themselves, their purpose has always been clear– to maintain their stranglehold on the public airwaves,” says Jackson. “The overwhelming concentration of media ownership has created a crisis for democracy, and is dangerously infringing upon the public’s right to access diverse ideas and content, a right guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

Activities– including teach-ins, rallies, low power radio workshops and press conferences– are scheduled throughout the week, from September 20-24.

For more information, please see:

Contact: Rachel Coen, (212) 633-6700 x318

What’s FAIR?

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose important news stories that are neglected and defend working journalists when they are muzzled.

FAIR works with both activists and journalists. We maintain a regular dialogue with reporters at news outlets across the country, providing constructive critiques when called for and applauding exceptional, hard-hitting journalism. We also encourage the public to contact media with their concerns, to become media activists rather than passive consumers of news.

FAIR publishes Extra!, the award-winning magazine of media criticism, and produces the weekly radio program CounterSpin, the show that brings you the news behind the headlines. In addition, we have a thriving listserv through which we distribute regular Action Alerts to our international network of activists– the FAIR list currently has over 12,000 recipients.