Apr
26
2006

Saving Independent Media

Will Congress stifle community TV and internet freedom?

This week, Congress could deal a serious blow to some of the few remaining checks on corporate domination of the media landscape.

The House Commerce Committee is debating proposed legislation called the COPE Act (or the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act). Critics point to two significant problems with the bill:

—Community TV: Public access, government and educational (PEG) channels offer a rare opportunity for the production of local, noncommercial, community-oriented television. But the proposed bill, in a bid to allow phone companies access to the cable TV market, could undermine the ability of local communities to negotiate with cable companies to maintain these channels, or to expand their public interest space in the digital age. For years, public access television has been a vital educational and organizing resource in an increasingly corporatized media marketplace. PEG channels are one of the few ways a community can have some input into the type of media it thinks would be of public benefit.

—"Net neutrality": The Internet is based on the principle that all participating networks give equal access to all the information they transmit. But the COPE Act would give big Internet service providers the ability to prioritize high-speed Internet access according to their own interests—or the interests of deep-pocketed proprietors of Web real estate that could pay for premium access. As the SaveTheInternet.com coalition puts it:

These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services—or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls—and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.

Maintaining net neutrality is a fundamental necessity if the democratic promise of the Internet is to be realized.

As FAIR has documented over its 20 year history, media policy is usually crafted in Washington to the benefit of corporate media interests and their lobbyists. But in the last few years, citizen voices have successfully challenged that business as usual. It's time to do so once again.

ACTION:

Speak up for media freedom by opposing the COPE Act. Visit the sites below to send your message to Congress:

http://www.saveaccess.org

(a coalition dedicated to preserving community TV)

http://action.freepress.net/campaign/savethenet

(the action page for the SavetheInternet.com coalition)