Aug 1 2010

Stolen Books

Great works that should belong to you but don’t

Think of the great robbery teams: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…Bonnie and Clyde…Bill Clinton and Orrin Hatch? Yes, Clinton and Hatch pulled off one of the greatest robberies of all time—stealing billions of dollars worth of cultural treasures from the public for the benefit of corporations via the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act—written by Sen. Hatch (R.-Utah) and signed into law by President Clinton in 1998. (The bill was given the name of the variety show host-turned-lawmaker after he died in a skiing accident.) Roughly speaking, the Bono Act lengthened copyright terms by 20 years: New corporate works […]

Aug 1 2010

Writing a Villain’s Role for Amazon

A sinister plot to sell e-books for less

E-book skullduggery is afoot, warned New York Times reporters Motoko Rich and Brad Stone (3/18/10), reporting that “ has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books.” Tabbed on the website as “Amazon May Impede Access to Some Publishers’ Books,” the story described the online bookseller as “pressuring publishers” with its “hardball approach”; Amazon had been “widely accused of abusing its position” with similar tactics that “shocked the publishing world.” If Amazon kept it up, the reporters warned, “it could harm its […]

Jul 20 2010

PBS Ombud Agrees With FAIR on Shultz Tribute

Says funding gives series a 'credibility problem'

In response to hundreds of letters from FAIR activists, PBS ombud Michael Getler (7/16/10) agreed with FAIR’s criticism (Action Alert, 7/12/10) of the 3-hour PBS documentary Turmoil and Triumph, a tribute to former Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz funded in part by institutions and individuals with close ties to Shultz. Getler found Turmoil to be “over-the-top, in my view, with praise, but with relatively little critical appraisal of some of the more controversial actions of Shultz’s tenure.” He wrote: This series, for me, as a viewer and an ombudsman, created at least the appearance of a conflict of interest; […]

Jul 12 2010

PBS, George Shultz and Funny Funding

Do PBS’s conflict of interest rules apply?

Many PBS stations around the country will begin airing a three-part, three-hour documentary tonight (7/12/10) about Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz. According to the New York Times (7/12/10), the unusually lengthy, completely uncritical tribute is partially sponsored by corporations linked to Shultz’s corporate career. The special, Turmoil and Triumph, was funded by the Stephen Bechtel Fund and Charles Schwab. Shultz was a board member at both companies, and was president of the Bechtel Corporation from 1975 to 1982. According to reviews, the documentary takes an overwhelmingly positive, even gushing stance. The Times‘ Alessandra Stanley points out, “There is no […]

Jun 11 2010

Catherine Lutz on Okinawa, Jodi Enda on Capital Flight


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Months after winning an election that ended five decades of one-party rule, Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned, citing his failure to close a U.S. military base on the island of Okinawa. U.S. media told us quite a bit about why the U.S. wants the base to remain on the island, but next to nothing about why Okinawans so strongly oppose the U.S. troop presence. Brown University anthropology professor Catherine Lutz will join us to talk about that. Also on CounterSpin today, News outlets have been cutting back on coverage of federal agencies for […]

May 1 2010

Big Media and State Lawmakers, Unite!

ALEC fights to keep broadband in private hands

Photo Credit: American Legislative Exchange Council

As the functions of media, commerce and communication rapidly shift into the digital world, more and more cities are viewing broadband Internet access as a necessary resource to stay economically viable in the 21st century. While these communities have been working to expand access, another group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has been working to ensure that control of the information superhighway remains in the hands of a few very powerful corporations. ALEC is a group that unites state lawmakers—it claims 2,000, or a full third of the nation’s state legislators, as members—with an impressive roster of the nation’s […]

Jan 15 2010

Bill Fletcher on Haiti, Beau Hodai on Charles Overby


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Haiti’s status as the poorest nation in the hemisphere has been mentioned time and again by journalists covering the current catastrophe, but where were journalists before the earthquake hit? And how are they doing in explaining the larger context of how Haiti got to this point? We’ll talk to Bill Fletcher, former president of TransAfrica Forum and executive editor of The Black Commentator. Also on the show: Charles Overby is CEO of the Freedom Forum, a foundation ostensibly dedicated to principles of free speech and a free press. He’s also a director and shareholder […]

Nov 1 2009

Putting the Public Back in Public Media

Access channels offer an alternative

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/st bernard

For most Americans, “public broadcasting” means the local PBS affiliate. But there’s another kind of non-commercial media that’s established by the government: public access channels. PEG (Public, Educational and Governmental) channels, as they’re officially known, are created by agreements between municipalities and cable companies: In exchange for getting access to lay their cable through public rights of way, the cable company pays in the form of setting aside channels for the community to run themselves, plus a small fee of up to 5 percent of the cable company’s gross revenue (New York Times, 11/8/2005). In many communities, that money helps […]