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 […]

Nov 1 2009

Public Media and the Decommodification of News

News behind pay walls is no help to democracy

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/aranarth

There have been various proposals to “save journalism” from the crisis brought on by digitalization. But by and large these ideas have less to do with meeting the information needs of a democratic society than with preserving the profit potential of existing media outlets. Take the various suggestions as to how to get news outlets to stop giving away their content for free. Among others, Walter Isaacson (formerly of Time), Steven Brill (formerly of Content) and Rupert Murdoch (formerly of Australia) have all offered suggestions for how newspapers can be saved by putting their content behind pay walls (Time, 2/5/09; […]

Nov 1 2009

Van Jones Is Happening and You Don’t Know Who He Is

Scolding big media for not following Glenn Beck’s lead

Photo Credit: Van Jones

After a campaign led by Fox News’ Glenn Beck led to the resignation of White House staffer Van Jones, New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson offered something of an apology for being “a beat behind on this story.” “We should have been paying closer attention,” she wrote in an online Q&A (9/07/09)—even while accurately noting that “Mr. Jones was not a high-ranking official.” Later, in a column by public editor Clark Hoyt (9/26/09) linking the Van Jones story to the Times’ supposed undercoverage of another Glenn Beck obsession—the community organizing group ACORN—Abramson plead guilty to “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the […]

Nov 1 2009


Wake Up and Sell the Coffee The October 5 edition of Time magazine reported that some people are wondering if Fair Trade coffee is too cheap—in other words, if the program that is supposed to provide a better deal for coffee growers is paying too little for beans. The minimum price for Fair Trade coffee is $1.35 a pound, and Time quoted observers saying it needs to be raised above $2 to actually give farmers a living wage. This simple solution isn’t feasible, the magazine’s Ezra Fieser suggested, pointing to a Fair Trade supporter in Miami drinking a $4.15 Fair […]

Nov 1 2009

The Money Taboo in Health Reform Coverage

Industry donations to powerful players often go unmentioned

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Free Grunge Textures

As powerful lawmakers debate healthcare legislation of enormous potential impact, corporate media have largely failed to explore the problem of health and insurance industries attempting to influence many of these legislators with a flood of campaign contributions. Despite Deep Throat’s urging journalists to “follow the money,” there’s a longstanding media taboo against discussing the role of campaign contributions in healthcare initiatives (Extra!, 1-2/04). This reluctance is particularly striking this year, when health industry spending on lobbying efforts and political contributions is unprecedented. In what the Washington Post (7/6/09) referred to as “a record-breaking influence campaign by the healthcare industry,” $1.4 […]

Nov 1 2009

Right-Wing Witch Hunt Reaches FCC

Glenn Beck and friends attack diversity officer Mark Lloyd

Mark Lloyd--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Center for American Progress

When the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission underwent its first hearing by the House oversight committee on September 17, the agenda largely centered on FCC chair Julius Genachowski’s upcoming broadband plan and net neutrality—yet before it was over, a Republican representative from Oregon felt compelled to examine the Commission’s new associate general counsel and chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd. Noting that he was motivated by a letter “from a number of interest groups,” Rep. Greg Walden said he did “some research [on Lloyd] in the last 24 hours,” and was troubled by his findings. Walden declared that “there’s a lot […]

Nov 1 2009

Letters to the Editor

Murdoch and the Weekly Standard I was disappointed in Michael Corcoran’s article about Rupert Murdoch and the Weekly Standard (Extra!, 9/09). Corcoran’s conclusion is that despite selling the Weekly Standard, “Murdoch still has a powerful soapbox to push his policy preferences.” This gets Murdoch exactly backwards. Murdoch doesn’t have a political agenda. He has a business agenda, and currying favor with people in power is crucial to that business agenda. Murdoch’s broadcast, cable and satellite properties are heavily dependent on favorable government regulation. (The history of Murdoch’s political pandering around the world to gain business advantages is best described in […]

Nov 1 2009

Hard Times for the Overclass

Media fascination with the recession’s richest victims

It was Finley Peter Dunne who said that the job of newspapers was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But the other job of newspapers, as we all know, is to bring in advertisers—who want to reach a big-spending demographic. So what’s a paper to do in this current economic recession? Simply redefine “affliction” to mean wealthy people struggling to maintain their way of life at the top. Most readers of the Washington Post (8/16/09) might have been taken aback by this headline: “Squeaking by on $300,000.” The paper explained that spotting the fallout for the wealthy from […]