Media "Angels" to Descend on FCC

Media Ownership Tipping Point? The Angels Are on Their Way

Perhaps it is because people felt stupid after 9/11. Maybe they realized they were ignorant of the world they live in, partly because television networks have been steadily replacing international news coverage with infotainment and reality shows. Or maybe when faced with cold facts of the massive Enron scandal, they are angry at the media for doing such a poor job of explaining the negative effects rampant deregulation can have on people's daily lives.

Whatever the reason, it seems that many in the public are feeling some righteous anger at big media. The mood on the ground is that the FCC, the courts and the media monoliths have gone too far.

"The media companies, in their desire to control old and new media, have overreached with their greed, triggering a public response, " explains Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "They think their 20-year, unopposed run at dismantling the media ownership rules would never be stopped. But they have set off alarm bells. Even the New York Times, which has been asleep on this issue for years, has been awakened."

The most recent "alarm bell" went off when a federal court ruling further relaxed media ownership limits, expanding the number of broadcast stations a single company can own and allowing companies to buy both network and cable stations in the same city. Celebrating the court ruling, AOL-Time Warner lawyers claimed ownership restrictions were an "anachronism" and not in the public's interest -- a view shared by FCC chief Michael Powell, an avid deregulation advocate and son of Colin Powell, who had the audacity to say, "The night after I was sworn in, I waited for a visit from the angel of the public interest. I waited all night, but she did not come."

Powell's absurd statement has sent media activists into an angelic frenzy of their own. "Since he had trouble seeing one angel that dreadful night on March 22 [when he was sworn in], we shall descend upon him in droves," writes Aliza Dichter of the Media Channel.

Thus, a gaggle of media activists out of the Indy Media movement have announced that "Angels of Public Interest shall descend upon Washington, DC three hours past noon on the 22nd day of March in the vicinity of the Federal Communications Commission at 445 12th Street NW. The Angels shall resolutely teach those who command power within the FCC that Media and Communications Technology should forever serve people over profits. We encourage all Angels such as yourself to come to the gathering dressed in your best Angel garb -- halo, wings, glitter, the whole nine yards. (If no angel gear, come anyway.)"

Michael Moore and Van Jones on Message

Communicate progressive messages to large audiences has always been a paradoxical challenge. On the one hand, it's easy to despise the corporate media. On the other, its often necessary to play the corporate media's game and get them to tell our side of the story. In the independent media, we can often go deeper and tell the whole story; but if we want to reach millions, then we have to tailor the message to the journalists and editors who want to help get the full story out.

It's the Masher's prediction that as the corporate media system feels more heat around deregulation, and as the public gets more unhappy with the present situation, more progressive voices will be included in the mainstream mix. A great example of that trend is Michael Moore, a progressive who has pretty good access to mainstream media and tends to use it well. For example, take this interview Moore had after anchor Aaron Brown introduced him on CNN:
Brown: Michael Moore [is] a scathing critic of corporate America, how money corrupts politics ... His new book is called "Stupid White Men." Michael, what ever happened to liberals? I thought you were the only one left?

Moore: Oh, I think they're still here. I don't think people call themselves liberals, but if you look at any of the polls -- if you ask people how they feel about the environment, women's issues, labor -- the majority of the country is pro-environment. They're pro-women's rights. They're pro-labor. [Moore goes on to suggest that Bush will resign and hopefully take Cheney with him.]

Brown: Why do you think he's going to resign?

Moore: Because I believe that somebody here at CNN, or some modern day Woodward or Bernstein is going pull it all together in terms of how this corporation, Enron, bought this administration. You know, Ken Lay and what he had to do there in terms of picking the regulatory people that were supposed to oversee Enron, the Arthur Andersen attorney that became the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Enron VP that's the Secretary of the Army, the Enron lawyer that's the White House counsel...
Van Jones is another articulate leader who gets some mainstream media face-time. Jones, the director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, is an outspoken radical and veteran of the Battle in Seattle anti-corporate demonstrations. Surprisingly, Jones recently found himself on the inside of the corporate machinations he once protested, picked by the World Economic Forum as one of the global leaders of tomorrow.

Jones took advantage of the opportunity when appearing on CNN's Business Unusual in early February. Responding to CNN host Willow Bay's question about being torn between being on the inside versus being with the Global Exchange protestors on the outside, Jones said, "No, no I don't feel divided loyalty at all. When you look at the World Social Forum that's happening now in Brazil, that's not 3,000 people. That's 50,000 people and they are not there as protesters. They are there as participants -- farmers, small business owners, students, intellectuals. That's how you do a conference where you're really trying to solve the world's problems ... Everyone is saying that the life support systems are beginning to fail because of the overproduction and overconsumptive life styles of the West, and yet those decisions ... are not being adequately challenged within the global rule-making bodies like the World Trade Organization."

Danny Pearl: American Hero

Not enough people are saying it, but Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl was a hero -- no less so than those who gave their lives at the World Trade Center. Some wonderful, moving, and thoughtful articles have been written about Pearl, who unknowingly has become the symbol of the risk that journalists take in hostile foreign territory so that we all may be better informed.

Unfortunately, more than 10 journalists have already died in Afghanistan since 9/11. Yes, this is a nasty business. As Pearl's former colleague, WSJ reporter G. Pascal Zachary points out, our government's hostile attitude toward journalists -- especially that of Donald Rumsfeld -- didn't make Danny Pearl or anyone else's job easier or safer. For more insight, read Clyde Haberman's powerful article in the New York Times or The New York Observer's thorough coverage by Sridhar Pappu and Phillip Weiss.
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