Blog Archive - December 2011

AT&T Drops Bid to Buy T-Mobile: Here’s Why You Should Be Happy

By Jamilah King/ Reposted from

The Wall Street Journal reported today that AT&T’s $39 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile is officially off the table. The deal was introduced earlier this year and became the subject of widespread public criticism from consumer and media justice advocates who argued that the already tiny telecom market couldn’t afford to get any smaller, particularly for users of color who are already prey to the industry’s shady practices.

In the “Year of the Activist”, Grassroots Organizations Score a Major Victory Against Corporations

December 20, 2011 – The Media Action Grassroots Network is excited to celebrate a major victory for media justice advocates and communities across the country.  Yesterday, AT&T announced that they would be dropping its bid to takeover T-Mobile at a price tag of $39 billion.

SOPA: Washington Vs. The Web

Ryan Grim contributed reporting / Reposted from

WASHINGTON -- A month ago, Google lobbyist Katherine Oyama absorbed one of the more unusual congressional tongue-lashings in years when she appeared before a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) joked that Oyama had walked into a "lion's den."

Media Justice and the 99 Percent Movement: How net neutrality helped Occupy Wall Street

by Betty Yu / Reposted from FAIR's Extra! Magazine and

It all started with one message posted on a blog on July 13, 2011. The magazine Adbusters, a not-for-profit, reader-supported, 120,000-circulation magazine that combats corporate consumerism, issued a call: “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.”

On September 17, a thousand people marched to Wall Street, and then hundreds stayed to occupy Liberty Plaza in New York’s Financial District.

Even after a solid two weeks of this Occupation, corporate media largely blacked it out. What coverage there was depicted protesters as drug-abusing hippies (the Fox News spin—Hannity, 10/10/11), or, in the “liberal” version, as directionless naifs with no message (New York Times, 9/23/11). As the OWS Declaration in New York City put it, the 1 percent “purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.”

But grassroots, independent media outlets like Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio, the Indypendent newspapers and public access TV channels, with a combined audience of millions, covered the Occupation from the perspective of the people—the 99 percent. These independent outlets provided a platform for protesters to talk about why they were supporting the Occupation—speaking out about rising unemployment, declining wages, diminishing quality of life, foreclosures, education budget cuts, lack of healthcare and unjust wars, just to name a few.

What elevated the activism to a national and global movement, though, was the sophisticated and widespread use of social media. Independent mediamakers, citizen journalists, everyday people with camera phones were capturing the voices and faces of this burgeoning movement and uploading them to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, mostly within minutes of being captured. Group text-messaging was used to share information and media quickly.

These tools for instant communication not only helped to mobilize thousands to marches and events, but also captured police brutality toward the protesters. It was only when images were disseminated of a senior New York City police official pepper-spraying peaceful women protesters, temporarily blinding them, that corporate media began paying attention. The pepper-spraying incident was documented by fellow protesters and uploaded to YouTube—where it was viewed more than 2 million times—then posted on Facebook and tweeted to be shared with the world.

In the age of digital media, anyone with an Internet connection can watch OWS’s General Assembly meeting on the livestream of the Occupy website. They can share an Occupy update on Facebook, or tweet it on Twitter—providing an ongoing venue for people to show support and participate virtually in the protests. One Tumblr site houses the stories of thousands of supporters who share why they are a part of the 99 percent, holding up handwritten signs and telling their stories.

Of course, human, face-to-face interaction and relationship-building is irreplaceable. Social media have helped get people out of their nests and into the streets of Liberty Plaza and elsewhere, to attend a General Assembly or a working group meeting. In New York, the working groups, many of them self-organized, have grown from 10 to over 70, largely through outreach done on the Internet. People in nearly 900 cities formed groups, using the website as their central hub.

The democratization of media-making tools, particularly an open and unfettered Internet, has made all this possible. Right now, though, this open access is under threat. Network neutrality is the principle that requires Internet service providers to treat all content equally, guaranteeing a level playing field for all websites and Internet technologies.

Since the invention of the Internet, net neutrality has facilitated democratic participation, allowing social justice organizations, cultural workers, citizen journalists, artists and small businesses to create, share and receive information freely. Right now, the livestream of Occupy Wall Street downloads just as quickly as the website of Goldman Sachs. Without net neutrality, small businesses, nonprofits and individuals who can’t afford high-speed services would have their ability to reach a mass audience online severely limited.

The telecommunications corporations that provide Internet connections, like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, want to increase their already mammoth profits by controlling websites, video, content and applications. These corporations want their own sites and services to be easily available to the public, while slowing down access to those owned by their competitors—or by independent groups who can’t afford to pay the gatekeepers’ tolls.

In December 2010, the Federal Communications Commission issued new rules on net neutrality that were a devastating blow to media democracy. Labeled “fake net neutrality” by media justice advocates, the new regulations have no real enforcement mechanism. Worse yet, they provide zero protection for wireless devices—the mobile devices that have been so vital in the OWS movement for documenting police misconduct and spreading the word. As Extra! went to press, the Senate was considering a “resolution of disapproval” that would effectively remove all existing protections for Internet users and give unrestricted power to corporations like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The communities that will be most affected by the lack of wireless net neutrality provisions are low-income and people of color. A recent Pew Center study (7/7/10) showed that nearly two-thirds of people of color, mainly Latinos and African-Americans, access the Internet through their phones.

One of the biggest media justice fights now is to break up the emerging duopoly between AT&T and Verizon, potentially controlling 80 percent of the mobile market. In March 2011, AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. The loss of a low-cost wireless carrier like T-Mobile threatens to limit affordable mobile broadband access and stifle competition in the broadband market—making the absence of net neutrality protections for wireless devices even more problematic.

It’s clear how vital the mobile Internet has been to Occupy Wall Street and the flourishing global Occupy movement. But an open Internet is also a basic communication right. In a 21st century digital age, access to jobs, healthcare, housing, government assistance and education require Internet access.

This is not just an isolated issue about media policy—it is a social justice, civil rights and human rights issue. This is about the lives of the 99 percent.

Deconstruction Gallery: The John and Ken Show

Reposted from Media Literacy Project

The primary principle of media literacy is that media construct culture. At Media Literacy Project, we understand that our society and our perception of reality are shaped by both our life experiences, and by the images and information we receive via the media. It is this principle of media literacy that informed our decision to create Siembra la Palabra Digna three years ago. We understand that in order to effectively create the cultural change we want for our communities, we must actively participate in changing our media system.Siembra is our campaign to increase positive and accurate portrayals of our communities in media, while also eliminating hate speech in media. Ultimately, we want responsible speech in our media—speech that is accountable to fostering understanding, building connections, and strengthening communities.

How Big Telecom Used Smartphones to Create a New Digital Divide

By Jamilah King / Reposted from

As the 2011 holiday shopping season geared up, the country’s leading mobile wireless carrier, Verizon, announced a special deal. For a limited time only, customers could get the popular HTC Droid Incredible 2 smartphone for free, if they signed up for a two-year data plan. Since the phone’s full retail price is usually more than $430, the deal meant a savings of more than $200 with a new contract. It features a four-inch touchscreen and eight mega-pixel rear camera, along with top-of-the-line video and one of the industry’s fastest processors. It’s everything you need to feel like you’ve got the Internet in your pocket, and for a fraction of the price of a computer. That’s a compelling selling point for many buyers, but particularly so among the black and Latino consumers who are so key to the now-massive smartphone market.

PUBLIC ACCESS TV CHALLENGES CITY TO BE MORE TRANSPARENT Quote…Unquote, Inc. cites New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (reposted from Quote Unquote)

On Monday, November 28th two local TV news operations, Channel 4 KOB and Channel 7 KOAT reported that a City employee had unintentionally given out confidential documents related to the procurement process for the public access channels in Albuquerque. The news broadcasts added that this employee has suffered a reprisal from City administrators as a result. Why was this woman put on leave for giving out public information?

Is the Obama FCC Really Pushing Bush's Failed Media Policies?

By Craig Aaron of Free Press/ Reposted from Huffington Post 

As a senator, Barack Obama fought to prevent greater media consolidation.

In 2007, he opposed a vote by the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission to lift the ban on allowing one company to own a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market.

"We must ensure that we have an open media market that represents all of the voices in our diverse nation and allows them to be heard," the future president said before the FCC's vote.

Why then is the Obama FCC reportedly pushing for nearly the same rule changes the Republicans failed to carry out in the Bush years? And why -- when those efforts to further weaken media ownership limits were rejected by the public, the courts and congressional leaders -- would the FCC expect a different response this time? Just because a Democrat is now in charge?

To his credit, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has demonstrated a newfound willingness to stand up to the biggest corporations. He deserves accolades for showing why the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is not in the public interest. But that just makes his rumored moves on the traditional media front all the more baffling.

99% Against Big Media

So far Genachowski has spent little time in office focusing on media ownership. But there are few media policy issues that have galvanized as much widespread public opposition as runaway media consolidation. Millions of people have spoken out over the past decade against allowing big media corporations to swallow up more local media outlets. They understand the harm caused when companies like News Corp., Tribune and Sinclair place profits over investing in newsrooms and the information needs of the audiences they serve.

When the FCC tried to gut its ownership rules in 2003 and again in 2007, the public was outraged. They filled hearings to the rafters, and 99 percent of the public comments received by the agency opposed greater media concentration.

The courts have been no more welcoming of the FCC's attempts to do big media's bidding. In 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the rules pushed through by then-Chairman Michael Powell. And just last summer, the same court threw out ex-Chair Kevin Martin's loophole-ridden rules that undermined the longstanding ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. The court castigated the FCC for failing to listen to public input.

Obama wasn't alone in his opposition to greater media concentration. He was joined by, among others, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. And in 2008, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to overturn the FCC's weakened cross-ownership rule.

Just last year, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Olympia Snowe, joined by then-Sen. Byron Dorgan, sent a letter reminding the FCC "of the Senate's interest in public interest limits for media ownership and that the current Commission is under no obligation to follow the footsteps of its predecessors" who sought to get rid of the ownership rules.

The Truth About Media Consolidation

Of course, big media companies have not given up pressuring the FCC and Congress to twist the rules to their liking. They claim that the Internet has changed everything and they need more consolidation to compete.

In truth, incumbent media dominate online as well. An FCC-commissioned study released earlier this year found that "online local news markets resemble downsized versions of traditional media news markets, with the same news stories produced by the same newspapers and television stations."

There's no doubt that the Internet has disrupted the sky-high monopoly profits newspapers once enjoyed, though most are still profitable. Many media companies are struggling financially largely due to self-inflicted wounds: They got too big too fast and now aren't able to service all the debt they took on trying to please insatiable Wall Street investors.

If consolidation has been bad for business, it has been far worse for journalism. Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in recent years, and many foreign and statehouse bureaus have been shuttered. More consolidation will mean even fewer reporters on the beat finding out what's happening in local communities.

The FCC Fails to Deal with Diversity

Media consolidation has also hindered the ability of people of color and women to become broadcast station owners. People of color own just 3 percent of all full-power TV stations and 7 percent of radio stations; women own just 6 percent of all broadcast outlets.

Even though the recent federal court ruling rejecting the FCC's rules took the agency to task for failing to address minority and female ownership, the Obama FCC appears determined to pursue the same failed policies as its predecessors.

What happened to the Obama who, as a candidate, called out the FCC for promoting "the concept of consolidation over diversity" and promised to "encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media"?

Last month, a coalition of civil rights groups wrote a letter to the FCC lamenting that the agency "has no meaningful policies to address racial and gender inequities in media ownership and has ignored the impact of its media ownership rules on those inequities."

"As media consolidation grows, people of color and women become less significant players in the media ecosystem," concluded the groups, which included the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the ACLU, NOW and the NAACP. "The Commission must acknowledge that fact and take action to remedy it."

Fifty more media, women's and social justice organizations (including Free Press) weighed in today with another letter to the agency, warning, "the continued absence of FCC action in the face of deep and intractable ownership disparities is unacceptable."

The signers asked the FCC to evaluate the impact of its media ownership rules on ownership opportunities for women and people of color; take proactive measures to promote ownership of broadcast stations by under-represented groups; and guard against further erosion of media ownership among these groups by maintaining existing media ownership limits.

Now Is the Time to Make Your Voice Heard

On Thursday night, FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps will be in Atlanta for a hearing on media ownership issues at Georgia Tech. This event will be a chance to remind the agency how destructive media consolidation is for local communities.

But even if you're not in Atlanta, you can still tell the FCC what you think. If this talk of going back to Bush's ownership rules is just a trial balloon, now is the time to pop it.

What we need isn't more disastrous media consolidation. We need media that truly represent, as Barack Obama himself said not long ago, "all of the voices in our diverse nation."

We won't get there if we fall back on the failed policies of the past.

Co-authored with Joseph Torres.


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