last Friday journalists and protesters gathered
outside the home of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to speak out in
defense of the First Amendment. The event drew more police than participants,
which only reinforced the message the group hoped to send regarding the NYPD’s
heavy-handed approach to journalists covering Occupy Wall Street.
Online Piracy Act has sparked an important debate among journalists and within journalism organizations about their role as advocates for and against policies that
impact the future of news. Of course, journalists have long been important
advocates for policies like the shield law and the Freedom of Information Act
and have been staunch defenders against incursions on freedom of the press.
However, in terms of some of the most important media policy discussions, many
journalism organizations have been silent.
may have heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Simply put, it's a bill in the House that could open the door to widespread Internet censorship.
to the bill has reached a boiling point. Millions of activists, hundreds of
startups, social media sites like Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter and even big
companies like Google, Yahoo! and eBay have joined with Free Press and other
Internet advocacy groups against it.
We all remember the 1980's and its awesome fashion and music. While
some may want to revisit those aspects of the past, I don't think anyone wants
to return to the era of the cable and Ma Bell monopolies.
Opening up communications markets was the purpose of
the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The Act was designed to help phone companies
get into the pay-TV business, and cable companies get into the phone business.
Yet after a series of regulatory blunders, this promise of increased
competition and lower prices has become a distant memory, like 7-Up Gold. And
the situation is only getting worse.
If you flip on a local television station and watch for an hour or so, you're likely to see at least one: a political ad that attacks a candidate for public office.
If you live in any of the "battleground states," you'll see up to 12 political ads an hour.
Viewers in Iowa fell under a barrage of these ads leading up to Tuesday's caucuses. This on-air onslaught offers the rest of us a preview of what television viewing will be like as Election Day 2012 draws closer.
Since September, 36 journalists have been arrested in 10
cities. Many more have been harassed, roughed up or otherwise hindered while
attempting to do their work. The arrests and suppression have occurred even as
journalists have identified themselves to police as members of the press.
like me, you’re used to hearing “This program was made possible by supporters
like you” at the end of NPR and PBS shows. But this year those words take on a
Thanks to an
incredible outpouring of support from people all across the country, public
media survived the most serious political attacks in Congress it has faced in
years. Repeated efforts to pass bad bills, sneak through dangerous cuts and
undermine the fundamental structure of public media failed thanks to the hard
work of activists and fans who wrote to Congress, called their policymakers and
even showed up in Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard.
OnThursday, the Federal Communications
Commission proposed rules that would further weaken media ownership
limits for local newspapers and broadcast stations. The
agency's proposal is strikingly
similar to one adopted in 2007 under former FCC Chairman Kevin
Martin. Those rules were met with overwhelming public opposition from
across the country, as well as from bipartisan leaders in Congress, and
were thrown out by a federal appeals court last summer.
We try to shine a spotlight on the media
policies that shape journalism in America — for better and for worse. The
Freedom of Information Act is a key example of how media policy can have a
profound impact on journalism. Congress passed it in 1966 and it went into
effect in 1967 over the objections of then-President Lyndon Johnson. It has since
become a fundamental tool in journalists’ toolbox for accessing government
information and holding our leaders accountable.
The Federal Communications Commission is now seeking feedback on a
new rule that could open up even more information to help journalists follow
the money in elections and media. However, some broadcasters are lobbying hard to
derail this effort at enhanced disclosure.
A media watchdog sent us this video of Wisconsin station WLUK passing off an AT&T advertisement as news.
It sounds crazy, but passing an infomercial off as a news story is legal as long as stations disclose the paid pieces at the end of the program.
But a lot of stations don’t even manage that: They air fake news without providing any kind of disclosure to viewers — a clear violation of FCC rules. And these rules are so weak that stations that do provide disclosure information can get away with text that is barely legible.