Media Nightmare Wrap-Up

6 comments March 6th, 2007at 06:22pm Posted by Eli

Since my epic FDL media post last Tuesday generated such a great discussion, I thought I would make an attempt to recap some of the highlights of the recommendations here, as a public service for those of you who might not have time to read the whole thing. Where possible, I will attempt to group them into the same categories outlined in the main post.

Reinstate restrictions on media ownership:

  • Must include some sort of provision for ownership diversity, or else media will just be owned by slightly smaller clones of their current parent corporations. (Cujo359)
  • Use license challenges and eminent domain to break up media ownership and turn it over to community control; very steep ownership restrictions. (jim p) Sounds good, but would require heavy legislative lifting.


  • Cultivate and team up with sympathetic journalists and media outlets, help them with analysis of their data. (portia.vz) I don’t think we need to stop at analysis. We have some pretty good data-gathering capabilities, too.


  • Boycott/threaten to boycott the traditional media and their sponsors, and promote alternatives, i.e., blogs/streaming video/YouTube. (various) While this would be ideal in theory, I’m skeptical as to whether it can be achieved in practice. People like the ease and passivity of just turning on the TV and watching, or half-paying-attention while they do other stuff. I don’t see the internet being able to equal that experience any time soon, via computer, cellphone, or any other device short of… an actual television or set-top box that can somehow tune into channels on the internet.
  • We need better, more centralized coordination of our responses to media lies. (Mommybrain) Somehow, I can’t help thinking this would steal our mojo…
  • Watchdog wiki with information about past history, affiliations, possible conflicts of interest – would make it easier to determine reporters’ credibility on any given story. (Hugh)
  • Subscriber-supported news, like HBO for news (economic viability?). (Rafael)

Word of mouth:

  • The Whispering Campaign. Print out stories that have been unreported or underreported, and leave them lying around where people will read them (coffee shops, bus stops, any kind of waiting room). (KestrelBrighteyes)


  • Decouple news and ratings. Report the news according to journalistic values rather than mass appeal. (Alicia) Assuming ratings are genuine driver and not excuse.
  • Tax breaks for networks/stations that offer independent news. (Alicia)
  • BBC model of government financing and non-interference. (Various) This would be great, but very difficult to enforce, as witness BushCo. efforts to pack CPB with wingnuts determined to push PBS & NPR to the right.
  • Convert media to non-profits (tax code changes?) to eliminate profitability pressures. (Sara) Assuming profitability is genuine driver and not excuse.
  • Laws to restrict/punish dishonest reporting. (Paul Wartenburg) Great in theory, but how to implement/enforce? Who decides?
  • More restrictive laws and standards for national media than for local media. (pow wow) Local media outlets are just as influential within their sphere of influence, if not more.
  • Allotment of free airtime for campaign commercials. (pow wow)

Entry Filed under: Media


  • 1. Chris  |  March 6th, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Eli, these are some interesting yet radical proposals you have compiled. I do a bit of consulting with the NAB on the media ownership issue and wanted to put in my two cents regarding local broadcasters.

    The ownership rules need to be updated to reflect the vast changes in the media landscape that include the explosion of online, cable and satellite media outlets. Given so many choices, individual broadcasters cannot compete for the advertising dollars they need to survive. Thus, these decades-old rules should be updated to permit ownership combinations in local markets that will allow local broadcast stations to compete and continue providing free, local broadcast service, including critical lifeline emergency and AMBER Alert information.

  • 2. Eli  |  March 6th, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Thus, these decades-old rules should be updated to permit ownership combinations in local markets that will allow local broadcast stations to compete and continue providing free, local broadcast service, including critical lifeline emergency and AMBER Alert information.

    So what would that look like? Not disputing, just asking.

  • 3. Jan Hammer  |  March 7th, 2007 at 6:20 am

    The last thing we should do is allow multiple ownership in a given market. Ownership should be limited to one signal in a market. Further we should reimpose the “Fairness Doctrine”. It is diversity and multiple voices that we want to rebuild.

  • 4. Eli  |  March 7th, 2007 at 10:03 am

    I can live with ownership of one TV station *and* one radio station (maybe one each in AM and FM), but that’s certainly as far as I go. Letting national conglomerates like Clear Channel own large portions of the dial not only makes for poor diversity, it makes for all-around shitty prorgramming.

    Not a whole lot of competition to spur quality if the stations are all on the same team…

    My girlfriend’s a big fan of your keytar work, BTW.

  • 5. Chris  |  March 7th, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Jan, the last thing we need to do is bring back the so called “fairness doctrine.” It wasn’t fair the first time around as it only applied to broadcasters and it led to less diversity and discussion of important issues, not more. It was easier for broadcasters to avoid heated issues than to risk complaints that they hadn’t adequately covered all sides of the issue.

    As I mentioned, the landscape has changed dramatically in the past few years let alone since 1987. My argument applies to the fairness doctrine and media ownership in that we want more diversity and multiple voices for consumers. With that goal in mind, we should let local broadcasters have the freedom to tailor programming to the needs of the community. One size fits all regulations like the fairness doctrine are obsolete in today’s media marketplace.

  • 6. Chris  |  March 7th, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Eli, thanks for your response and to answer your question, updating the rules would entail allowing cross ownership. Nobody is advocating for corporate giants to buy up every media outlet.

    As I mentioned, alone these local broadcasters and newspapers for that matter can’t survive alone. Look at how craigslist has affected the classified revenues of local papers, long a mainstay of revenue. Look at the high quality citizen journalism we have online that is another source of competition for local broadcasters.

    Contrary to what many people believe there is actually a de-consolidation trend. Adam Thierer over at the Technology Liberation Front has been chronicling this trend as did Washington Post reporter, Frank Ahrens in a recent book review.

    “Here’s a partial list of recent upheavals since [Klinenberg] wrote his book: Viacom split in two. Clear Channel is selling its TV stations and one-third of its radio stations. The New York Times sold its TV stations. The Knight Ridder newspaper chain dissolved. Tribune sold TV stations and may yet be broken up. Walt Disney sold its radio stations. Emmis Communications sold its TV stations. Wave after wave of deconsolidation.”

    Seeing as how the FCC is required by law to examine local broadcast ownership rules every four years to make sure that the rules are necessary in light of current competitive realities, we merely are advocating for the current situation of local broadcasters to be considered as they are the only ones burdened by these outdated regulations.

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