Friday, December 29, 2006

Big Victory for Net Neutrality

AT&T, battling to complete its $85 billion merger with BellSouth in the face of opposition from the two Democrats on the FCC, agreed last night to strict network neutrality safeguards. Columbia law professor Tim Wu explains why the agreement is so important for the future of the internet.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Strong Overview of Tribune Maneuverings

I just came across this detailed overview of the wheeling-and-dealing of Morning Call parent Tribune Co.....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sins of Omission

The Call's post-announcement coverage of the gambling license story has been surprisingly spotty and otherwise breathless. I keep scanning the headlines, looking for analysis of reactions, regional impact, and, in particular, the implications for Allentown. The Allentown angle is especially important, as Ed Rendell's announcement-eve $18 million gift to Bethlehem seemed timed to influence the board and--taken together with the Bethlehem nod--a sucker punch aimed at the state's third-largest city. On this point LVCurmudgeon's post is a must-read.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Important: Media Ownership Forum In Philly 1/18

A Media Ownership Forum is coming to Philadelphia on January 18 (see details below), and Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have committed to attend!

Media Action LV will send at least one car-full of activists to the event, so please email Media Action LV if you are interested...

When: January 18, 6pm
Where: Temple University, Gladfelter Hall

The event is sponsored by various Philadelphia-based media reform groups, including Media Tank, Prometheus Radio Project, PennPIRG and the Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association are planning a Media Ownership Forum in Philadelphia on January 18, 2007 at Temple University, from 6 to 9pm.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Update on Morning Call Parent Company

Today's New York Times has an update on the ongoing effort to sell the Tribune Company, the Morning Call's corporate parent. The Chandler family, which had owned the Call, the LA Times and other papers before selling to Tribune, is reportedly interested in purchasing Tribune's newspapers. The family's motive appears, however, to be strictly mercenary, and not some larger sense that the papers have a public interest obligation.

Morning Call fails again!

We might disagree on the significance of the following events, but I think it is strange -- astonishing, really -- that The Morning Call failed to report any of them, although they were notified in advance and, in at least one case, had a reporter on the scene.

* On July 19, the Mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the first in this region to do so. (Over 330 cities throughout the U.S have signed; the only other cities in PA to sign are Philadelphia and Erie.)

* On October 15, the County Executives of Lehigh and Northampton Counties signed a similar Climate Protection Agreement for counties -- the first counties to do so -- making this the only region where cities and counties have united in their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to protect us from global warming.

* This Monday, December 11, the Bethlehem Area School District adopted a Climate Protection Agreement that pledges the district to a variety of efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

Why would a responsible newspaper fail to report when local officials take important positive steps? (Do they only want to report problems?)

Does The Morning Call expect us to report the news via letters to the editor?

Is it any surprise that newspaper circulation declines in proportion to their coverage of local news?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Morning Call's Irresponsible Allentown Coverage

Here was the Morning Call's lede in its December 5 arrest follow-up of a homicide in center city Allentown the day before:
It's become a familiar scene in center city Allentown.
The "familiar scene", according to the Call? Murder in downtown Allentown.

It's one of the most consistent findings in media research that heavy media consumers grossly overestimate the rate of crime. (We all do; it's just that heavy media consumers assume the world's even more dangerous than the rest of us.) Crime is far less prevelant than we think.

The problem is that this distortion--and the inflammatory, 'if it bleeds it leads' style of coverage--has the potential to become self-fulfillng. The picture of downtown Allentown in the heads of most Lehigh Valley residents comes from the Call and Channel 69. The more they believe that murder is a "familiar scene"--however ridiculous as a claim to reality--the less likely they will venture downtown. They will warn off newcomers, and urge their downtown friends to leave. The downtown--which hardly needs an additional challenge--may become more unsafe, as the unintended consequence of a media distortion.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of perception to the health of any neighborhood. And most people's perception of American cities--Allentown included--comes from the images that we see and the stories we read in the media.

So what are the homicide figures for 2006? With three weeks or so remaining in the year, Allentown has 14 homicides. 2005? 21 (a record). And the past few years (the only that I could track down data for)?:

2004: 11
2003: 12
2002: 9
2001: 8
2000: 9
1999: 11

There are, of course, too many murders in Allentown, and the city's ongoing police hiring should help.

But murder as a "familiar scene"?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nobel winner calls for new 'social business' legal category

Muhammad Yunus, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner and micro-credit pioneer, proposed a new legal category in his acceptance speech over the weekend: the social business. Could something like this be adopted as a model for newspaper and other media ownership?

Here's the key passage from the New York Times' coverage of the speech:
He called for legal recognition of a new category of corporation that would be neither profit-maximizing nor nonprofit. It would be a “social business,” like Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based microcredit institution he started 30 years ago. The bank has lent nearly $6 billion to help some of the poorest people on earth to start businesses, build shelters and go to school.

Grameen Bank — with which Dr. Yunus shared the prize today — is an interest-charging, profit-making business with more than 2,200 branches. But it is owned primarily by its poor clients and run for their benefit. Similarly structured institutions, he said, could bring health care, information technology, education and energy to the poor without requiring infusions of aid.

“By defining ‘entrepreneur’ in a broader way, we can change the character of capitalism radically and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market,” he said.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Chandler Family Calls for Community Ownership

A cruical question for our time is whether the news media's public interest obligations can coexist with the market's demands for maximized profits.

In a surprising development, a prominent member of the Chandler family--onetime owners of the LA Times until the paper (and other Chandler properties including the Morning Call) got bought up by Chicago's Tribune Co.--has concluded that community ownership is the only feasible arrangment to keep newspapers serving the public.

In a recent LA Times op-ed column, Harry Chandler (namesake of the Times founder) pointed to the ruthless profit expecations of publicly traded companies, and acknowledged that the once-exciting experiments in local-magnate buy ups (e.g., the Philly Inquirer), have turned sour for the same profit-seeking resons. Here's Chandler:

Maybe it is best to look beyond corporate or private equity owners. Like professional sports teams, newspapers are trophy properties, able to create instant stature for their owners. The price is usually less-than double-digit returns. Perhaps a "benevolent billionaire" will rescue The Times. Sadly, my family trust appears not to be interested.

Another sports ownership example worth contemplating is community ownership, like that of the Green Bay Packers football team. Article I of its bylaws states, "This association shall be a community project, intended to promote community welfare ... its purposes shall be exclusively charitable." Sound appealing? If 20% of Times readers invest $1,000, it could work. I'll write the first check for the Los Angeles Times Community Owners LLC.

It's worth repeating that the Trib Co. (including the LA Times and our own Morning Call) is on the block....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

WDIY Podcasts?

There is, to put it mildly, a dearth of genuine public affairs media here in the Lehigh Valley. To its credit, the Valley's public radio station, WDIY, airs two weekly shows--Lehigh Valley Discourse and Lehigh Valley Venue.

The problem is that the shows air once a week, Wednesday (Discourse) or Thursday (Venue), both at 6 . As important as the shows are, it's just not plausible to expect folks to make appointments to listen. The result is a far smaller (and much more random) audience than the shows deserve.

There's an easy and cheap solution: a podcast. The audience would increase dramatically and, more importantly, the shows would contribute to the Valley's now-anemic public discussion.

Please email Jim DeSousa (Venue host and news director) and Dennise Kowalczyk (WDIY executive director) urging them to make the shows available as a podcast.

And if you're not already a member, please join WDIY. it is a community asset, and it deserves our support.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Update on Philly Inquirer Dispute

Given the ruthless profit margins that publicly traded companies like the Tribune Co. must produce to satisfy Wall Street, some of us were guardedly hopeful about the rash of local magnates threatening to buy their hometown newspapers--and promising to demand far more modest profit margins. These moguls seemed to recognize that newspapers are public trusts and vital to their communities.

The Philadelphia Inquirer--a once mightly paper--went private in just this way. And just a few months later it is mired in an ugly dispute over sharp cost-cutting. Not so hopeful any more...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Terrific Op-Ed on the Boundaries of Debate

Gary Olson, chairman of Moravian College's political science department, published an unusually trenchant op-ed in the Call last week. The piece, somewhat misleadingly titled, "Alternative media can balance establishment's experts," devotes most of its column-inches not to alternative news outlets, but instead to an analysis of the boundaries of "acceptable" discourse set by a class-stratified but little-discussed division of intellectual labor. Olson's argument is that the universe of "expertise" and punditry is drawn from the privileged top-fifth of the population--a subset that benefits from the Robber Baron-era economic inqualities generated by our lean and ruthless social "compact." (The largely invisible top 2 percent, in Olson's view, are the real winners.) This "secular priesthood" is important, according to Olson, because consent to the current system demands that the broad middle--the more or less exploited--be misled or at least distracted.

I also believe something like this is true, though the process by which privilege gets maintains is more complicated than an op-ed can convey. The piece is quite smart, and does indeed end with a litany of alternative news sources that probe beyond those narrow, mainstream boundaires.

The best bit of the essay is its list of topics that are currently off-limits to discuss, but that are by any measure important:

What are a few propositions that demand widespread exposure and debate? 1. Meaningful democracy and capitalism are mutually exclusive. 2. The United States is hated not for what we are but what we do in the world. 3. Oil can never be cited as the real motive behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. 4. Sources of cheap labor, resources and profits — not promoting freedom — explain the 800 U.S. military bases around the globe and U.S. foreign policy since 1945. 5. The Israeli lobby in Washington does not serve this country's best interests. 6. The ''war on terrorism'' is only the latest propaganda tool to scare the public for other ends. 7. The proposed U.S. ''defense shield'' in outer space is an offensive weapon. 8. The purchasing power (adjusted for inflation) of the typical American family been falling for many years. 9. Big Business loves illegal immigration. 10. Most people experience no signficant upward mobility and the American Dream is now officially a myth.

Here's the essay.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Morning Call Coopts the Cranks

As a news junkie, I was pleased to receive the Morning Call’s invitation to an annual “letter writers” event, which I attended last Thursday. Designed to thank (or co-opt?) the cranks who regularly pen letters to the editor, the event itself was fascinating--attended, as it was, by Call publisher Tim Kennedy, editor Ardith Hilliard, and the entire staff of the editorial page.

The event was held at the Call’s downtown building, with candied refreshments, logo’d coffee mugs, and a surprisingly choreographed program. “Home of the Brave, Land of the Free”--this was the evening’s inexplicable title, which was projected on a large screen, against the backdrop of a rippling American flag.

After a slide show of dramatic news photos, editorial page editor Glenn Kranzley introduced the folks in attendance, and invited a few columnists up to read political limericks. (Bizarre, but enthralling.) Kranzley then invited the 40-person audience to ask questions. Most of these were disappointing--”Why don’t you print NFL box scores on Sunday?” asked one quivering-with-anger letter-writer. “I’ve written a letter every Sunday for the last 15 weeks!”--but Bob Lovett, the LV Republican leader, did ask an informed question about reports that Call parent company Tribune is in talks with various buyers. (See also the Call's own earlier reporting on rumors that the paper might be sold separately.)

I asked a deliberately barbed question, with the Call’s 2005 layoffs and current LA Times imbroglio in mind: “The Morning Call is a public trust as well as a private company. The Tribune Co. demands ruthless profit margins in the 20 to 25% margin--five times what the average Fortune 500 company clears. What is the senior leadership of the Call doing to insulate the paper from the bean counters in Chicago.” A nervous Kennedy gave a vapid answer, with the repeated claim that ownership is “just 5% of the problem.” (Here's the NPR story on the LA Times fight).

After the Q&A, and before the night’s highlight, the tour of the facilities--I approached editor Hilliard to congratulate her on Sam Kennedy’s excellent reporting on the higher education fraud Lehigh Valley College--which, thanks to Kennedy’s tireless, shoeleather follow-through, finally threw in the towel.

The tour was truly gripping, especially the bits that involved the awesomely sized presses--bought used from the Baltimore Sun some years back. The sheer acreage consumed by the presses--whole football fields--is astonishing, and it’s humbling to realize that it will all be gone within 15 years. (One Orwellian side note: Up on the walls of the massive production spaces--though not in the newsroom--is the creepy slogan “Innovation is our Job.”)

Whatever its motives, the Call deserves thanks for the informative event.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fake News, Part Two

The Center for Media & Democracy, the indispensable activist group that publishes PR Watch and Sourcewatch, just released its second report on fake-news "video news releases," in which big corporations pay PR firms to produce slick, ready-for-TV ads that cash-strapped local TV stations run as unlabeled news. It's a scandalously widespread practice that fundamentally violates the public trust. The report includes side-by-side vidoes of the original VNR alongside the stations' broadcast.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Clear Channel to Stay in the Valley

As the Morning Call reports, the evil Clear Channel radio bohemoth plans to keep its tentacles wrapped around its Lehigh Valley radio stations, while selling those in Reading and elsewhere.

Buy Nothing Day

Mark your calendars: Buy Nothing Day is coming up, Nov. 24th. The clever activists at Adbusters are the organizers.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Extended Time to Register for Media Conference

The National Conference for Media Reform, the big annual gathering of media activists of all stripes, has extended its less expensive, "early bird" registration until Nov. 17. The speaker list is extraordinary, and includes Bill Moyers, Amy Goodman, Jesse Jackson, Ben Bagdikian, Robert Greenwald and countless others. Check out the website ...

I'll be there--and also giving a paper at a scholarly preconference affiliated with the big event. My paper: "The Accidental Blue-Red Coalition: Its Roots and Implications for the Media Reform Movement." I'll post it here when it is completed...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Youth Media Added to Media Action Web Site

The Youth and Community Media Showcase on Media Action LV's site has its first listing--links to youth documentaries produced this summer through Kids Media Access Project (KAMP), a two-week digital storytelling program sponsored by Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) and Muhlenberg College. The films, created by 12 local youth ages 9-17, deal with shortfalls in recreation funding, litter, a youth dance troupe, and many other topics--in the voices of the young people themselves. I saw the films when they were screened in late August at the Allentown Art Museum; they are moving and honest in a way that only kids can pull off.

The KAMP program was created by Lora Taub-Pervizpour and Kate Ranieri, two steering committee members of Media Action LV, and faculty in Muhlenberg College's Department of Media and Communication.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

REMINDER: Kembrew McLeod at Muhlenberg Tomorrow

Media prankster and communication scholar Kembrew McLeod is speaking at Muhlenberg College tomorrow. He is quite brilliant and funny--as a few minutes' browsing of his eponymous website shows. Here are the details:

When: tomorrow (October 25), 7pm
Where: Moyer Hall, Muhlenberg College (campus map here)
Who: free and open to the public
What: "Doh!®: How Intellectual Property Law Limits Free Speech and Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way"

Who Owns the Lehigh Valley Media?

Thanks to the folks at the Center for Public Integrity, we can now easily find out who owns the Lehigh Valley's newspapers and radio and TV stations. Not surprisingly, the radio bohemoth Clear Channel owns the most stations in the area--12, according to CPI.

The ownership data--complete with interactive map--are now linked directly from the Media Action of the Lehigh Valley website.

Monday, October 23, 2006

From Attytood:

"This afternoon I was urgently dispatched to cover a press conference at City Hall. It turned out that a couple of Philadelphia journalists had accomplshed what an entire city and state bureaucracy could not. Two digging Inquirer reporters learned that the city's Department of Human Services wasn't doing its job -- not very well, at least -- and as many as 20 children had died. As a result of the article, the agency head and a top deputy lost their jobs, and a reform effort is now underway.

Mayor John Street had nothing but praise for the reporters and the article that had touched off this chain reaction. Said the mayor: 'One of the things that makes our society a great society is a free press.'

But just minutes before that news conference, Brian Tierney, the CEO of the group that bought the Daily News and the Inquirer just this summer, was announcing that another round of job cuts at the newspapers is all but inevitable. That means fewer reporters in Philadelphia doing fewer investigative reports like this one -- reports that may actually save the lives of a few battered children down the road."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Philly City Council to Consider Resolution Against Big Media Consolidation Tomorrow

The terrific Philly-based media reform group Media Tank, along with a host of other groups, is supporting a Philadelphia City Council resolution urging the FCC to limit big media's corporate control. See the details below.

WHAT: Press Conference: City Council to Introduce Resolution Against Further Consolidation of Ownership in the Media!

WHO: Hear City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Philadelphia's prominent news weeklies, local media advocates, broadcasters, and more speak out against media consolidation, on the day that City Council will introduce a resolution urging the FCC to limit big media's corporate control! Come stand with us and support this important event! We need you!

WHERE: City Hall, Room 201

WHEN: 9am, Thursday October 19th!

WHY: In 2003, Philadelphians led the way in the battle against media consolidation, when the Federal Communications Commission tried to let companies like Clear Channel and Viacom own our daily newspapers, more radio and TV stations, and to crowd out local voices in our city and around the country. Media justice groups then took their fight to the courts, winning a landmark battle and defeating their attempt to give our airwaves to big companies who don't care about our town.

Now, the FCC is doing it again, but Philadelphia won't sit back and let it happen! On Thursday, October 19th, Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown will be introducing a resolution urging the FCC to protect our voices by continuing to ban the cross-ownership of electronic and print media in our city, and to limit the number of stations that any one company can hold. The resolution will also urge the FCC to hold official public hearings on the rules in Philadelphia, so we can tell the FCC directly -- don't give our airwaves away!

The FCC buried studies showing that when our TV and radio stations are owned by local companies, they produce much more local news -- 25% more than other conglomerate-owned stations' broadcasts and an average of 30+ hours more per year of local news! Read more about it here.

Philadelphians and thousands of folks across the country are demanding rules which make more local news possible, by sending their thoughts directly to the FCC, by filing official comments here.

You can tell the FCC -- you want more local music, culture, and public debate on our airwaves, and a diversity of ownership of Philadelphia's media.

Please forward widely, and see you tomorrow!

Groups Supporting the Resolution (list forming):
Consumers Union
Media Tank
Prometheus Radio Project
Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association
International Action Center
Sam (N?e Matt) Schwartz, ran the Philadelphia Independent
Philadelphia Community Access Coalition
Jobs with Justice
Neighborhood Networks
Termite TV
Center for Creative Activities
Democracy Now Advocates
Women?s International League for Peace and Freedom

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Morning Call misses the boat -- again

When the mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton signed the U.S.Mayors Climate Protection Agreement on July 21, the Morning Call didn't report it at all.

On October 15, 2006, Don Cunningham and John Stoffa, the County Executives of Lehigh and Northampton counties, signed a similar Climate Protection Agreement that spells out ways the counties will act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all county operations. (This is believed to be the first time counties have worked together to make a climate protectio a regional priority.)

The Morning Call did not run the advance announcement and did not cover the event.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Terrific Summary of Net Neutrality

Josh Silver, the executive director of Free Press, the leading media reform group, gave a lucid and succinct answer to a question about net neutrality, on the public radio program "Media Matters." An mp3 clip of the less-than-five-minute answer is here.

Net neutrality is one of the two key issues promoted by Media Action of the Lehigh Valley.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Two Media Reform Speakers at Muhlenberg College, October 19 and 25

Both Mark Crispin Miller and Kembrew McLeod are slated to speak at Muhlenberg College as part of the Center for Ethics' "Freedom" theme.

Crispin Miller, the famed media scholar and activist, will speak on "Media Consolidation and the Threat to Democracy" next Thursday (October 19), 7pm in the College's Moyer Hall. (A campus map is here.)

McLeod, intellectual property expert and media prankster, will discuss "Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property" Wednesday, October 25, 7pm in the College's Moyer Hall. (Campus map.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Misleading Tax Story in Morning Call

The Morning Call, and its readers, got played yesterday.

The Call's lead story--"Valley Region Pays Some of the Highest Taxes in Nation"--devotes breathless, front-page prose to the Lehigh Valley's property tax burden.

Here's the cheeky lede:

"Guess what, Lehigh Valley region? We pay a lot of taxes. Oh, you knew that. Then how about this? Property taxes are higher in Bucks County than in the California counties of Santa Barbara, San Francisco and San Diego."

And here's the requisite shocked-senior quote: ''Holy God. That is high...I would think California, New York and other places are higher.''

The story reports that the figures are from the Tax Foundation--which the Call labels "a non-partisan tax research group based in Washington, DC."

The Call got played. The Tax Foundation is a "non-partisan tax research group" in the same sense that Swiftboat Veterans for Truth is an independent citizens group.

The Tax Foundation is a notorious, right-wing anti-tax club founded in 1937 by business magnates upset with FDR's New Deal. As you can read here and here, the group is almost entirely funded by big business and right-wing foundations.

The group sponsors the so-called Tax Freedom Day--the date when, if our whole check were going to taxes, we would clear our burden--and promotes the hell out of it.

As a quick Lexis-Nexis search shows, the group is almost always labeled "conservative" or "right-wing" when its figures are used in news stories. Not at the Morning Call.

The label is crucial, of course, because readers need to know whether the source of an article's data is truly in it for "non-partisan research" or if--as in this case--the group's explicit mission is to raise America's "tax consciousness" so that we can roll back the few social programs that remain from that despised New Deal. The group has a right to air its views, but the Call has an obligation to let its readers know who's paying their bills and what the funders expect in return.

The anti-tax evangelism of the Call article--the frame used in all Tax Foundation press releases--makes the piece downright misleading. Take the lede's reference to California counties and their lower property tax bills. That's narrowly true, but only because California schools are funded through the state government to a much greater degree than is typical in Pennsylvania. If you included California's income tax--which generates the revenue for that school funding--the California tax burden is quite a bit higher.

You need to wade through 19 paragraphs to get the figures for the two counties that we normally consider the Lehigh Valley--$2844 in Northampton and $2592 in Lehigh. These figures are far, far less than many New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut counties. Yes, Northampton and Lehigh are relatively high for Pennsylvania--but then so are the counties' income and home values. The relevant comparisons are millage rates and assessment practices.

And then there's the timing: There's little doubt that the Tax Foundation pumped versions of this story nationwide to change the dynamic in the upcoming midterm elections, to help the Republican "tax relief" refrain. According to another Lexis search, the group normally releases their property-tax analysis at the end of the year, in late December or early January. Not this year.

Write to the Morning Call to object to the biased coverage.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Indy Films Available for Classroom Use

The Alliance for Sustainable Communities and the SouthSide Film Festival, both based here in the Lehigh Valley, are working with four filmmakers to make films available free of charge for classroom use. The films were shown at the 2006 SouthSide Film Festival and were selected for this project because they address important topics in unique, thought-provoking ways.

The films are A Question of Loyalty, by Randall Wilkins; Anna und der Soldat [Anna and the Soldier], by Christian Prettin & Soeren Hueper; Stay Awake, by Blerime Topalli; and The Other Side, by Bill Brown. More information about the films is available on the Alliance website.

Teachers interested in using any of these films in their classroom should contact Peter Crownfield by email.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Net Neutrality Parody

Check out this new, slickly produced parody on net neutrality. The CEO statement is priceless, and reminds me of the legenday pranks of the Yes Men.

Thanks to Ross Nunamaker of News Over Coffee (Nazareth) for passing this link along. News Over Coffee is the Valley's foremost example of authentic citizen journalism; Ross has a companion blog on how he's done it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Anonymous Blog Leads to Congressman's Resignation

The Washington Times, the RNC daily newsletter, demands that House Speaker Denny Hastert resign. Former Congressman Mark Foley has checked into a rehab, blaming pedophilic tendencies on a drinking problem.

Pretty big news stories, don't you think?

But did you know this major story comes from an anonymous blog called Stop Sex Predators? It includes the text of several Foley's emails to a 16 year old page. Congressional pages are disparagingly referred to as skinterns. Most disturbing is that other Congressman are mentioned.

Increasingly, blogs are beating mainstream new sources.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Astroturf, Part III

This short audio file, from Free Press's weekly Media Minutes, exposes not only Hands Off the Internet but also its other industry-funded ilk.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Update on Media Consolidation Fight

The most recent installment of Bob McChesney's excellent Media Matters radio show (available as in mp3 format here) provides a clear overview of the FCC's plans to overturn the meager media ownership limits that currently exist.

McChesney is a professor at the University of Illinois and a founder of Free Press, the main national media reform group. Free Press's "Stop Big Media" site is excellent, and includes a blog.

The appalling issue of the two suppressed FCC studies is discussed in the broadcast.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Astroturf Meddling Follow-Up

Lehigh Valley Ramblings has posted an excellent follow-up to the astroturf meddling of AT&T's front group. (See post below.)

Reminder: Launch Event TONIGHT

Media Action of the Lehigh Valley, a new nonprofit dedicated to media democracy in the region and beyond, will hold its inaugural meeting tonight (Thursday, September 28), at 7:30pm in the Silkwerks Building in downtown Allentown (930 N. 4th St.; directions here). Dharma Daily of the Prometheus Radio Project will speak about community wifi in the Lehigh Valley, and Media Action LV organizers will discuss the new group's goals and plans.

The event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Corporate-Funded Astroturf Group Tries to Manipulate Local Debate

Hands Off the Interent, a fake grassroots organization that adopts phony 'public interest' rhetoric on behalf of its industry backers, tried to manipulate local debate on net neutrality. On Monday, Lehigh Valley Ramblings, a popular blog, posted a well-informed argument for net neutrality, noting that blogs like LV Ramblings would go extinct in the highest-bidder internet that telcom companies like AT&T envision.

It didn't take long for a paid flack from Hands Off the Internet--a textbook example of an astroturf group--to post an innocent-seeming comment in reply to the LV Ramblings post. HandsOff43 attacked "so-called net neutrality," and ended the comment with, "We at Hands Off the Internet are trying to educate consumers about the unintended bureaucratic sluggishness net neutrality regulations will surely bring. I hope this was informative."

After LV Ramblings's Bernie O'Hare called him on the sleazy attempt to ape the legitimacy of real citizen action, HandsOff43 returned with a second post. Its lead sentence:

"Bernie, We at Hands Off The Internet have nothing to hide except the facts."

I couldn't have said it any better.

For the record, the Save the Internet Coalition doesn't take a single penny from corporate sources.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

National Conference on Media Reform: January in Memphis

From Free Press, the national media democracy group:
Media reform is coming to Memphis!

Mark your calendar and make your reservations -- registration for the 2007 National Conference for Media Reform is now open. This one-of-a-kind event will take place on January 12-14, 2007, in the home of the blues and birthplace of rock 'n' roll, Memphis, Tennessee.

Join Bill Moyers, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jane Fonda, Amy Goodman, Phil Donahue, Ben Bagdikian, Davey D, FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein and many more for an unforgettable and inspiring weekend.

Sign up now for the 2007 National Conference for Media Reform

The 2007 National Conference for Media Reform is about broadening the movement and establishing the media as a viable political issue in America. This energizing weekend will present ideas and strategies for winning the fight for better media and connect you with thousands of media reformers from across the nation.

Here is the conference website.

Key PA Senate Vote On Community Media: Contact Senator Browne!

See the important action call from Prometheus Radio Project.

Call and urge Senator Browne to oppose the Pennsylvania video franchise bill (SB 1247):

Sen. Patrick Browne
(717) 787-1349

Hello Community Media Supporters of Pennsylvania, and Greetings from the Prometheus Radio Project!

We met with you earlier this summer to learn about the great work you are doing in your community, and to plug you into a network across Pennsylvania that would let you know when opportunities came up to fight for local control over your communications networks! Now, your community needs your help to fight for local control over video service
in your area.

On Tuesday, September 26th, both the state House of Representatives and the Senate will be voting on two companion bills that would allow Verizon to deliver video and phone service to our homes. Sounds okay at first -- cable companies across the state need strong competition -- except that the bills would move all decisionmaking that communities have over video delivery services to the state level. Today, communities across Pennsylvania have negotiated funding for school and emergency services communications, public access television, and much more with their cable companies. If Senate Bill 1247 or House Bill 2880 pass next week and are signed into law:

-- Cities and neighborhoods that are hard to reach, don't make enough money, or are otherwise deemed 'economically infeasible' can be denied access to new video service.

-- Cities without public access TV channels already on the air might lose their opportunity to build them -- and cities with public access TV might lose their right to negotiate for new funding or new channels.

-- If we have complaints about our video service, our cities have fewer tools to fight for our consumer protections.

-- Our state legislators will have no power to deny any company a franchise in our cities or towns, unless the applicant fails to fill out the application form right!

Here is the rest of the call.

The bill, as Free Press has pointed out, lacks any protection for net neutrality.

You can read an analysis of the bill, by PennPIRG, here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Media Tank Turns Five

Media Tank, the terrific Philadelphia-based media reform organization, is celebrating its fifth birthday tonight...

When: Thursday, September 21, 2006, 7:00-10:00 pm
Where: Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square

For more details, click here.

Jim Schneider's Work to be Featured in Philadelphia Sunday (Sept. 24)

The late Jim Schneider's legacy of media activism inspired the creation of Media Action of the Lehigh Valley (see About Media Action LV). One of Dr. Schneider's documentaries, on local antiwar activism, will be screened as part of Termite TV's series Life Size Action Pictures, this Sunday (Sept. 24) at 2:30 pm at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More details here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

City Council Meeting to Feature Youth Documentaries on Downtown Allentown

Short documentary films made by downtown Allentown youth will be screened at Wednesday night's Allentown City Council meeting (7:30pm, at City Hall, 435 Hamilton St.). The films were created in August as the showpiece of Kids Media Access Project (KAMP), a two-week digital storytelling program sponsored by Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) and Muhlenberg College. The films, created by 12 local youth ages 9-17, deal with shortfalls in recreation funding, litter, a youth dance troupe, and many other topics--in the voices of the young people themselves. I saw the films when they were screened in late August at the Allentown Art Museum; they are moving and honest in a way that only kids can pull off.

The KAMP program was created by Lora Taub-Pervizpour and Kate Ranieri, two steering committee members of Media Action of the Lehigh Valley, and faculty in Muhlenberg College's Media and Communication.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Launch Event Thursday, September 28

Media Action of the Lehigh Valley, a new nonprofit dedicated to media democracy in the region and beyond, will hold its inaugural meeting on Thursday, September 28, at 7:30pm in the Silkwerks Building in downtown Allentown (930 N. 4th St.; directions here). Dharma Daily of the Prometheus Radio Project will speak about community wifi in the Lehigh Valley, and Media Action LV organizers will discuss the new group's goals and plans.

The event is free and open to the public.