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.