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Archive for March, 2008

Milestones

Happy 5th Birthday Countdown with Keith Olbermann!Happy 4th Birthday Air America Radio!Happy Cesar Chavez Day! Viva La Causa!Happy 60th Birthday Al Gore!

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Much to my surprise, I was interviewed about my media activities to bring back Progressive Talk Radio to Boston by Air America host Peter B Collins on his show broadcast live from the Take Back America conference on March 18th. My segment is aired between Kathleen Turner, Josh Silver and other venerable guests and starts at 33:40. And for my second time on the radio in a week, I and other members of Boston Progressive Talk were invited to be on the Samantha Clemens Show [WMFO 91.5 FM, Medford MA] to discuss our activities to restore a progressive station as well as why we are working on additional media reform issues. Several of us attended some of the recent FCC hearings in this area.  I haven’t been on the radio so much in one week since I was smitten by the radio bug with 2 shows in college in 1974-5 (back when WBRS was 91.7 FM, I co-hosted a jazz & bluegrass show and hosted a Women’s Radio Show)! 

Members of Boston Progressive Talk, L to R Alan Frankel, Marc Sacks, George Barrett & Robin Bergman (rougegorge) on the Samantha Clemens Show 3/22/08 

Members of Boston Progressive Talk, L to R: Alan Frankel, Marc Sacks, George Barrett & Robin Bergman (rougegorge) on the Samantha Clemens Show 3/22/08.

One of the issues that came up is defining the difference between Public Radio and commercial progressive radio. Ironically, I would never have believed ten years ago that I would be arguing in favor of a commercial AM station! The issue is complicated and nuanced. While I loved the non-commercial aspect of the “old” NPR, the current incarnation has the equivalent of advertising, although it is called “underwriting.” The biggest problem is that subsequent Republican administrations (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II) have torn down the firewall between the funding and governmental agency running Public Radio and the content providers and broadcasters.

During this administration, the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been loaded with Bush cronies, pushing their specific political agendas. Certain topics are no longer encouraged and funded, while otherwise there is more than subtle pressure applied to squelch various subjects, stories or opinion.  I find much of the content is no longer neutral, but instead, reflects the biases of the mainstream media. This is not surprising given the corporate emphasis on fundraising in recent years. There’s a current piece on truthout.org, NPR News: National Pentagon Radio? that illustrates this point well. For more NPR debunking, take a look at NPR Check.

Back in June, several of us made a memorable trip to the FCC hearing on Localism in Portland, Maine. For an entertaining writeup of our trek see AlanF’s  Little Miss Sunshine at the FCC Hearing. We both gave testimony – after 10:30 pm! AlanF gave off-the-cuff testimony addressing in particular, the Democratic FCC commissioners, Copps & Adelstein, rather than the original testimony he had written beforehand. The alloted 2 minutes was a very short time, and as the hours went on, worrying that my own original testimony was too long, I rewrote my remarks over again and again splitting them into two parts so that George & I could each deliver half.  My FCC testimony(thanks, again, to AlanF). As we noted at the hearing, and as we discussed over the air with Samantha, we were at a disadvantage, testifying after almost 10 hours listening to professional broadcasters pander to the FCC.  A recent article by Jonathan Obar and Amit Schejter, Inclusion or Illusion:An Analysis of the FCC’s Public Hearings on Media Ownership 2006-2007 at Penn State U corroborates our own reservations about the hearings.

I was unable to attend the most recent FCC Hearing on Net Neutrality in Cambridge, but George, Marc & Nancy from Boston Progressive Talk were able to go. In a move that served as a perfect illustration of the problem, Comcast paid people to fill up the seats at the hearing, keeping much of the public from attending.  Senator Kerry posted They Took Your Seat over at the HuffPo. If the FCC, lead by Kevin Martin, continues down the same path, the future of the net is at risk. We must stay vigilant! Large media corporations would like to carve it up to control it and to extract more money from it, as they already have with TV, Radio, Phone. There are currently bills in Congress as well as lawsuits filed to overturn the latest round of media consolidation and cross-ownership allowances. Let’s hope some of this is successful. Even if it is, we still have a long way to go to turn back the excessive consolidation since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has almost destroyed broadcast media as an arm of independent journalism as mandated and protected by our founding fathers!

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Since the end of February, it’s been an activist’s dream month, begun by former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter’s talk sponsored by Arlington UJP about the administration’s push for war in Iran. See his books Target Iran and Waging Peace.

Ritter is very engaging and sharp and has been truly courageous in standing up to superiors when they have been wrong. He spoke eloquently about the laziness of Americans and the need for more of us to be actively involved in the political process to take back this country from the corporate interests that have a sranglehold on us.

“We are a nation addicted to the narcotic of consumerism…”

I look forward to reading his books and further writings.

It’s been a week since I got back from the Take Back America conference in Washington, DC. I’m still digesting all of the great sessions and speakers. There was almost too much crammed into a short 3 day period, it was overwhelming and wonderfully recharging.

So many highlights, from sessions with Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) & David Sirota (Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government–and How We Take It Back) to speeches by Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue, Norman Lear, Majora Carter, Van Johnson, Donna Edwards, Ariana Huffington, Robert Greenwald and others.

Here’s a similar video of Majora Carter, MacArthur Fellowship recipient, of Sustainable South Bronx, who won the Paul Wellstone Award at the conference and delivered one of the most powerful presentations given:

Norman Lear: I am a Born Again American:

Naomi Klein, David Sirota, Sarita Gupta, Rob Johnson discuss Debt & Debacle: America In the Global Economy:

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