Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yes, I Mean You

It would be untoward of me to sit around in my little office in Columbia Maryland railing against the cable and telephone operators for the losses Public, Educational and Government access television has suffered over the last couple of years without doing some brutal finger pointing at the “media reform movement.” The very folks who are righteously angry at the current state of media consolidation and lack of media democracy frequently are the first to turn a blind eye or under value the PEG community as less than “real media.”

It puzzles me.

There were instances during the heat of those statewide franchising battles that groups that cry for media justice and reform were either missing in action or telling PEG advocates they needed to compromise their channels and support other issues, such as net neutrality, for example. There was palatable frustration on the ground and plenty of times PEG advocates had to elbow media reformers out of the way because they were clouding issues and doing more harm than good.

But more importantly they weren’t and still aren’t getting “it.”

Let’s go through it one more time, shall we?

We estimate that there are roughly 5,000, count ‘em, 5,000 PEG television channels in this country. Why don’t we know exactly how many? Because there are a bijillion small towns out there that have a channel but don’t necessarily belong to any particular group and aren’t on any particular mailing list. In North Carolina communities were required to certify their channels in order to get some paltry capital funding. The legislature put a cap on the total dollars at $2 million, thinking there were 80 or so channels and each one would get about $25,000. Surprise, surprise. Communities began certifying and lo and behold, over 300 channels emerged. I was just as amazed as anyone because I only had about 40 North Carolina PEG centers on my list (some with multiple channels).

Let’s see now. Clear Channel has some 1,200 radio stations. The PEG community has some 5,000 television channels. What would our stock look like if we were traded? I guarantee you the cable and phone companies know, which is why they fight us tooth and nail and have launched an all out assault to get those channels back or not provide them at all or aggregate them into oblivion or turn them into “streams” rather than real channels.

Every one of those channels has been hard-fought for, community by community. You can’t get any closer to media justice or grass roots than that.

I read this declaration the other day:

“In order for our democracy to work for everyone, we need a media system with democratic values. That means access to a wide range of voices and opinions, programming that encourages civic participation, quality journalism that’s protected from manipulation by commercial interests and support for emerging arts and music.”

This sounds like it came from the Alliance for Community Media website. But it didn’t. It was included in an excellently done tool kit by the Spin Project entitled “Whose Media? Our Media! Strategic Communications Tools to Reform, Reclaim, and Revolutionize the Media.”

The declaration was then followed with how the upcoming media consolidation hearings were the opportunity to begin to reform, reclaim and revolutionize the media. And I would agree that media consolidation is a critical issue, but where were those “reformers, reclaimers and revolutionaries” in Kansas or Tennessee or Ohio or Florida or Georgia when we lost our shirt?

More importantly, here is this lovely communications tool kit, excellently done (really it is a fine piece of work) with a grant from the Ford Foundation, that mentions “cable access” in a brief passage about how academics can be used as a resource. It never once mentions PEG channels as a resource for COMMUNICATING.

Maybe Amy Goodman should explain it to these folks. How many channels is Democracy Now! on these days? Well over 200 hundred and probably closer to 300. Do you know that there are only 354 public television stations in this country? That means that Democracy Now! through PEG channels, has almost the same reach as MacNeil/Lehrer. And I would dare say it’s better because many of these channels run DN! more than once per day. It’s on in Baltimore 20 hours a week for God’s sake.

Am I getting through to the reformers, reclaimers and revolutionaries yet?

And if I am, what exactly are you going to do to help us overturn the damage that has been done to PEG? I want specifics. Are you willing to stand up to the Communications Workers of America who did us severe harm in places like Indiana or California? Are you willing to sign petitions, hold signs, march? Are the funders of the “media reform movement” willing to throw PEG advocacy organizations some green? Are you willing to find out where the PEG centers are in your community and take a tour so you can once and for all finally figure it out?

Or are you just so busy looking at the sky you can’t feel the earth beneath your feet?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: