Posted by: bburatti | November 4, 2011

Do the air waves belong to the people?

The Communications Act of 1934, upon which all current broadcast law is still based, stipulates, “The air waves belong to the people.”   In its historical context, this stated philosophy could be interpreted as one small victory the reform movement achieved. McChesney refutes that idea with the progression of actions and regulations that have consistently protected corporate interests over the interests of the people.

The attacks on public broadcasting and NPR demonstrate the deep chasm between free speech of citizens and free speech of politicians and corporate entities. Public broadcasting and NPR are called liberal simply because they report. To present both sides of an issue, to ask probing questions, is now blasted as “liberal bias.”

Speech in advertising is protected.  Corporate owners have free speech rights. Yet insightful reporting is squashed.  Reporters go to jail to protect sources. In this election season, consider that political advertising for federal candidates has a “no censorship” rule.  Stations must air the commercials no matter how offensive, no matter how spurious. What other form of speech has this level of protection?

The progression of the tenet that big business serves the common good led to global consolidation of media.  A mere handful of companies control the outlets for public discussion worldwide. The myth of the “New Economy” additionally fueled this media gold rush and left us with highly leveraged companies.  Debt-laden companies focus on increasing productivity, not innovation.

  1. PBS and NPR are now more reliant on sponsor support than ever before. How do you think that will impact content?
  2. With multiple cable channels with documentary, historical, and science programming, do we still need PBS?
  3. What are the most troubling aspects of global media consolidation?

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