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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4708)

by Sue Wilson

Broadcasters are licensed to serve the public interest.   If a radio or TV station does not serve the public interest, the FCC can take its license to broadcast away, and give the opportunity to make millions using the public airwaves to someone else. 

Yes, we the people do have some power over what is broadcast in our own communities, at least in theory. But in fact, as shown in my film, Public Interest Pictures' Broadcast Blues, petitions to deny stations' licenses languish for years, and the FCC has no record of the last time any station's license has been pulled.  Even the case of a TV station that a court ruled deliberately distorted the news didn't meet the FCC threshold of not "serving the public interest."

It used to be that stations had to prove they were serving the public interest every three years;  now they just send in a postcard to get rubberstamp approval every eight years.   It used to be that stations had to produce hours of local community programming to satisfy their license requirements;  now, most claim they serve the public by producing local news.  And local TV news is key:  Pew reports 68 percent of people say local TV news is their primary news source.  So is local TV news serving the public interest?

Friday, 12 March 2010 04:20

Aren't We Cheneyed Out Yet?

by Laura Flanders

At what point do we call them the family of mass intimidation and simply stop playing into the Cheney clan’s tired old terror tactics?

Liz is the latest. Cheney child number one made the headlines this week, with an innuendo-laced video questioning the loyalty of lawyers who represent Guantanamo detainees. “The Al Qaeda 7: Who are they?" Asks the voice on a video released by Cheney's supposedly nonprofit, non-partisan new hit squad. (They call it an advocacy group?)

Liz is playing from a battered old family play book. Shortly after September 11, it was her mother out there, accusing people of lack of patriotism. Lynne Cheney teamed up with Senator Joseph Lieberman to release a report which accused colleges and universities of being the “weak link in America’s response” and naming 117 professors and students whom they called “short on patriotism" and "hostile to the US and western Civilization."

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Living in these United States, there comes a point at which you throw your hands up in exasperation and despair and ask a fundamental question or two: how much excess profit does corporate America really need? How much bigger do executive salaries and bonuses have to be, how many houses or jets or artworks can be crammed into a life?

After all, as billionaire movie director Steven Spielberg is reported to have said, when all is said and done, "How much better can lunch get?" But since greed is not self-governing, hardly anyone raking in the dough ever stops to say, "That's it. Enough's enough! How do we prevent it from sweeping up everything in its path, including us?"

by Danny Schechter

The financial crisis started as a housing bubble with the financial industry convinced that home values never fall. How wrong they were even a they leveraged and securitized their investments to create a global crisis.

Now, brace yourself because not only isn’t over until its over but in some respects its just begun. There will be more foreclosures this year than last and as a result more suffering for American families.

Ed Harrison who monitors this industry for a Web site called Credit Write Downs sees a “second wave coming” -- like a new tsunami in a industry that all of Obama’s horses and all of Obama’s men have not been able to do anything about. The idea of challenging fraud and deception with a debt relief plan goes a bit too far for these self-styled centrists.

by Stephen Pizzo

Thanks to my trusty dog, Buster, I don’t have sleep with one eye opened or with one ear cocked for trouble. If someone decides to lurk anywhere near my house he lets me know -- loudly and persistently.  More times than not it’s just a neighbor or the UPS guy.

Nevertheless, I not only appreciate Buster’s enthusiastic embrace of his watchdog role, but I empathize with him as well. After all, for a quarter century I was watchdog myself, back when that was a reporter’s job. And back then I and my fellow news-dogs acted just like Buster. Sure, sometimes we barked up the wrong tree, at the wrong people for the wrong reasons. But more often than not we alerted  readers to things they didn’t know, had a right to know and needed to know. More often than now we took a bite out of some genuine skunks.

Thursday, 11 March 2010 01:26

Schools in Orange Jumpsuits

by Robert C. Koehler

The image that flashed into my mind was: schools in orange jumpsuits.

Something has broken apart in our society — an unspoken agreement about sanity, a truce between play and order. The authoritarian strain, always present, of course, has been ratcheting up to ever more absurd levels for a decade now.

It’s as though, as the American political class has watched its real control over the course of events slowly ebb, a collusion of desperation has broken out among them: “The time of fun and waste is over,” as the 9/11 terrorists put it. As our problems get increasingly complex, the solutions we implement get more and more simplistic. Results don’t really matter, just the appearance of holding someone accountable.

Thursday, 11 March 2010 00:45

War in a Box

by Norman Solomon

The event on the House floor Wednesday afternoon was monumental -- the first major congressional debate about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan since lawmakers authorized the invasion of that country in autumn 2001. But, as Rep. Patrick Kennedy noted with disgust on Wednesday, the House press gallery was nearly empty. He aptly concluded: “It’s despicable, the national press corps right now.”

Sure enough, the Thursday edition of the New York Times had no room for the historic debate on its front page, which did have room for a large Starbucks ad across the bottom.

Despite the news media and the lopsided pro-war tilt on Capitol Hill (reflected in the 356-65 vote Wednesday against invoking the War Powers Act), antiwar organizing has a lot of hospitable terrain at the grassroots. National polling shows widespread opposition to the Afghanistan war effort -- a far cry from the dominant lockstep conformity in Congress.

by Chisun Lee, ProPublica

The Supreme Court recently freed corporations to spend more money on aggressive election ads. But if businesses take advantage of this new freedom, the public probably won't know it, because it's easy for them to legally hide their political spending.

Under current disclosure laws for federal elections, it's virtually impossible for the public to track how much a business spends, what it's spending on, or who ultimately benefits. Experts say the transparency problem extends to state and local races as well.

"There is no good way to gauge" how much any given company spends on elections, said Karl Sandstrom, a former vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission and counsel to the Center for Political Accountability. "There's no central collection of the information, no monitoring."

From his dining room table in 1977, the decidedly anti-gay Rev. Donald Wildmon built a multi-million dollar ministry and media powerhouse. Now, although he has retired, AFA’s beat goes on.  

By Bill Berkowitz

You wouldn’t recognize him if you ran into him on the street; you couldn’t pick him out of a lineup; you’ve probably never seen him on television. Nevertheless, over the past thirty+-years, he has been one of the Religious Right’s most effective campaigners against whatever he perceived to be indecency on television and in the movies. He was feared by corporate leaders and, along the way, he became one of the country’s predominant and persistent scolds.

Now, after thirty-three years at the helm, the Rev. Donald Wildmon, an ordained United Methodist minister who founded the National Federation for Decency in 1977 to fight indecency on television (it changed its name to the American Family Association (AFA) in 1988) and American Family Radio, has called it quits as chairman of the organization.

by Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

Just when the Democrats need to be tougher than ever on financial reform, Senate Banking Committee Chair Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), seems to have given up completely and put the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) at risk.

Last fall, Dodd called the Federal Reserve's regulatory efforts an "abysmal failure." And yet, on March 1, he proposed housing a consumer protection agency within the Fed instead of establishing the CFPA as its own independent entity. This drastic change in strategy has left many Democrats shaking their heads. WTF, Senator Dodd?

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