Media Reform: It's a Labor Issue

by ,

[text of handout distributed at the International Labor Communications Association conference, Orlando]

Media Reform: It's a Labor Issue

* WHY do so few Americans bother to vote, or to participate in civic political life?
* WHY do many Americans believe the Bush Administration's terrible lies about war and the economy?
* WHY does virtually every newscast and newspaper give us detailed, daily coverage of stock values, while ignoring issues important to working families?

The state of our national media holds some important answers to these questions.

Over half of the broadcast media Americans depend on for daily news are owned by just five huge conglomerates. Interconnected by joint ownership and programming arangements, these firms act as a virtual cartel. Content and viewpoints reflect the interests of advertisers and a small shareholer class, rather than the diverse interests of American working families.

So what can we do about it?

Here are a few steps union communicators can take to advance the goal of democratizing our media.

* We can use union power to press for media reform.

No issue in recent memory has drawn together so much public support from so wide a political field, as has the mobilization against the Bush administration FCC's recent move to allow even more corporate media consolidation.

The Congressional fight to reverse this move is ongoing, making public pressure very important. No matter what the outcome this year or next spring, media reform advocates are now planning new efforts to rewrite or replace crucial pieces of legislation such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Labor unions should be a primary conduit for developing public knowledge of and support for these efforts.

* We can educate ourselves and our members about media literacy.

Include a media literacy or media analysis column in your existing union paper or newsletter. Use it to help members develop critical viewing/reading/listening skills they can use to "read between the lines" as they consume a daily diet of CNN, Fox News, USA Today and other corporate media.,,,

* We can make our own media.

Labor unions can and should reach out to existing community media in their own regions' small newspapers, public affairs departments of community radio stations. Fund them and encourage members to read or listen.

Encourage members to become journalists, internally promoting "open publishing" media resources such as Indymedia websites and public access television.

Wherever possible, unions should produce their own news media, directed towards a community audience, rather than members only. Give editorial control to workers rather than union leaders or staff.

National unions and regional/local councils should solicit proposals and offer funding to national and regional independent media programs, including Internet, print and broadcast-based media.,,,

* We can get connected! and provide links to dozens of media activist organizations across the continent. Find out more and get connected to a group near you!


"I see uniformity, not diversity. I see centralization, not localism. I see monopoly and oligarchy, not competition."
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, commenting on the FCC's June 2 decision to weaken media ownership rules

article originally published at .
The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey