Media Literacy/Bias

Jennifer Pozner on reality TV: Reality Bites Back

Anne Kingston, Maclean's

a conversation with Jennifer Pozner on the fakeness of reality shows, how ‘the dumb bimbo’ is cast, and why actresses are shrinking

Jennifer Pozner is the director of Women In Media & News in New York City, and the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV.

Q: Why do you say it’s “bulls–t” that viewer demand has created the deluge of reality TV?

A:Michael Hirschorn, the brain trust behind VH1’s Flavor of Love and Flavor of Love: Charm School and basically the guy who is responsible for bringing the modern minstrel show to television, has said in an interview that – this is the quote, “If women don’t want those shows they wouldn’t get made,” That’s what I call bulls–t, because what reality producers and what the entertainment press sells us is this notion that we, the public, have just demanded via massive ratings that they give us this bottom-feeder low-quality reality TV fare, and this is just a big lie. It’s true that some reality shows—American Idol, The Bachelor—have gotten high ratings, but many others languish with paltry ratings and they get to stay [on air] because these shows are really cheap to produce. It can cost about 50 per cent less—sometimes even 75 per cent less—to make a reality show than to make a quality scripted program.

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Tides CEO to Fox News advertisers: you may have blood on your hands

Media Matters

In a letter released today, Tides CEO and founder Drummond Pike called on advertisers to stop supporting Fox News.

Pike wrote that Byron Williams -- the alleged gunman who, according to police, said he planned to murder employees of Tides and the ACLU -- relied heavily on conspiracy theories advanced on Glenn Beck's show:

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Qur'an burning: From Facebook to the world's media, how the story grew

Matthew Weaver, The Guardian

It started as a provocative suggestion on a Facebook group – but within two months it was being described as a threat to world peace.

Terry Jones, an extremist pastor with a dwindling flock of followers in Florida, became an international hate figure, drawing universal condemnation from world leaders and prompting violent street demonstrations, when his plans to burn 200 copies of the Qur'an were revealed.

The chronology of the story's growth presents a cautionary tale on the power of rolling news and social media to push a marginal figure to the centre of the global stage.

It has led to anxiety in the media about its role but also prompted questions about how politicians and church groups handled the issue.

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The USDA's latest shameful chapter

Reid Mukai, Community Alliance for Global Justice

On July 19, right-wing ideologue Andrew Brietbart released a video of out-of-context snippets of a speech given by Shirley Sherrod, effectively distorting a personal story of empathy and redemption into an inflammatory account of reverse discrimination. Just hours after media began spreading the doctored evidence of racism, Sherrod (who served as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for just over a year), was forced to resign. Disappointingly, during the time she needed help the most, Sherrod received no support from anyone in a position of power. In fact the NAACP and Obama rapidly responded by publicly condemning her alleged comments. This incident follows a series of racially charged smear campaigns expedited by Brietbart and other conservative bullies (including Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh) against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Obama administration’s former Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Van Jones and Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. To her credit, Sherrod didn’t leave without a fight and defended herself during the ordeal and through the aftermath.

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The Media empire strikes back: reviewing reviews of South of the Border

Cyril Mychalejko, Upside Down World

Oliver Stone's new documentary about Latin America's leftward political shift and its growing independence from Washington is being lambasted by the media. This shouldn't come as a surprise as Stone calls out the mainstream media in his new film South of the Border for its mostly one-sided, distorted coverage of the region's political leaders—most significantly Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez .

In an interview with CBS about his new film Stone remarked about America's obsession with empire, maintaining global hegemony, and the paranoia that accompanies such obsessions, saying, "We're a sick country."

And as if on cue, the mainstream media has published a flurry of attacks on the documentary, consequently supporting Stone’s arguments in the film about ideological biases and misinformation  tainting media coverage about the region, while revealing symptoms of this “sickness” he mentions, such as intellectual impotence, pathological lying, and ideological blindness.

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Washington Post TV critic Shales has a lady problem

Irin Carmon, Jezebel

Tom Shales isn't done hating on Christiane Amanpour: His follow-up is trashing her haircut. Actually, a retrospective suggests Shales' assessment of female journalists often hinges on whether or not he wants to sleep with them.

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Pro-choice advocates criticize CBS for accepting anti-abortion Super Bowl ad

Democracy Now

As we reach Super Bowl weekend, the game’s broadcaster CBS is coming under criticism for accepting an anti-abortion ad (update: now two ads) paid for by Focus on the Family. For years, CBS and other networks have rejected advocacy ads during the Super Bowl. Democracy Now! gets reactions from Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood and sportswriter Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States.

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The People's historian: Howard Zinn dies at 87

Mark Feeney and Bryan Marquard, Boston Globe

Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as "A People's History of the United States," inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

His daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, said he suffered a heart attack.

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect."

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Venezuela applies media social responsibility laws to cable channels

James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis

On Thursday, Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) released a list of cable television companies that will be subject to the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, marking an expansion of the law’s jurisdiction over television broadcasters.

The law, known by the acronym RESORTE, establishes standards for child and adult programming, prohibits inflammatory content such as incitement riot or assassinate the president, places limits on commercial advertising, and requires stations to broadcast important government announcements.

When the law was passed in 2004, it applied only to companies holding public broadcasting concessions. Last July, CONATEL announced that cable broadcasters would undergo review and be subject to the law if 70% of their content and overall operations could be considered “national,” meaning Venezuelan.

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FCC to study future of media

Katy Bachman, Media Week

In what could turn out to be a tall order, the Federal Communications Commission Thursday (Jan. 21) launched an initiative to examine the future of media and the information needs of communities in the digital age. Steven Waldman, who recently joined the FCC as a senior advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, will lead the effort, which will culminate in a report later this year.

The FCC intends for the report to serve as the basis for policy recommendations for the commission and other government entities.

Topics under consideration for the report include the state of TV, radio, newspaper and Internet news and information services; the effectiveness and nature of public interest obligations in a digital era; and the role of public media and private sector foundations, among others.


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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey