Media Politics

Writings by Jonathan Lawson

Indymedia turns 10

Reclaim the Media

On Nov 24, 1999--days before the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization--Matthew Arnison and Mansour Jacobi posted the first message to the brand-new Indymedia.org, launching a creative grassroots media project that would grow into an international movement.

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Will Seattle get a broadband 'public option?'

Jonathan Lawson, Reclaim the Media

Community activist Mike McGinn rode a wave of grassroots organizing energy to victory in Seattle's Mayoral race this month. The new mayor-elect's vision for affordable city-wide fiber broadband was not only a core concern for his campaign, but one of his clearest disagreements with challenger Joe Mallahan. Now that the campaign is won, what's the road ahead for McGinn's vision?

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Seattle civil rights organizations join chorus of opposition to media hate

Reclaim the Media

Groups criticize Beck, Dobbs and other "Mad Haters" for misusing the media to spread hate, fear and lies

Civil rights organizations representing a broad range of Northwest communities came together this week to condemn hateful and deceptive messages which have become prevalent in the national media.

The joint statement comes on the eve of Fox News broadcaster Glenn Beck's visit to Washington State, during which he will receive the key to the City of Mt. Vernon in a widely criticized move by Mayor Bud Norris.

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Public interest groups urge lawmakers to craft a public-centered broadband plan

Reclaim the Media/WashPIRG

In Seattle, public interest groups Reclaim the Media and WashPIRG are releasing a new report, A Public Interest Internet Agenda, a guide for policymakers creating strategies to connect more urban and rural households to affordable, high-speed broadband Internet.
The report was prepared by member groups of the national Media and Democracy Coalition, including Reclaim the Media.

The report should provide immediate guidance to the Federal Communications Commission, which has been given a deadline of February 2010 for preparing a national broadband strategy. The FCC’s new Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has called for “a process that will be open, transparent and will allow public participation in ways that are unparalleled," and the FCC has begun to schedule public hearings to guide its work.

"The US has fallen behind in universal Internet access, in affordability and in speed, thanks to years of hands-off public policy," said Reclaim the Media executive director Jonathan Lawson. "We need a concerted national effort to get back on track, and policymakers specifically need to hear from the unserved and underserved sectors of our community, not just the telecommunications carriers who have let us fall so far behind. The community-generated recommendations in this report bring balance back to the discussion."

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Groups nationwide urge FCC to support media diversity

On Wednesday, more than 50 civil rights, public interest and grassroots organizations sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and congressional leaders supporting Mark Lloyd, the associate general counsel and chief diversity officer of the FCC, and the agency's longstanding mission to promote localism, diversity and competition in the media.

In recent weeks, Mr. Lloyd has been unfairly attacked on cable TV and radio talk shows with false and misleading information about his role and responsibilities at the FCC. A respected scholar and public servant, Lloyd was hired by the agency to expand media opportunities for women, people of color, small businesses, and those living in rural areas.

The full text of the letter and a list of signatories is below.

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Many rural areas making digital TV switch early

Jonathan Lawson, Daily Yonder

Last week Congress voted to delay the upcoming digital TV transition date until June 12. The decision was provoked by the fact that an estimated 20 million Americans remain unprepared to lose access to over-the-air TV broadcasts. Over three million are currently on a waiting list to receive $40 coupons intended to defray the cost of buying DTV converter boxes for old TVs. Funds for the government coupon program effectively ran out in January, and have not yet been replenished.

Delaying the switch until June 12 should mean a sigh of relief for these unprepared viewers. Turns out, not so much, at least for those living in rural areas and small cities.

Congress left a loophole in the date change, allowing local stations the option to turn off their analog signals as early as Feb. 17 if they chose. And across the country, many stations serving rural areas are deciding to do just that.

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Reclaim the Media praises DTV transition delay

Reclaim the Media

Today, local media justice organization Reclaim the Media praised Congress' decision to delay the nation's shift to digital television. Today's vote by the House of Representatives delays the DTV transition, originally scheduled for Feb. 17, until June 12. By that date, television stations across the country will turn off their analog signals and continue broadcasting only in digital.

"Delaying the switch was the only way to avoid leaving tens of thousands of Seattle-area viewers in the dark," said RTM executive director Jonathan Lawson. "Congress still needs to provide additional funding for the coupon program, and for public education. As in much of the country, Seattle viewers are not yet ready to lose analog TV."

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DTV transition likely to be delayed to June 12

Reclaim the Media

One day after the Senate voted unanimously to delay the digital TV transition date until June 12, House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Henry Waxman has signalled that the House is likely to follow suit as early as today. Waxman's statement: "I am pleased that the Senate has acted to delay the deadline, which is our only hope of mitigating the negative impact on millions of consumers. In light of the Senate action, I will work with the House Democratic Leadership to bring up the Senate bill for consideration Tuesday."

The delay will probably pave the way for replenished funds for the NTIA's troubled DTV converter box coupon program. The waiting list for coupons now stands at over 3 million, and consumers are reporting long delays between ordering and receiving the coupons. The government may also provide additional funding for education and outreach related to the switch to digital TV.

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Seattle Mayor, City Council urge retailers to provide options for a no-cost DTV conversion

Reclaim the Media

Two weeks after a federal Digital TV coupon program effectively ran out of cash, elected officials in Seattle are asking retailers to do their part to help local consumers prepare for the upcoming Digital TV transition (currently scheduled for Feb. 17). Mayor Greg Nickels wrote to local electronics retailers asking them to carry DTV converter boxes at the low cost of $40-$45 (view letter here). All nine members of the City Council have following up with a similar letter.

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Local Community Radio Act will increase local voices, choices

Jonathan Lawson

This fall, Congress has the opportunity to expand local radio choices for people in cities and towns across America by passing a single, bipartisan piece of legislation. The Local Community Radio Act will allow hundreds more small noncommercial stations to fill vacant spaces on the radio dial — increasing local voices and music choices.

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