President George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005
I believe that web sites and blogs are the most reliable sources of real news in contemporary America. Sites like freedomsphoenix.com, huffingtonpress.com, antiwar.com stand as the future in journalistic integrity, if we can maintain the right to speak and write the truth on these sites.
Do we have a free press today? Of course we have a free press. It's free to report all the sex scandals for all the famous people it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new undocumented health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage, divorce and drunk driving incident that happens. But when it comes to the real news with stories such as 9/11, Operation Northwoods, Tailwind, the October Surprise, the El Mozote massacre, the corporate corruption of the pharmaceuticals and the oil companies, CIA involvement in drug trafficking, Iran-Contra and the oily reasons behind the war in Iraq, the American public is largely left out in the dark. Where real news is involved, America begins to see the limits of our right to have access to the truth. In today's media environment, sadly, such stories are not even open for discussion. Anyone who dares to broach these subjects is severely ridiculed and blackballed.
The increasing control of the media by a handful of corporate entities means that far fewer people control what the average American reads, sees, and hears
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 swept away even the minimal consumer and diversity protections of the 1934 act that preceded it. This 280 page document would transform the American media landscape. This act was heralded as a transformation of sixty-two years of federal communications law for the purpose of encouraging and increasing competition.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 law supposedly opened the media to a level playing field of new competitors. Prior to the act, a corporation was prohibited from owning more than 40 stations. Despite the chorus of voices which warned about centralization of the media into the hands of the few, proponents of this new law compared their efforts to the breakups of AT&T and the creation of the "Baby Bells" which would serve to increase competition. This analogy quickly broke down as the power of one television company was increased to permit a single firm to reach 35% of all American homes. The 1996 act made it possible, for the first time in American media history, for a single entity to own more than one radio station in the same listening market. The act also allowed one person/corporation to both own and operate both television stations and cable systems in the same market. Further, the license periods for broadcasters were expanded making them less prone to pressure from the community in which they served.
Through a series of corporate mergers and takeovers, the American media landscape now plays host to a new media cartel in which six individual interests own nearly 100% of all medial outlets in this country! All six interests are either owned by or own and/or control thousands of domestic and multinational corporations. Corporate advertising pays the freight for the American media. When one examines the subsidiary holdings of the media chain, it becomes impossible to separate out the media from its corporate masters. Like an inoperable, cancerous brain tumor, the media is inextricably intertwined with business and the journalistic integrity and objectivity of the American new machine would never be the same. Increasingly, the politicians are figuring prominently into this tsunami of media/corporate power.
In the fiefdom of what has become this new media cartel, the professionalism of the nation's news has become increasingly vague. Historically, journalists have always needed the services of a good editor. A good editor keeps his paper out of the courts by enforcing strong standards of proof in its news stories. More importantly, editors must become adept at maintaining the bottom line with regard to it paper's profitability. Investigative journalists, whose stories may uncover improprieties too close to the home of the major corporate sponsors or the parent companies of the newspaper, must be reigned in at all costs. Conversely and naively, most Americans still expect reporters and editors to adhere to journalistic standards by acting and behaving like independent, fair-minded professionals who genuinely seek to truthfully tell all sides of a story. However, both reporters and editors are defacto corporate employees who are subject to termination in the same manner as any other employee of the paper. This new form of media "ethics" has changed the landscape of fair reporting, perhaps forever!
In 1996, Clear Channel owned 40 stations as maximally allowed by FCC regulations. After "deregulation" Clear Channel has grown to over 1400 stations which dot its vast empire.
Clear Channel has become an expert at playing the propaganda game. The San Antonio based media mogul has an overtly clear and draconian principle for dealing with any kind of expression which deviates from the corporate belief structure. Namely, Clear Channel practices extreme censorship for any political views that they do not agree with and severely discipline those who would dare to express an independent opinion that does not agree with their rigid dogmatism.
Take the case of Phoenix talk show host Charles Goyette. Goyette once occupied the microphone of the number one top-rated radio talk station in the State of Arizona, Clear Channel owned KFYI radio. Goyette was, himself, the number one rated talk show host by any measure in the Phoenix drive-time radio market. Goyette, a Flagstaff native, had worked his way up through the ranks of radio beginning with his days as student broadcaster at Northern Arizona University when he and his friends would sneak into the University station to do some unauthorized but good natured "late night broadcasting". Goyette's broadcasting style of investigative journalism quickly endeared him to the Arizona listening audience as a fair and personable, but hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners kind of journalist who was not afraid to uncover dirty little secrets and to expose them on the air.
In his early KFYI days, Goyette was enjoying his rise in popularity but he had a fatal flaw in his reporting style. He seemingly had to tell what he believed to be the truth about the war in Iraq. When Goyette began to question the voracity of the claims of Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction program along with challenging the apparent improprieties of the government in accepting several unbidded contracts by politically well-connected companies such as Haliburton and KBR, Goyette was summarily shown the door by KFYI management following a series of demotions which were designed to get him out of the public eye as much as possible.
Why would such a popular talk show host be summarily dismissed for his "mainstream" political views? Why would KFYI take a chance with its ratings to summarily dismiss its most valuable commodity? The answer is simple politics. KFYI is owned by Clear Channel Communications which is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. Clear Channel Communication is a fervent Bush supporter. The legitimacy of the war was out of bounds as a debate topic and Goyette had to be reigned in because he was making sense to a listening audience which was seriously beginning to question the party line of the Bush administration as it related to Iraq.
In their growing media Kingdom, Clear Channel owns over 1400 stations and based on cases like Charles Goyette, one must assume that media monopoly imposes its political will on its corporate airwaves. To illustrate the point that Goyette is not just a Clear Channel anomaly, consider the following events which are associated with this media giant.
In January 2002, a train carrying 10,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia derailed in the town of Minot, causing a spill and a toxic cloud. Authorities attempted to warn the residents of Minot to stay indoors and to avoid the spill. But when the authorities called six of the seven radio stations in Minot to issue the warning, no one answered the phones. As it turned out, Clear Channel owned all six of the stations and none of the station's personnel were available at the time because they were engaged in presenting canned programming.
The FCC is doing very little about the results of increased media concentration. This may be a result of the relationship that exits between the FCC commissioners and the broadcast companies and their lobbyists. According to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), media companies and lobbyists developed a very cozy relationship. Chuck Lewis of CPI reported that his organization uncovered 1400 all-expense-paid trips taken by the FCC commissioners which were paid for by broadcast industry. This certainly places a cloud on FCC objectivity and their ability to oversee a far and virtuous media!
More outrageous examples of Clear Channel's behavior are part of office conversations, dozens of eye-opening email lists and websites, and regular coverage by the true independent media. Just ask many people and they'll recite the litany of Clear Channel censorship which includes the banning of the Dixie Chicks and more than 200 peace-related songs including the classic song "Imagine" by John Lennon; the many station-sponsored pro-war rallies; the intense union busting; automated on-air programming and the train wreck in Minot, North Dakota; and of course the infamous "derelict rodeo roundup". The so-called "derelict rodeo roundup" was pioneered in the Spring of 2003 by a Clear Channel station in Cincinnati, in which employees give homeless people a $20 bill, a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor, and a bus ticket to the edge of town. Unconscionable behavior like this has fanned the flames of public outrage and provided the opportunity for media activists to build a powerful coalition with media employee unions, peace networks, independent artists, attorneys, children's advocates, women's rights groups, and many more.
Ask yourself this question, "With this type of media abuse, how can the listening public trust the news that they are receiving is true and free from bias?" The short answer is they cannot. Clear Channel is merely a symptom of a societal sickness. Could this abuse of truth and integrity explain why Americans do not see serious media challenges to the unanswered questions about 9/11 and why the Bush administration is enjoying a virtual news blackout on the ongoing Civil War in Iraq?
If one wants real news, they have options, for now. The writing is on the wall as I fully expect that in the interim between the midterm elections and the 2008 elections, Congress will severely curtail internet user's access to unscreened information. Moveon.org has been reporting that Verizon Wireless and AT&T are relentlessly lobbying congress to give them the control over the internet. Enjoy freedomsphoenix.com while you can.
"Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it."
Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786