Mission Statement, Radio Free Nashville
Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that deregulated media ownership, a wave of acquisitions and mergers has ensued. All the mergers have brought about a return of a “media oligopoly.” Together, just five companies—Viacom, the parent of CBS, Disney, owner of ABC, News Corp, NBC and AOL, owner of Time Warner—now control 75 percent of all prime-time viewing. And Clear Channel Radio along with Infinity Broadcasting now control 42% of all radio listeners and 45% of radio industry revenues. Study after study has documented that profit-driven media conglomerates are investing less in news and information, and that local news in particular is failing to provide viewers with the information they need to participate in their democracy.1
We recently passed the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The behavior of the press during the run up to war and since is illustrative. We were led into the war on the strength of lies and stories often leaked by the government. Think about aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium. These “developments” were dutifully reported with no investigation by a compliant press even though information was readily available that contradicted what the government was saying. This is a press more interested in profitability and not ruffling the feathers of government officials charged with regulating their behavior. Officials who would also be approving any further mergers and acquisitions these companies had planned.
This is from March 28, 2003: The Washington Post reports that broadcast news consultants are "advising news and talk stations across the nation to wave the flag and downplay protest against the war." Advice includes patriotic music, avoiding "polarizing discussions" and ignoring protests, which "may be harmful to a station's bottom line," according to tests conducted by one firm. The same firm "advised clients to find experts in some 30 categories --including 'veterans of Desert Storm,' 'Former G Men,' 'Military Recruiting Offices' -- most of whom would be unlikely to offer harsh criticism of the war."2
And if fact, MSNBC, the supposed “left leaning, liberal” network, cancelled Phil Donahue’s show at the time because he was having serious debates that included politicians and activists strongly opposed to the war and replaced him with right-wing reactionary Michael Savage who proceeded to vilify anti-war protesters and Moslem citizens and cheerlead for the Bush administration and further military action.
Should we then be surprised that NBC and CBS whose parent companies are defense corporations that had significant financial interests in the weapons systems being used, simply reported what the Pentagon said as news? When NBC Nightly News told us: “every weapon is precision-guided, deadly accuracy designed to kill on the targets, not innocent civilians.” while reports from the BBC, Al Jazeera and others were reporting exactly the opposite?
And nothing has changed today except that Iran is now the target. The corporate media reports breathlessly on Iranian attempts to obtain “specialized magnets” and repeats the Obama administration’s line on Iran’s attempt to develop a nuclear weapon when there is no real evidence for either. Whether it is war, Medicare, Social Security, or taxes the corporate media protects their own interests and the interests of the government when they coincide, not the interests of a free society and its citizenry.
George Orwell, author of the great novel “1984”, once said: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” It is evident to me that here and now in the United States we no longer have an oppositional media but rather a compliant core of “public relations” people, or stenographers, looking to reinforce the status quo behind the façade of a free press so that the they may prosper. We must realize that the interests of these multi-national corporations that control the media, not only do not coincide with the public interest but, in point of fact, are directly antithetical to it. We need to speak out against further consolidation of the media and call for accountability and challenge the licenses of these media conglomerates.
And if, as citizens, we truly value a free society and believe that we live in “the greatest Democracy in the world” we need to get outside the corporate media bubble and look to other, alternative sources of news and information so we can be informed and truly participate as responsible citizens, not just of the United States, but of the world.
1 from Common Cause “Holding Power Accountable”
2 from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
Greg J. Welsch is the General Manager of WRFN-LP 107.1 Radio Free Nashville. You can listen over the air in West Nashville or on line at www.radiofreenashville.org. Also on Comcast Channel 10 in Davidson County by enabling Secondary Audio Programming (SAP)