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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grant Green Sookie Sookie

One often hears that things never change. Well, I think things do change...though rarely for the better. Take for example media and its role in today's society.
Today, the real power is money, not democratic politics. Multinational conglomerates have no national allegiances. This is really what globalisation is all about. It is less about "Free Trade" and more about no comeuppance. Look at a list of donors to US political campaigns and you will see donations made by the same individual or corporation to each of the opposing candidates in order to ensure influence whatever the outcome of the election. As to the electorate, apathy rules. This is how powerful business interests-those in real power like it. Numb your minds with hundreds of tv channels that broadcast empty entertainment while news and information is minimized or sterilized. Reality tv indeed!
The challenge to this voter apathy is where the 2008 US presidential election offers a change of the status quo. Barack Obama has galvanized support and generated real excitement around his candidacy that has not been seen for many years. If Obama wins it will remain to be seen how much real change one president can effect. Change in the current US political reality is dependent on the backing of the Congress and this means the Democrats must first have viable majorities in both Houses and secondly, they must have the political will to change the course set over the past 8 years by perhaps the most damaging, and corrupt US administration ever.
I grew up a child of the first tv generation in the US. Needless to say it was all broadcast television at the time. I lived in the New York City area so we had 7 (!) channels 2(CBS), 4(NBC), 5(local WNEW), 7(ABC), 9(local WOR), 11(local WPIX), 13(PBS) which was more than in many areas of the country at that time. From 6pm to 7:30pm if your tv was on, you HAD to watch news on any of the networks and even the local stations to some extent. News was important and was treated as such. There was another similar news report at 11pm to recap the day's events.
The owners of these networks and local stations were media companies, that is to say, independent companies whose business was television and radio and sometimes newspapers too, though there were laws in place which prevented any company from owning newspapers and television stations in one market. These laws, enacted to prevent any entity from being too influential, have been circumvented since Rupert Murdoch's assault on world media turned its attention to the US in the 1980's. 
The people who presented the news in those days while famous, were not "stars". They were newspeople, many with long distinguished print or radio journalism careers stemming from WWII coverage of the London blitz and the front lines. Most were disciples of Edward R Murrow. They were not pretty-boys. You got the news straight, as impartial as possible, and as quickly and accurately they could get it. The news divisions were separate from the entertainment divisions and would brook no interference from anyone. The companies they worked for were not owned by multi-national conglomerates replete with their own large sharp axes to grind like GE, Murdoch, VIACOM or Disney.
Over the past 8 years all of these modern major media outlets-New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, etc.-abrogated their Fourth Estate responsibility ( I wonder how many have heard of Thomas Carlyle or Edmund Burke) becoming active enablers of an illegal and immoral war and the serious encroachments on Constitutional and Human rights that followed. Their coverage of this important presidential campaign, again focusing on nonsense instead of the very important far-reaching issues that face the country and the world, does not give one much hope for any real change for the future. Remember, the media in this country helped make the case for the impeachment of a powerful president for a lot less serious offenses than this administration has been found guilty.
And what of PBS you might ask? Well, during this recent period the Public Broadcasting Stations were just about the only place one could hear dissenting or even questioning voices on television. As part of the Corporation for Public Broascasting, PBS depends on the US government for its operating budget plus donations from its viewers. Succeeding Republican administrations starting with Reagan have year after year slashed their budgets, forcing the stations to rely on more and longer fund-raising drives to bridge the gaps. The Bush administration went further appointing Ken Tomlinson to the CPB whose brief was to root out the left-leaning bias. Tomlinson was Reagan's head of Voice of America, and former editor of Reader's Digest, in other words a right wing activist for a long time. To illustrate how things have changed, when Nixon complained about PBS coverage of him and the Viet Nam war, the chairman of the CPB resigned in protest, and a Republican Representative from Texas led the national effort to stop the meddling. 
Imagine that happening today