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2003-03-31 - 2:24 a.m.

:::News and Events, Mar. 30th:::

For other postings, please do not forget to click on the archived (called OLD) link at the top of this page. Thanks!

Iron-Fisted Monopolists Clobbering Opposition


FCC to LET MEDIA BOSSES RULE YOUR AIRWAVES

It looks like we have to do it again and stop the media manipulators from taking monopolistic control of the public airwaves.
By James P. Tucker Jr.

The Federal Communications Commission blinked in the face of public outrage (AFP, Feb. 3, 2003) but plans a new attempt to cement the media monopoly this spring.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell told reporters March 4 that although he expects much op position, he hopes to relax restrictions on media monopolies by late May or early June. This will pave the way for multinational corporations to continue buying up the last vestiges of independent newspapers around the United States.

“I perfectly expect that in an item of this magnitude and controversy, there will be hard-won results,” Powell said. “I think the media environment will have to be partially liberalized if you include all the factors you have to look at.”

Meanwhile, still another study shows that relaxing regulations that prohibit giant media companies from buying up too many local broadcast outlets and dominating the marketplace would result in poorer news coverage.

A newly released five-year study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that television stations owned by smaller companies produced higher-quality newscasts than those owned by media moguls “by a large margin.”

Fourteen local TV reporters and producers throughout the country examined 23,806 news stories from 172 stations, evaluating content, community interest, and whether stories showed “enterprise and courage” or were “fair, balanced and accurate,” among other things.

Their opinions, in turn, were sorted through by academics and compared with Nielsen ratings. The entire report can be found on the group’s web site (www.journalism.org).

“The data raises serious questions about regulatory changes that lead to the concentration of vast numbers of TV stations into the hands of a very few large corporations,” the study said, echoing other studies reported in AFP.

“The findings strongly suggest that this ownership structure, though it may prove the most profitable model, is likely to lead to further erosion in the content and public interest value of the local TV news Americans receive,” it said.

The study examined 61 station owners in five categories based on size, location and other factors. They included owners with three or fewer stations, those with TV stations and newspapers in the same region, independent network affiliates, publicly traded companies and conglomerates with dozens of properties.

Data revealed that small stations did better jobs on the heavily watched 11 p.m. Eastern newscasts.

“Smaller owners were 20 times more likely [than] large owners” to receive an A grade from their evaluators on their late-night news, a fact that confounded researchers.

“Larger companies are capable of producing high-quality newscasts,” it said. “Yet, for some reason, they often fail to do that when most are watching.”

The study answered its own question about the reason for low quality from big companies: profits. Big owners can pressure their stations to tone down controversial reports or produce weak, one-size-fits-all stories that could be used around the country.

Smaller stations also received higher grades for their substance. They offered longer stories, included reporters rather than video footage alone and offered a wider range of sources for their material.

www.mpowell@fcc.gov Michael Powell, Chairman
www.mcopps@fcc.gov Michael J. Cobbs (be sure to write him...all)
www.kabernat@fcc.gov Kathleen A. Abernathy
www.kjmwebb@fcc.gov Kevin J. Martin
www.jadelste@fcc.gov Jonathan S. Adelstein

**********

::War Games Versus War Reality::

Goldi (a contributor) writes: I remember when there was all that buzz about "Millenium Challenge 2002", here's a link for their original page laying out the goals and plans (to a point) of the operation, from the Joint Forces command:

Millennium Challenge 02

When news began trickling out about how they skewered their own game (read: cheated) in order to have a "win", I laughed. Unfortunately I'm not laughing now, for the poor folks in the current battle of their lives were given a flawed gameplan to start with, because somebody

couldn't be "wrong".

How could they do something like this??? This wasn't a college exam they were fudging - lives were depending on it. To me this shows a total and utter contempt for their own military, that they would even skewer the results of a game because winning was everything, at all costs (even human lives). Even when they were wrong, they HAD to be right! What incredible arrogance!

Three articles below, including the Guardian report from August 2002 on

the results of the "game".

Outspoken Army General Upsets White House

***

War game was fixed to ensure American victory, claims general

***

War games vs. war reality

**********

::Al Gore Speaks Out::

Freedom of speech threatened, Gore says

***

Gore criticizes war coverage

**********

Molly Ivins: The painful truth about Bush's budget

AUSTIN, Texas -- There was Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday morning repeatedly warning the Iraqis that prisoners of war are protected by the Geneva Convention and showing pictures of POWs is wrong. That would be the same Donald Rumsfeld who refused to classify the POWs at Gitmo in Cuba as POWs, instead calling them "detainees" and "military combatants."

The administration initially prepared to claim Al Qaeda fighters were not covered by the Geneva Convention, until the military pointed out that what goes around, comes around. We displayed pictures of our prisoners wearing black hoods, in chains and housed in outdoor, chain-link kennels.

If the Republican Guard surrenders, will right-wing radio talk jocks who have never been near a war refer to them as "hummus-eating surrender monkeys"?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... You need to keep an eye on the back pages of the newspapers and the brief recaps that follow, "And in other news today ..." There is stuff flying under the radar you would not believe.

For one thing, both the House and the Senate have passed George W. Bush's budget, including the second round of tax cuts -- $726 billion, 50 percent of it going to the richest 1 percent of the people in this country. In the Senate, Democrats managed to repeal $100 billion of the tax cut in order to pay for the current war, but Sen. Bill Frist, Republican majority leader, says he plans to go back and take even that out of the bill. Had it not been for war, this budget would have been the subject of a huge national debate.

This enormous tax cut will provide a break of $256 a year to the average working family. Almost half of all taxpayers will get less than $100. But someone making a million dollars a year will get a cut of $92,000. This is iniquitous. It is wicked. It is damnably unfair.

This budget does three stupid and mean things simultaneously: It cuts taxes for the richest Americans during a national crisis, cuts domestic spending that people's lives depend on, and completely ignores the cost of both war and reconstruction. Under this budget, almost all discretionary domestic programs, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, are subject to cuts or restraints.

"Discretionary spending" is such a cold, meaningless term. There is so much pain behind it, you can hardly begin to imagine. Student loans, childcare, food stamps, school lunches, job training, veterans programs, and cash assistance for the elderly and disabled poor are all being cut. That means people's lives will be cut up. Mothers who have struggled to get off welfare, barely making it on minimum-wage jobs, will lose childcare and be pushed back onto the rolls -- with their eligibility to run out soon. Young people trying to acquire job skills will be pushed back onto the street.

This plan is supposed to stimulate jobs and growth. It doesn't. Analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows paltry job growth this year, and the plan would actually increase job losses in the long run. Even by White House estimates, the plan would produce only 190,000 jobs this year for the more than 8 million people seeking work. Since March 2001, the economy has lost 2.5 million jobs.

The House "stimulus" bill offers $114 billion in corporate tax concessions, mostly in the form of 30 percent in extra "depreciation" write-offs in each of he next three years. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the changes will wipe out more than a fifth of otherwise expected corporate income tax payments over the next three years. The bill provides $8 in corporate tax cuts for every dollar allocated to help unemployed workers.

Also under cover of war, the House passed a bankruptcy law that makes it harder for individual debtors to file for bankruptcy and easier for corporations to do so. The bill is full of ugly little details, including the House rejection of an amendment to give families owed child support a stronger claim on the assets of a delinquent former spouse than, say, Visa or MasterCard. Nope, corporations first, children last. It's compassionate conservatism.

In a vote that will come to haunt us all, the Senate killed a Democratic effort to remove tax cuts worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years and allocate the savings to Social Security.

Now here's a nifty little item: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, on the first day of the war, ordered the service chiefs to provide examples in which President Bush could cite national security to exempt the military from environmental laws. The administration has already asked Congress to ease laws governing endangered species, marine mammals, and air and water quality in the name of military training. According to The Washington Post, Wolfowitz suggested the Pentagon reverse its "past constraint" against having the president invoke the national security exemptions written into some environmental laws. Interesting: National security includes more pollution?

Meanwhile, the Israel defense minister has announced he wants to push a security fence deeper into the West Bank, bringing another 40,000 Jewish settlers and around 3,000 Palestinians to the Israeli side. Can you say, "Land grab?"

**********

Putin warns on Iraq war
By Jill Dougherty, CNN Moscow Bureau Chief
Friday, March 28, 2003 Posted: 1916 GMT ( 3:16 AM HKT)

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the war in Iraq is the "most serious crisis the world has faced since the Cold War."

Speaking to members of the Russian Parliament, Putin said the war in Iraq has gone beyond the bounds of a "localized" conflict and is "shaking the foundations of global stability and international law."

The war, he said, is becoming more "fierce" and "drawn out."

"With every hour," the Russian president said, "human casualties and destruction are mounting, peaceful citizens are dying -- children, old people, women. American and British soldiers are dying, as are Iraqi servicemen."

Putin said Russia believes the only way out of the situation is to "immediately end military action and re-start the process of political solution within the framework of the U.N. Security Council."

Russia, he said, is open to working with all sides involved in the conflict, including the United States.

"The level and character of our relations with our American colleagues reached over the past few years gives us the basis for continuing an open dialogue," he said.

**********

For Broadcast Media, Patriotism Pays
Consultants Tell Radio, TV Clients That Protest Coverage Drives Off Viewers

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 28, 2003; Page C01

Now, apparently, is the time for all good radio and TV stations to come to the aid of their country's war.

That is the message pushed by broadcast news consultants, who've been advising news and talk stations across the nation to wave the flag and downplay protest against the war.

"Get the following production pieces in the studio NOW: . . . Patriotic music that makes you cry, salute, get cold chills! Go for the emotion," advised McVay Media, a Cleveland-based consultant, in a "War Manual" memo to its station clients. ". . . Air the National Anthem at a specified time each day as long as the USA is at war."

The company, which describes itself as the largest radio consultant in the world, also has been counseling talk show stations to "Make sure your hosts aren't 'over the top.' Polarizing discussions are shaky ground. This is not the time to take cheap shots to get reaction . . . not when our young men and women are 'in harm's way.' "

The influential television-news consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates recently put it in even starker terms: Covering war protests may be harmful to a station's bottom line.

In a survey released last week on the eve of war, the firm found that war protests were the topic that tested lowest among 6,400 viewers across the nation. Magid said only 14 percent of respondents said TV news wasn't paying enough attention to "anti-war demonstrations and peace activities"; just 13 percent thought that in the event of war, the news should pay more attention to dissent.

Magid, whose representatives did not return phone calls, offers no direct advice about what stations should do. However, the research's implied message reinforces antiwar activists' assertion that media outlets have marginalized opposing voices.

"The antiwar movement in this country is far bigger than it was during the first few years of the Vietnam War, but you wouldn't know it from the coverage," said Adam Eidinger, a Washington activist. "I think the media has been completely biased. You don't hear dissenting voices; you see people marching in the streets, but you rarely hear what they have to say in the media."

Many stations employ news consultants to offer advice about programming, promotion and on-air personnel. Their influence is considered strongest in smaller markets, where many radio and TV stations have smaller staffs and less experienced management than their network or big-city brethren.

McVay sells its expertise to dozens of radio stations that offer such formats as Christian music, rock, country music, and news and talk.

Among its suggestions for covering the war, the company recently told clients to "dispatch reporters to military bases in the area. . . . Are your local Reserve or Guard units involved? Do they have veterans of the Gulf War still at home?"

It also 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. "Have at least one expert outside the broadcast industry as your 'go to' analyst," the company said, adding that "a former military specialist is ideal, especially with Desert Storm experience."

"I think there's just political correctness to waving the flag right now," said Holland Cooke, a McVay news-talk specialist. "If you were the upstart station in town, you might conceivably come at this from a peacenik angle by going on the air with the body count, by pointing out we haven't got Osama bin Laden or Saddam yet, by saying we should end the madness. But we find it appropriate to wave the flag where I happen to be" advising clients.

Some of the orientation reflects opinion polls that show upward of 70 percent of Americans in favor of the war. That means, as one local media executive put it yesterday, "almost everyone wants to be seen as pro-military, if not necessarily pro-war. If one of our guys got on the air and started ranting against the war, it would create an unnecessary controversy. As a business, you don't want half the population hating you. So you plant your flag in the sand."

But some of it may reflect the media industry itself, which has consolidated into ever-larger companies in the last decade, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a public-interest law firm in Washington.

"What troubles me," he said, "is that the most important part of the system of checks and balances in media coverage has been the diversity of ownership. With increasing concentration of ownership, if one or two big companies are using the same corporate-wide policy, or relying on the same consultants, there aren't effective competitive forces" to ensure alternative opinions.

The pro-war position may be most pronounced for radio stations that offer talk programming. The audience for talk radio tends to be conservative, older and male -- an audience likely to be in favor of military action against Iraq.

"It's counterintuitive for [talk] hosts and program directors to pay too much attention to the antiwar movement right now," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a journal for the radio talk business. "The sense is, if we give too much play to people against the war, it will hurt in the war effort and the people fighting it."

Added Harrison: "The core [talk] listener is for the war and thinks he's more patriotic than anyone else. Yes, the peace people are patriotic, too, but the conservative talk radio listener believes he's more patriotic than the people protesting the war."

In the weeks leading to the war, Washington talk station WTNT-AM has broadcast an almost unbroken stream of pro-war talk from the likes of G. Gordon Liddy, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage and Don Imus. Another syndicated host heard on WTNT, Glenn Beck, promoted and staged pro-war rallies in various cities, drawing unwelcome attention to his employer, Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio station operator.

On WMAL-AM, one of Washington's most popular talk stations, the daytime schedule is dominated by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, both of whom have long argued in favor of war.

WTOP-AM/FM, the area's only full-time all-news station, has pitched in in support of the war effort as well. On its Web site, WTOP carries a series of "related links" that include Thankourtroops.com; Ways to Help Troops; Sign Up to Thank Military; National Military Family Association; U.S. Central Command; the home pages of the U.S. Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard and Department of Defense; the Stars & Stripes military newspaper; and "Email Support to Military." Another box reads "Support Our Troops. Send a greeting, a thank you card or a donation."

WTOP's Web site offers links to only two antiwar groups: United for Peace and Move On.

WTOP news director Jim Farley makes a distinction between the station's newscast and its Web site, which he says is "not a news site."

Said Farley: "It's important for us to cover the dissent and we have. Our listeners have told us we cover too much dissent, but it's always a question of balance. . . . The consultants who tell stations to ignore the antiwar side of the story don't seem to have the same conscience as the news people. That kind of advice goes against the grain of a journalist. I would not follow advice like that."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

**********

Use a Firewall, Go to Jail

The states of Massachusetts and Texas are preparing to consider bills that apparently are intended to extend the national Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (TX bill; MA bill) The bills are obviously related to each other somehow, since they are textually similar.

Here is one example of the far-reaching harmful effects of these bills. Both bills would flatly ban the possession, sale, or use of technologies that "conceal from a communication service provider ... the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication". Your ISP is a communication service provider, so anything that concealed the origin or destination of any communication from your ISP would be illegal -- with no exceptions.

If you send or receive your email via an encrypted connection, you're in violation, because the "To" and "From" lines of the emails are concealed from your ISP by encryption. (The encryption conceals the destinations of outgoing messages, and the sources of incoming messages.)

Worse yet, Network Address Translation (NAT), a technology widely used for enterprise security, operates by translating the "from" and "to" fields of Internet packets, thereby concealing the source or destination of each packet, and hence violating these bills. Most security "firewalls" use NAT, so if you use a firewall, you're in violation.

If you have a home DSL router, or if you use the "Internet Connection Sharing" feature of your favorite operating system product, you're in violation because these connection sharing technologies use NAT. Most operating system products (including every version of Windows introduced in the last five years, and virtually all versions of Linux) would also apparently be banned, because they support connection sharing via NAT.

And this is just one example of the problems with these bills. Yikes.

UPDATE (6:35 PM): It's worse than I thought. Similar bills are on the table in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, Tennessee, and Colorado.

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