Steve Macek of Project Censored (and of Chicago Media Action) along with Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof (& Guests) Discuss Censored 2020 at Quimby’s Bookstore, October 17th

Posted by Mitchell - October 12, 2019 (entry 733)

Project Censored's yearbook Censored 2020: Through the Looking Glass (Seven Stories Press) examines the most important but underreported news stories of 2018-2019. These stories expose the corporate news media's systemic blind spots while underscoring the crucial role played by independent journalists in providing the kind of news and information necessary for a vibrant democracy. The book also examines this year's lowlights in "junk food news" and "news abuse"-- revealing how corporate media often functions as propaganda by entertaining rather than informing—and highlights the work of exemplary organizations that champion "Media Democracy in Action." Additional chapters address the importance of constructive journalism, the untold story of Kashmir, news coverage of LGBTQ issues in the Trump era, "fake news" as a Trojan horse for censorship, and online memes as a form of political communication.

Professor Steve Macek of North Central College, who edited Censored 2020’s Media Democracy in Action chapter, will be joined by journalist Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof and students who researched some of the underreported stories included in the book to talk about Project Censored, the book and the political implications of Project Censored’s analysis of contemporary news media.

A PDF copy of this announcement is available for download here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019 , 7pm – Free Event

Quimby’s Bookstore
1854 West North Avenue
Chicago IL 60622

Presentation of Sinclair and Tribune now online

Posted by Mitchell - October 14, 2018 (entry 732)

Both the newsfeed and the podcast have been updated with audio and a transcript of a 2018 presentation at Third Unitarian Church, Chicago. The presentation is about Sinclair Broadcast Group (America's largest owner of TV stations) and Tribune Media.

The presentation delves into the histories of both companies, the attempt by Sinclair to buy out Tribune Media, the collapse of that attempt, and the role of popular activism in shaping the trajectories of both companies. Please enjoy.

Chicago plays host to UDC 2018

Posted by Mitchell - May 6, 2018 (entry 730)

The Union for Democratic Communications (UDC) is a conference of media scholars, media activists, and media producers, dedicated to critical study of the media and striving to improve the media and to diversify the media in all sense of the word. The UDC conference takes place in a different city every year. I've had the good fortune to attend previous UDC conferences in Boca Raton, Florida, and in St. Louis. And this year, 2018, Chicago will play host, during the weekend of May 10th through the 12th, in a building across the street from where I produced a radio show for five years.

On a related point, I find it uncanny that this conference bears a number of parallels to a certain other conference in late 2002 that resulted in the founding of what's now Chicago Media Action.

* Both took place in a building connected to Loyola University of Chicago.
* Both had the excellent Sut Jhally as a featured speaker near the end of the conference.
* Both had longtime ally Chris Geovanis as a featured panelist.

But there are clear differences too.

* The 2002 conference was at the Loyola campus in Rogers Park The 2018 conference will be downtown.
* Sut Jhally will receive an award in 2018 and will not, so far as I know, face an opposing speech from a member of AIPAC in the interest of "equal time".
* The panel featuring Chris Geovanis won't be abruptly cancelled in the wake of her arrest. Even better, she won't be arrested at all. ;-)

If you are able to attend the UDC Chicago conference, I strongly encourage you to do so. I have always found UDC conferences worthwhile, and much to its credit the UDC strives to keep its membership affordable, to the extent that no one will be turned away for lack of funds to pay. The schedule of the conference is here, and registration is available online.

In Memoriam: Larry Duncan

Posted by Mitchell - April 18, 2018 (entry 729)

Larry Duncan was a longtime media activist, media producer, labor activist and organizer. For more than thirty years, Larry helped produce the Chicago-based television program Labor Beat and was involved in many other media production, media activism and labor solidarity efforts. Our friends at Labor Beat posted word this week that Larry Duncan passed away.

Among the media activism efforts that Larry Duncan contributed to was Chicago Media Action. Larry attended the first meeting of what became Chicago Media Action, attended meetings without fail for years, and lent his advice, perspective, and hard work to CMA efforts and campaigns. Chicago Media Action became a better organization thanks to Larry's insight and counsel, and Chicago Media Action is all the poorer with his loss, as are efforts for a better media and for a stronger working class.

Net Neutrality: The 2018 Aftermath

Posted by Mitchell - January 10, 2018 (entry 728)

It might be premature to say, but it appears that the fight over net neutrality now marks the high point of media activism in American history. We saw wide-ranging ongoing activism throughout 2017, protests in more than 600 cities (including Chicago). The FCC docket, which already was the most-commented-on issue in the FCC's history, broke yet another order of magnitude.

And yet, the FCC by a three-to-two vote abolished net neutrality outright. No Title-I versus Title-II reclassification debate, no watered-down half measures, nothing. The FCC simply made net neutrality a dead letter.

The coverage and condemnation was swift, to the point where TV shows that normal everyday watch like Colbert and Seth Meyers and Saturday Night Live all prominently discussed the issue, the vote, and its potential aftermath. Certainly folks active on YouTube and on Twitch felt the potential impact

Commentary on the issue made predictions ranging from bad to worse. A sampling: My friend and fellow media activist Jennifer Pozner who wrote that "no words will sum up how depressing and dangerous this is". Another fellow activist, John Anderson at the DIYMedia blog, wrote a pessimistic but all too accurate blog post where the end of net neutrality marks the end of a four-decade-long quest to suppress the gains wrought by the activism of the 1960s and their aftermath. Anderson quoted the commentator Sarah Kendzior who went further, saying "For nearly a year, America has stood at the crossroads of a damaged democracy and a burgeoning autocracy. If net neutrality is destroyed, we will cross firmly into the latter, and our return is unlikely.". The anticipated effects of net neutrality's demise include the establishment of barriers to entry for new players in current markets, the harm to libraries and free speech.

I hate to say it, but these predictions may well come to pass. And yet that hasn't stopped people and groups from fighting back, on multiple fronts, with vigor. In the short term, the most likely avenue to win a reversal of the FCC's vote to abolish net neutrality is the forthcoming lawsuits. A great many parties are piling on, from nonprofit groups to the big tech firms to state attorneys general, including Lisa Madigan. And there's good reason to think that those lawsuits will win, particularly since there's reason to believe the potentially fraudulent basis of the FCC's decision. Even with a victory restoring net neutrality, as could well happen, the FCC, led by the execrable Pai, may just sit on his hands during his tenure as chair and simply refuse to enforce net neutrality once it's restored, leaving the big corporate ISPs to proceed with their plans anyway. It may take another suit (or two) to make Pai ultimately do his job, at which point he may simply abandon ship and return to the corporate sector.

Another front has been at the legislative level. In the days since the FCC's vote, Congressional Democrats have quickly mobilized support to the point that, just yesterday (from the time of this writing), the Democrats have achieved the numbers to force a Resolution of Disapproval vote. This avenue has much less likely chance to succeed in the short term; the Democrats don't have sufficient votes, and even if they were to muster the votes (maybe after the 2018 elections, if the Democrats can reclaim Congress), a presidential veto is likely. And in a breaking development: We're now seeing state legislators enter the fray.

The fight for net neutrality has given a surprising, and very welcome, shot in the arm to local broadband initiatives. You can consider net neutrality a rearguard action; it forces the cable and telephone monopolies rampant across America from abusing their privileged position to profit at the expense of free expression and innvoation. But if you have competition, the privilege is lost. That competition won't come from the markets, which are horribly concentrated, but from a constellation of local, affordable, government-run, broadband initiatives. It's no surprise then to see that the opposition are strangling these networks before they have a chance to be built and spending considerable funds to that end.

The fact that's there's such widespread activism and involvement on so many avenues, and why we were able to win repeatedly in the past, and why I'm hopeful in the long term even if the short term is a mix of good news and discouraging bad news. Critically, we have a rare opportunity which we have to seize to move the window of possibility beyond. And that's what I think the next front, at least conceptually, needs to be. Not just challenging monopolies and the policies they advocate, but challenging the very economic basis of competition. Competition breeds monopolies; you don't see competitors at sports events stick around for the whole duration of tournaments. They're winnowed down and steadily eliminated, and if we can understand that clearly in sports, why are we stupid to it in economics? But, I hasten to say, that's not a call for state control of the economy. It's a call for some alternative beyond command planning and beyond markets (which devolve into command planning). It's a call some kind of democratic planning of our economy, and there are well-worked-out models of same demonstrating how it can work. Even discussing this topic might be the biggest taboo we now face, but taboos have been broken before, and they can be broken here. It is the understandable next direction to follow, the next front to work on; discuss it we must, act on it we must, for the sake of net neutrality and much else besides.

On the Net Neutrality front, History Repeats Itself

Posted by Mitchell - July 12, 2017 (entry 727)

On the day of this post, July 12, 2017, more than 70,000 websites from across the internet join a day of action to preserve the principle of a neutral internet (a necessity given the oligopoly that American telecom has become). This day of action echoes another coordinated day of action — the National Day of Outrage on May 26, 2004 — that Chicago Media Action started (it was our idea). We are glad that the fight for a neutral internet has continued and grown and had a resounding impact.

And wow, has it. In the 13 years since that National Day of Outrage, the fight has grown to become the most popular docket in the eighty-plus-year history of the FCC. What's more, the policy of Net Neutrality has been placed back on a strong Title II footing (the legal framework ensuring that ISPs can't overturn the policy in court), which has won in the courts (twice). In the court of public opinion, it's no contest: Even the companies that have led the charge against net neutrality for the past decade and change are now espousing rhetorical support for net neutrality (despite fighting for policies that do the opposite).

The fight and these wins were a long time coming, slogging for more than a decade to build awareness and an inside/outside game that ultimately succeeded in changing policy. But can we keep it? Sad to say, maybe not. With Donald Trump's election in 2017, the majority of FCC commissioners switches to Republicans, as does the FCC chair — a former Verizon attorney who got his law degree from the University of Chicago (my alma mater as well, by the way).

They are hell-bent to remove the internet from Title II protection, just two years after the reclassification was passed. Applying such anti-popular policies despite public outcry is nothing new for the FCC. The courts blocked them before in such cases, citing the public outcry as a key reason why. It's quite possible that an attempt to remove net neutrality from Title II protection is going the same path in the short term: the FCC will open a docket, see it flooded with comments asking/demanding/pleading not to remove net neutrality from Title II protection, and proceed to ignore them all and vote to do it anyway. We can then expect a filing to block, that they're applying a rule that's "arbitrary and capricious".

While all of that is happening, the ISP market is, as mentioned above, increasingly concentrated. Likewise, the internet itself is increasingly marketized and increasingly concentrated. Net neutrality doesn't address any of that; in fact, there's barely a whisper of commentary to that end. Not to say that net neutrality isn't important; it certainly is and I myself devoted more than a decade of work to help in that fight. It's just that the fix is just a bandage to some deeper issues that we'll need to address, and quickly.

View CAN TV's undemocratic by-laws & SIGN A PETITION to give voting control to its volunteers and donors

Posted by Scott - December 6, 2016 (entry 725)

CHICAGO MEDIA ACTION ALERT: Sign the petition to give voting control of CAN TV to its volunteers and donors

Most readers are aware that Chicago community media provider Chicago Access Network (CAN TV) is an essential communications resource with great potential. And some of you have heard of the labor unrest there that resulted in a union contract and the exit of some of its overpaid managers. But at the root of these issues remains CAN TV's undemocratic by-laws. Section 2.3 of those by-laws state that its "Board shall elect. . . (all) directors".

Media democracy is more than just a lofty ideal or a vague catch phrase. Please read and sign the linked petition which seeks amendment to Chicago Access Network (CAN TV) by-laws that will put control of the organization into the hands of the volunteers and donors. That is, unless you think that one of Chicago's only media avenues with substantive and continuing funding for independent information, perspectives, and culture should be abandoned to the will of a few self-selecting, establishment-connected board directors.


You can find past coverage of the unionization efforts at CAN TV, including management's absurd disciplining & even termination of staff for no cause, here, here, and here.

Message to CAN TV board of trustees and staff from author and journalist John Nichols

Posted by Scott - November 25, 2016 (entry 724)

Watch the awesome keynote address at the 2016 Alliance for Community Media national conference in Boston, Massachusetts. John Nichols masterfully spoke to all persons operating non-profit community media centers across the country on 8/20/2016:

"If you are waiting for commercial media to fill the void in our democracy, it is not going to happen. If you put off the responsibility to fill that void, then you, not some ceo, not some Roger Ailes someplace, you will be responsible for the diminishment of our democracy because you are our last hope. . . It is time for you to become our media. I'm sick of the term "alternative media". You are not the alternative anymore. Major media in this country has failed. You are the necessary central media of this country and you must step up and fill the void in our democratic discussions in the communities where you live."

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the individual members of Chicago Media Action who authored them, and not necessarily those of the entire membership of Chicago Media Action, nor of Chicago Media Action as an organization.