A paean to the Media Access Project: The loss of "a champion most people never knew they had"

Posted by Mitchell - May 1, 2012 (entry 685)

Most people have never heard of the Media Access Project (MAP), and that's a shame, especially considering the many positive impacts that MAP has had on our media, both in stopping the media from getting worse and in positive actions to improve the media. It's a bigger shame that the Media Access Project is closing its doors today after a run of nearly 40 years. To quote one compatriot: the public "lost a champion most never knew they had"

A bit of explanation for readers unfamiliar with MAP: MAP is a Washington-DC law firm that specializes in media and telecommunications policy for the public interest (the real public interest, not the hoo-hah "public interest"). Since 1973, MAP has been involved in advocating media policies for the public interest, against a vast corporate media and corporate legal apparatus arrayed against them, on a budget that's but a small fraction of the corporate law firms they routinely combat.

MAP has been in the front lines repeatedly on a great many struggles, and to no small extent is due credit for a great many victories and achievements on media and media policy. To list some of the more prominent examples:

* Prometheus v. FCC: This is the historic lawsuit which blocked the FCC in 2003 from implementing its dismal gutting of the nation's major remaining media ownership rules, and would have dramatically escalated media concentration. Prometheus was filed by the Media Access Project, and won the suit not once but twice.

* The Brand X case and network neutrality: This is another lawsuit which MAP took to the Supreme Court challenging the FCC's authority to undo its public protections on the internet. MAP lost the suit, as did we all, but the net neutrality wars of 2006 and subsequent years, rallied public support regarding the future of the internet.

* Low Power FM: You can hear the importance of MAP from the Prometheus Radio Project (yes, the same group that was the lead plaintiff in Prometheus v. FCC) in this statement: "When Prometheus started out as a small grassroots organization more than ten years ago, we could not have created change in Washington without MAP's guidance. MAP helped us to navigate a path to transform our demands and demonstrations into lasting policy decisions. We are grateful to MAP, not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of the communities across the country who have better media thanks to MAP's tireless efforts." Indeed, the Low Power FM fight was won in 2010 and will expand soon.

* Chicago Media Action's license challenge: Yes, the license challenge against nine Chicago-area TV stations is still alive, seven years and four rejections later. Suffice it to say that MAP proved immensely helpful in navigating the treacherous waters of media policy -- no mean feat for a group which counts media policy as one of its specialities.

The corporate media lobbies who have locked horns with MAP have been mum to the closure of MAP, but you can bet your bottom dollar that in private those same lobbies are slapping high-fives and cracking open champagne in celebration, now that one of their most effective opponents has called it quits. And with their deep knowledge of media policy and the intricacies of the corporate-government-media-web, plus the integrity to fight for the forces of good given the massive financial temptations of the other side, the end of MAP could well leave a big gaping hole in the public media policy struggle that won't be filled anytime soon, if ever.

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