Last weekend on Ring of Fire, there was a segment on the media that members might enjoy because it dealt with the media (and Cokie Roberts gets mentioned, which we always love).
For those not familiar with Ring of Fire, it's a one hour radio program that airs on Air America Saturday and Sunday (the Sunday episode is a rebroadcast from Saturday). It airs from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm eastern standard time. The hosts are Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio. I'll assume everyone knows Bobby Kennedy (which is how he self-bills on air) but if anyone's unfamiliar with attorney Papantonio, you might remember him from the "Pap Attack" on Unfiltered.
Papantonio interviewed Elliot D. Cohen on the state the free press.
Cohen noted that the purpose of the press is "to keep a watchful eyes on governmental abuse."
Papatonio brought up GE and the pollution of Hudson River. Since GE owns NBC and MSNBC, this story is less likely to get play and with the conglomerations buying more and more properties, how will any reporter be able to cover important stories.
Papantonio: How does a reporter do that if he's at the beck and call of Jack Welch?
Cohen: What's happened is, and this is historically significant, that the conduit for delivery of news, the broadcast machinery, the pipes, the cables and so forth, are owned by these giant corporations but they're also calling the shots about what comes through them and the regulation is just not there. . . . The corporate lobbyist have bowed down to the government in order to get what they want in terms of deregulation. . . . Michael Powell disregarded the outcry of the public. There were over 700,000 letters that were sent to the FCC, mostly against deregulation, and he refused to hear it.
Michael Powell as the poster boy for activism? Don't laugh. Cohen argued that with his disdain and disregard, Powell has helped fuel a movement that is tired of, as Papantonio noted, cities where "you've got a newspaper saying the same message as radio, radio saying the same message as television" all a result of the move towards allowing cross-ownership.
Papantonio: Disney ABC radio, they've got all the talkers, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity they're going to say any damn thing this administration wants them to say because at the end of the day, it's all about how much money they make. That's why Disney ABC wouldn't even distribute Micheal Moore's documentary Farenheight 9/11.
Cohen: The government actually has to start doing more regulating and it's only going to do that if the people really continue to apply pressure.
On the subject of what media do we, the people, have left, the internet was brought up.
Papantonio: Is it [the internet] free.
Cohen: We're moving from modem dial up internet to the cable kind of internet, the broadband. As we do that the more and more people get on that, the less ISP providers that you have to choose from.
Papantonio: What happens when AOL Time Warner Comcast says "No, no, no, we control this media. We disagree with what you're saying."
Cohen: Unless we stop the progression of deregulation and quid pro quo that we're talking about here, the last bastion of democracy, which is the internet, is going to turn into another part of this media conglomerate . Look at radio, look what's happened with Clear Channel, over 1200 stations. They boast of reaching more than fifty-percent of the population and seventy-percent of the Latino population. This is what they're proud of. What's happening to the indpendent voices of radio? They're being crowded out.
Papantonio then brought up James Wollcott (Vanity Fair contributor and author of The Attack Poodles).
Papantonio: I talked to James Wollcott several week ago, interesting book that he has out called The Attack Poodles. It's just a wonderful book where he talks about some of the same issues you talk about. He says we don't need to be afraid so much of the O'Reillys and the half-wit Hannitys and the people like that. We need to be afraid of the John Stossels, the Cokie Roberts, the Brit Humes, the Tim Russerts. The people who are dressed up in sheeps clothing. And he says that's where the real threat is.
We have a situation where there's company people now, there's not journalists. They're selling their journalistic souls in order to be respected within their corporations. This is what's going on now. . . . We're seeing instead corporate clones and this is destroying the credibility and they put themselves forth under the guise of being careful journalists. They're simply parrots for an organization, they're not honest.
Papantonio: The problem is when we turn on the TV and we think that John Stossel or Cokie Roberts or Brit Hume or Tim Russert are on our side.
Cohen: Or Chris Matthews.
Papantonio: Or Chris Matthews! We need to think twice don't we?
Elliot D. Cohen is the editor of News Incorporated: Corporate Media And It's Threat To Democracy which BuzzFlash is offering as a premium.
If you missed the interview and would like to hear it, you can listen to that episode of Ring of Fire via Air America Place. Go to the archives and download the April 2, 2005 episode.
Cohen is the final guest. (Air America Place airs the show without commercials -- unless it's something environmental or political -- and I believe Cohen's segment starts around minute twenty-six. Without commercials, the episode clocks in at thirty-seven minutes and forty-four seconds.) As always, consider my note taking more of a guide than anything else.
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