Saturday, November 03, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth (of Ruth's Report): With the Pacifica stations in fundraising mode, I thought PBS would make a good topic for the report.

Marci* e-mailed on Thursday to note Expose which is a series that airs on PBS. It a joint production between NYC's WNET and Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, California. The series focuses on investigative reporting and examines how a news outlet broke a story and the aftermath. If you are able to stream online, you can catch episodes that way as well as over broadcast channels if the program airs in your area. Until Mia e-mailed, I was not even aware of the series, now in its second season, so I watched three episodes on line.

Peter Zuckerman's investigative report was the focus of "In a Small Town (Part 1)" which explained how an anonymous tip led him to a court case that was sealed and hidden from the public. As he dug deeper, he discovered a pedophile scandal involving the Boy Scouts. "In a Small Town (Part 2)" deals with the aftermath which includes attacks on Mr. Zuckerman. I noted this at my site Friday and received two e-mails saying part-one just aired in their area so, please, do not spoil part-two. Therefore, I will just encourage you to check out the series.

Mr. Zuckerman uncovered a secret that was not a secret to many. The pedophile in question did not just exhibit warning signs, his past assaults on children were known. People in positions to do something did nothing. This reminded of the Pig who attacks Cindy Sheehan regularly and how the left continues to embrace him. The mainstream media has reported two arrests of Pig for seeking out sex with underage females.

For why the Boy Scouts tolerated and covered up for the pedophile, you need to watch the series and probably ask the Scout leaders. But why is it that some on the left is still embracing Pig? I thought, as I watched, about a talk radio host, on the left, who briefly, at the start of the year, raised the issue of a campaign using a song by convicted pedophile Gary Glitter at campaign stops. The host wondered what sort of embarrassment could come to the campaign and about the message this sends. While I agreed with the host, I could not help but remember that Pig has regularly appeared on that program. At what point does the left clean up their own house?

Pig is not even left. He only turned to the left after the mainstream media sent him packing when his arrest record became public. Watching the "In a Small Town" series, I was outraged by the tolerance and covering up for a pedophile but any righteous anger I might have felt was mitigated by the fact that the Pig is still promoted by the left including, but not limited to, The Nation magazine.

I really do not have strong opinions on the Boy Scouts of America other than I do not believe sexual orientation should be an issue. So I watched with a feeling of dread but also fully aware that the only covering up for pedophiles was not coming from leaders of a troupe of Boy Scouts or the Mormon Church. The scandals in the Catholic Church are well known. But I kept coming back to how so much of the left is so eager to post the bad writing of Pig. So eager to post it are they that they do not even appear to read it. GE does not own CBS and that is so basic that even a brief glance before posting Pig's writing would have led people to say, "Hold on a minute."

Throughout the first-part of the series, when the pedophile was confessing or caught, people seemed to think that the issue was now over and being addressed. It was not. He continued abusing and assaulting young boys. So at what point is Pig going to either be forced to unseal the court records or be driven out of the left?

Expose is a very strong half-hour program. In addition to the specific stories they tell in episodes, the issues themselves touch on larger that should lead you to ask questions about the world around you.

On Friday, Bill Moyers Journal addressed a number of issues including the latest push by the Federal Communications Center to further media consolidation and rob communities of local coverage and local input. "The sixth and final hearing," as the PDF format announcement words it, will take place next Friday, November the 9th, in Seattle, Washington. The timing is four p.m. to eleven p.m. and the location is Town Hall Seattle on 1119 Eight Avenue. F.C.C. commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have issued their own PDF format statement:

At a hearing with only five days notice is no nirvana for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. This smells like mean spirit. Clearly, the rush is on to push media consolidation to a quick and ill-considered vote. It shows there is a pre-ordained outcome. Pressure from the public and their elected representatives is ignored. With such short notice, many people will be shut out. We received notice of the hearing just moments before it was announced. This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made.

The F.C.C.'s contact page reproduces these e-mail addresses:

Chairman Kevin J. Martin:
Commissioner Michael J. Copps:
Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein:
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate:
Commissioner Robert McDowell:

After a report on how media does not serve Chicago with few exceptions such as WVON, the reporter of the piece, Rick Karr, sat down with Bill Moyers:

BILL MOYERS: Evidence is clear that media concentration leads to less local news and less local community service. So why is Chairman Martin rushing to closure on this before Christmas?

RICK KARR: Well, he's made it clear from the day that he became chairman of the FCC that this is something that he wanted to do, this cross-ownership, allowing newspapers, radio, and television to combine. The other thing is he has political cover from the federal courts. Back in 2003, the court said this was the one thing that the FCC could do. Didn't have to do but could do. The other thing, though, is there's a political concern here. He wants to get this done before the primary season really heats up next year. Because he knows that there are Republicans out there who don't like media consolidation either.

BILL MOYERS: Oh, yeah. There have been a lot of conservative groups that have joined in this protest.

RICK KARR: Exactly. Well, the Republicans don't want that part of their base to get excited again, get angry about consolidation.

BILL MOYERS: I would not want to run for Congress or president by -- on a platform of getting Rupert Murdoch or Time Warner or Viacom more local control over my community.

RICK KARR: Which is exactly the thing about this. There's no constituency out there saying we want more consolidation. It's essentially just the big media companies. There are no citizens groups out there saying we want more of this.

BILL MOYERS: I even saw a study this week that showed 70 percent of the respondents said that media conglomeration is a problem.

RICK KARR: Yeah, exactly. People understand it intuitively. They get it-- you know, Jonathan Adelstein of the FCC said to me when we were in Chicago, he said, "People know. They know that it's changed." They used to bump into the people who ran their local station at the grocery store, getting their car washed, whatever. Now it's some far off corporate chiefdom. So they understand.

BILL MOYERS: I mean, it isn't hard to understand why the big media companies, the news divisions and the network and so forth don't cover this so that people don't know about it because they have so much to gain from just letting it happen in the middle of the night, right?

RICK KARR: Well, and a lot of people also, you know, in the industry say this is a boring story. It's not interesting. Who cares? It's in the background. But, you know, what we're trying to do is, of course, show how it affects people's lives.

BILL MOYERS: So how do people, whatever your opinion on this issue, how do people make themselves heard?

RICK KARR: Well, get in touch with the commissioners at the FCC. You know, the FCC's Web site allows you to file public comments there. Send letters, e-mails, faxes, whatever. Also get in touch with your members of Congress. When we were down in Washington covering that press conference with Byron Dorgon and Trent Lott, it was clear that they were interested in hearing from constituents.

On Thursday, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) sat down with F.C.C. commissioners Adelstein and Copps to discuss the topic:

AMY GOODMAN: More than half of Americans surveyed said it should be illegal for a company to own a newspaper and a television station in the same market, this according to the Media and Democracy Coalition, more than half. Michael Powell got tremendous pushback. He talked about that when he ultimately left, was completely shocked by what happened. So why is Kevin Martin doing this?

JONATHAN ADELSTEIN: What's so interesting about that poll is that it's the same for Democrats, Republicans, moderates, conservatives, virtually by the same margins. They oppose newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership by two to one. 70% of the American people think that media consolidation has gone too far already. Again, virtually the same proportion for conservatives and liberals. Americans understand that we don’t want big media to get bigger. They don't trust big media, they don't trust big government. It’s in the American spirit, going back to the American Revolution, that we've never liked media to dominate the landscape. We want to hear a diversity of voices. And when either one of these chairmen go after this, they are really putting their fist right into a hornet's nest of American public opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I'm sorry Kevin Martin isn't here to explain why he is pushing for this, but what is the timetable, and what kind of input will the public have? You had your hearing yesterday with the last possible notice that could be given.

MICHAEL COPPS: I think the timetable right now is known only to be chairman and has not been really made public. Everybody knows that he would like to -- like to do this [inaudible]. It's been reported that he had a plan originally that would have a vote taken place by December 18, so when everybody's busy wrapping their Christmas presents and Congress has gone home. But I don't see how that's possible right now, because we still haven't had the last media ownership hearing.
And we really have no business tackling this until we finish these other proceedings that have been pending at the commission for so long. We have had, for example, the localism proceeding pending since 2004. we have public interest obligations, especially in the DTV age. What should these DTV broadcasters be doing to serve the public? Why don't we finish those things? Why don't we figure out about diversity and what we're going to increase minority and female ownership, then do it? We've got the carrot before the horse.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your plan to do that? What is your plan to increase minority and woman ownership?

MICHAEL COPPS: Well, I think it has to be a multifaceted attack. Everybody -- Jonathan and I and many of the folks who were there yesterday would be very much in favor of Congress legislating again some kind of a tax certificate program to increase incentives for minority-owned. But there are things that we can be doing at the commission. If a woman or minority group wants to buy a station, why can't we say, well, it takes a while to raise money in this environment, why can we give that group a little bit longer to go out and raise money or extend construction deadlines? We've had committees look at this. Our own diversity committee sent tons of recommendations upstairs for the chairman to see. And basically we're stuck there for a year or two years, and then only kind of grudgingly put out for comment a few weeks ago. But we don't want just comment back; we want action.

As Ms. Goodman points out, then F.C.C. chair Michael Powell, son of Colin, attempted this earlier and the public did push back and prevent it. A new chair, Kevin Martin, is attempting it again. Not unlike the illegal war, it is the same fight all over again. Depressing as that may be, we have won before. Both on the F.C.C. issue and on ending an illegal war.

*I had typed "Mia" which resulted in Mia e-mailing to say, "Ruth, it's not me." It was Marci. My apologies to Marci.