YOUR MEDIA RIGHTS: WHY THIS CAMPAIGN

Are you happy with our mass media? Do you feel the values in most TV programs are appropriate and nurturing for our youth or our society? If not, what would you like to see? Did you know that you “own” the public airwaves? A 1966 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling states: “Under our system, the interests of the public are dominant” They are the owners of the channels of television—indeed, of all broadcasting.” And in a Supreme Court decision in 1969 the court states “It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.” It has been thought that the sweeping degregulation of broadcasting since the late 1980′s negates these laws. This is not the case. The Federal Communications Commission’s 1984 ruling states: “(deregulation) “does not constitute a retreat from our concern with the programming performance of television station licensees.”

Most people do not realize that television broadcasters have a unique corporate charter unlike any other corporation. Based on legislation dating back to 1927, television broadcasters have an overriding obligation to “serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” By law they are obligated to broadcast programs that inform our community on local, national and global issues that affect our lives—from diverse perspectives! This duty to serve the public before their own pocketbooks has been affirmed by more than a half-century of law in the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Yet, in reality the situation is essentially turned upside down: TV broadcasters serve their profits first and put the genuine interests of the public a distant second. What needs to change is for the public to begin to articulate what we define as our public interest. Once that happens, citizens will have the power to force the media to be accountable.

It’s not just the concern with what is currently on television. From gratuitous violence and stereotyping to the lack of diverse perspectives, mainstream television seems to confirm our worst fears about human nature. Yet, despite the glaring problems with what is ON television, we would argue that an even more important problem is what is NOT ON television!

Because more than half of the American people get all of their news about the world from television, it is not surprising that in American society, nothing is truly “real” until it has been brought into prominent public attention by being on television. Therefore, if we don’t hear regularly televised reports about a wide array of local or national issues, the general public will assume that these areas are not yet critical. However, just because the mass media ignore critical trends does not mean they will conveniently cease to exist.

Television has become an advertising machine that generates consumption. Therefore, it is in their interest to ignore or minimize trends that bring into question the fairness and sustainability of the way of life they promote. Most people do not realize that 6 major corporate conglomerates own all of the American media. Hollywood is big business.

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