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Hundreds Turn out for Media Forum
Published on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 by the Burlington Free Press
Hundreds Turn out for Media Forum
by Leslie Wright
Tired of too much violence on TV, frustrated by a lack of substantive news and worried about the concentration of media ownership, hundreds turned out Tuesday evening for a town hall forum on media reform.

The event held on the St. Michael's College campus filled the auditorium at the McCarthy Arts Center with students and residents.

"They're doing a terrible job," John Pierce of Williston said of the media. "The best example is the war, where the media failed to do anything other than quote the administration."

Pierce's sentiment was echoed by audience members and the panelists who spoke before the microphones were opened. The forum was hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who would like to see federal regulations changed concerning how many media outlets a single company can own.

"We are facing a very, very serious moment in our nation's history. That is because fewer and fewer conglomerates control what we see, what we hear and what we read," Sanders said. "You have to be naive not to understand the enormous conflicts of interest that exist."

Panelist Traci Griffith, a professor at St. Michael's noted that many people don't realize that while they might have hundreds of channels to choose from on their TVs, many of the stations are owned by the same companies. General Electric, for example, owns MSNBC, Bravo, A&E, The History Channel, NBC News, NBC Sports, NBC TV, CNBC and others, she said.

"Cable has so many stations. The problem is they are owned by the same five companies," Griffith said.

The government has lost sight of what it intended in opening the airwaves for all, said Jonathan Adelstein, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission who was a panelist. Concentration of the media in the hands of a few has meant local programming has fallen by the wayside as has meaningful content that informs a democracy, he said.

"I believe in recent years the FCC has failed your public interest," Adelstein said. "We need to promote the true democratic spirit of the media."

When audience members had the chance to speak, they lined up a half dozen deep at two microphones. Some objected to the violence they see on TV. Others spoke about how too few points of view are heard through the major outlets. There was concern that public access channels would disappear.

Ron DeRosa, a junior at St. Michael's agreed that the mainstream media is lacking in substance. He finds cable news to be all "flashy graphics and sexy people and no focus on actual news."

"I try to find the most publicly funded news media to get my news, like the BBC," DeRosa said.

Copyright ©2007


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