Drowning Out the Noise Machine

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In These Times

Drowning Out the Noise Machine

by
Megan Tady

Journalism is breaking my heart. Or should I say, “journalism.”

Hate-mongering media extremists have captured our news networks and are using the public’s platform – our airwaves – to pick off progressive leaders like Van Jones and misinform the American people.

Nothing new there, of course. But it’s especially outrageous that the same networks that didn’t challenge the rush to war with Iraq and Afghanistan now host right-wing talking heads suspicious of healthcare reform who help spread absurd lies about “death panels.”

Fox news anchors prompt “tea party” crowds to cheer on camera to dramatize a reporter’s live feed, and CNN routinely airs a program with Lou Dobbs that vilely attacks immigrants night after night.

In the meantime, “moderate” voices in the media are mostly silent and fail to properly cover this insanity or simply tell the truth on the nightly news. Print media routinely report on TV’s faux news segments, adding legitimacy to propaganda.

New target: media diversity and localism

Since their success ousting Van Jones—who was President Obama’s Special Adviser for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality—media hacks like Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly are turning their attention to another “enemy of America”—media diversity and localism.

Yes, you read that correctly.

They’re now targeting Mark Lloyd, the FCC’s new chief diversity officer, by claiming that Lloyd has a secret plan to take over the airwaves. Lloyd’s real goal: making sure that that news actually reflects the issues that affect local communities. It’s the kind of overhaul we drastically need in a country dominated by a media elite.

This goal is actually the cornerstone of communications policy in the United States. The Communication Act of 1934 mandates the FCC to promote localism, diversity and competition in media. What’s new here is that the FCC is finally willing to pursue this policy.

According to Media Matters, Beck has targeted Lloyd in at least 10 Fox News programs since August 14. Early this month, he asked his Twitter followers to “[f]ind everything you can” about Lloyd.

This smear campaign is supposed to make us think that more voices in the media, more coverage of the local issues we care about, is actually bad for us. “They’re trying to do this back-door route with diversity… to shut you up by shutting us down,” Limbaugh told his listeners.

People like Limbaugh want us to think Lloyd is part of a plot to kick conservatives off the air, even though conservative talk radio accounts for 91 percent of all talk radio programming produced by the five largest media companies. Print media have latched onto this “story” like a barnacle.

Too serious to ignore

If Bill O’Reilly has ever said anything true, it is this sentence from a mid-September broadcast: “Fox News and talk radio are now setting the [national] conversation.”

Civil rights and public interest groups across the country are now pushing back. The organization ColorofChange.org has started a campaign to get advertisers to abandon Beck’s show. Nearly 300,000 people have signed a letter to advertisers, and 62 companies have now pulled their business. Dozens of mostly Latino organizations have joined a campaign at BastaDobbs.com, which calls on CNN to get rid of Dobbs.

And more than fifty groups have signed a letter to the FCC asking the agency to stand in support of Lloyd and media diversity and localism. (Full disclosure: The letter was produced by Free Press, the nonprofit organization where I work.)

But these efforts aren’t enough. We need an all-out grassroots movement to create systemic change in our media system. Here’s how you can fight back:

1. Increase your support of independent media and public media to extend the reach of news outlets offering true investigative reporting and thoughtful discourse.
2. Help secure Net Neutrality to safeguard Internet freedom. We can’t let corporations control the only platform on which everyone’s voices can be heard equally.
3. Become the media: join local news ventures in your community.
4. Call on Congress and Obama to adopt a national journalism strategy and offer policies that create new ownership structures, a journalism jobs program and increased funding for new public media.

The answer isn’t censoring people like Beck–it’s more speech, more voices and more opportunity. If we can’t take away Beck’s megaphone, we’ll have to drown it out.

Megan Tady is a campaign coordinator and writer for Free Press, the national, nonprofit media reform organization, and a former National Political Reporter for InTheseTimes.com.

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