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Calling Out Corporate Control of US Media, Sanders Campaign Launches 'Bern Notice' Newsletter

"We've said from the start that we will have to take on virtually the entire media establishment in this campaign, and so far that has proven to be true. Ok. Fine. We are ready."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gestures during the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

As Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to hit back at corporate-owned media outlets for what he and others have characterized as slanted and unfair coverage of his 2020 White House bid, the senator's presidential campaign on Wednesday launched a newsletter aimed at providing "scoops, insights, and news nuggets about the election" that are neglected or ignored in the mainstream.

"We are launching Bern Notice—the Bernie 2020 campaign's digital newsletter," Sanders speechwriter David Sirota wrote on the newsletter's website. "Whether you are a journalist, an activist, or a news junkie, this newsletter will have all sorts of goodies."

"The elite corporate media promoted the lies that led to the Iraq War and ignored the truth about Wall St. fraud that led to the financial crisis," Sirota added on Twitter. "Bernie Sanders is not wrong to distrust an elite media culture that helped create those disasters that ruined so many people's lives."

The campaign newsletter will build on Sanders' existing alternative media apparatus, which includes the Hear the Bern podcast and the senator's channel on the gaming website Twitch. The Vermont senator also has the largest Twitter and Facebook followings of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, platforms he has used to stream speeches and events outside of corporate news networks.

"We've said from the start that we will have to take on virtually the entire media establishment in this campaign, and so far that has proven to be true," Sanders tweeted on Wednesday. "Ok. Fine. We are ready."

The launch of the Bern Notice newsletter comes after Sanders' criticism of the Washington Post—which is owned by Amazon CEO and world's richest man Jeff Bezos—during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Monday sparked furious backlash from the Post and other corporate media outlets.

"Anybody here know how much Amazon paid in taxes last year?" Sanders asked the crowd during a town hall in Wolfeboro. "See, I talk about that all of the time. And then I wonder why the Washington Post... doesn't write particularly good articles about me. I don't know why. But I guess maybe there's a connection."

Marty Baron, executive editor of the Post, quickly responded by accusing Sanders of peddling a "conspiracy theory." MSNBC, which is owned by Comcast, soon piled on, accusing Sanders of echoing President Donald Trump's attacks on the free press.

But progressives were quick to argue that—far from Trump-like rhetoric or a "conspiracy theory"—Sanders' critique of the U.S. media landscape is on target.

Writing for Common Dreams on Wednesday, RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon argued that Sanders is not attacking the free press, but offering a critique of a media system controlled by corporations whose interests are antithetical to the progressive agenda at the heart of the senator's presidential bid.

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"What Bernie Sanders is pointing out is not—and he never said it was—a 'conspiracy,'" Solomon wrote. "The problems are much deeper and more pernicious, having to do with the financial structures of media institutions that enable profit-driven magnates and enormous corporations to dominate the flow of news and commentary."

In a segment on her show "Rising" for HillTV, Krystal Ball said "it's kind of hard to make the case that a lot of the mainstream media is fair to Senator Sanders when you just take a look at their coverage."

Sanders expanded on his critique of the American media in an email to supporters Wednesday night, noting that it is "no shock to me that the big networks and news organizations, which are owned and controlled by a handful of large corporations, either barely discuss our campaign or write us off when they do."

The senator continued:

But even more important than much of the corporate media’s dislike of our campaign is the fact that much of the coverage in this country portrays politics as entertainment, and largely ignores the major crises facing our communities...

And what we have to ask ourselves is why.

Why is it that the corporate media sees politics as entertainment and largely ignores the major crises facing our country and how candidates are addressing those crises?

And the answer lies, in fact, with something that is very rarely discussed, and certainly not in the media: and that is that the corporate media is owned by a small number of large media conglomerates.

In 1983 the largest fifty corporations controlled 90 percent of the media. That's a high level of concentration.

Today, as a result of massive mergers and takeovers, only a few large corporations like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Fox, Disney, Viacom, and CBS control the vast majority of what we see, hear, and read. And there is news that Viacom and CBS want to merge next.

Sanders went on to challenge Trump's "outrageous remark" that the media is "the enemy of the people," noting that it "has the purpose of undermining American democracy."

"The truth is, a knowledgeable and informed electorate is essential to a working democracy, and the work of journalists in this country and abroad is absolutely critical to our communities and to maintaining a free society," said Sanders. "It is my sincere hope that we can spend more time talking in-depth about the issues facing the working people of this country and less time covering the latest scandal or political gossip."

"It is my sincere hope," Sanders added, "that we have a more serious discussion about the real pain working people, the elderly, the sick, and the poor are facing."

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