Tales of the Sausage Factory

MA Elects Public Access Programmer To U.S. Senate

Never underestimate the power of local media, although I can’t really say if this made a difference. But Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) has his own public access cable show he uses to keep in touch with his constituents.

It shall be interesting to see if this has any impact on his approach to cable issues, although I suspect he is unlikely to get on a committee where this would matter.

Somewhat more seriously, it underscores the importance of staying in touch with your constituents, and the importance of PEG regardless of political allegiance. Brown won, among other reasons, because he actually went out and campaigned. This also wasn’t some clever act of pretending to stay in touch with constituents. Looking at his record here, he has been doing local cable show for years, and doing local events.

If one truth is emerging from the spate of special elections from NY-29 to last night’s MA race, it is that politicians cannot phone in their campaigns and expect the party affiliation (either their own or their opponent’s) to carry the day. Ya gotta work it. So the next time local cable access programmer asks for an interview, don’t snort “Wayne’s World, right” and blow them off. Take a lesson from Scott Brown — commitment to local media matters.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Republican Bill To Reform FCC Not A Bad Place To Start Discussions.

There’s an old saying that goes “when it rains, can’t fix the roof; when it don’t rain, the roof don’t need fixin.’” That rather sums up most efforts at government reform. When you’re out of power, you can’t really do anything about it. When you’re in power, it turns out things don’t really need fixing. So no shocker that Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined by Mr. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), ranking member of the Telecom Subcommittee, have decided to introduce an FCC reform bill now that (a) Democrats control Congress, and (b) Democrats control the FCC. You can find the press release here and the full bill text here.

If political expediency were a mortal sin, however, nothing would ever get done. So it is not enough to simply note that politicians of either party are more apt to want reform when they are on the outside. It is important to examine the bill in its own right. Given that a lot of folks in both parties and in the public interest community would like to see some longstanding issues corrected, and I have opined on the matter myself from time to time, it’s important to consider whether the Barton-Stearns bill makes a good start and a basis for going forward. Remember, we want functional government. If out of power Rs are now in the mood to address real issues and get substantive stuff done, the thing to do is make it easy for them to work together with Ds. Perhaps it will become a habit. OTOH, as Ds have learned over the last several month, agreement for the sake of agreement is not worth doing.

My personal feeling after a quick read is that this bill is not a bad place to start on some long-standing procedural gripes, but that there are a couple of things that worry me.

Details below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

No Deal, Charles

I agree that we are on the precipice of a disaster. I would like us to act to prevent it. I do not insist on assigning blame or even being fair in how we act, as there will be time for that later. The only thing that is required of how we act is that it solves the problem.

No one has explained to me how taking the bad loans off the books of banks actually solves the problem. What has been explained to me by the officials and the politicians is that there is far more money at risk than that tied up in these loans. The money has been promised to average Joes, governments, and wild speculators, based on the idea that other average Joes, governments, and wild speculators will pay even more for these incomprehensible instruments in the future. At the original bottom of this pyramid are the at-risk loans. Yes, I agree that there is a crisis of confidence in the market, as the President put it. But I fail to see how now the politicians now suddenly understand these instruments, and that the way to keep them from collapsing is to take the loans off the books of the banks.

Are they saying that they intend for average Joes, governments, and wild speculators to keep shoveling ever-increasing amounts of money into the derivative market based on these loans? Ponzi schemes do collapse when triggered by a failure of confidence, but a child can see that even with no failure of confidence, they can only be sustained as long as there are increasing amounts of investment at the bottom. Eventually, the world runs out of money.


Now is the time to drop a note or leave a message for your representatives and let them know how you feel. Their contact info is online. Don’t forget to tell them that you’re in their district/state.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

“Our Viewers Don't Need News! One percent of time is too much already!”

In the last week of December, my employer Media Access Project filed Petition to Deny the television license renewals in the Portland-Salem market in Oregon. As detailed in the Pettition to Deny, the broadcast stations spent only 1% of time in October covering local elections. We argue that this amounts to a complete failure under any standard by these stations, individually and collectively, to meet their obligations to their local viewing areas. (We filed similar Petitions, still pending, against stations in Milwaukee and Chicago.)

Bill Johnstone, spokesman for the Oregon Association of Broadcasters did not dispute the findings of the study on which MAP based the Petition to Deny. Instead, Mr. Johnstone asserted that the the one percent was too much. Mr. Johnstone argued that one percent of time devoted to local political news for the people of Oregaon (or at least, the Salem-Portland market) was “more than our fill.” Indeed, Mr. Johnstone reckons that folks is generally sick of all that politics and news stuff because (and I am not making this up) “Very few politicians can tell the truth.” Mr. Johnstone also opined that it served the puiblic to make broadcast a local-politics free zone because “given everything else that the public has access to — the Internet, the ads they see and hear, the billboards, the unwelcome calls from candidates” the public must be plum sick of news.

This, of course, explains why broadcasters keep dropping the amount of local news available to the public (as documented in places like the Project on Excellence in Journalism). It’s a public service to provide viewers with a refuge from all that unwelcome input from reality.

At least they are no longer relying on the obviously false statement that they are only ”giving the public what they want“ and that ”if people wanted to see more ‘hard news, we’d broadcast that.“ As surveys and analysis continue to show audineces fed up with the lack of news fleeing in droves to other media. No, apparently the public is best served by making the broadcast media a ”safe haven“ from news. And broadcasters are courageously willing to take the hit on audience share to do it!

Now some of you might think that if, as Mr. Johnstone thinks, most politicians can’t tell the truth, that actual journalists might have the job of exposing those lies and challenging these politicians. In fact, if local news programs started doing that regularly, politicians might try lying less and telling the truth more.
Silly people! That is no longer what we rely on ”journalists“ and ”news“ for. According the the FCC, we now rely on such programs and ”Howard Stern,“ the ”Tonight Show,“ and ”Good Morning America.“ Each of these, the FCC has assured us, is a bona fide news program. And, as the broadasters constantly tell us at the FCC, we have the internet now! ”The internet“ amazingly gives us all our news. In fact, as Mr. Johnstone explains, the internet and paid political advertising provide so much news that it falls to the brave broadcast media to provide a ”safe harbor” where we can insulate ourselves from all this inconvenient news by getting updates every five minutes on the latest celebrity scandal, heartwarming pet trick, or desperate family missing their vacation in Disneyworld due to snow in Denver.

So keep hope, people of Portland and Salem Oregon, you’re local broadcasters are looking out for you! If you, like Mr. Johnstone, thought 1% of time covering local politics in 2006 was too much, then sleep easy. We can promise you that, if things keep going as they’re going, you’ll be even safer from accidental exposure to news in 2008.

Or, if you feel different, you can meet the rest of us down at the National Conference on Media Reform this week and help us plan on how to turn things around.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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