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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Fourth Estate Under Attack

Vanessa Rini-Lopez and Steve Lopez

Last Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted three to two to adopt a revision to the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules. The revised rule will allow newspapers in Nielsen's 20 largest Designated Market Areas to buy radio and television stations in the cities where they are published.

The FCC Commissioners voted for this revision, despite six public hearings held throughout the country in which the public was overwhelmingly opposed to relaxing the ownership restrictions. Also ignored was a letter from 25 U.S. senators, from both sides of the aisle, including Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), demanding that they postpone the vote. If anything, the FCC Commissioners should be looking at ways to increase media diversity. Citizens in a Democratic society need a free press to educate themselves on important issues to help them decide how to vote, make informed decisions, and learn about important world wide issues.

The ultimate purpose of corporate media outlets such as Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, NBC, News Corp., Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google is to market issues in such a way as to increase profits for their shareholders. Infomercials and advertising are not substitutes for news. The relaxing of this rule is a way for these media outlets to expand their influence and increase their profits at the cost of our free press.

The Iraq War probably best illustrates the difference between news and media, and why it is important to have diversity in news sources. When we first saw President George W. Bush address the United States about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, my husband's and my first reaction was that of disbelief and skepticism. However, the Bush administration and it's corporate media partners marketed and sold the invasion of Iraq. They convinced the public that Sadam Hussein was a threat to the U.S. and involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Simultaneously they muffled out news outlets that tried to report the facts and discuss whether the U.S. should invade Iraq. They labeled people who questioned their actions as unpatriotic and even went so far as to expose an undercover CIA Agent.

If the public had more access to news outlets instead of "Bush" Broadcasting, we probably would not be in Iraq today. General Electric (GE) owns NBC news and has also been awarded substantial Defense Department contracts that support the war in Iraq. This seems like a conflict of interest. Besides Iraq, what about other stories that seem to have fallen off the radar?

By the way, remember Jonathan Luna? He was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Baltimore who was found dead in a creek in Lancaster County, PA on December 4, 2003. You would think this would be a huge story in Maryland, but the Baltimore Sun's last story on Mr. Luna was August 18, 2004, and you barely hear it mentioned on the local news or in the local newspapers. The lack of media coverage, and the fact that authorities investigating Mr. Luna's death have proposed that Mr. Luna may have committed suicide by stabbing himself 36 times leaves us to wonder who is involved and what are they hiding. Why isn't this story being covered in the news media?

Another story that has not received the coverage it deserves by the press is the 400 unsolved murders that have occurred since 1993 in the cities of Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico just over the U.S. border. Even though Stacy Peterson, who has been missing for nearly two months, receives constant coverage on CNN and MSNBC, neither network has paid significant attention to the murder of 400 Latin American women just over the southern U.S. border. Amnesty International USA has more details on this in a 2006 report you can read by clicking on the following link:

We do not mean to imply that what Ms. Peterson's family is going through is not horrible, but we just do not understand how major media outlets can ignore the situation in Juarez and Chihuahua. Most of the murdered and missing girls and women are employed by maquiladoras (sweat shops). It just so happens that GE, which owns major media outlets, also operates maquiladoras in Mexico including one in Juarez. We are not implying that General Electric is involved in the murders. What we are asking is why GE's subsidiary MSNBC has basically ignored one of the biggest stories of the century.

We feel that the relaxing of the rule on media ownership will mean less coverage for important stories such as the Iraq War, the Jonathan Luna murder, and the murdered women of Juarez due to conflicting business and political interests.

We understand that one of the goals of owning a newspaper, radio station, or television station is to earn a profit. However, the integrity of the fourth estate is in grave jeopardy when earning a profit takes precedence over serving the public.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Today's mainstream media covers almost nothing in a serious, intelligent way. It's frustrating, really, to those of us who are old enough to remember reading the daily newspaper and watching the nightly news as part of our normal routine - almost as unskippable as brushing our teeth! Reading the news on a computer is not at all the same! But, although there is a lot of nonsense on the internet, it is also easy to check sources and get questions answered.

I think these "fake news" businesses are putting themselves out of business, in the long run.