|Search news by keyword||Category||Date Range|
Tom – For the past three decades, Project Censored has monitored the national media, tracking stories that have been underreported, mis-reported, or censored in the mainstream media. Based out of Sonoma State University, Project censored puts out a yearly list of the top 25 underreproted stories, noting stories that could potentially have a considerable impact on the American public but which have not received adequate media coverage.
Linda – The number one underreported story of 2006 according to Project Censored is one that we have talked about repeatedly on this show.
Tom – Yes, the number one censored story on the top twenty-five list for 2006 is “Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media.” In 2005-2906, according to project Censored, a large underground debate raged regarding the future of the Internet. Often referred to as “network neutrality,” the issue has become a tug of war with cable companies on the one hand and consumers and Internet service providers on the other. Yet despite important legislative proposals and Supreme Court decisions throughout 2005, the issue was almost completely ignored in the headlines. And, except for occasional coverage on CNBC’s Kudlow & Kramer, mainstream television remains largely hands-off.
Linda – When this topic has been reported, how does Project Censored say it has been framed?
Tom – According to Project Censored, most coverage of the issue framed it as an argument over regulation—but they note that the term “regulation” in this case is somewhat misleading. Groups advocating for “net neutrality” are not promoting regulation of internet content. What they want is a legal mandate forcing cable companies to allow internet service providers (ISPs) free access to their cable lines (called a “common carriage” agreement). This was the model used for dial-up internet, and it is the way content providers want to keep it. They also want to make sure that cable companies cannot screen or interrupt internet content without a court order.
Linda – What are the claims of the two sides in this argument?
Tom - Those in favor of net neutrality, which include an array of grassroots groups and companies such as Google, say that lack of government regulation simply means that cable lines will be regulated by the cable companies themselves. ISPs will have to pay a hefty service fee for the right to use cable lines (making internet services more expensive). Those who could pay more would get better access; those who could not pay would be left behind. Cable companies could also decide to filter Internet content at will. On the other side, cable company supporters say that a great deal of time and money was spent laying cable lines and expanding their speed and quality.3 They claim that allowing ISPs free access would deny cable companies the ability to recoup their investments, and maintain that cable providers should be allowed to charge. Not doing so, they predict, would discourage competition and innovation within the cable industry.
Linda – The Number 8 story on the list also has to do with issues relating to media and journalism. According to Project Censored, the Pentagon is now exempt form the Freedom of Information Act.
Tom – Story #8 is that the Department of Defense has been granted exemption from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In December 2005, Congress passed the 2006 Defense Authorization Act which renders Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) “operational files” fully immune to FOIA requests, the main mechanism by which watchdog groups, journalists and individuals can access federal documents. Of particular concern to critics of the Defense Authorization Act is the DIA’s new right to thwart access to files that may reveal human rights violations tied to ongoing “counterterrorism” efforts. The rule could, for instance, frustrate the work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations that have relied on FOIA to uncover more than 30,000 documents on the U.S. military’s involvement in the torture and mistreatment of foreign detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and Iraq—including the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Linda – What sort of documents have been revealed in the past by FOIA requests of the DIA?
Tom - Several key documents that have surfaced in the ACLU’s expansive research originate from DIA files, including a 2004 memorandum containing evidence that U.S. military interrogators brutalized detainees in Baghdad, as well as a report describing the abuse of Iraqi detainees as violations of international human rights law. According to Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU attorney involved in the ongoing torture investigations, “If the Defense Intelligence Agency can rely on exception or exemption from the FOIA, then documents such as those that we obtained this last time around will not become public at all.” The end result of such an exemption, he told The New Standard, is that “abuse is much more likely to take place, because there’s not public oversight of Defense Intelligence Agency activity.” Jaffer added that because the DIA conducts investigations relating to other national security-related agencies, documents covered by the exemption could contain critical evidence of how other parts of the military operate as well. Fortunately, The Newspaper Association of America reports that, due to lobbying efforts of the Sunshine in Government Initiative and other open government advocates, congressional negotiators imposed an unprecedented two-year “sunset” date on the Pentagon’s FOIA exemption, ending in December 2007.
Linda – For more on these stories, we will provide a link to the Project Censored Website on our page.
Linda – A new study by the Center for American Progress and Free Press looks at the prevalence of right wing perspectives in Talk Radio. What does it have to say about the importance of radio and the imbalance of political perspectives on it?
Tom - A study released on Wednesday by Free Press and the Center for American Progress lays bare what is obvious to many: Talk radio is a chorus of right-wing voices. “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio” found that 91 percent of weekday talk formats are given over to right-wing programming. The study points out that despite the dramatic expansion of viewing and listening options for consumers today, traditional radio remains one of the most widely used media formats in America. Arbitron, the national radio ratings company, reports that more than 90 percent of Americans ages 12 or older listen to radio each week, “a higher penetration than television, magazines, newspapers, or the Internet.1 Although listening hours have declined slightly in recent years, Americans listened on average to 19 hours of radio per week in 2006.2Among radio formats, the combined news/talk format (which includes news/talk/information and talk/personality) leads all others in terms of the total number of stations per format and trails only country music in terms of national audience share. The study notes that conservative talk radio undeniably dominates the format: According to their analysis, in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive. Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
Linda – What does the report attribute this imbalance to?
Tom – The studies authors say these findings may not be surprising given general impressions about the format, but they are stark and raise serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans. They note that there are many potential explanations for why this gap exists. The two most frequently cited reasons are the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and simple consumer demand. However, the report claims that neither of these reasons adequately explains why conservative talk radio dominates the airwaves. They conclude that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of “multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.”