On the Media and Democracy




The Media: Mirror or Manufacturer/Reflection or Propaganda

In the context of the 21st century media environment, there is little debate among media critics, of the need for change. Some have begun to lobby capital hill for stronger restraints on corporate media consolidation. Some have drafted recommended codes of conduct for corporate advertisers. Some have taken to the airwaves or the Internet, choosing to speak for themselves instead of relying on commercial TV or newspaper companies for coverage. Some have launched sophisticated public relations projects, aimed at adding their voices to those of the conservative think tanks that command so much air time these days. And still others are pursuing a third party platform of campaign finance reform and corporate anti-trust legislation. There is no shortage of avenues for change, but there is no consensus on exactly what kind of change would be most effective. Indeed there is still much debate about the role the media should play in a democracy- in fact what democracy really means- and how such democratic change might come about.

The media are entrusted with grand responsibilities. In the case of a representative form of government, they are trusted with acting as a watchdog by which the populace can keep the power of professional politicians in check. In a capitalist economy they are required to monitor the excesses of self-serving corporations. Neither of these responsibilities is fulfilled within the current media system. In fact, quite the opposite. The media cartel, as it is currently comprised, serves as both instigators and accomplices to the concentration of political and economic power by moneyed interests. As they are increasingly tied to the interests of global finance, these major media companies are playing a prominent role in legitimizing the existing institutions of power, rather than monitoring their excesses.

There are ample statistics to illustrate the reach and corruption of the current media system. As McChesney and Nichols repeatedly state in their book Our Media not Theirs, “in 2002, the average American spent almost twelve hours per day with some form of media.”[1] That is more than half of our waking lives. Control of the media itself is comprised of a small group of transnational corporations. When Ben Bagdikian wrote The Media Monopoly in 1983, the top tier of corporate players consisted of 50 largely medium-specific companies. By the time he had published the sixth edition in 2000, the number of major players had fallen to six, comprised of Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, News Corp, Bertelsmann, and General Electric.[2] Their combined revenue was estimated at $109.8 billion in 2000.[3] Each one of these companies commands an impressive reach, including multiple distribution media within each, as well as non-media investments and subsidiaries, the sum of which gives the parent company massive market power. In addition to being substantial players themselves, these companies operate essentially as a cartel, driving government policy and squeezing out potential competitors.[4] As Bagdikian explains, “they own stock in each other, they cooperate in joint media ventures, and among themselves they divide profits from some of the most widely viewed programs on television, cable, and movies.”[5] The result in media content is an emphasis on commercialism and intra-cartel promotion that is astonishing.

The effect on the general population is significant. Even if we consider the media simply as an entertainment medium, studies on the effects of consumerist and violent content show a direct correlation between violent media fare and more desensitized and aggressive viewers. Children are one example of how media content can effect psychological and social development. A study conducted by Wendy L. Josephson, Ph.D., for the Department of Canadian Heritage, in 1995, found that televised violence has numerous effects on the behavior of children of different ages. These include “reduced inhibitions against behaving aggressively,” and a tendency to “expect others to resort to physical violence to resolve conflicts.”[6] Video games are another area of interest in examining the effects of violent media on children. Anderson & Bushman have shown through a reading of 35 different studies of video games that “exposure to violent games increased aggressive thoughts in children and adults, as well as aggressive feelings, physiological arousal, and aggressive behaviors.”[7] Studies like these suggest that the media plays an important role in shaping individual and cultural character.

Children are a lucrative market, with an estimated combined allowance of $6 billion a year and playing an influential role in the purchase of $50 billion worth of household goods in 1998.[8] The use of sex and violence in broadcast content is effective at catching the viewers attention and preparing him/her for consuming the advertising fare that funds commercial media. The average American child watched 20,000 commercials in 1995,[9] and advertisers are bending over backwards to market their products and brand names to this highly impressionable demographic.

The increasing commercialization of the media is not limited to what is traditionally referred to as the “commercial sector.” The pressures of the market, combined with industry sponsored legislative attacks,[10] have been eroding the “public sector” as well. As David Barsamian so eloquently lays out in The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting, both National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System have sustained substantial blows to their ability to deliver accurate news and information outside of the pressures of both state control and market competition. Barsamian states that this conflict of interest is rooted largely in the precarious nature of the federal funding system. As laid out in the 1934 Telecommunications Act, funding is funneled through the Presidentially appointed Corporation for Public Broadcasting, giving the administration considerable weight over both public television and national public radio funding. There is also growing pressure to acquire a greater percentage of Public Broadcast funding from commercial sources, leaving it beholden to the same economic rules that guide the commercial media. Even former PBS President Bruce Christiansen admits that, “unless the funding problems can be solved, public broadcasting will become a commercial medium in the next century.”[11] Many argue it already has. Starting with the introduction of “enhanced” underwriting, enacted by the Reagan administration, commercialism has been steadily creeping into more and more broadcast time, and playing an increasingly prominent role in content creation through program specific partnerships and issue specific ad placement. In 1999, Farness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) published a study by William Hoynes called The Cost of Survival: Political Discourse and the “New PBS.” While the PBS mission is to “provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard,” Hoynes points out that in PBS news programming, “More than one-third of all on-camera sources (36.3%) during the two weeks studied were representatives of corporate America or Wall Street. By contrast, citizen activists accounted for just 4.5% of sources.”[12] Free market ideology influences nearly all forms of media, most notably the biggest players, but also those outlets traditionally seen as outside the realm of corporate influence, such as Public Broadcasting.

Another blow to adequate representation in the media is heavy reliance on official sources. Within the current context of media consolidation, news departments are forced to streamline their practices in order to maximize profit for the parent company. This results in the elimination of news important to people outside of their target advertising demographic. Through newsroom downsizing, stories of social importance to broad areas of society are routinely dropped in favor of news that reflects the views and interests of those their advertisers would like to reach. The role of the advertising industry should not be underestimated. As recently as 1998 the US led the world in advertising expenditures. An average of $300 was spent on each citizen, mostly through Television, Newspapers and Magazines. In 1994, the cost of a 30-second commercial spot on American television ranged from $130,000 to $270,000.[13] The economic pressures of newsroom consolidation have led to a rise in the use of “official sources.” This typically means that reporters are getting their information from government press conferences or conservative think tanks, not from the time honored tradition of investigative journalism that broke stories like Watergate or the Iran Contra arms scandal. In their book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky point out that the Pentagon “has a public-information service that involves many thousands of employees, spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year and dwarfing not only the public-information resources of any dissenting individual, or group, but the aggregate of such groups.”[14] This is but one example. A myriad of well funded conservative and pro-business think tanks pummel the corporate media with a carefully crafted PR barrageÑone that corporate news departments across the board are reprinting without hesitation. A 2001 survey of the mediaÕs use of think tanks maintains that, congruous to previous surveys, the four most-cited think tanks are still comprised of “the centrist Brookings Institution, and conservative groups Cato, Heritage and American Enterprise.”[15] Spending by the top 20 conservative think tanks was estimated at $1 billion in 2000.[16] The range of opinion spans all the way from centrist Democrats to right-wing Republicans, with truly dissenting views left out completely. The result in media content and slant is a largely homogenized media landscape that is less a reflection of what society is than a reflection of what governmental sources and conservative think tanks would like it to be.

But the media could, and should play an even more important role than that of government and corporate watchdog. Central to any popular democracy is the requirement that all participants must have equal and equitable access to both contribute their position, and hear the positions of others, through a free and fair communications system. On a local scale that might mean speaking in a democratically run meeting or assembly, but in an area the size of the United States this requires that we fully utilize the technological means available to us in order to facilitate this grand deliberation. This ideal is reflected in the First Amendment, which Robert McChesney interprets as intending to “assure the construction of a well-functioning system of democratic deliberation.”[17] The current media oligopoly is a far cry from a “well-functioning system of democratic deliberation.” However, it is imperative, if we believe in democracy, to ensure that society be able to deliberate fully on the matters that affect them, and not be silenced to the back of the bus in favor of official government sources and corporate sponsored programming.

The classical notions of the role of the media in a democracyÑnamely as a vehicle for free speech and democratic deliberation, and as a watchdog against corporations and the stateÑis clearly not being fulfilled. This alone warrants substantial change, but the exact nature of that changeÑwhat structural changes are necessary and how we might organize to accomplish themÑis far from resolved. We can look to one of the most influential writers on the issue for a glimpse of proposals in this direction. Ranking among the most prolific of this media reform vanguard is Robert McChesney. McChesney has done an excellent job of outlining the massive consolidation in the industry, he has successfully debunked the “internet will set us free” myth, and he has led the way in calling for a coalition movement for media reform in the United States. He has done a great deal towards elevating the issue of media reform into public discourse. But like many reform advocates, both his analysis and his proposals for change, fall short in a number of ways. It is important to articulate these issues so we can better understand the extent to which change is necessary.

The Nature of the Free Market

Although McChesney occasionally admits the shortfalls of the free market, he goes to great length to make clear that our current oligarchic media structure is a “direct result of aggressive regulation and massive subsidies made by the government,” and not a “natural” result of “free-market competition,” as is often argued.[18] The role of the broadcast lobby and mega media companies in the development of communication policy was, and continues to be, overwhelming, and such has been well documented by the likes of Ben Bagdikian, Susan Smulyan, and other well respected historians and media scholars.[19] However, if noted in isolation, such assertions effectively skirt the essential nature of capitalism and its logical role in the concentration of control in a “free market.” Focusing only on the corrupt nature of particular decisions in the history of broadcast regulation fails to address the underlying forces that have shaped those decisions and continue to shape regulation policy today (or de-regulation policy, as the case may be).

Jerry Mander, in The Case Against the Global Economy, lays out eleven rules of corporate behavior. Chief among them is 1) the profit imperative, 2) the growth imperative, 3) hierarchy, and 4) homogenization.[20] These rules are supported by the work of Karl Marx, Murray Bookchin, Lewis Mumford, Takis Fotopoulos, and Karl Polanyi.[21] If taken at face value, they represent a social code of ethics, based on the stratification of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands. These rules hold no loyalty to the betterment of society, and reflect no collective desire to feed the hungry, house the homeless, or provide healthcare for those in need. These social concerns have existed in opposition to the forces of Capitalism for 200 years, and any checks on its power have been won through turbulent social unrest and protest. The state has interfered in media regulation only when such interference is absolutely necessary to quell public tensions and placate social movements. There is no predisposition for “healthy competition,” in the “marketplace of ideas.” The market itself drives consolidation in the media. The refusal of the FCC to limit such consolidation clearly reflects the administrationÕs financial and political interests in expanding the reach of the largest multinational corporations of our time. The free market, left to its own devices, would lead to roughly the same circumstances that we now see with state-sanctioned global corporate consolidation. The fact that the modern American State shares roughly the same interests is merely a convenience.

It is therefore inadequate to condemn the holdings of the top-tier media corporations merely as the result of “aggressive regulation and massive subsidies” as McChesney does.[22] However convenient this may be in placing blame on the ill-publicized policies of Congress and the FCC, it falls short of confronting corporate power as such, and therefore leads to a reform platform that succeeds only in placing further restrictions on its power.

Non-Democracy and the Nation State

McChesney also falls short in his critique of non-democracy in our national and state government. Even as he condemns national politics as unrepresentative and fraught with corporate financed corruption, he demands the strengthening of state regulation as a means of controlling excessive consolidation in the industry.[23] True, given the legal loophole of public ownership of the airwaves, and the supposed accountability of government to the people, this is a potential starting point for more substantial reform. This, however, does not address the inadequacies inherent in a representative form of government. American republicanism is based, itself, on the preservation of real political power in the hands of the financial elite. It is not the romanticized fairytale of popular democracy that professional politicians allude to in legitimizing their own positions of power at home and abroad.

Ironically, this institutionalized stratification of society into rulers and ruled can be traced to the very document often credited with the dissolution of this dichotomy. Far from an attempt at creating a unified democratic nation, the Constitution was “directed to the task of devising a system of government which was just popular enough not to excite general opposition and which at the same time gave to the people as little as possible of the substance of political power.”[24] Although there were some, such as Thomas Paine, who spoke and wrote passionately for the implementation of popular democratic rule in the aftermath of the American Revolution and the framing of the Constitution, the story of “American Democracy,” and the cultured elite that founded it, is really one of state sponsored free market enterprise. And so the legacy continues: moneyed interests largely run national and state government, save for the moral influence of the ideal of democracy expressed through popular demonstrations and the voices of those few elected officials that happen to share their sentiments. This basis on the illusion of democracy has resulted in a political apparatus that is fundamentally inaccessible and unaccountable to the vast majority of its citizens.

Given this understanding, it seems highly unlikely that this system of power relationships would serve as an effective vehicle for implementing serious structural change. At best such an attempt might yield minor successions, much as the campaign for the 10-hour day resulted in a substantial victory for the working class yet failed to resolve fundamental inequalities between workers and bosses in the 1830Õs.

A common thread in arguments for state intervention in media reform is the call for a return to the “golden age,” a period of anti-trust regulation between 1945 and the early 1970Õs that broke up a number of high profile monopoly companies, including the telephone and railway cartels.[25] Indeed, anti-trust legislation would be a breath of fresh air in todayÕs monopoly friendly climate. Communication policy has been based around consolidation among already prominent players, not the encouragement of market diversity that its mandate laid out in the 1934 Telecommunication Act. At best, such legislation can function as a check on the extent to which corporations can determine, through executive decision, the cost and content of communication media. This is an important part of a broad based movement for the disempowerment of corporate control, but it is wholly inadequate alone. Any agenda that uses the state as a vehicle for protection against the excesses of free trade must also take into account the insidious nature of party politics and corporate funding that maintains this duopoly. We also must take into account the global nature of corporate expansion, something that is trumping national laws through international bodies such as the WTO. Since the “golden age” of anti-trust, attempts at limiting the ability of corporations to reap maximum profits from their host countries has resulted in massive sanctions and fines. Any attempt at limiting the power and scope of the top tier media moguls must be an international act that circumvents the institutions that enforce such codes of conduct.

McChesney takes his reliance on the national political system even farther, proposing that non-traditional political parties might be the vehicle through which the issue of media reform could be forced “into the political agenda.”[26] Although he gives compelling examples of how progressive “Third Ðleft” parties in countries such as New Zealand and Sweden have raised the issue within their respective governments, McChesney skirts the issue of the structural imbalance of power created by nation states, and the unwillingness of popular “Third-left” parties to foster directly democratic change. If, at its root, what is required is the radical restructuring of our economic and political institutions, we are left with little evidence that such a change is possible through voluntary successions from the nationÕs ruling elites. Nor are we left with much evidence of the ability of seemingly progressive political parties to break the corporate media blockade and succeed in electoral politics, as has been evident with the Green Party. Although the Green Party has led what many consider the most successful electoral campaign for president, outside of the Democratic or Republican Party, Ralph Nader gained so little press that he was barely noticeable in the 2000 elections, and when he was given print space, it was largely used as a vehicle for discrediting him on a personal basis, giving the issues he ran on little or no coverage. This is not incidental, and McChesney does a fairly adequate job of explaining this phenomenon in Our Media, Not Theirs, leaving no doubt that there are complex relationships of power and influence limiting the scope and depth of political discourse within the confines of the mass media.

The Importance of Direct Democracy

Reform advocates like McChesney seem to operate from the position that any change is better than no change, and are willing, therefore, to make major concessions in the extent of their reform platform in hopes of short term results.[27] This should be seen as a substantial flaw, and one that is likely to receive a great deal of criticism in the coming years. As social movements become more aware of the commonalities they share with other seemingly divergent movements through their understanding of globalization, they begin to understand the role of capitalism and the state as fundamental root causes in social and environmental inequality. It is important to recognize these root causes, and act in ways that advocate for structural change. This is articulated quite eloquently in Chaia HellerÕs article “This is What Democracy Looks Like! The Revolutionary Potential of the Anti-Globalization Movement.” In a call for serious introspection she claims, “The Movement against globalization will only fulfill its revolutionary potential when it challenges root causes: the universal logic of domination, hierarchy, and class exploitation that guides statist and capitalist institutions that continue to elaborate themselves on a global scale.” She continues, “more than merely challenging such institutions, this movement must propose a vision and means of achieving a good society; one that is universal enough to be coherent and principled, yet diverse and open-ended enough to be truly organic and democratic.”[28]

This kind of logic needs to be implemented in our analysis of media reform. First, the global media oligopoly needs to be understood as the result of state enforced capitalist expansionism, intricately linked to the rise of other capitalist ventures, as well as military interventionism around the world.[29] These interrelationships play key roles in the stratification of society along economic and ethnic lines, in the consistent alienation of government from the public interest and in the suppression of the social movements that attempt to change these systems of power.

Second, we need to come to a new understanding of democracy, based on classical notions of political democracy, and informed by recent advancements in ecological understanding and civil rights. There are some contemporary examples of this new form of universal direct democracy at work in the anti-globalization movement. One example is the Direct Action Network. Born from the Spokes Council model of organizing that successfully shut down the Seattle meeting of the WTO in 1999, the Direct Action Network has inspired local organizing groups around the country. These “locals” drafted and agreed to a set of “principles of unity” based around non-hierarchy, anti-racism and anti-capitalismÑdirectly recognizing the role of both the state and capitalism in the creation of the existing models of global financial control (i.e., the WTO, IMF, WB, NAFTA and the FTAA). These principals of unity have tied the groups together, and regular Spokes Council meetings between the “locals” have established a vehicle for collaboration on joint statements and actions. The architects of this decentralized political model were heavily influenced by the antinuclear organizing of the 1970Õs, and the work of the prominent social theorist Murray Bookchin. In 1987 Bookchin wrote, “There can be no politics without community. And by community I mean a municipal association of people reinforced by its own economic power, its own institutionalization of the grassroots, and the confederal support of nearby communities organized into a territorial network on a local and regional scale.”[30] Influenced by his reading of revolutionary history, Bookchin has developed a nuanced model for decentralized direct democracy that has proven quite useful in creating pre-figurative models of resistance to the institutional proponents of globalization.

Finally, we need to establish a critique based on this relationship that strives for fundamental change in the core institutions of power in society. This could very well take the form of a political platform, but we need to be cautious of the pitfalls of the representative political process and work to empower democratic bodies, not individual politicians, as the basis of political reforms.

The issue of transition deserves some attention, as the relationship between democratic utopianism and social change movements is often compromised in the understandable necessity for immediate change. If we understand that political power can most equitably be distributed in society through the confederation of grassroots democratic assemblies (similar to the Town Meeting model of pre-constitutional New England), than any movement for democratic change needs to establish democratic institutions that can begin to challenge the power of capital and the state. In a sense, we need to create institutions that offer a counter-power to that of the state. One example might be a neighborhood assembly, which, despite its illegitimacy within city government, might serve as an organizing body in advocating for more affordable housing in the city, and ultimately exert social influence on city government to acquiesce to their demands. By establishing truly democratic counter-institutions, we can illustrate the extent of non-democracy within traditional forms of government. With the proliferation of parallel governmental institutions we can begin to network these assemblies in the formation of parallel bodies of national and international influence, directly rooted in the grassroots democratic body. Moreover, the legitimization of these parallel institutions can form the platform for political reforms. This is the counter-power model, and is quite different than the national election strategy currently undertaken by the Green Party. In its early years, the Left Greens did a great deal of work in building a municipal election strategy that sought to empower neighborhood assemblies through the local electoral process. Although the Left Greens met with marginal success, the National Green Party has fallen into a stratified party structure. Their political platform is based on the utilization of the representative political process in the election of individuals that are then under no direct obligation to represent the views of their constituents, let alone the decisions of a neighborhood assembly. A political program based on the empowerment of local democratic assemblies directly confronts the institutional power structures of party politics and centralized state control.

Building Democratic Communication Structures

The role of the media in a democracy is to facilitate democratic debate and deliberation. The role of the media in the absence of democracy must necessarily be that of facilitating political debate and deliberation in the direction of democratic change. Democratic change requires the radical restructuring of the institutions of power in societyÑthat of the state and the corporation. It is directly contrary to the interests of those in power to facilitate such change. The corporate media, having a vested interest in maintaining their own market control, cannot be expected to advocate for their own demise. Likewise, the hierarchical structures of the Nation State will not advocate for a more equitable distribution of its power. We must therefore look to build truly democratic institutions of parallel-power in society to facilitate democratic change.

It is this common sentiment that has driven the many small independent presses of the early and mid 20th century,[31] and it is this same sentiment that has given rise to the new proliferation of independent and advocacy media outlets on the web, on the airwaves, and in print in the 21st century.[32] Although many of these projects exist independently or in isolation, there are several examples of projects that are intricately linked to regional or international networks. These need to be strengthened and expanded. The most impressive of these networks is the Independent Media Center, now boasting over 100 local outlets around the world, linked together through a common mission. These outlets also collaborate on joint projects through print video and radio, bringing an intensely local, yet explicitly international perspective to issues regularly distorted or ignored by the corporate media. In recent years the IMC network has been a way for other independent journalists or media projects not associated with the IMC to collaborate with journalists from around the world on important projects. There are also examples of print and broadcast unionsÑsuch as the Newspaper Guild section of the Communication Workers of AmericaÑthat are beginning to take a stand in the face of massive industry consolidation.

In September, the Cascade Media Alliance hosted “Reclaim the Media: A Community Media Conference.” A full week of events culminated in a day-long conference at SeattleÕs Town Hall. As attendees met new faces and talked about peopleÕs projects and ideas for the future, it became apparent that these small independent papers, community radio stations and public access channels all recognize the need to work together. As companies like AOL/Time Warner and Viacom expand their reach into more and more media outletsÑcombining resources and undercutting news budgetsÑthe independent press needs to do everything in its power to counteract this trend. The Keynote Speaker at the RTM conference was Amy Goodman, award-winning host of the daily news program Democracy Now! One of the Pacifica Radio Networks flagship programs, Democracy Now! is heard on community radio stations across the country. Staff recently started recording the program on video, and thanks to local listeners is now being distributed to hundreds of Public Access TV stations around the country via Free Speech TV in the largest community media collaboration in the country. The broad distribution of Democracy Now! is a direct result of community organizing and advocacy campaigns scattered throughout the country, and the national reach of the program is inspiring a strong sense of civic engagement among its listeners and viewers.

Attempts at collaborative networking are also evident in the microradio movement. Representing an interesting combination of unlicensed direct action broadcasting, legislative lobbying, and legal wrangling, microradio is a rapidly burgeoning format for non-commercial communication.[33] Accompanying the proliferation of local broadcast technology is a formidable global infrastructure for content distribution and broadcast coordination. New possibilities are opening up via the Internet for facilitating regional and global broadcast networks and there is a growing archive of successful experiments in both areas. In Seattle, microradio activists are forming a city wide broadcast network comprised of neighborhood fm stations that are tied together through a public webcasting facility. This project is using autonomous democratic organizing structures in the creation of a grassroots city-wide communications network. This regional network is further involved in a global broadcast network that collaborates on issue specific “Emergency Broadcasts” around key social justice issues. Recent broadcasts have covered issues like the WTO, anti-war demonstrations and the recent events in Argentina from four different continents.[34]

These are examples of some of the work that is being done in this area, but as McChesney accurately points out, “the whole of the current media reform movement is significantly less than the sum of its parts.”[35] The independent media has some serious faults that it will need to contend with. For too long advocacy journalism has found comfortable pockets of supporters and focused on “preaching to the choir” at the expense of outreach and education. The recent proliferation of web-based media has greatly increased the number of news outlets available via the Internet, but this new resource rarely makes it past the computer screen and onto the radio dial or into local papers. The information gap is widening and it is crucial that the independent press combine their use of online resources with traditional print and broadcast medium. This could mean working with direct action broadcasters, or it could mean collaborating with community radio stations or minority papers. It could mean embarking on a well-funded billboard campaign, or it could mean doing production workshops with existing social justice organizations. But perhaps most importantly we need to recognize the power that we do have, and work to use new democratic communication structures to empower others whose voice is not heard.


What is required in the push for democratic media is a broad based movement that builds on our collective strengths and creates alliances between social justice, anti-war, and anti-globalization organizations. It is important that we do not fall into the trap of professional politicians and party politics, but instead work to elevate democratic institutions in our organizing strategies. It is through the establishment of democratic networking structures, bringing together otherwise isolated independent papers, radio stations and public access TV stations, that we can begin to create a diverse yet unified voiceÑdebating, deliberating and ultimately driving structural democratic change.

Democracy is in many ways the great equalizer. In such a stratified society, it is beneficial to all but the top 5-10% of society to advocate for its implementation. In such a case it is also the common denominator among seemingly divergent views. Every social justice group, community association, or civil rights organization would benefit from a democratic process that institutionalized their right to advocate for change through a fair and free deliberative process. It is only through the implementation of such structural democratic change that we may insure equal and equitable access to the means of communication, and thus equal and equitable freedom of speech.

The ability of a society to self govern through democratic process is quite possibly the most important social project of our time. The role of the media in any democracy must, out of necessity, be based on these same principles of equal and equitable access and representation. It is only through the creation of parallel democratic political institutions and media structuresÑrooted fundamentally in the grassrootsÑthat we may hope to achieve such a fundamental shift.

End Notes

[1] Robert McChesney and John Nichols, Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media (New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2002) 47.

[2] Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly: Sixth Edition (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2000) x.

[3] Mark Balnaves, James Donald and Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, The Penguin Atlas of Media and Information: Key Issues and Global Trends (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2001) 60.

[4] Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly. viii.

[5] Ibid. l.

[6] Wendy L. Josephson, Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages (Ottawa, ON: Media Awareness Network, 1995 –

[7] Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. “Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature.” Psychological Science, (2001). 353-359.

[8] Better Business Bureau, (Ottawa, ON: Media Awareness Network, 1998 –

[9] Milton Chen, Ph.D., The Smart Parents Guide to Kids’ TV (San Francisco, CA: KQED Books, 1995) 8.

[10] According to Brendan I. Koerner, an industry savvy journalist, the communications industry spends about $125 million a year on lobbying expenses, more than twice the amount spent by the defense industry in their own lobbying efforts. One is left to wonder where he draws the line with parent companies like GE, which combines its major media holdings with one of the largest defense contractors in the country.

[11] David Barsamian, The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting (Cambridge MA: South End Press, 2002) 21.

[12] William Hoynes, The Cost of Survival: Political Discourse in the “New PBS,” (New York, NY: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 1999 –

[13] Nielsen Media Research. (Ottawa, ON: Media Awareness Network, 1998 –

[14] Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Politics of the Mass Media (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2002) 19.

[15] Michael Dolny, “Think Tanks Y2K: Progressive groups gain, but right still cited twice as often,” Extra!, July/August 2001-

[16] Sam Husseini, “Checkbook Analysis: Corporations support think tanks–and the favor is returned,” Extra!, May/June 2000 –