My Notes from the 2007 Media Reform Conference
My Notes from the 2007 Media Reform Conference
It was very exciting to be in a ballroom with, literally, 3000 other people all concerned about making the media more reflective of and responsive to our communities and the people who live in them. Also very inspiring to listen to people who are both incredibly articulate and incredibly prominent (like Bill Moyers, Jesse Jackson, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Amy Goodman) discuss the importance of media reform to social progress.
Compared with the St. Louis Conference in 2005, I also came away with a sense that while the movers and shakers within the media reform movement still represent an incredible range of issues and concerns, there seemed to be a much greater sense that these various interests were trying to find and articulate a shared vision and plan. It won’t be easy, of course, but at least it felt like cohesion was a priority this time. There also seemed to be a lot more academic writers and publishers in attendance and more literature being published on this subject than a few years ago.
That said, I and many other attendees from the PEG community – and there must have been about 70-100 there, up from around a dozen two years ago – still felt some measure of disrespect from the FreePress insiders. My own impression is that their view of access is about 20 years out of date (NFLCP and Wayne’s World instead of ACM and community building) and utterly blind to the fact that, without PEG, their movement would be nearly invisible to anyone not living by the Internet and already plugged into their mailing lists. In my opinion, FreePress is too important to disregard, but they constitute another front in the ACM’s battle for recognition.
As at ACM Conferences, speakers rarely addressed the subjects in the catalog, but the workshops I attended were, nonetheless, excellent. With only a few exceptions, the panelists were extremely knowledgeable, articulate, and pragmatic.
I videotaped each of the workshops I attended, and this footage is available for editing or airing as desired. These workshops included:
ß The Fight Over Media Ownership, with Sydney Levy (Media Alliance), Andrew Jay Schwartzmann (Media Access Project), Joseph Torres (National Association of Hispanic Journalists), and Ryan Blethen (Seattle Times);
ß Media Monitoring as an Organizing Tool, with DeAnne Cuellar (Texas Media Empowerment Project), Amy Johnson (Media Tank), Rima Meroueh (Media Empowerment Project), Tom Schwallie (GRIID), and Jen Soriano (Youth Media Council);
ß Plenary Speech by Bernie Sanders;
ß Citizen Journalism, with Dan Gillmor (Center for Citizen Media), Chris Nolan (Spot-On.com), Chris Rabb (Afro-Netizen), and Jay Rosen (PressThink);
ß The Battle to Control America’s Media, with Josh Silver (FreePress), Pete Tridish (Prometheus Radio Project), Betty Yu (MNN), and Amy Goodman;
ß Washington 2007, with Mark Cooper (Consumer Federation of America), Gene Kimmelman (Consumers Union), Tony Riddle (ACM), and Gigi Sohn (Public Knowledge);
ß Winning Local Change, Making a National Impact, with Dee Davis (Center for Rural Strategies), Sydney Levy (Media Alliance), and Malkia Cyril (Youth Media Council).
Notes from these workshops will follow after I’ve had a chance to review the footage.
Northeast Region Gathering:
Approximately 70 people attended the gathering of attendees from New England and New York. The largest majority were from Massachusetts, followed by Vermont and Connecticut, and then the other states. People went around the room and introduced themselves and their areas of concern. There were a lot of people interested in getting Democracy Now on PBS, producers seeking outlets for independent media, people wanting more responsible content/coverage, people concerned about the media ownership proceeding at FCC, Video Franchising (Mass. Legislation and FCC December finding/and another NPRM re: existing franchises), and media literacy educators seeking to compare notes.
A number of people besides myself and Matt Landry were from Cambridge, including a fellow from the Unitarian Universalist Committee in Cambridge, resident Mary Christie who was looking to do more than write letters, and Alexander from the South End Press which is now housed in Central Square. These people should be invited to the next CCTV Orientation.
We were reminded that the FCC will processing applications this spring for full power radio licenses.
About 70 people attended a caucus of attendees representing PEG stations. These included familiar leaders such as Tony Riddle, Mike Wassamer, Lauren-Glenn, Kari Peterson, Alan Bushong, Rob Brading, Tom Bishop, Karen Toering, Daniel plus many up-and-comers who were new to me but seemed very engaged.
Discussions focused mainly on:
ß State Franchising initiatives. Pennsylvania PIRG was held up as having developed decent model legislation, and folks who want a copy should contact Lauren-Glenn. Sue Buske might also have good ideas (especially in terms of damage control strategies), from her recent battles in California; ditto for Wally Bowen from North Carolina who has taken an economic development angle. Amanda Balletine, Free Press’s grassroots coordinator, was also regarded as someone who should be helpful. Potential collaborators in advocacy include: Consumers Union, UCC, Common Cause, and the Media Democracy Coalition (?). Lauren-Glenn also noted that after passage of legislation, there is the executive branch process of implementing the legislation, cautioned that this is very different process than working legislatively, and that we should seek advice from others like her who have gone through that part of the process. People talked about whether we needed to produce PSAs for our channels and for FSTV re: state franchising and the next FCC NPRM re: cable franchising. Is CCTV’s suitable for this? Alan Bushong offered to edit a script/video if someone else drafted it.
ß National Franchising. The FCC order will be out in 7-10 days. Someone said that Commissioner Adelstein said that states that had passed franchising regulations would be exempt from the order, and that he would come out for public hearings addressing the effect of the new rules on PEG access.
ß ACM Public Policy calls are done every 2 weeks, and Rob McCausland is interested in making sure that every state is represented. Contact him at the ACM if you are interested.
ß Whether FreePress “gets” and respects PEG access. All attendees were urged to complete the conference evaluations and stress the importance of access.
ß All attendees were also urged to send Sue Buske a list of speakers from this conference who should be invited to present and/or attend the ACM Conference.
Dinner with George Stoney, Sue Buske and Randy, Rob Brading, and others:
I had dinner the last night with the folks listed above. Most of the talk avoided “shop”, although it was interesting to hear George talk about his approach to making all new NYU students learn film before video so that they are forced to build separate audio and video tracks, but towards the end I did ask about how to connect the ACM to the other groups at the Conference and wondered whether those interested in social justice might be the common thread between the ACM community and others devoted to saving PBS or preserving Network Neutrality in the Internet. Sue Buske replied that she thought that the angle to take is that there will always be people who are on the wrong side of the technology divide—lacking access to computers, the Internet, technical training—and that these people would always need a community center to fill these needs.
I brought home a lot of literature from the swap table and the formal information “trade show.” Two things of particular note:
ß Those who join ACME get extremely discounted prices on any videos from the Media Education Foundation. This could be valuable to video trainers.
ß Databases are increasingly being developed to track media and government. Three of the most exciting are www.SunlightFoundation.org (which has about 4 of them), www.publicintegrity.org/telecom, and www.speedmatters.org/yourspeed. Check them out.