Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How to Get in the Game

Hyman recently devoted a “Point” to reading viewer responses to the burning question of whether executed criminals should be able to donate their organs.

This is an utter waste of airtime. Instead of responding directly to it, I want to pass on some tips on what you can do to get your airwaves back so that you don’t have to have two minutes of a local public resource flushed down the toilet like this. A number of readers have asked me about what they might do to get involved in the fight against Sinclair specifically and media consolidation more generally. Despite the existence of this blog, I’m a relative newbie to media activism, so put all of this in the “for what it’s worth file.” Having said that, here are some thoughts about what anyone can do to get involved:

Tell your neighbors. Writing a letter to the editor or a guest op-ed piece for your local paper is the best first step in fighting back. Don’t assume that even politically active people in your community know about who and what Sinclair is. Chances are, they don’t. Sinclair’s whole operation is based on blurring the lines between the local and the corporate, and they do it well. Heck, it took me a long time of seeing the same news anchors were doing the news on two different local stations and catching the end of “The Point” before Letterman came on before it finally got through my head to look into what was up. People in your community might be familiar with “The Point” and hate it, but they probably don’t know why it’s on their television, and that’s the big picture issue.

I strongly recommend writing to your papers—it’s the way to inform people and make connections with allies. Use some of the Sinclair links on this site to get info. You can also see a copy of
the original op-ed piece that I wrote for my local paper on the website Iowans for Better Local Television if you’d like to see an example. I wrote it simply to vent my frustration, but a year later, I’m writing a blog, taking part in a local media activism group, been interviewed on national radio, and have even managed to piss off Hyman himself! Just sharing your views with others can lead to big things.

Contact advertisers. It’s true that the Bush administration’s FCC is not concerned about what you think, but the
local businesses that advertise on your Sinclair stations care very much about what you think. Identify those local businesses that advertise on your Sinclair station (particularly during the news) and write them a polite letter letting them know that Sinclair Broadcasting Incorporated is not a local company and that it’s business model involves the destruction of “localness” in news. You don’t need to be political. Just let them know that because you care about your community, you want to patronize businesses that support local media and ask these businesses to consider shifting their advertising to local television, radio, and newspapers.

Organize. See if there are media reform groups in your community that already exist. You can check out websites like
StartChange and FreePress for background information on how to find groups that would be interested in the Sinclair issue. If you can’t find one, start one! All you need is a handful of people. That’s how the group I’m involved with got started. IBLTV was just a spinoff of a group of us who were ticked off about the “Stolen Honor” thing last October and decided to keep the ball rolling after the election. We’re still in our organizational infancy, but we’ve got a website, we’re informing people locally about the issue, and we’re able to pool our resources to do research, write letters, and come up with ideas. There are already a handful of groups around the country focusing on Sinclair, and thousands of individuals who would love to join a group if they knew of one in their community.

Speak up. Get the ear of people with influence. Again, just writing to the FCC is probably not going to do a whole lot of good, given the attitudes of the majority of people on it (there are some allies on the FCC, but not enough to win the day at this point). That’s okay. Most political change comes from the grassroots anyway. Write to your congressional representatives to let them know that they need to take a position on issues such as media ownership. Ask them to support a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine (guaranteeing equal time for competing points of view on broadcast television). Keep an eye out on pending legislation in congress having to do with media (particularly media ownership) and write to your representatives about these specific bills. FreePress has
a helpful page to keep up to date on current media-related legislation.

Check out IBLTV’s website. As I say, we’re still a fairly new group, but our members that have taken the initiative in creating our website have put together a nice collection of information and links. Having a site helps make connections with other in your community and gets you noticed. Some of our members even took part in a local talk show on our public radio station. Whether you’re looking for specific ideas about how to organize a local group dealing with media issues, or you just want to be reminded that you’re not alone in your disgust with the appropriation of local airwaves by a media behemoth, a perusal of the IBLTV site will help.

Of course, there’s much, much more to be said about what we can do to take back our airwaves. I’m a relative newcomer to the issue myself. These are just a few “top of the head” notions that I wanted to share with people looking for someplace to start. Take a look at some of the media activism links in the sidebar and do some exploring. You’ll find that there are lots of people out there with similar concerns.

The thing we have on our side is that no one actually likes what Sinclair’s doing except Sinclair themselves. Sure, there might be some rightwingers who love Mark Hyman, but no one actually wants to have their local airwaves taken over by huge company and get little if any truly local news. All we need to do is give people the facts. Everything else follows from that.


At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ted,

Kudos to you and your activism. Let's hope that your loyal readers take up the gauntlet and start growing some grass(roots).

As a member of a local "we're sick and tired of Hyman's Garbage" group, it's gratifying to read your support!

I have never before gotten involved in ANY sort of citizen's group, but the value of doing so is very clear to me. If not me, then who? If not now, then when?

Our media-reform group is small, but has had surprising impact. I hope your message is taken to heart. As one prominent media-reform person has said, If Media Reform is not your top issue, then it should be your second!

It's a simple equation... the more people that get involved... the more difference they can make!

Best wishes to you

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ted and Counterpoint readers,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead


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