Ben Bagdikian, former reporter, Pulitzer prize winner and former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, says that private television and radio broadcasters have stolen the airwaves from us, with the collusion of federal regulators who are supposed to regulate them in the public interest. Under U.S. law, the airwaves are a natural resource that is owned by the people, not the broadcasters.
Bagdikian spoke in Pasadena on Friday, November 15, 2002 at Throop Memorial Unitarian Church. When his book Media Monopoly was first published in 1983, he was calling attention to an alarming trend – fewer and fewer companies controlling the mass media. At the time, only about 50 companies dominated TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies and the Internet. Today, there are only 6, and they are giant transnational corporations, so powerful that they and not the public are setting the agenda at the Federal Communications Commission.
The good news is that many different groups are getting organized and fighting back against the media monopoly. The event Bagdikian was put together by the Democratic Media Legal Project, a joint project of the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community and the Cultural Environment Movement, working with attorneys from the National Lawyer’s Guild and the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, in conjunction with the Media Alliance of San Francisco. They are working to file a groundbreaking legal case to challenge the broadcasting monopoly, demanding that the people’s airwaves be democratically managed with adequate financing of a larger public broadcasting sector, in the public interest. The project is online at www.medialegalproject.org.
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