Growing Up Corporate - Ralph Nader at Media Reform Conference Madison WI
(Click here to listen to streaming real audio of panel presentation: http://www.tnimc.org/usermedia/application/8/mediareformconference-ralphnader.rm )
The First Amendment rights of the audience take precedence over the first amendent rights of the broadcasters. I proposed to a panel way back that we give one hour back to the public on all the channels. They said why should we give you an audience network? The two that asked me that were Al Gore and Barry Goldwater. What the people own the People must control. They own the airwaves. They own the land. They own the $5 trillion public welfare. The concept of controlling what we already legally own has got to become a major civic and political issue in the country. The corporations control what we own. Can you imagine if the workers controlled it. Over one third of the investments in the stock market actually represent worker owned resources. These are being controlled by corporations. People are paying enourmous amounts of money for services that are being controlled by corporations. These are not small matters. The corporate media ignores this. But it is not just media corporations that ignore it. Law schools ignore it, business schools ignore it, even schools of journalism ignore this.
The Nation was the next issue I want to bring up. In the early 70s the Nation did an article entitled "When is news?" Why does the corporate news cover an issue, and when do they cover it. Sometimes corporations will pay attention to an issue of concern to the public if their interests are threatened. Otherwise it is unlikely they will pay attention to this, even after 40 or 50 years. So the media tells us that we are a very litigious society, that we will rush into the courts and get a decision. Here at the University of Wisconsin Law School the data has repudiated that conclusively. In 1840 we filed more civil law suits per capita than we have today. The only area of true litiguious action is corporations suing corporations. But in state legislature after state legislature they are enacted legislation to limit liability to ordinary workers and citizens who have been wrongfully injured. This is not in the news. The problem is that we don't litigate enough. It is not that there are too many lawsuits, it is that there are too few. 80,000 people die of medical malpractice every year. When is news? That is something to look at when the media defends itself.
The next point I want to make is regarding the degradation of the news . The public airwaves are utilized this way. Over 90% of the programming is entertainment and advertisements. So one day we decided in Washington DC to do a report on the four networks. It was like a content report over 4 days on how the networks did the evening news. Then we had a press conference. I didn't expect anyone to come. I was surprised though that someone came. I asked them why did they come and they said "It was a slow news day and we wanted to come." Then they didn't show anything on the evening news about our press conference, which is what I expected. When you look at the late evening news it is 9 minutes of ads, 3 minutes of street crime, especially bleeding, but not before the first weather piece. Then they go back for a short take from city hall, then the second weather. Now the meteorologist is prepared with his super doppler radar and the maps . Then they say here in DC it is 61 degrees, across the river it is 59 degrees 40 years ago it it was 56 degrees, then they take a break then they go to the super dolppler radar and then they go to another commercial then they go back to the anchor and say we'll be right back for a weather updates. Then 4 minutes of sports, one minute of chit chat and they didn't tell you anything about what happened in your city. What happened at the city council, what happened in education, what happened at the schools? They are using your airwaves to make a huge profit and disinform you. When they have a license for sale it could sell for $400 million dollars. They use it to make profit and they laugh at us and mock at us while they rake in the dollars. Once the expectation level is controlled they control the debate, control misinforming us so that people don't even imagine anything else. How did this happen? The Communications Act of 1996. Before 1996 no station owned more than 15 channels. Now Clearchannel owns 1300 channels. Ed Markie voted for this. The degradation continues. The cable channels are another example. So what do we have on cable? We have fox, msnbc, cnn, cartoon station, what don't we have - a civic action channel 24 hours a day. This won't happen even if we have 5000 channels. A college student channel. We have 15 million students. They don't have one 30 minute program on national television. When people hear this they say "I never thought of this, it never occurred to me. That is what happens when we grow up corporate. I heard there is a pet channel. I heard they were thinking about starting a chimpanzee channel.
Lets get to the civic news. The only way citizens can break through it seems is to block the streets. If they do this then the police come then the news camers come then the civic groups who have a very good reason to stop globalization are wondering why is it that on the evening news all we see are people getting handcuffed . The message from the corporate news is, if you block traffic, if you cause a fuss we'll cover you. That is the citizens' dilemna. On independent and community radio, and on maybe cspan, you have the reasons for the demonstrations. By the way, did you know the average soundbite has been going down in time, it has gone from 18 seconds to 7 seconds to four seconds for the average soundbite in the last 20 years on the corporate news. Pretty soon it is going to be the sound bark. This will allows us to commune with the animal world.
Newspapers and Magazines what they don't cover. The advertisers are always there. The reporters for the mass media say "I have been a reporter for 32 years and never did an advertiser call up and try to pressure me." He's right, but that is because they don't bother to call the reporters. They call at the highest level. Why doesn't the media cover Africa or South America? The media only covers this when they is an extremely violent act? Let's look at terrorism. There is far more debate even in Istrael about terrorism than there is in our discussion. Is there anything else to cover in the middle east besides terrorism? What about housing, food, domestic life? There is a crowding out of anything other than terrorism. This is all part of the war. The fate of the Phil Donahue is a great example of how progressives let Donahue down. All he needed were one million viewers, he was under merciless pressure to not do controversial programming. He thought there must be someone out there who wants real news and information. They cancelled him after only four days. Next time we complain that we don't have a liberal on cable tv consider the Donahue show. He was told that he had to have two conservatives for every liberal.
Let me conclude on this - the debate commission is a perfect example of controlling process. We did a search on this subject - there has never been a congressional investigation into presidential debates. Third parties are a significant source of new information. Third parties are excluded from presidential debates. I campaigned in 50 states and I estimate that I reached only 2% of the audience I could have reached if we had been allowed on the presidential debates. We are being excluded. If you want to find out more about this check out www.opendebates.org Thank you very much.