Mass Communication and the Media

No democratic society can function without mass communication. In order for the people to direct the function of government they must have the ability to know what is happening and have access to new ideas, and individuals must be able to present their ideas to the masses. This is currently not possible in any significant way.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated media ownership and enabled just six corporations to gain possession of eighty percent of the U.S. mass media. A handful of people control what the vast majority of Americans see, hear and read. These media owners are obligated by financial pressures to avoid presenting information which can negatively affect the huge corporations which buy the advertising they sell. That means we are rarely exposed to the truth, and a democracy can not function if the people are unaware of the truth.

Consider the boycott of Exxon-Mobil fuel sponsored by The Dreamers. If this boycott had been mentioned daily in national news programs the majority of Americans and other consumers worldwide would have participated and within a few weeks gas prices would have plummeted. Exxon and the other major oil companies spend tens of millions each year on advertising and no media network can afford to lose such a large customer. The way things are now, we will never see continuous media coverage of this or any other boycott of products supplied by a major advertiser.

The U.S. government controls the licensing of the airwaves and big media corporations can have their licenses pulled if they interfere with the intended spin government wants projected to the public. Just prior to the onset of the Iraq war in 2003, more than one-hundred million people worldwide were out in the streets in the largest one day protest ever seen on this planet. Most American television news media provided less than 15 seconds of coverage of this historic event because it was not in line with the government spin.

Then there is the fact that no person can be elected President in this country without having many millions of dollars to spend on advertising. This automatically forces candidates to support the desired legislation of their contributors, which are generally large corporations. The way things are now the people have no voice.

In the 2010 Citizens United case the Supreme Court decided that corporations and other organizations have the same right to free speech as a person. This made it possible for corporations and other wealthy entities to donate unlimited amounts of money to what are called super PACs which promote particular policies and candidates for political office. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to promote the agendas of huge corporations and millionaires while the rest of us have no chance to be heard above the din. It is completely unfair that only the rich have access to the mass communication media, and because of this it denies everyone else an equal ability to express their free speech rights.

The airwaves belong to the people and the only way for the people to get them back is through new regulations designed to benefit the people rather than the bottom line of a few big corporations. Here are some ideas for media regulations that can help improve things.

Business entities should not be entitled to the same rights as persons. Congress should pass laws which repeal the Citizens United decision.

All paid political advertising should be prohibited.

No entity should be allowed to own more than one TV station, radio station or newspaper. Independent media outlets can establish networks to share content and contribute to the cost of news gathering, but they must not be required to present programs or information supplied by the network unless they choose to do so.

Every regional market must have at least one local television station and radio station operated exclusively for the public to voice opinion. There should be also be a national version for national issues, and websites intended for this same purpose. These stations and websites would become the outlet for free political campaign advertising.

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The Benefits of Providing Free Digital Products

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