Monday, May 19, 2008

Why Obama Matters (and it's not his charisma)

A relative of mine drew my attention to the October 2007 blog entry of Leslie Griffith, entitled Thank You Dan Rather. Ms Griffith was an award-winning TV journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area until she lost her job. For me, her situation points to why Barack Obama, as an advocate of an open and regulated media, should be the Democrats' nominee and be the preferred choice in the Fall presidential election.

Mr. Obama has very clear positions about Media policy, about communications technology and about America's communications infrastructure. By contrast, media and telecommunications policy are invisible on his opponents' Web sites.

Although Hillary Clinton is, along with Mr Obama, a co-sponsor of S-215-IS, the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act" introduced by Sen Byron Dorgan, she is also known to have taken large donations from corporate media, including News Corporation (owner of Fox News, which was established by Roger Ailes.

In addition to Mr Obama's stated policy objectives, I would urge Mr Obama to complete his media policy agenda as follows:

  • Re-regulate Media Ownership - see my blog

  • Advocate for increased localism to balance homogenized, bottom-line-driven corporate news like CNN, Fox, et al

  • Make it easier for Low Power FM, so new and community-based voices can have airwaves, not just the biggies.

  • Restore Full Funding for public broadcasting (aren't you tired of Pledge Drives? Amen!)

  • Eliminate the position of Ombudsman in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

  • Outlaw the use of political talking points in broadcast journalism, unless the source is cited

  • Restore the FCC's Fairness (in Broadcasting) Doctrine (intellectually, we should be sufficiently honest not to be afraid of both sides of any policy or political discussion aired in the broadcast media - unlike our Unitary Executive, who is vulnerable and, in an effort to be Reaganesque, would immediately veto any attempt to restore the Fairness Doctrine)

...and remember...

Wherever the talking heads are making the most noise, look in the 180-degree opposite direction, where you are likely to find both the truth and the things "they" are most afraid and vulnerable of.

In May 2008, George Bush used a speech before the Israeli Knesset to attack Democrats, and by inference, Barack Obama. Bush used the word "appeasement" and cited Hitler to illustrate the danger of talking with our enemies. This elicited a strong response by Mr Obama and echoed across the media echo-chamber.

Later that week, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews interviewed two media figures about the incident. The conservative talk show host Kevin James virtually spun out of control when asked to step outside of his talking points. To me, this is clear justification that the media needs some policing that it hasn't had since the years of Ronald Reagan.

Americans count on the media for the facts, and should receive nothing less. The media should be obligated to tell Americans the difference between fact and opinion. Our democracy depends upon it.