Obama on media
When Barack Obama addresses 6,000 minority journalists gathered in his Chicago hometown for a convention Sunday, the Democratic nominee...
The Democracy Papers is a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech. Technology has created space for more voices, yet fewer and fewer are heard.
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When Barack Obama addresses 6,000 minority journalists gathered in his Chicago hometown for a convention Sunday, the Democratic nominee ought to take up an issue crucial to their future: media ownership.
Obama has been encouraging on this issue. He is dismayed by the consolidation of newspapers, radios and television stations into conglomerates with little interest in serving local communities.
The Illinois senator co-sponsored the Media Ownership Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in May. Political allies in the House undoubtedly would be receptive to urgings from Obama to get to work passing similar legislation.
This bill is critical. It provides a necessary check of the Federal Communications Commission's deference to the corporations gobbling up community voices at the expense of diverse and local needs.
Media ownership is an area in need of Obama's vision and leadership. He should lend his voice to several key efforts: legislation limiting the number of media outlets a single entity can own; tax policies to encourage local and minority media ownership; and encouraging public policy that weighs heavily on the side of local ownership.
Desperately needed is an FCC that works for the public by scrutinizing license renewals and supporting minority ownership. A large step toward change could come from a President Obama's nomination of FCC board member Michael Copps as chairman of the five-member body. In the middle of his second term on the board, Copps has been the rational voice for transparency and public involvement.
The current chairman, Kevin Martin, has been deaf to calls for new rules encouraging more diversity and localism in the media.
Information is power. The media's unfettered dissemination of information helps the public hold government accountable. Our democracy relies on independent media. Our communities rely on locally owned media.
Obama should build on his past fine efforts by furthering the conversation in his Sunday speech to attendees at Unity: Journalists of Color.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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