By Inter Press Service

NEW YORK–Shallow “drive-by” journalism, suppression of news stories, a lack of diversity–business as usual for the media giants, said organizers of Media Democracy Day (MDD).

The problem, according to the groups behind the Oct. 18 MDD, a worldwide movement that started last year in Canada, is that “the current media system has been abducted by a group of 6-9 mega-media conglomerates.”

“AOL Time Warner, as an example, controls over 12 film and television companies, multiplex cinemas in 12 countries, 29 cable/digital providers, 24 book brands, 35 magazine titles, 52 record labels, theme parks and stores in 30 countries, four professional sports teams, AOL US, AOL International, and eight other major Internet portals. At last count,” said MDD literature.


A very small group of very big companies controls almost all of the American media, they point out, and continued mergers mean the group gets smaller while the companies get bigger.

Already, “quite a limited range of political opinions and perspectives are given space and time in mainstream press and media,” said Rachel Coen of FAIR, a U.S. media watch group. “It becomes more limited the more mergers and consolidation occurs.”

The U.S. government body responsible for regulating the media and preserving diversity is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). According to Ms. Coen, “the FCC is utterly failing the American public, but it’s doing a fairly good job protecting corporate interests.”

In Albuquerque, N.M., more than 350 media educators and activists will meet for the founding summit of the Action Coalition for Media Education.

“We’re going to kick off with a toast to Media Democracy Day,” said Eliza Dichter, who helped plan the Action Coalition for Media Education summit, and is also co-founder and senior editor of Clear Channel, a media interest network.

“What’s really exciting,” said Ms. Dichter speaking about Action Coalition for Media Education, “is that this is the first time that media educators, media reformers and policy activists can all get together (to) work in harmony and learn from each other.”

Action Coalition for Media Education plans to harness this cooperation into three main fronts of action: educating, advocating independent media, and supporting media reform. All of these will be pursued at many levels, from the school board to Congress.

“Education is a crucial part of social change,” Ms. Dichter said. And media education is crucial to the purpose of Action Coalition for Media Education.

“In an age when most people get most of their information visually–through television, film, computers, video, etc.,–citizens need to know how to think critically about what they see and hear,” she said.

The coalition will also provide a forum for teachers, health officials and community leaders, who will then spread the information nationwide, she adds.

“A fundamental part of it,” said Ms. Dichter, “is teaching individuals how to use communications technology to create independent media.” This will include instructing people on how to use video, the Internet, public access TV and radio.

“By ‘independent media’ we mean anything that is outside of corporate mass media,” she said.

“Independent media has a critical role to play in breaking the news and information blockade,” added Lisa Vives, director of Global Information Network, a distributor of alternative news from developing countries to media outlets in the U.S.

(Reported by Inter Press Service.)