by David Hudson, freelance writer
with ad hoc analysis of the US election
campaign, media monopolies and the role of the internet in a re-democratisation
of e-media, incl. an overlook of possible 'green' net-politics...
ROBERT MC CHESNEY
is Research professor at the Institute
of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Information and Library
Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author
of Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control
of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-35, co-editor of It's the Media Stupid!, and
most recently, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious
In "It's the Media, Stupid!" McChesney
and co-editor Nichols begin by detailing how the media system has come
to be dominated by a handful of transnational conglomerates that use their
immense political and economic power to carpet bomb the population with
commercial messages They reveal how journalism, electoral politics, entertainment,
art and culture have all suffered as a result. Nichols and McChesney also
explain how that the Internet, which many once argued would open up the
media system to a cornucopia of new voices and creativity, has been lost
for the most part to the corporate communication system.
"Ultimately, we need to press for the overhaul
of the media system, so that it serves democratic values rather than the
interests of capital. The U.S. media system is not "natural," it has nothing
to do with the wishes of the Founding Fathers, and it has even less to
do with the workings of some alleged free market. To the contrary, the
media system is the result of laws, government subsidies, and regulations
made in the public's name, but made corruptly behind closed doors without
the public's informed consent. The largest media firms are all built on
top of the profits generated by government gifts of monopoly rights to
valuable broadcasting spectrum or monopoly cable franchises. The value
of this corporate welfare, over the past seventy-five years, can only be
estimated, but it probably runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars."
"Here it is, the comprehensive story by
Robert W. McChesney of how giant corporations are taking control of the
mass media on a global scale, even though the American people legally own
the public airwaves. This corporatist grasping for ever more profit, power
and content determination stifles the people's reach of their First Amendment
rights and debilitates a weakening democracy with trivia, cheap entertainment,
and low grade sensuality at eye-blinking velocities. Rich Media, Poor Democracy
is more than a prolonged wake-up call; it shames those who do nothing and
motivates those who are trying to build a more democratic media that reflects
the all-important non-commercial values which forge a just society." --
Corporate Watch: How does the Internet
fit into the history of other mass
RM: The Internet is not a new phenomenon.
It's a different technology from earlier communications media technologies,
but there is a history throughout the 20th century, and probably earlier,
of how revolutionary new communication technologies have been developed
and eventually deployed. History points to the fact that technologies,
while they have tremendous influence and all sorts of effects upon society
that are unintended and unanticipated, their fundamental course is determined
by how they're owned and operated. It's almost an iron law of US communication
media, going back to AM radio in the 1920s, that new technologies don't
seem commercially viable at first, so they're developed by the nonprofit,
noncommercial sector, by amateurs. When they develop [the technology] so
you can make money off it, the corporate sector comes in, and through a
variety of mechanisms, usually its dominance of politicians, it muscles
all these other people out of the way and takes it over. That's exactly
what happened with AM radio. Much like the Internet in the early to mid-1990s,
AM radio was the province largely of the nonprofit, noncommercial [sector].
It didn't become commercially viable until the late 1920s, eight or nine
years into the radio explosion. And then the successful big networks, NBC
and CBS, were able to use their influence basically to hog all the good
frequencies in the late '20s and early '30s. By 1934, nonprofit broadcasters
accounted [for] sometimes one percent or one half of one percent of all
broadcasting in the US, whereas they had been at 40-50% in 1924. There'd
been a total elimination of that sector. That's what's happened with FM
radio, with UHF television, to some extent with satellite and cable (although
the profit potential was seen there fairly quickly), and definitely with
the Internet. There you see the historical example perfectly.
Corporate Watch Interview with Robert McChesney,
posted on Nettime, 16 May 1998
"Rich Media, Poor Democracy: An Interview
with Robert McChesney."
San Francisco Bay Guardian, September
"Rocket Science. Robert McChesney on private
power, public broadcasting and how corporate media subvert democracy."
Interview with David Barsamian, March 15, 2000
"The Titanic Sails On. Why the Internet
won't sink the media giants."
Extra! March/April 2000
"The New Global Media: It's a Small World
of Big Conglomerates."
The Nation, 29 November, 1999, pp. 11-15
Media Matters: Monopolies, Pacifica, NPR
& PBS. Robert McChesney
interviewed by David Barsamian, Boulder,
Colorado, November 10 & 11, 1999
The U.S. Left and Media Politics, Monthly
Review, 50, 2, February 1999
"The Internet and U.S. Communication Policy-making
in Historical and Critical Perspective," Journal of Communication, Vol.
46, No. 1 (Winter) 1996: pp. 98 124. Also published in Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication, Vol. 1, No. 4.