Mikro e.V. Verein zur Förderung von Medienkulturen in Berlin 
KONTAKT: info@mikro-berlin.org

tel: 0177 225 3797, fax: 030 2821867



informal talk with Robert W. McChesney

am Sonntag, 12. November 2000
Beginn 18 Uhr
im _lab (WMF), Ziegelstr. 23, Berlin-Mitte 

-- in English --


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...


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 Times. 


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." -- Ralph Nader

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 2000

"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.