Sunday, May 25, 2008

Josh Silver on the Responsible Plan

By: Harry Waisbren

Josh Silver, the Executive Director of Free Press, made a particularly interesting point when I asked him about his opinions on the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq during our interview on the May 18th edition of Forward Forum:

In its efforts to end the causes of the war in Iraq, the Responsible Plan calls for "a first step towards restoring our independent media" through the adoption of new media ownership rules. This is why the plan's legislative passage includes S.2332: Media Ownership Act of 2007 which

would require the FCC to include greater public participation when changing regulations related to broadcast ownership, to do studies on the impact of such rule changes, and to establish an independent panel on increasing the representation of women and minorities in broadcast media ownership.

Although Silver said he is a fan of the plan, he argued that the plan addresses but one of the two ongoing fights that must be won in order to "restore public trust in media" as the plan stipulates. He argued that breaking up conglomerated media is not enough on its own, as there is a necessity to keep "an eye to the future, and that’s the internet and it’s also public broadcasting and non-commercial broadcasting."

Silver reminded Forward Forum's audience that even if we win this first fight, America would still "have the lowest funded per capita funding of our public broadcasting system in the industrialized world." He argued that this problem is compounded by the constant threats of even more budget cuts from "ideological members of congress who don’t like when PBS and NPR actually do real reporting."

I think Silver makes a great point here, as it is true that both PBS and NPR failed to provide meaningful coverage during the run-up to the war. Even supposedly independent media outlets such as PBS and NPR knew that if they would "raise a red flag" there would be even worse governmental reprisals towards their funding, and this certainly had an adverse affect on their funding. Establishing a less conglomeratized media system would far from completely alleviate the ability for politicians and conglomerations alike to use their political power to skew news coverage, which is why Silver argued that "all of these issues have to be worked on simultaneously."

This fight that must be waged simultaneously includes not only achieving adequate governmental funding for public broadcasting outlets that can not be hijacked at the whim of idealogues, but also winning the fight for the safety and continued evolution of the network-neutral internet. I believe Matt Stoller of Open Left, a crucial advocate of the Responsible Plan, would particularly agree with this sentiment about the internet, as he agrees with fellow Openlefter Chris Bowers that, in regards to the progressive movement as a whole, the Medium is the Movement.

However, the Responsible Plan does not address this dynamic at all, asserting that the adoption of S. 2332 is but the "first step". Grassroots activists should be aware of this dynamic as we move towards ending the causes of the war in Iraq, as if we do not engage both of these fights simultaenously, we may find alternate causes of wars just like Iraq occurring in the future.

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