Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mainsytream TV offers little coverage of widely unpopular repeal of Net Neutrality

New study shows little TV coverage of the big issue of Team Trump's move to end Net Neutrality on behalf of corporations like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon (where Trump-appointed FCC chair was a high-level attorney).  Even pro-Trump commenters on rightwing "news" sites object to Trump administration's repeal efforts.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Why don't we have public broadcasting like this in USA?

Weeks before the 2003 U.S./British invasion of Iraq, the BBC's Jeremy Paxman and skeptical British citizens literally cross-examined Prime Minister Tony Blair about evidence/reasons/legality behind the invasion -- an interview whose transcript and Blair's comments became part of Britain's official Iraq inquiry in 2011. (Here's another tough Paxman interview of Blair from 2001 . . . unrelated to Iraq. And here, Paxman interviews comedian/actor/activist Russell Brand in Oct. 2013.) 

In our country, pressure from politicians + lack of insulated funding = embarrassing timidity at so-called "public television" evidenced by PBS surgically removing Tina Fey's comedic swipes at Sarah Palin from a broadcast in November 2010.

Country by country comparisons (18 nations) of taxpayer spending on public television here (as of 2011) -- according to this survey by CBC/Radio-Canada. An interesting wheel-chart on NPR's funding sources (thanks Rae).

DOES IT FOLLOW THAT big public/state/taxpayer-funding of broadcasting leads to state-controlled and propagandistic broadccasting? Not according to the World Press Freedom Index, which shows the countries with the biggest media subsidies seem to have the greatest press freedom. 

On this list of 60 journalists and pundits (on the right, left and center) attacked by Trump by name during the 2016 campaign, only one was connected to NPR.  Of the 20 outlets he attacked by name, neither NPR nor PBS was one 

In Feb 2015 a mini-scandal blew up over corporate underwriting of U.S. public TV and I was interviewed on the topic by The Real News Network. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

USA invented the Internet, but our Internet is slow and under threat

In the opening scene of the Outfoxed documentary, media scholar Robert McChesney explains how big media corporations (acting almost like gangsters) have made media policy behind closed doors, dividing the cake among themselves. If the FCC were doing its job, it might pose gentle but probing questions to gangsta Murdoch and "Murdochopoly," as Jon Stewart did in 2013. Here is a 2015 list of Murdoch's holdings (H/t Mila)  (Years ago, Murdoch famously said: "Monopoly is a terrible thing, until you have it.")

The USA, where the Internet was invented, lags behind other countries in Internet speed. Here's a recent ranking placing U.S. mobile Internet speed at 28th in the world. Another ranking from Statista has U.S. Internet at 12th. In 2009, big Internet providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T DID NOT APPLY for any of the billions in federal stimulus grants for expanding broadband infrastructure, according to the Wall St. Journal, because recipients of our tax money had to agree to respect Net Neutrality.

On HBO in June, "investigative comic" John Oliver offered a powerful commentary in support of Net Neutrality, generating so many comments to the FCC that it crashed the Commission's website. Months of public pressure sparked President Obama in November 2014 to speak clearly that his FCC should protect Net Neut. 

So, Net Neutrality was saved in 2015. But under threat from President-elect Trump, cheered on by his friends at

PS "Survey Shows Satire News Programs Inform People Better Than Actual News on Net Neutrality," reported Dan Van Winkle (summarizing a 2014 University of Delaware survey). Respondents said they learned more about Net Neutrality from John Oliver, Colbert and Jon Stewart's Daily Show than from newspapers, online news or TV news. 

PPS In January 2011, I was asked to appear on a talk-radio show on a big city station to analyze Keith Oblermann's exit from MSNBC; when I suggested a link to the Comcast takeover and criticized Comcast's opposition to Net Neutrality, a producer asked me during a commercial break to stop the "Comcast-bashing" because "they're our biggest sponsor."  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The late Andrew Breitbart, a former assistant to Matt Drudge, ran and other websites (now found at In July 2010, the Obama White House forced U.S. Dept of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod to quit after BigGovernment posted a 100-second video excerpt purporting to show that, during a speech to the NAACP, Sherrod had boasted about discriminating against a white farmer while she was a federal employee in the Obama administration. Actually, as Breitbart later semi-corrected, Sherrod was describing events in the 1980s when she was Georgia field director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a civil rights group set up to help Black farmers long discriminated against by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. More importantly, a fuller version of the speech (first aired by CNN) showed that Sherrod had told the story to illustrate how she had overcome her bias toward whites and ultimately helped the white farmer save his farm.

Ten months earlier, in 2009, other selectively-edited tapes distributed by Breitbart's website (featuring James O'Keefe and played repeatedly on Fox News and elsewhere) helped put the anti-poverty group ACORN out of business. Rachel Maddow dissected the distorted presentation that doomed ACORN. (Democratic operative John Podesta was on ACORN's advisory council and investigated the Breitbart's video charges against ACORN; it appears that the recent conspiracy theory about Podesta and Hillary trafficking underage girls out of a DC pizza parlor is partly fueled by the ACORN sex-trafficking hoax.) 

It wasn't just Fox News that promoted the misleading ACORN story. The Public Editor of the paper of record, the New York Times, went to absurd lengths to defend his paper's inaccurate coverage.

Drudge's Influence

During the 2016 election season, Matt Drudge kept trying -- with some success -- to fuel mainstream media coverage of Hillary Clinton's alleged ill health, and of her alleged secet lesbian relationship, including Politico's "How Close are Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton?" slideshow criticized as click-baity. 

Now Hill copies Trump's hair, OR NOT.

Perhaps Drudge should stick to aggregating content from others (often with revved-up headlines) rather than "report" -- as demonstrated by this 1999 "World Exclusive," which helped push a hoax into mainstream media.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Trump's praise of killer president, first published by The Intercept

From CBS News: President Trump praised the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, during a phone call between the two leaders in late April, according to a transcript published by The Intercept. (emphasis added)
"I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem" Mr. Trump said. "Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."

Can openly biased or partisan journalists . . .

. . . engage in independent reporting and commentary -- as opposed to partisan propaganda? Here's some critical commentary from the conservative National Review Online within hours of John McCain selecting Sarah Palin as his running-mate in August 2008: 

          Ramesh Ponnuru: "Palin has been governor for about two minutes."
David Frum: "But question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?"

Shannen Coffin: "If John McCain has said that a year plus of statewide office (plus some small town politics) is good enough, why isn't state legislature and a couple of visits to the floor of the U.S. Senate?"

Jonah Goldberg: "Downside: She may not be ready for primetime. The heartbeat-from-the-presidency issue is a real one."
This isn't the drumbeat GOP cheer-leading one might get from a less independent source like Fox News at that crucial juncture.

More recently, NR devoted a whole issue (in Jan 2016) to opposing/exposing then-GOP-frontrunner Donald Trump.