Category "Deconstructing The Media"

Is Junk Media Making You Sick?

December 17th, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

You can contemplate the question while watching this humorous little piece.

Watch The Video (from

Oh, and while you’re at it, tell Congress to put an immediate and unqualified stop FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s latest power play to grant more unfettered control by a small handful of multinational corporations over our media system.

Sign the Petition Here

AT&T and the Manufacture of Consent

November 13th, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

The well-oiled machine at work…

It’s no secret that polls are used to shape public opinion at least as much as they’re used to measure it. The website of one major U.S. polling firm, the Mellman Group, boasts its “extensive experience developing effective communications strategies that lead people to choose our client’s product or service, join their organization, hold their opinion, or vote as we would like.”


Last year, a poll purported to show strong opposition to “net neutrality,” the principle that networks should provide access to any data, without discrimination. But the poll questions were highly leading, asking participants whether they preferred “new TV and video choice” and “lower prices for cable TV,” or “barring high speed internet providers from offering specialized services.” The poll was funded by Verizon Communications, which opposes net neutrality.

Another telecom-related poll was unveiled last month at a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin. According to a press release put out by the newly-formed Wisconsin Video Choice Coalition, “Wisconsin residents across demographic, geographic and party lines overwhelmingly support a state bill that would encourage competition to cable TV.”

By all accounts, the legislation in question is controversial. Why, then, did the poll find such strong support for it?


Accordingly, AT&T has devoted major resources to ensure the bill’s passage. Representatives from AT&T and the state cable industry met with legislative staff as the bill was being drafted, reported Madison’s Capital Times newspaper. AT&T also hired 15 lobbyists and ran full-page newspaper ads touting the bill. The Milwaukee branch of the AT&T supported “astroturf” group TV4US ran television ads around the state. In May, TV4US sent every state legislator binders full of what it said were the names of constituents “demanding an end to the cable monopoly” and wanting “real alternatives to cable in Wisconsin.” However, several people named in the binders, including two state lawmakers, said they didn’t support the bill and hadn’t given permission for their names to be used.

There is almost nothing about this legislation that isn’t a fraud. The fact that AT&T can manage to continue to slide these industry-crafted and self-servingly designed business plans disguised as ‘public legislation’ through state legislatures like sh*t through a goose says volumes about the state of our lawmaking processes in our country today.

Read The Full Report from PR Watch


July 21st, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

Bullseye. No suprise that this video, part of the TV Funhouse series by Robert Smigel from Saturday Night Live, was never allowed to be shown again after its debut appearance. Of course, the fact that it was pulled out of circulation after only one airing completely reiterated the point of Smigel’s work in the first place, what with how special interests have taken over the media

Watch The Video

The Press Gives AT&T a Lap Dance

July 14th, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

A bit caustic, but unfortunately pretty accurate….

Yet another AP piece on franchise reform that fails to note the laws AT&T and Verizon are lobbying for strip away eminent domain rights, eliminate consumer protections, legalize cherry picking, and will kill off public access television. And that’s one of the good ones.

No questions asked about whether local municipalities REALLY delay phone companies deploying TV and prevent them from competing with cable companies. No questions asked about whether letting a company cherry pick next-gen broadband deployment results in broad competition or lower prices in a duopoly market. No mention of the fact that Texas has had one of these laws in place for two years, and cableTV prices continue to rise, and broadband competitive utopia has not sprouted from between sidewalk cracks like f***ing angelic weeds.

Read The Full Posting

Bill Moyers Journal: ‘Buying the War’

May 11th, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

Go Here to watch the video of and read the transcript of the Bill Moyers’ excellent documentary “Buying the War,” which examines the media’s coverage in the lead-up to the war as evidence of a paradigm shift in the role of journalists in democracy. And four years after the invasion, Mr. Moyers wonders what has changed? So do we.

Watch The Video courtesy of Truthout

Verizon, AT&T and the Manipulation of Public Opinion

April 22nd, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

This is an excellent report by Bruce Kushnick of Teletruth on the role of corporate industry influence in controlling the public debate. This brings some real-world examples to light of the cynical extent of the disinformation campaign these unaccountable corporations will go to in order to ensure maximization of profit for themselves, at any civic expense whatsoever (costs which are termed in the corporate accounting world as ‘externalities’). All of this is especially relevant to the ongoing telco legislation issues surrounding state video franchising, including legislation like Ohio Bill SB 117.


* Astroturf—An organization set up by a large corporation or corporations to put forward the corporate agenda but to look like an authentic ‘grass-roots’ group. 

* Co-opted—An authentic group that is given funding by a large corporation or corporations, where the group lobbies for corporate initiatives even if they are contrary to the needs of its members.  

* Skunkworks—A well coordinated campaign funded by large corporations (or industries) that incorporates Astroturf and co-opted groups, research think tanks, PR firms, lobbying firms, state and federal politicians to put forward the corporate agenda on a specific topic.

Over the last few weeks numerous groups have been lobbying and hyping the corporate position of AT&T and Verizon for relaxed cable franchise requirements or to stop any net neutrality legislation.


You would think the consumer groups would be outraged and want an investigation of where all the money allocated for fiber optic broadband went or about the large increases to the price of service. Instead, the AT&T and Verizon-funded groups—some authentic but ‘co-opted’, others, such as Video Access Alliance, simply made up—are now attempting  to confuse Congress, the FCC and the public into thinking that the phone companies have the support of blacks, Hispanics, seniors, the disabled and low-income families. (Click here to see what we’ve written on many these groups.)

This is all very sleazy. It is about deception. It is about playing on America’s caring about the public interest and about minorities getting a fair shake. Video Access Alliance claims that blacks and Hispanics care about Verizon and AT&T cable plans and it is important to help these ‘poor’ misunderstood companies deliver cable services.


Teletruth has no problem with large corporations donating money to non-profits. In fact, we encourage it. But the line should be drawn when a group starts lobbying for the phone companies, even if the money it received has nothing to do with the corporation’s business, or when a group takes the money in exchange for doing corporate favors – like lobbying.

The reason Astroturf, co-opted, and skunkworks groups should be ‘outed’ is simple – these  organizations have very deep-pocketed funders with lobbying groups, PR firms, and others to get them the loudest “volume” in the media or access to regulators and legislators. They often overwhelm the message of independent consumer groups. 


When AT&T and MCI were separate long distance companies they had their own ‘Astroturf groups, research firms, etc., that gave balance to the political forces. Today, with the mergers and consolidations, AT&T and Verizon not only own the local phone companies and the long distance companies, but they are also the largest wireless companies. There is no longer a serious ‘other side’. The Cable companies are simply not going to defend customers’ rights against the abuse of other large corporations.

The public voice needs to be on equal footing with the deceptive organizations that are using ethnic diversity or disabilities as ‘marketing’, putting corporate initiatives over the public interest. 

Read The Complete Report

Beware Telco Astroturf Groups & Disinformation Campaigns With State Video Franchising

April 19th, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

With the political debate fully engaged in regards to state video franchising, especially in regards to Ohio Senate Bill SB 117, it is important to understand where some of the facts, figures and sourcing for information included in that debate are coming from, and who is bankrolling the political and PR campaigns in support of this rather legislation.

Articles, advertisements, opinion polls, etc.. will often be attributed to groups such as TV4US, FreedomWorks and others, which are astroturf organizations being funded by the telco corporations in order to pursue their business agendas.

For those unaware of what an ‘astroturf’ organization is, here is some background information.

What is Astroturfing?

What are Front Groups?

Who are the Bell Corporations Engaged In Astroturfing?

Mark Glaser at PBS weighs in on Being Vigilant Against Astroturf Comments

As for comments placed by agents of these astroturf groups, regular readers here at USTV know that we have run into this phenomenon on more than one occasion, including here, as well as these rather silly postings here and here.

WSJ Labels Media Reform Efforts As “Leftist”

March 17th, 2007 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

This article is interesting for a number of reasons. Could they have possibly used the adjectives ‘left’ and ‘left-leaning’ more often in this piece?

Having personally attended this event, I can say that it clearly involved people from a wide range of the political spectrum, with some of the more bitter and outspoken critiques from folks coming from what would normally be termed ‘the right’ according to standard political terminology of the day. These people made their unhappiness with the current corporatized state of the media system quite clear.

Consistently referring to critical analysis of the current state of our media system is not an accident or oversight, as it serves to sow seeds of partisanship and inflammatory buzzwords out for those who would have an immediately negative or suspicious reaction to anything ‘left’. This then buys some time and political space for the corporate few who want to continue to control and dictate the public debate, and keep public scrutiny off of the systemic condition of ruling elites using the media to ‘manufacture consent.’ Effective actions being undertaken to question the control of our media system by oligarchic power can be discredited by the sweeping smear of ‘leftists. This is designed to trigger a negative knee jerk reaction to this effort by large percentages of Americans who are prone to this kind of simplistic ideological persuasion, successfully obscuring the ability of people to unite in their shared desire for a true open and equal playing field of civic communication for all citizens.

The Wall Street Journal
Nonprofit Takes On Big Media
By Amy Schatz
The Wall Street Journal
March 7, 2007

Hundreds of liberal activists are expected to pack the pews tonight at the Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a Bush administration plan. It has nothing to do with Iraq. It is about rules governing how many properties media companies should be allowed to own in local markets.

Kevin Martin, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, wants to loosen existing ownership limits on newspapers and broadcasters to allow them to own both in most markets. But his efforts have stalled, the result of a surprisingly energetic grass-roots opposition campaign guided by Free Press, a nonprofit with offices in Washington and Northampton, Mass.

“Such changes could have a serious impact on the diversity of viewpoints and coverage of local issues in every community,” the group argues in fliers and an Internet site under its “STOP BIG MEDIA” campaign.

For a relatively low-profile organization, Free Press is on a roll. Four years ago, it used old-fashioned grassroots organizing, along with basic Internet tools, to help derail the FCC’s years-long effort to relax media ownership rules. Last year, the group thwarted a multi-million dollar lobbying effort by the Baby Bells to rewrite the nation’s telecom laws over “net neutrality,” the idea that Internet providers can’t discriminate against any Internet traffic.

Progressive, left-leaning grass-roots activists have gotten more attention for their opposition against the Iraq war, but their bigger impact may have been on national media regulations and telecom policies. By mobilizing the progressive left to focus on media and telecom issues, Free Press has effectively blocked some of the most-wanted issues on corporate wish-lists.

The Free Press success is all the more remarkable, given the array of big-name media companies pushing for change. Technology has changed the competitive landscape, said a coalition of media firms — including Belo Corp., CBS Corp., News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment Group and NBC Universal Inc. — in a December letter lobbying the FCC to ease the rules. The FCC “should modernize its local ownership rules to reflect these dynamic changes in the media marketplace,” they say.

Media reformers have been working on these issues for years, but “they’ve never had traction among grass-roots America before,” says Mike McCurry, former press secretary for President Clinton. Mr. McCurry drew scorn from left-leaning bloggers last year after he helped launch a public-relations effort on behalf of phone companies hoping to kill net-neutrality rules.

Free Press, which launched in 2003, has 300,000 members, about two dozen full-time employees and an annual budget of roughly $2.5 million. Last year, it raised more than $5 million in funding, mostly from liberal-leaning private foundations, including George Soros’s Open Society Institute. In 2005, almost half of its funding — $755,000 — came from the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, which at the time was overseen by its president, journalist Bill Moyers. This year, the group is hoping to raise $4.5 million and wants to hire more grass-roots organizers.

It is raising its ambitions as well. After stymieing efforts to loosen media rules, Free Press members believe they may be on the verge of changing the terms of the debate — to tightening regulations again.

“We’re going to use this opportunity to move the goal posts,” says Josh Silver, Free Press co-founder and executive director.

Unlike other watchdog groups that have focused on telecom and media-reform issues in the past, Free Press has successfully tapped into the grass-roots network dominated by

“We just have to remind them to talk about media reform, not the war,” says Amanda Ballantyne, Free Press’s field organizer who is in charge of getting people to show up tonight for the Columbus hearing, the 11th on the subject in the past two years. She helps coordinate similar events around the country, rounding up locals and tutoring them on the basics of media-ownership limits.

Recently, Ms. Ballantyne holed up at a Nashville Best Western for a week, trying to convince locals to attend an official FCC media-ownership hearing. With the help of local organizers, nearly 400 people showed up. Even with a strictly enforced two-minute time limit, it took seven hours for the FCC commissioners to listen to everyone.

In February, the group attracted more than 3,000 activists and bloggers to Memphis for three days of workshops and speeches from progressive and liberal heroes, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mr. Moyers.

“If you watch TV news, it’s all car crashes, shootings and Brangelina. If we can’t create more hard-hitting journalism, then we have a real problem,” says Mr. Silver, a political activist who says he decided to form the group after becoming mad one night when a local newscast led with a story about the rising price of lobster. Local ownership of stations or newspapers leads to more accountability to citizens and better journalism, he says.

With the help of University of Illinois professor and media critic Robert McChesney, Mr. Silver soon launched a nonprofit group dedicated to media reform.

The current FCC chairman, Mr. Martin, had hoped to propose easing rules this year which would allow media companies to own newspapers and broadcast stations in most markets. But that proposal will have to wait until next year at least, FCC officials say. The agency will hold at least three more public hearings around the country and is awaiting 10 studies it commissioned on media-ownership issues, which have already cost more than $550,000.

The Wall Street Journal provides more evidence for the need for fundamental reform of our media system through their description of this event calling for the fundamental reform of our media system.

In regards to Josh Silver of Free Press commenting about working to move the goal posts. I would think that we don’t need to just move the goal posts, we need to change the entire playing field. You usually don’t win when you are playing the other team’s game. And this is a game where the rules and regulations have clearly not been written by and for the public interest, benefit and welfare. We currently have the best media policy that money can buy.

Institutional Lies, Bought And Paid For

November 23rd, 2006 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

A good post by Hunter on The Daily Kos regarding the role and operation of so called ‘think tanks’ in Washington, and how they have been used by ideologues to skewer the national dialogue for as long and as effectively as they have. Well worth the read.

Tax cuts? Global warming? War? They can pretend to be experts at all of them. Figure out the policy you want to support, then have Sowell or someone else scribble down the Very Erudite Explanation of why black is actually white, the sky is actually magenta, or Saddam’s secret still-really-really-existing WMDs have been spirited to the kitchen of an Applebee’s in… oh, let’s say “Syria”, this time. The whole point of think tanks is rank dishonesty in areas where serious educators, intellectuals, government workers, and other experts in the field in question have unanimously come up with an answer that conservatives don’t want to hear.

It’s serial dishonesty as a game, as played by the most very enfranchised players in America — conservative media figures, past conservative administration officials — whoever can lend that sheen of public credibility and bring the money in for the hacks to keep hacking. They’re the major league sports franchises of political lying. On any given day, you can have Richard Scaife provide funding to attack George Soros in yet another battle of the So Goddamn Fucking Enfranchised That You Couldn’t Possibly Get More Enfranchised If You Ate George Washington’s Shriveled Corpse For Breakfast.

What I find interesting (in a strictly car wreck, we’re-all-going-to-die sort of way) is while the think tanks started out to provide thin but important-sounding justifications for whatever conservative graft or manipulation was being attempted during any particular period, the think tank model has now entirely transferred to the White House itself. Listening to Tony Snow (or any of the previous press secretaries) is like listening to an off-off-Broadway theatrical production exploring the pathology of compulsive lying. They don’t care what the truth is: after spending every minute of every day reinforcing their fragile little bubbles of newspeak, in fact, it’s not even clear they know what the actual truth is.

Which is why, in a nutshell, we’re in Iraq to begin with, the perfect think-tank-produced war — because the policy came first, and actual knowledge was ignored as new “facts” were fixed around that desired policy. And all of those facts — nearly every single one of the “big” facts used to enter the war — turned out to be either fabricated or a product of extraordinary incompetence.

Is it any wonder why many refer to them as ‘coin-operated’ operations? Drop your money in them, get the product you want.

Read The Complete Post

NBC Bans Ads For Criticizing President Bush

October 29th, 2006 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

So much for that canard about the so-called ‘liberal media’.

As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo pointed out….

This really is pretty unbelievable: NBC won’t run ads for the Dixie Chicks documentary because, in the words of the NBC’s commercial clearance department, “they are disparaging to President Bush.”

Networks usually at least go to the length of coming up with a phony ‘we don’t run ads with a political message’ excuse. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one say something like this. I would have thought that with the president’s popularity so low some of the network’s usual supineness and cowardice would be a little less evident. Would they not run political ads either?

Perhaps NBC isn’t comfortable criticizing Bush, since his administration and the wars he has propagated has helped provide billions upon billions of dollars of additional profits for their owners at GE, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world.

The entertainment industry publication Variety reports

“It’s a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America,” Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. “The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the president is profoundly un-American.”

According to the Weinstein Co., NBC’s commercial clearance department said in writing that it “cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.”

TWC also quoted a rep from the CW as saying it had concerns that “we do not have appropriate programming in which to schedule this spot.”

CW communications topper Paul McGuire rejected that version of events.

Read The Complete Report

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