Category "Media and Democracy"

The Absolute Necessity For Open and Accessible Media & Communication For a Free and Just Society

January 8th, 2013 by Andy in Media and Democracy

And the government would have you believe its *this* guy who is the threat to your freedom…

So I say if we look closely at this term ‘media’, and what this should really be, and what is it in its essence, we come to the conclusion that there is no civilisation, there is no society without media…

So the quality of our media, the quality of our communication, the quality of our ability to learn from one another and learn from our past experiences, in order to better adapt ourselves to the world we live in, is that quality of media that needs to be maximised. With the best possible communication, with the best possible ability to learn from our experiences, we have a chance of not simply doing the dumb thing. We have a chance of being more civilised to each other, we have a chance of avoiding pitfalls that have been discovered in the past. So the media is tremendously important…

So now because of the Internet, we can all publish for a moment the truth… The response to that threat is to bury the truth in ever-increasing quantities of propaganda… Of course, when we are dealing with politics, we are dealing with perceptions en masse. And perceptions en masse are affected by communications en masse. It is not enough to simply reveal the truth in one isolated article or one isolated tweet; what is important is to have the truth revealed en masse, where people can see it en masse and where opinions can be affected en masse…

We must understand the gravity of the situation that human civilisation faces. We are rapidly approaching a global surveillance society, in fact for most states we are already there. We are rapidly approaching continuous war, in fact most of the Western countries have now been involved in war over 10 years and are being increasingly involved. We see a tremendous increase in the size of intelligence agencies; the border between police and military is starting to collapse, with the weaponisation of police; increasing amount of body armour that police have. Across the world we see a collapse in the rule of law, politicised and arbitrary justice, with U.S. assassination lists approved by the President in secret with no due process; the continued detention without charge of children in Guantanamo Bay for over 10 years with no prospect of release. Mass surveillance being introduced into every country with no effective oversight by the population. The linking up of international companies and networks of influential people of the banking people, all these people lifting up the democratic and electoral control of their respective population bases. When the law becomes arbitrary, there is nothing you can do, there is no position you can move to where your family is protected, where things you care about are protected, because of its arbitrary nature it can affect anyone. We are entering a state of permanent war, we have seen that most NATO countries have now been in a war for over 10 years, that war is increasing in scale, that other wars are starting, for example the push towards war with Syria, the involvements in Somalia, etc. In Sweden the war industry has reached a scale that Sweden is now the number one per capita exporter of bombs in the world, it is nearly the double of Israel that was the previous per capita arms manufacturer.

We face a serious global crisis, so we must understand that this is not a choice about doing the right thing, this is not a choice about whether we appear to be moral, this is not a choice about whether we make friends, or are approved as an effective member of society. We face a choice of whether we will have a civilisation that is civil or not.

Read/Listen to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange’s contribution to the Activism and Human Rights Forum at the FuturePerfect Festival.

America’s ‘First’ Big Digital Defeat?

December 22nd, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy

So the Wall Street Journal has only now just finally noticed that the freedom of the internet is under attack?

The open Internet, available to people around the world without the permission of any government, was a great liberation. It was also too good to last. Authoritarian governments this month won the first battle to close off parts of the Internet.

At the just-concluded conference of the International Telecommunications Union in Dubai, the U.S. and its allies got outmaneuvered. The ITU conference was highly technical, which may be why the media outside of tech blogs paid little attention, but the result is noteworthy: A majority of the 193 United Nations member countries approved a treaty giving governments new powers to close off access to the Internet in their countries.

As disturbing as this is, I would hardly qualify it as the ‘first’ of digital defeats. These kinds of erosions and usurpations have been taking place in various forms and through various initiatives for quite some time now. It’s a constant battle. There have been the SOPA and PIPA fights, for example. And there are disturbing threats looming from the likes of the Congressional cybersecurity bill, Joe Lieberman’s Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). This would provide the government broad powers in the name of supporting corporate cybersecurity, while granting those same corporations complete immunity for helping the government spy on private citizens (which they are already doing). It would also give the government the authority to, in “time of emergency,” take control over the net itself, much like Mubarak tried in
Egypt during the uprisings. And on and on and on…

Also, the writer of this article, by his statement that this is “the first battle to close off parts of the Internet,” seems to not have been paying attention to what has been going on in China for years now (with active support from American tech firms), when it comes to ‘authoritarian governments’ taking control over the net. Or even to what the U.S. government has been doing with online surveillance, its collaboration with corporations such as AT&T, Facebook, etc… in its development of new forms of mass surveillance and the like. Heck, if there is concern about ‘closing off parts of the internet,’ where has he been in regards to corporations such as AOL and its “walled garden” approach to the net, or the efforts by huge telecoms to erode net neutrality and common carriage principles?

Robert McDowell, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, summarized the harm. “Consumers everywhere will ultimately pay the price for this power grab as engineers and entrepreneurs try to navigate this new era of an internationally politicized Internet,” he said. “Let’s never be slow to respond again.”

One lesson is that the best defense of the Internet is a good offense against an overreaching U.N.

How about overreaching media corporations, as well? Funny he mentions Robert McDowell, whose role at the FCC helped facilitate part of this ongoing media consolidation by some of the world’s largest media firms, including through their efforts to eliminate ‘net neutrality’ provisions, which are aimed towards slowing (to the point of effectively closing) the net to traffic that the company doesn’t deem ‘useful’ to their own interests or its partners?

Net Neutrality principles are essential to preserving open access by everyone, equitably to internet content (the very principles this author is decrying are being eroded by this move by the U.N.). Tim Wu (the creator of the term) and Lawrence Lessig have written extensively about these issues, and their insights should be heeded.

There is no doubt this is all part of a long-running battle on many fronts, which needs to be challenged anywhere and everywhere it rears its ugly head.

Read the Full Article

Here’s some more on this issue from the Los Angeles Times.

Big Media’s Power Play: STOP the FCC From Changing Ownership Rules!

December 9th, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy, Video

This is an issue which is of tremendous importance, and yet continues to have to be fought over and over. The forces of monopolization are relentless, and we the citizenry must be ready to respond whenever the oligarchs of information and communication make these kinds of power plays. It’s that “price of liberty is eternal vigilance” thing again.

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled a majority of American media. Now that number is six. And Big Media may get even bigger, thanks to the FCC’s consideration of ending a rule preventing companies from owning a newspaper and radio and TV stations in the same city. Such a move, which they’ve tried in 2003 and 2007 as well, would give these massive media companies free rein to devour more of the competition, control the public message, and also limit diversity across the media landscape.

The FCC is considering a behind-closed-doors vote on whether or not to relax a longstanding ban that prohibits a company from owning too many media properties in the country’s 20 largest markets.

Tell the Federal Communications Commission you’re concerned about relaxing the rules that limit the number of newspapers and major television and radio stations a corporation may own in the same city.

Learn more about this issue at Bill Moyers Journal.

George Stoney, Public Access TV Pioneer

November 4th, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy

A wonderful post from On The Media by Amy DiPierro and media studies professor Deirdre Boyle, written in honor of the late, great George Stoney, a man many have probably never heard of, but whose influence is felt throughout society today. He worked to make the tools of communication accessible to all, so that people could tell their own stories and represent themselves within a mediated culture. He knew power rests with media and communication in a society, and worked to provide that capacity for people to utilize it themselves, in order to provide the means for a more democratic, just, and civically-responsive society. Stoney pioneered techniques and approaches which are now standard operating procedure for such groups as WITNESS, Video Volunteers, and others.

AMY DIPIERRO: George Stoney was a major figure in those early days of public access. A documentary filmmaker, he is often credited as the father of the public access television movement, and envisioned public access to the airwaves as one small step towards public action in society.

Stoney’s best-known film, 1953’s All My Babies, champions African-American midwives as a crucial part of the local medical system. He cast and staged the film, a technique sometimes controversial in documentaries, but which Stoney believed freed him to represent his subjects as they would represent themselves. In 2002, All My Babies was inducted into the National Film Registry.


DEIRDRE BOYLE: One of the best films, or videos I should say, that I remember from this period was a documentary that was made with people on a rent strike in the East Village. And they took their video tape, and they took it to housing court, and they had evidence of all of the violations that the landlord had never remedied. And suddenly, they had power. And this was just the beginning of what was possible when people who were not trained professionals, but had this easy to use, new equipment, could speak up for themselves.

AMY DIPIERRO: Even though people were documenting their lives, perhaps they could show these videos in a court of law, they had no way to broadcast their work. And that’s where George had the idea that public access cable could be a programming medium in and of itself.


DEIRDRE BOYLE: George was a bit like, and the Alternate Media Center, were a bit like Johnny Appleseed. They sent student interns to these various cable franchises and helped the people establish these community access centers in cable systems. And for a time, when the FCC mandated this - it was only a short time - but there was this extraordinary flourishing of what was needed at the time, time of tremendous social change, and also, this idea that the media should not only deliver to the people, but be the voice of the people themselves.


AMY DIPIERRO: Do you see public access TV as a possible forerunner to what we see as citizen media, citizen journalists today?

DEIRDRE BOYLE: I think video and public access was the social media of its age, and it really laid a foundation for what we have today. Long before there was YouTube, there was public access. Long before smartphones, there was portable video. And the same impulses were there at that time that we see much more widespread, and much more accessible today. This kind of impulse has been around for a long time and has sought out the available media at that time. And there were people, like George Stoney, who were able to help make it happen in a way that would have a legacy and endurance.

Read the complete discussion Here (includes a video trailer for Stoney’s groundbreaking film, All My Babies)

TV Reporter Does Actual Journalism: Asks President How He Justifies ‘Kill List’

September 17th, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy, Video

Bestill my heart! A TV reporter - and a local TV reporter at that, from Cincinnati of all places - asks President Obama a direct question about his targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens. Not only does Cincinnati Fox 19’s Ben Swann ask a question which most so-called “journalists” wouldn’t dare (for risk of losing their “access” to power and privilege), he challenges the veracity of the lame quality of the answer provided. Actual journalism! And on television!

Swann was the reporter who uncovered the Maine GOP’s attempt to steal the state’s caucuses for Mitt Romney, while most of the other media had dutifully moved on to whatever the “next state” was at the time.

Watch this excellent report, where he questions Obama on the U.S. drone strikes which targeted U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son in Yemen, both without any form of legal due process whatsoever.

What Is ACTA? - And Why It Needs To Be Stopped

February 2nd, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy, Video

If you thought SOPA and PIPA were bad, let us introduce you to their Big Brother, ACTA.

Just because SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) & PIPA (Protect IP Act) have been derailed (for the moment) in the US doesn’t mean the fight is over. The giant media corps that are behind that endeavor are global in scope, and are pushing their same agenda in the European Union, under legislation known as ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement).

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has already been signed by several countries, poses a dangerous threat to the inherent freedom and openess of the Internet. Under ACTA, ISP’s and websites will be given more power to track what we do online, while forcing them to turn over our information and reporting our activity to the authorities — all in the name of copyright protection! Excessive copyright protection is a great tool for information suppression. Once technology and blocking techniques are in place, virtually all information is liable to filtering and suppression due to “copyright violation.” ACTA’s ill-conceived provisions will have chilling effects on free speech everywhere.

Read more on this, and then Sign The Petition calling for ACTA’s removal.

This is a good overview on this legislation from The Atlantic, “SOPA Stopped for Now, Anti-Censorship Activists Turn to ACTA”

Now that the armchair activists are doing victory laps, celebrating the (temporary) death of anti-piracy laws SOPA and PIPA in Congress, the years-long protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is getting nasty. Led by Poland, who currently holds the European Union Presidency, several European nations became the latest to sign the secretive treaty in a ceremony that took place in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday. The United States signed it last year.


What the heck is ACTA anyways? And why is it so horrible?

Well, there are plenty of websites set up to explain the bill, not to mention plenty of explainers. The best we’ve read comes from the folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco who’ve been waving a banner of protest against the agreement since it first appeared nearly six years ago. Their explainer is worth reading in full, but the section on why you should care about ACTA is worth quoting. It’s less about the measures proposed in ACTA, than it is about the secretive way the agreement was developed. Noting how “ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers, privacy and civil liberties for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet” the EFF argues that “both civil society and developing countries are intentionally being excluded from these negotiations.” So if you’re still surprised that you’ve never heard of ACTA — even in the anti-SOPA pile-on protest that blacked out some of the world’s biggest websites last week — this is likely why.


So if the most troubling element of ACTA is that it was largely developed behind closed doors, those doors are starting to swing open. Or rather the Internet is charging through them, and we’re sure that white-haired world leaders will have a hard time blocking them. Democracy is no longer something that happens at a ballot box, once a year. It’s a kinetic being, capable of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of citizens behind a cause and forcing decision-makers to rethink things. That’s one of those great things about the open Internet.

Read more Here

RT weighs in on this issue with its report: “ACTA, Secret Censor Tool Worse Than SOPA and PIPA”

As cyberspace turns its attention to the SOPA and PIPA bills in the US, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, has been quietly signed or ratified by most of the developed world and is arguably the biggest threat to Internet freedom yet.

Read and Watch the complete report Here

And in case you’re not sure what the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) bills involve, and why they are such a threat to existing
internet freedoms, Watch This.

An open letter signed by many organizations, including Consumers International, EDRi (27 European civil rights and privacy NGOs), the Free Software Foundation (FSF), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), ASIC (French trade association for web 2.0 companies), and the Free Knowledge Institute (FKI), states that “the current draft of ACTA would profoundly restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of European citizens, most notably the freedom of expression and communication privacy.


Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps on Broadband Access, and the State of our Media and Journalism Today

January 29th, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy

An excellent interview with one of my favorite political figures, (now former) FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. This man is a hero when it comes to working to make for a more democratically-accountable, civically healthy society in this country. Unfortunately, its been an uphill, and often sisyphean battle.

Some of the most important points Copps makes in this discussion are in regards to the absolute essential need for having universal access to broadband internet technologies, and finding a way that these aren’t available only to some citizens, or to those who can ‘afford it.’ It is just as essential as rural electrification was to the country a century ago, in making the nation viable to compete and participate in the 21st Century world. His observations on the vital importance of real journalism in our society, and finding ways to make it work outside of the dying corporate business model for it, is also notable here. Copps was also an advocate and supporter of access television, and an ally in the work of the Alliance For Community Media.

Now the staunch supporter of an open internet and opponent of media consolidation has retired. In a wide-ranging discussion, he examines the FCC’s key accomplishments and failures of the past decade. Copps argues broadband is “the most opportunity-creating technology perhaps in the history of humankind,” and laments that the United States still lacks a national broadband infrastructure. Regarding the future of journalism, Copps calls on the FCC to make access to quality journalism a “national priority,” saying, “the future of our democracy hinges upon having an informed electorate.”

Copps: “[The internet] is the most opportunity-creating technology perhaps in the history of humankind. It is going to be something that helps us address every problem that is before the country. Every citizen has not only a right to this technology, but an urgent need to be able to obtain it. So, for eight years before the present administration, we were operating under the assumption that the market would get broadband out everywhere, even to those places where there was no reason for the market to go. This is the great infrastructure-building challenge of the early part of the 21st century. Just as throughout history we’ve had infrastructure challenges with roads and bridges and canals and railroads and highways and electricity and plain old telephone service, our challenge now is how to figure out how to get broadband to every American, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of the individual lives.”


“We have to have a discussion in the United States of America if we’re going to move the town square of democracy to the internet and pave it with broadband bricks. How are we going to assure that it’s accessible to all, open to all, and not only can you type something and send it into the ether, but that you’re going to be heard, that you have some access to the conversation? That’s public interest. And there is public interest consideration on what the future of the internet is going to look like. There is a role, and we need to have a calm, cool, rational discussion about this very, very soon, or we’re going to lose the opportunity, really, to craft a media future that’s worthy of the country.

“And this goes back in history. The builders of this country have always been interested in creating information infrastructure. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison were presiding over this new experiment in democracy. And they knew that it hinged, this experiment, on an informed electorate. So they made sure, the writers of the First Amendment, they made sure that we had newspapers getting out to every American. They built post roads. The subsidized newspaper rates so that the news could get out. And that’s the kind of challenge we have to look at now. Our challenge in this century is the very same thing. The technologies change. Names change. The democratic - the small “d” democratic - challenge remains the same: make sure that electorate is informed, if you wish to sustain self-government.”

Watch The Video/Read The Transcript

‪Understanding PIPA/SOPA & Why You Should Be Concerned‬

January 21st, 2012 by Andy in Media and Democracy, Video

Save The Internet - Stop SOPA! How The Government Will Give Media Corporations The Right To Control The Internet

December 4th, 2011 by Andy in Media and Democracy, Video

We all-too-often hear shrill “the sky is falling” screeds being pushed in our national civic discourse, but in this case, such dire warnings are warranted. This video discusses the Senate version of the so-called “PROTECT IP Act,” but the House bill that was just introduced is much worse. It will give the government new powers to block Americans’ access websites that corporations don’t like. The“Stop Online Piracy Act”, or SOPA (HR 3261), could rip apart the open fabric of the Internet. People could see their websites disappear from the Internet for a “crime” as innocent as posting a video of themselves singing along to a favorite song. It paves the way for the sort of heavy-handed blocking tactics you’d expect to see in China, not the United States. This legislation will stifle free speech and innovation, and even threaten popular web services like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. SOPA violates our right to free speech.

We need to act now to let our lawmakers know just how terrible this bill is. Please take a quick moment to let your lawmakers know that you oppose this legislation, by signing This Petition, as well as signing your name to Free Press’ petition letter Internet Censorship: Not Today, Not Tomorrow.

Learn more about this bill, who opposes it, and the serious ramifications for us all if it passes into law.

A Networked World: What’s Next For Human Rights

September 10th, 2011 by Andy in Media and Democracy, Video

This video does a good job in explaining the importance of peer-to-peer communication for human rights work, and the momentous changes such technological capabilities harbor, as well as the challenges that they present. Commissioned by Global Partners & Associates, this short, well-produced animation piece looks at how these new technologies are affecting the way Human Rights and Freedom activists must approach rights and freedoms in the digital age.

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