Who Will Fight The Media Now?

With this morning’s announcement that John Edwards would be suspending his quest for the Democratic nomination for president, the media reform movement has also dropped out of the campaign.

Edwards was the only candidate to have directly addressed the problem of the media in this country. He recognized the danger of unregulated corporations controlling access to the media megaphone that all candidates and initiatives rely on if they harbor any hope of success. His own candidacy was a victim of the exclusionary predilections of Big Media.

Here are some memorable moments from Edwards’ campaign:

“I am not particularly interested in seeing Rupert Murdoch own every newspaper in America.”

“High levels of media consolidation threaten free speech, they tilt the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and they make it increasingly difficult for women and people of color to own meaningful stakes in our nation’s media.”

“It’s time for all Democrats, including those running for president, to stand up and speak out against this [News Corp./Dow Jones] merger and other forms of media consolidation.”

“The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media – all qualities which are pretty hard to [ascribe] to Fox News and News Corp.”

Contrast that with this watered-down criticism by Hillary Clinton. It started off as a rejection of media consolidation, but ended up letting her contributer Rupert Murdoch off the hook:

“I’m not saying anything against any company in particular. I just want to see more competition, especially in the same markets.”

On a positive note, both Clinton and Barack Obama are co-sponsors of the Media Ownership Act of 2007. And they have made statements in support of reform. Last year Clinton told supporters at a campaign rally that…

“There have been a lot of media consolidations in the last several years, and it is quite troubling. The fact is, most people still get their news from television, from radio, even from newspapers. If they’re all owned by a very small group of people – and particularly if they all have a very similar point of view – it really stifles free speech.”

That was right before she handed Murdoch the reprieve above. Obama co-authored an editorial with John Kerry that said in part…

“…to engage in the debates that have always made America stronger, it takes a stage and a platform for discussion – and never before have these platforms been more endangered.”

“In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented consolidation in our traditional media outlets. Large mergers and corporate deals have reduced the number of voices and viewpoints in the media marketplace.”

But neither Clinton nor Obama have been nearly as aggressive as Edwards in this battle. Both have appeared on Fox News despite the dreadful treatment to which they are subjected. [Note to Dems: NEVER appear on Fox News! Starve The Beast!] And neither has made a point of making the media, the FCC, Rupert Murdoch, etc., a significant part of their campaign. Clinton has an arguably greater moral obligation to address these issues given that it was her husband who saddled us with the abhorrent Communications Act of 1996 that opened the floodgates of consolidation.

The remaining candidates in the race had better wise up. The media that has purposefully marginalized and/or disparaged candidacies that are now defunct, is now free to shift its aim to you. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that you can weather their assault or bat your eyes demurely and hope that they will leave you alone. They will turn on you and, when they do, you will have little recourse but to whither and disappear or submit to their will. Both of those options will likely lead to a loss of the election, not to mention your soul.

As for the rest of us, we must take affirmative steps to see to it that our candidates understand how important this is – to them and to us. Be sure to write them and demand that they make media reform a plank in their platforms. Ask them about it at rallies and debates. It is up to us to remind them that the fate of EVERY issue we hold dear is dependent on the ability to educate and inform the public. For this we need a fair, diverse, and independent media. No matter what issue motivates you, if you don’t spend at least some of your time reforming the media you are allowing an obstacle to remain in your path that will lead to unnecessary hardship and, perhaps, failure.