Saturday, March 10, 2007

Does Media Policy Matter? 03092007

Allen Larson -- Opens with a statement about the workshop and the issue of public sphere and policy. Questions multiple articles of faith, including does diverse ownership yield political progress, etc.?

Steve Classen -- The question is one that is provocative and productive. And I would like to rephrase this to "to whom" does media policy matter? If we think about this in terms in institutional politics, for many media policies does not matter much at all. I was on a panel in Washington DC about 10 years ago and the institutional representative who invited me told me that not too many people in DC is interested. I told him that I disagreed and noted that I thought that many other people were interested but not in the way that you are interested in. I want to mention my own work. In Watching Jim Crow I look at local hstories and use oral histories that were trying to change the state capital's public TV station. And these activists were able to make substantial inclusion for more racial inclusion and wider social access. This done on multiple fronts and all of these came in multiple ways and forms.

Black Mississippians were interested in local TV but it wasn't at the top: it was not about TV, it was about voting rights and access to education. Noriega tells us that most media regulation come out of the rise of direct action campaigns where media is not the lynchpin and popular media practices are intertwined in issues with greater social salience.

Media policy doesn't happen without holistic approach to the larger contexts of meaning.

In conclusion, the research that I have glossed over suggests that the work on audiences looks at audiences as communities where we can then look at the holistic atmosphere where meaning and activist communities take hold.

Cynthia Chris -- I would like to begin to think about the terms of media activism between policy and pedagogy. I have more questions than answers. For example, I wonder not only if but how policy matters and each new policy initiative seems to repeat each other (she then cites two different policy statements about unsupervised viewing of film and tv). The continuity for this type of statement and thought means that we should backup and look at them. Look, these statements are separated by 9 decades. One in 1916 for film and community standards come about. The other statement comes from the Parent's Television Council in 2006. Maybe what we have here is a ritualized culture of complaint that focuses on violence and sex.

One way of dealing with this is that we look at one of the solutions that has been offered with TV: ala carte cable. This trend has been the expansion of channel capacity and choice. Ala Carte is a rollback and this is interesting. How do we look at this?

The machinations of most Congressional debates may bore many students, but let us think of them not only as digital natives but as very comfortable with consolidation. I find that these students are infinitely approachable as consumers. Think about the fact that they not only want to choose, but they want to be surprised. And this is key. Ala carte may strip this and we need to think aout the consumer, and that may feel odd.

Steve Macek -- I want to refer to the earlier statement that Classen referred to. That was a decade ago and the fact is that we have seen that activists have been able to marshal an opposition to the FCC trying to scrap the remaining ownership rules. There are thousands of people being brought together and media policy is somewhat hot. And yet, I am very uneasy given the reform movement is very middle class in nature, the groups are narrow in their interests, these are often directed by many inside-the-beltway liberal progressive lobbiests.

The question is one that asks us to engage this in terms of activism and the like. How one answers our question is key. It matters as it responds to electoral needs, how it responds to competing interest groups, etc. Media policy matters from whatever perspective you take. I am taking this from a Marxist perspective and I think that the worst features of capitalism really susceptible to reform. Imperial war is not susceptible to reform. We need a radical transformation... we need a revolution. From my perspective, this means that the media policy matters not much at all. Media reform may be simple epihenomenalism from the vulgar marxist critique. New laws and policies have accomplished nothing at all for this kind of stuff. By themselves they are the reflection of the movements that got them in place. So, to sum up... my fear is that the media reform movement would be simply media cretinism. They are not focused enough on confronting the corporate state.

I actually believe that the sorts of reforms can make a difference from the movements themselves, not the reform. So what reform program will allow us to have us point beyond the existing order. We can either tinker with the system or we can have non-reformist reform. Tinkering protects big capital from giant capital. Or we can do the non-reformist reform. We can look then at the demands that may precipitate a kind of crisis in the system. An example here may be the embrace the idea of reporter power. That is reporters should be able to choose their editors and this is a very radical demand, one that has been attempted in guilds in Chicago.

Yeidy Rivero -- I should confess that I get really angry when I think of hispanic representation. The study of AFTRA in 2004 showed that there is a great disparity between English speaking media and Spanish speaking media in terms of working conditions, salaries and sex discrimination.

Spanish language groups have tried to bring attention to this as well as issues of the lack of local programming.

There are many groups who are using a consumer-citizen strategy these days. And many are making a number of interesting claims. For example, Telemundo, which is owned by NBC, has seen many of its employees become second-class citizens in terms of pay when compared to those who work on the english speaking side of NBC.

US scholars have tended to overlook the Spanish-language media and their many issues. Language has effectively made this problematic.

John McMurria -- In the broader sense many of us have looked at technology and society studies that have tried to go against the tech determinist sense of the work. Also, we are going up against a neo-liberal status quo in our discourse. This is a central issue in so many problems with wealth inequality. . How do we relate and ask questions given this consensus discourse? As a way to broaden these discussions will allow us to perhaps question this.

Part if my cable TV cultural tech debates was that in the 1950s and the 1960s the question was whether or not we should go down this path to go down the road. In our historians many historians position that the Nets did not want this. But if you look at the hearings you hear another discourse here. Many ex New Dealers were very supportive of this as they hated watching what TV had become. They had a real distaste and disgust. They want paid tv to provide an alternative to uplift TV. They believed that symphonies and operas would bloom. In fact many believed that this would be more democratic as you could "choose" and often likened it to voting. There was also a counterdiscourse from labor that noted that the choice would cause more and more class stratification. It emerges among these elites who hate mass culture. So that is one of the places that I look at this neoliberal discourse on the rise.

Turners book on cyberculture and looks at how digital nets would be the killer app against bureuacracies. Many of these counter culture types were working hand in hand with DOD, state-sponsored Universities, etc in the hope that we would get away from these hierarchies and institutions.

Let us look at local cable TV today and the discussion about whether or not telecommers should fund local cable access. On this issue, the telecommers don't want to do this and mobilize an anti-mass culture anxiety that produces this strong neo-liberal discourse that affirms consumer choice.

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