August 11, 2003 · admin
I would like to thank Professor Lessig for inviting me to begin a dialogue with you.
Wherever I travel throughout America, including here, the issue of corporate media and media accountability arises in every question and answer session. The American people are deeply concerned about the erosion of democracy, notably the impairment of free speech which has occurred through the increased concentration of market power in corporations which own newspapers, radio and television stations.
I’ve spent a great deal of time studying this issue. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech and communication from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. During my academic career, I studied the Failing Newspaper Act, which provided for joint operating agreements (JOA), which presaged the death of afternoon newspapers in America. In my own lifespan, I’ve seen the city of Cleveland go from 3 daily newspapers, the Cleveland News, the Cleveland Press, and the Plain Dealer, to just one. I’ve studied the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which set specific responsibilities for broadcast license holders to serve “in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” H.L. Mencken, the famous critic, once wrote “freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.” Indeed, the Constitution is liberally interpreted when it comes to the government having any role in directing what goes into print. And that is as it should be (that is not to abandon questions of horizontal and vertical market concentration). However, holders of broadcast licenses have specific responsibilities to the public. It is the public which owns the airwaves. The public provides a license in exchange for service. At the same time the definition of media has expanded to include interactive services, the requirements of service have been largely abandoned as media monopolies have grown more powerful. Community groups struggle for recognition, social and economic causes which run counter to vested interests are marginalized, and our politics are corrupted by having to raise huge amounts of money from one set of corporate interest to buy airtime from another set of corporate interests.
As the next President of the United States, I intend to address this issue directly. First, the Justice Department will engage in an ongoing dialogue with major media over how the public interests can be better served. Second, I will sign an executive order which will require all broadcast licensees to provide free time for all federal candidates. Third, additional funds will be appropriated for the support of public television and public radio. Fourth, community cable systems will receive guidance as to how they may more effectively enlist community participation in the airing of broadcast media programs. Fifth, a White House conference on the protection of the First Amendment and its relationship to media concentration will be formed to enlist the participation of academics, activists, and the industry, in order to facilitate a broader and more effective understanding of the central role which media plays in the life of our nation.
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. It is through such dialogues on democracy that we can fulfill our responsibility to form a more perfect union.
Dennis J. Kucinich