FCC's Adelstein: Consolidation = Payola + Propaganda
June 10, 2008 at 10:52 AM (PT)
FCC Commissioner JONATHAN ADELSTEIN lit into consolidation and payola in a novel way in a speech to the NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR MEDIA REFORM in MINNEAPOLIS on JUNE 8th. To illustrate the far-reaching perniciousness of consolidation, ADELSTEIN charged that the BUSH Administration's use of like-minded ex-military analysts to disseminate positive "spin" on the IRAQ War on network, cable and radio programs could be a form of payola.
"According to news reports, analysts who disagreed with the information given to them lost access," ADELSTEIN asserted. "This comes in the wake of new revelations that network executives pressured news reporters to develop Administration-friendly angles when we were heading to war. Today, I commit to you that I plan to demand a real and thorough investigation. We need to determine, without delay, whether the DoD violated the laws we enforce against payola.
We need to fight thinly disguised payola fueling homogenized corporate music that leaves no room for local and independent artists
"These rules prohibit anyone involved with preparing broadcast or cable programs from accepting anything of value without disclosing it to the public," ADELSTEIN continued. "This is not just a question of journalist ethics and integrity. It is the law. The war in IRAQ is clearly a controversial issue of public importance. The American people have a legal right to know when the government is sponsoring the source that is purporting to provide objective analysis.
Anti-Propagana Law Cited
On top of that, ADELSTEIN cited a law that specifically forbids the use of federal funds for overt propaganda, which may pertain to the "spin" analysts whose current employment does business with the Government, and demanded an investigation into that. "The federal anti-propaganda and payola laws are grounded on the principle that the public is entitled to know who seeks to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about the credibility of the information presented," he said. "The public has a legal right to know that people who present themselves to be independent, unbiased experts and reporters are not shills hired to promote a corporate -- or governmental -- agenda."
In ADELSTEIN's eyes, the concept of a media company owning both radio stations and newspapers is not unlike the propaganda scheme, payola, rampant commercialization through product placement and sponsorship identification. "It is time for us to curb the excesses of commercialism, as CONGRESS intended," he declared. " We need to ... develop new rules to clarify that sponsorship identification has to be clear and understandable. It should not be buried in a compressed crawl at the end of a show that would take a magnifying glass to read.
"We need to fight thinly disguised payola fueling homogenized corporate music that leaves no room for local and independent artists. We need to fight video news releases masquerading as news, with public relations agents pushing agendas that squeeze out real news coverage and local community concerns. We need to fight product placements turning news and entertainment shows alike into undisclosed commercials. And we need to fight rapacious advertisers preying on the unsuspecting minds of our young children."
Read the entire speech here.