L.A. Events Put the Public Back in the Public Interest

The recent study of L.A. television news by the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg, which documents the tiny amount of TV news time allotted to local government coverage, is bringing local groups together to stand up for the public interest.

In response to the study, Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said, “Our city is on the brink of bankruptcy, social services are being watered down, but we receive so little coverage from local TV stations.”

Tapia Martinez-Russ, co-founder of the Los Angeles Media Reform Group, also weighed in: "The concentration of ownership of local television stations has resulted in a massive failure of local TV being responsive to the needs of the communities they are supposed to serve.”

“There is serious cause for concern here,” says George Kieffer, an attorney at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and a member of the Los Angeles Civic Alliance. Kieffer says that he expects the civic community to now begin to weigh in on license renewals based on the degree of local hard news coverage.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who stood alongside the report's authors at a press conference in L.A., said the FCC license renewal process is today “a paper tiger.” Copps said “Every time a media company comes in to renew a license, it should have to prove it is serving the public interest."

But in my Public Interest Pictures film Broadcast Blues, I show how the FCC Media Bureau completely ignores license challenges. Despite Commissioner Copps' support, it will take structural changes within the FCC to give that paper tiger some teeth. As long as the FCC Media Bureau is allowed to ignore legitimate license challenges, the public interest cannot be served.

And I am pleased to see local groups like California Common Cause, the Los Angeles Media Reform Group, and Occidental College's Urban & Environmental Policy Institute hosting two important upcoming media reform events designed to educate and mobilize local people to stand up for better media in L.A. and around the country. Both events are on the Occidental College Campus at 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles.

First, a free screening of my film Broadcast Blues Thursday, March 25, at 7 PM in Johnson Hall Room 200 on the Occidental Campus. Former L.A. news anchor Bree Walker will introduce the film, and I will answer audience questions.

Then Saturday, March 27th, again at Occidental's Johnson Hall, the annual media reform event, "Preserving Democracy Media Reform." will take place. The event features keynote speaker Brad Friedman of Bradblog.com, a panel discussion on "The Future of Media and Democracy: Traditional Journalism vs. New Media -- Friends or foes?" moderated by KPFK's Ian Masters, and breakout sessions on topics including Citizen Journalism, Fair Use Creative Commons, Communicating Network Neutrality, Hate Speech, Video Activism, Local Ethnic Media, Media Literacy in Education, and more. The day concludes with remarks from Dr. Anthony Samad.

L.A. citizens are responding to the Lear Center report. You can, too. Weigh in on the media in your community at the FCC’s new online forum, “Media in Your Community.”

This is a guest blog post from Sue Wilson, director of the documentary Broadcast Blues.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good