Madam, what you are is clear…

One of the weak points of the argument against corporate media is the framing of media as being too homogenized—too few corporations running too much media. This was recently repeated by Ralph Nader in his latest essay (Counterpunch mirror):

The debate between progressives and corporatists over the state of the mass media goes like this-the former say fewer and fewer giant media conglomerates control more of the print and electronic outlets while the latter respond by saying there has never been more choices for listeners (radio), viewers (television) and readers (magazines, newsletters and newspapers combined).

Progressives add that half a dozen big companies, which control so many media, lead to a sameness of entertainment, news and advertisement overload. Corporatists counter by saying that there are more and more specialized media available for just about every taste in the audience.

What he’s saying is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough to really get to the heart of the issue. One might read the entire essay and come away thinking that progressive argument on this can be shut down by putting more corporations in charge of various forms of media. So instead of half a dozen giant media conglomerates we would have 10 or 20 giant media conglomerates in charge.

After all, this argument is being framed like the old joke where the punch line is “Madam, what you are is clear, we are merely haggling over price.”.

As for C-SPAN, I’m not so rah-rah on C-SPAN either:

We, the most powerful, technologically-equipped nation on Earth are left with C-SPAN and the suggestion that we an always start our own blog.

C-SPAN is remarkably pro-corporate. Sure, their preferred mode of coverage is to point a camera and a mic at something and offer no commentary, just running footage. This method I appreciate from a viewing standpoint and I prefer it. However, I’ve seen very heavy coverage of the American Enterprise Institute, the CATO organization, and a string of corporate news reporters on interview segments, and I’m tired of it. Nader dare not point this out in so many words because C-SPAN is one of the few television networks where he gets any coverage even if it is rare and during odd hours.

I find Nader’s article interesting, his points compelling, but I take issue with his unchallenged repetition of the progressive line that too few corporations run the media. That way of structuring the debate says that more corporations at the wheel would be preferable. Instead, what we need is to charge broadcasters rent (as Nader points out), and mandate independant media appearance on TV and radio, and federally mandate at least 1 hour of uninterrupted prime-time commercial-free coverage of ballot-qualified candidates for all elections (simply point a camera and mic at them for an hour in a studio and let them speak without interruption or delay for one hour). That alone would have put Nader’s campaign issues in front of millions more people in 2000 and 2004 and could have helped him and his vice presidential running mate overcome being kept out of the presidential so-called “debates”. And that is why these things will not happen without a huge persistant public outcry.