We face a three-sided axis of indifference.
First, in an age of media consolidation and big media rule, there is less room for maneuver by small undercapitalized independents. Ventures like ours also find it harder to get our work seen because we're driven by values that question the "bottom line is the only line' mentality of the cartels.
When the economy falters and foundations cut back, the whole Indy media sector hangs on by a thread. We feel like ants in a field of elephants.
Second, despite proliferating media choices there has been a narrowing of diverse voices. Networks increasingly clone each others' conventional wisdom, and look-alike formats. When I worked at ABC, we used to joke there was a "homogenizer" in the basement. All too often, homogenized substance-free TV news programs defines us.
In our unbrave media world, critically inflected proposals do not encounter censorship, just respectful assurances that the ideas are good but they are just, sorry, "NFU--not for us." Sadly, Journalism itself is branded as old-fashioned by brand-building executives who insist on story-telling packaged in Hollywood-style narrative structure. For them, entertainment trumps information,
Third, when government and media marched in lockstep during the Iraq war, ideological diversity became conspicuous by its absence. On news program after news program, we heard and saw the same "experts," the same conservative pundits, and the same narrowing of story framing.
Suddenly an Amoeba-like "Fox effect" infected the entire broadcast spectrum. When Patriotic Correctness dominates, there is an unwelcoming environment for diverse global perspectives, alternative explanations and critical voices. When simplistic "you're either with us or against us" formulations are in, more complex interpretations are out.
T o survive you either dumb it down or get of town.
A decade ago, PBS told Globalvision that human rights is not a "sufficient organizing principle" for a TV series (unlike cooking!). We went on to produce four years of the hard-hitting series Rights & Wrongs anyway. Recently, a PBS station that had been an ally told us that despite AIDS and SARS, a global health series is not a "sufficient organizing principle." The very same words! The world may change but institutional attitudes don't. Today we lack the resources to do it ourselves.
Blaming the People for the lack of world coverage is misplaced and easy; acknowledging responsibility demands self-examination and corrective action. (2005)
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at NewsDissector.net. This is a selection from Blogothon, Schechter's new book--is fourteenth-- featuring blogs and essays on key issues (Cosimo Books). He hosts News Dissector Radio Hour on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm)
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