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Documentary Filmmaker Sue Wilson's Got the "Broadcast Blues"

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser     Permalink
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Will Rogers famously said, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat." While it is easy to get Republicans to go in lockstep, getting Democrats to agree is a little like herding cats. (That's why I give such kudos to Nancy Pelosi.)

But it is true that most Democratic funding tends to go into direct help for people in need, while Republicans have made funding the message machine a priority for decades. Democrats still haven't woken up to the reality that they have lost the ability to get their message out, (although perhaps the misinformation that led to the health care debacle is waking them up. President Obama mentioned it in a speech in Missouri yesterday.) Will Democrats start to fight for the message? Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...

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Let's talk about the Democrats' inability to get their message across. That's a pretty important weakness, especially right now. Are they just poor communicators? How has the growing media consolidation fed into this?

Democrats do not have access to the radio microphones, it is as simple as that.

Everyone likes to scream about Fox News. But at least on cable TV, people can choose a liberal perspective via MSNBC. That is not the case with radio; because of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, more than 90 percent of talk radio is "conservative." And more than 90 percent of the country has zero opportunity to hear a dissenting point of view. Fox News is the boil on the face of the body culture; Talk radio is the cancer that is eating us alive.

Let's look at the numbers: Glen Beck gets about 2.5 million viewers on his one hour Fox News tirade. But he gets 9 million listeners on the radio. Rush Limbaugh gets 15 million more, Sean Hannity another 14 million. Add it all up, and about 42 million people hear lying talk radio every single day. 42 million people who get in their cars and turn on the radio and cannot find a liberal viewpoint. 42 million people who have been brainwashed into thinking their grandmothers are going to face death panels with the Democrats' health care plan. That is why polls on health care have shifted dramatically.

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Naomi Judd: TV, print, radio aren't cutting it.

Which brings me to the Tea Parties. Why has a small grassroots movement grown to widespread national attention? It is because Fox News and Talk Radio have been cheerleading the movement. Here's the game: Fox News and Talk Radio promote the heck out of the April 15 and 9-12 Tea Party events. Thousands show up (that's what happens when events are promoted to millions of people). So many show up that mainstream newspapers put the Tea Parties on their front pages, which legitimizes the spread of misinformation. Soon, independent voters who would never listen to Limbaugh are hearing and believing the lies. And politicians are terrified to face their misinformed constituents due to the passion and anger we witnessed at last summers' town hall meetings. (This is a key reason Evan Bayh gave for stepping aside from the Senate.)

We've seen President Obama try to do an end run around this problem with his televised health care forum. But even the President's bully pulpit is dwarfed by the Talk Radio machine.

Let's pause here. When we return, Sue has lots more to say about the state of American media and how to take the public airways back. I hope you'll join us.

Part two of my interview with Sue

Sue Wilson Reports: news and commentary about the media itself.

Public Interest Pictures Broadcast Blues website

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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