It's The Media, Stupid
a Book Report

by James Jaeger

This well-worth-reading-book, released in 2000, was written by John Nichols and Robert McChesney. Ralph Nader wrote an intro; so did Barbara Ehrenreich and Senator Paul Wellstone. IT'S THE MEDIA, STUPID is almost John Cone's observations verbatim, but a) expanded to cover all media, not just the feature film industry and b) without mention of the J-word (why aren't we surprised).

The book starts out by stating that just in the past decade ownership of the media has consolidated into the hands of less than 10 transnational corporations. The largest of these do between $8 and $30 billion in revenues a year and are as follows:

5) SEGRAM/Universal

The second tier of less diversified media corporations, doing between $2.5 and $8 billion in annual sales, are as follows:

1) Comcast
2) Hearst
3) New York Times
4) Washington Post
5) Cox
6) Advance
7) Tribune Co.
8) Gannett

The book's central thesis is that a free marketplace of ideas can't exist with a media devoid of diversity and only interested in crass commercialism. Such commercialism creates an environment where good journalism suffocates, especially journalism which is critical of the media itself. Because such a media will NOT discuss issues relating to itself, there can be no reform: the powers-that-be refuse to make media an issue. This creates a bottleneck for all other issues that need to be freely discussed. Issues need to flow to and from the public so well-informed decisions can be made and a democratic society can breath. Thus the authors emphasize that making the media an ISSUE is the ONLY WAY to break open free discourse on ALL OTHER ISSUES of vital concern.

The authors' also emphasize that the media DESERVES to be made an issue because: THE PEOPLE OWN THE AIRWAVES, not 17 multi- national corporations. Thus government action is needed and justified.

Although some allies exist in Congress (such as Senator Paul Wellstone, Representative Bernie Sanders and Representative John Conyers) the authors emphasize that the Democratic and Republican parties WILL NOT be the parties to make MEDIA AN ISSUE because they are too dependent on the media to get their candidates elected. The book also emphasizes that media reform won't come from the conservative right because "...conservative critics (of the media) in the end, are handcuffed by their allegiance to maintenance of corporate and commercial rule, so they are incapable of providing real explanations for, and real solutions to, the problem they describe" (which is the "liberal media" they have been yapping about since time immemorial). Thus, more than likely, media reform will have to be launched by a coalition amongst the New Party, the Green Party, the Labor Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, Americans for Democratic Action and U.S. Action.

In summary, the authors' bottom line is: "Media reform is inexorably intertwined with broader democratic reform. . . . Media reform will be a fundamental building block of a broad crusade for democratic renewal in America."

Book available through

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