Forums on Media and Democracy that aren’t forums

I stepped up to the microphone to answer a question about what we can do to change things locally, after being mislabled as a cameraman from DATV, and before I was a few sentences in, Dr Donald Nguyen screams out and interrupts me with “What’s your question.”

This is not how a public forum discusses ideas- or allows participation. And the good doctors behavior is excused by the 130 people in attendance because he’s screaming at me- the people the people in power love to marginalize.

Just because someone from out of town selected a panel of their voices/choices, doesn’t make it a forum- or democratic. The free exchange of ideas- means you actually have to have ideas – and unfortunately, the best the panel could do was talk about non-profit public journalism- and writing to the FCC and politicians to ask them to block the sale of Cox Media (which will happen no matter how many people complain).

The reality is- the equation changed, and none of the panelists had an understanding of it or how to fix it. I did. I was cut off by Ellis Jacobs, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, to hand the mic over to Neenah Ellis who has a 50,000 watt radio station to push her voice (WYSO). Yeah, that’s democratic.

So you know who the players without any real answers were, I share from their website:

What:   Media and Democracy: What the proposed sale of Cox Media might mean to Dayton.

Why:    The Dayton Daily News, Channel 7, and WHIO Radio are being sold to a private equity fund.

What might the impact be? What can you do?

Yosef Getachew, Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Program Director, will provide an overview of media consolidation all over the country and its impact on communities.

Join us for an exploration of how media and democracy intersect and the importance of strong local media. Panelists include:

  • Bob Daley, former political reporter (Dayton Journal Herald, Dayton Daily News, Congressional Quarterly),
  • Dr. Jim DeBrosse, retired assistant professor of journalism and a veteran newspaper reporter who worked 20 years for Cox newspapers in Dayton,
  • Dr. Joel Pruce, assistant professor in the University of Dayton’s Department of Political Science,
  • Melissa Rodriguez, community activist  A no show
  • The Honorable Tom Roberts, former member of the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio Conference President of the NAACP
  • Kevin Z. Smith, director of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism
  • The Honorable Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering the proposed merger of Cox Media, hedge fund Apollo Global Management, and Northwest Broadcasting. Voting and the quality of representational democracy is dependent upon access to good information from a variety of sources.That’s why in May, Common Cause and Common Cause Ohio, joined by United Church of Christ, filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the agency to deny this proposed merger. If approved, Apollo would own 25 television stations putting a significant amount of media ownership in the control of a private equity firm.

Source: Media and Democracy: What the proposed sale of Cox media might mean to Dayton

The moderator was Catherine Turcer the executive director for Common Cause Ohio which is supposed to be a “grassroots organization devoted to open and accountable government” and she gets quoted a lot in the conventional media as any lobbyist should. She’s the one who thought I was from DATV.

And, to recap the solutions that I spoke about and those that never heard the light of day, keep reading.

First- no amount of citizen input or lawsuits are going to stop corporate media takeovers. If you’ve been paying attention to the FCC under Ajit Pai we’re lucky net neutrality wasn’t totally destroyed. Sprint and T-Mobile’s merger was going ahead as of last week- there is no interest in any open competition- other than survival of the fittest.

The reason newspapers and TV stations are being bought is because it’s gotten cheaper to buy them than to buy the ads that the corporate raiders and 1% need to buy their politicians. Right now, most of local TV money comes from political spend around election time. $5B last cycle (when you include local and state issues as well as Federal offices) and continuing to grow.

They need TV ads because there are still folks without smart phones and who don’t use the internet that vote. Read that as old folks. No advertiser really wants to buy non-trackable, unpersonalized ads anymore- except huge consumer products companies like P&G who still believe they sell TP and laundry soap to everyone.

The issue of ad revenue going away from TV, radio and newsprint is two fold: one the digital divide and two, the control of the online ad targeting which belongs to Facebook and Google almost exclusively. The answer: internet sales tax for products bought- which goes on top of every sale to provide for universal internet access to all Americans, everywhere. Call it the next Interstate system – call it a WPA project- it’s only when everyone has access- can they all be informed.

The second part is a tax on internet advertising which currently isn’t taxed. The revenue from this would go to fund the fourth estate- the journalists who can counter the BS Faux News and the like. There is no other way to fund journalism that doesn’t go through FB or Google.

Those two massive changes aside, where the unprepared panel with nothing to add, got to comment, the next phase was what can we do locally.

This part I got out, before Ellis pushed me aside- and that is to require every public body that meets in public to create a video that is either livestreamed and then archived on YouTube- complete with ADA transcription- and a comment section- to which Ms. Turcer said something about “Turn on the cameras” campaign outside. But, what was missing was the next part- which is the most important part: we need an elected official to work on behalf of the public as a chief ethics officer- to investigate and prosecute violations of the sunshine law, violations of election law, and when the public trust is broken.

For the instances like when I uncovered that Dr. Adil Baguirov didn’t live in the Dayton Public Schools district and shouldn’t have been allowed to serve- or run the contracts the way he did for the sale of the Patterson Co-Op site or the bus deal. See to start. Or, the torture in the jail

Or better yet- the crazy violations of the sunshine law by the task force created by one of their panelists, Nan Whaley, and her slate of candidates for the DPS board- see Goodbye Sunshine. That’s the case I’ve fought by myself (with a little help from my friends) all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court- which Ms. Turcer should be backing- but wasn’t even aware of.

The reality is no elected official has ever been removed from office for violating the Sunshine laws- or if it actually has happened, you have a better chance of winning mega millions.

Regionalization and a condensing of public entities is also a way to help make sure that elected and public officials can be scrutinized. There are way too many banana republics in “Dayton” which is comprised of over 30 jurisdictions in Montgomery County- not including school boards and miscellaneous other organizations. See which is an effort to start deciphering the real cost of too much government and duplication of services.

There was some discussion about how the FBI and the DOJ had “Mislabeled local government as a “culture of corruption” by some die-hard suck ups and former city employees. Nothing could be further from the truth- if the speakers were informed properly, and  if the FBI and the DOJ was doing their job, more indictments would have been made already including Mayor Whaley who steered contracts and has been involved in “pay to play” campaign funding for over a decade.

Public forums only work when the public actually has a chance to get their voices heard. For all Neenah Ellis talks about WYSO being so great- she’s ignored every overture I’ve made to her to discuss Reconstructing Dayton a true regional issue.

Getting access to news is only half the battle, having people smart enough to fight with the information is the next 40% and the last 10% is actually being willing to speak Truth to Power without the backing of a herd – to be heard.

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