Media Rants by Tony Palmeri
From the February, 2004 edition of The Valley Scene
Last month I identified half of the top 10 stories censored by Northeast Wisconsin
media in 2003. To recap: 10) God talks to Bush, 9) Realtors inspire Republican
tax freeze, 8) Tommy Thompsons pay-to-play legacy, 7) Doyle doesnt
understand single sales, 6) Wal-Mart day of action.
My inspiration is Project Censored, a national organization founded in 1976
by Dr. Carl Jensen, professor emeritus of communications studies at Sonoma State
University. Visit www.projectcensored.org
for more information.
And now the top five censored stories of 2003.
No. 5: The Corporations That Supplied Iraq. In December of 2002, the
Iraqi government provided the UN with an 11,000-page report that identified
the American, British, German, French, and other corporations that supplied
materials to Iraq necessary to manufacture chemical, biological, and nuclear
weapons. Portions of the report were leaked to the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung,
which revealed that, "In addition to ... 24 companies home-based in the
USA are 50 subsidiaries of foreign enterprises which conducted their arms business
with Iraq from within the U.S. Also designated as suppliers for Iraq's arms
programs are the U.S. Ministries of Defense, Energy, Trade and Agriculture as
well as the Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories."
The story disappeared from the American press in 2003. Northeast Wisconsin citizens have a right to know the extent to which our government and corporations colluded with Saddam Hussein to create a mess the cleanup of which has now cost the lives of over 500 soldiers, wounded and maimed almost 3,000 more, and cost the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
No. 4: The EAA Lie Continues. In March of 2003, Rick Rousos, a reporter
for the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, revealed that the Experimental Aircraft Association-affiliated
Sun n Fun fly-in had exaggerated its attendance figures by more than 400,000.
According to Rousos, Sun 'n Fun claimed an estimated attendance of 645,000
for its week-long fly-in in April 2001. But Sun 'n Fun's tax and internal records
show the attendance was less than 250,000. Of that number, 86,515 actually paid
to get in. The rest were mainly volunteers, vendors and media representatives.
Local media refuse to conduct rigorous research on EAA, resulting in taxpayers and government officials being duped about the economic impact of the annual fly-in. So irresponsible has been the Northeast Wisconsin media on this issue that as late as December of 2003 the states largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was reporting 750,000 as the annual EAA attendance.
No. 3: The Silencing of Fighting Bob.With Wisconsins government
at its lowest ethical point since the late 19th century, youd think Northeast
Wisconsin media would have some interest in signs of a resurgence of the progressive
movement. No such luck.
Ed Garveys second annual Fighting Bob Fest, held in September in Baraboo,
along with the November National Media Reform conference held in Madison, were
two of the best-attended political events in the history of the state. Each
attracted speakers of international stature, yet even that was not enough to
warrant serious coverage by any of our regions media.
See Garveys www.fightingbob.com for points of view regularly silenced in the corporate press.
No. 2: Mercy Medical Organizing Drive Fails. The United Food and Commercial
Workers (UFCW) represent many health-care workers across the nation. According
to the unions Web site, www.ufcw.org,
The care is being squeezed out of the health care. HMOs, managed care
and megamergers are pushing profits over quality care. They are downsizing staff,
contracting out, replacing highly skilled professionals with less skilled substitutes,
and increasing caregiver responsibilities without training or increased compensation,
leaving our health-care system understaffed, overwhelmed and with compromised
UFCW Local 73A in Oshkosh spent much of 2003 trying to organize nurses at Mercy
Medical Center in Oshkosh. Affinity Health Systems launched an aggressive resistance
to the union movement, and the UFCW ultimately failed to get enough nurses to
say yes to unionization.
Unfortunately, Northeast Wisconsin media showed little interest in the organizing effort, which had the practical effect of taking Affinitys side since the last thing health-care administrators want is public attention directed toward their management practices.
No. 1: FCC Relaxation of Media Ownership Rules Hurts Northeast Wisconsin.In
2003, the Federal Communications Commission proposed sweeping changes in media
ownership rules that would allow for a tiny group of megacorporations to control
the majority of the nations media.
The rule changes have not gone into effect, mostly because more than 3 million
average Americans contacted their representatives to express outrage.
Northeast Wisconsin corporate media not only underreported the FCC story, but
also failed to reveal clearly and repeatedly that under the new rules Northeast
Wisconsin would endure the most consolidation.
According to Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin, The Green Bay-Appleton
and Madison markets would suffer the most consolidation under the new FCC rules.
A single company could own up to one television station, one newspaper and three
radio stations in either market; or up to two television stations and seven
radio stations; or up to one newspaper and seven radio stations.
If censorship is a problem now in our region, imagine what it will be like when one company owns all the major media.
Tony Palmeri (Palmeri@uwosh.edu) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh.