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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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May 29, 2008 11:39 AM

Salesman General

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The lack of media scrutiny around the Pentagon's campaign using retired military generals to sell the Iraq war to American public is a shame. The New York Times broke the story last month. Yet there has been nary a word from broadcasters. Of course the cable news networks are mum because they let these generals prattle on about the upside of Iraq and how things really were not that bad for detainees at Guantanamo.

The Seattle Times has a Democracy Papers editorial today, which can be found here, about Congress wanting the Government Accountability Office to investigate the Pentagon's propaganda machine, which spit out these generals, who like good soldiers, said what they were told to say. The New York Times story also revealed that many of these retired generals work for companies with war contracts.

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May 28, 2008 4:32 PM

Consolidation, unasked questions, TV news & the First Amendment

Posted by Ryan Blethen

"Media consolidation was done with so much debt it has allowed bankers and Wall Street into the tent, resulting in too much of the profits being required to pay off debt. Public ownership of media has not been good for media quality or for the ability of media owners to manage for the future."

Those are not the words of some raving media reformer that might pop up on this blog from time to time. That is a quote from David Rubin, the outgoing dean of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Rubin, who has been dean for 18 years, pointed out the obvious in an interview with the Jack Myers Business Report.

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May 23, 2008 5:08 PM

McCain supports telecom amnesty

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Wanted to post an update to an earlier post about Republican presidential candidate John McCain's position on granting amnesty to telecommunication companies.

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May 23, 2008 9:20 AM

Content filtering felony

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Ryan Singel of Wired has been turning out some interesting reports from the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference. On the magazine's Threat Level blog he writes that Internet Service Providers scouring their networks for copyright infringements might be committing felonies.

He quotes a University of Colorado law professor who was on a panel about ISP content filtering. The professor, Paul Ohm, said Comcast's blocking of peer-to-peer applications and Charter Communications idea of using a system to see the URLs visited by its customers could violate the Wiretap Act, which bans eavesdropping.

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May 22, 2008 4:50 PM

Consolidation investigation

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. has asked the Government Accountability Office to study media consolidation. The GAO should take up Dorgan's request. A number consumer groups have studied the effects of media consolidation. All the studies have shown that communities are hurt when consolidation shrinks the number of independent voices. It would be hard to imagine the GAO finding any differently.

Dorgan was joined in his request by Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. The senators want the GAO to examine several issues such as:

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May 21, 2008 4:26 PM

Presidential hopefuls, the Internet, and amnesty

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Some important issues facing the United States have received scant attention in the presidential primaries. Missing has been any meaningful discussion about presidential and federal powers. The Bush administration has done a fine job extending its reach in ways other presidents have not, either because Congress stopped them or they had the good sense to respect for the citizenry.

I want to know what presidential hopefuls Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton think about the current administrations use of warrantless spying, FISA, and extraordinary rendition. Where are the candidates on amnesty for the telecommunications companies that helped the administration's domestic spying? Not exactly topics being discussed by the pundits or posed to the candidates by the press.

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May 21, 2008 3:02 PM

A funny take on the WSJ's new ME

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Portfolio's Jack Flack reads between the lines of the News Corporation press release announcing Robert Thomson's appointment to Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal. The piece is well worth the read.

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May 21, 2008 2:29 PM

A boost for net neutrality

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Users of the Internet take for granted their ability to access all Web sites on an equal basis. That could change, however, if Internet service providers started discriminating among content, to make more money or to suppress ideas they do not like. A new "net neutrality" bill has been introduced in the House, which would prohibit this sort of content discrimination. Congress has delayed on this important issue too long and should pass net neutrality legislation now.

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May 20, 2008 12:33 PM

Resolution editorial

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Seattle Times editorialized today about the U.S. Senate passing a "resolution of disapproval," which would nullify a new media cross-ownership rule. The edit can be found here. The U.S. House of Representatives has yet to vote on a similar resolution, which was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.

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May 16, 2008 12:30 PM

Cantwell on media consolidation

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. has spearheaded the fight in Congress against the Federal Communications Commission's attempts to increase media consolidation. His tireless efforts paid off last night when the Senate passed a "resolution of disapproval," which will scrap the new cross-ownership rules adopted by the FCC in December.

No passing legislation is championed by one lawmaker. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine have provided critical support and advocacy for media reform. Below is a video of Cantwell's comments from the Senate floor last night.


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May 15, 2008 4:54 PM

Senate pushes back new FCC rule

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The U.S. Senate approved a "resolution of disapproval" to block new media cross-ownership rules adopted by the FCC in December. Will be back later tonight or tomorrow with more details about the vote and what might happen with a companion resolution in the House.

UPDATE: The resolution passed with a nearly unanimous voice vote. Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, a group that has worked on rolling back media consolidation and opposed the FCC's revised cross-ownership rule, said:

"Today's historic Senate vote is a resounding victory for the vast majority of Americans who oppose media consolidation. We applaud the bipartisan leadership of Senators Dorgan and Snowe for acting in the public interest. But to stop Big Media from polluting our local airwaves with more junk journalism and propaganda, we need the House to move this legislation forward quickly.


"At this watershed moment, public outrage against Big Media has reached a breaking point. The Bush administration's threats to undercut this bipartisan effort in Congress show how out of touch this president is with the will of the American people. But we're not going to stand idly by and let the White House green light Big Media's expansion. The great pendulum of political change is swinging away from corrosive consolidation and toward better media."

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May 15, 2008 2:42 PM

Media consolidation on the Senate floor

Posted by Ryan Blethen

A "resolution of disapproval" that would stop new media cross-ownership rules from going into effect could be debated on in the Senate tonight. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. introduced the resolution earlier this year and it was passed by the Commerce Committee last month.

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May 14, 2008 4:24 PM

Newsday's independence

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In a post earlier this week about Cablevision buying Newsday from Tribune I wrote that I was not sure what the new ownership would mean for the Long Island newspaper. Cablevision is a company I am only familiar with by name.

Since the sale was announced earlier this week I have been reading stories from New York area newspapers to try and get a sense for how Newsday and Cablevision will co-exist. The signs are not good. Stories in the New York Times and New York Observer portray Cablevision's CEO Jim Dolan as thin-skinned and no fan of the press.

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May 12, 2008 3:13 PM

Newsday to Cablevision

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Cablevision beat out News Corporation for Newsday. The Long Island cable company will pay $650 million for the Long Island newspaper. I am not sure how this purchase will work out because I am not familiar enough with Cablevision. I can say that I am glad Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation lost out. The other losing bidder was New York Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman

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May 9, 2008 1:00 AM

The R/D divide

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The notion of an open Internet, an Internet that allows information to freely flow, seems to be too much for House Republicans to grasp. Too bad because a bill in the House would insert some language into the Communications Act of 1934 ensuring an open Internet while not turning the FCC into a pack of raving regulators.

I wrote about this in my column that ran today. Click below for a Q&A discussion of this column.

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May 6, 2008 3:00 PM

Net neutrality hearing

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I dragged myself into work today at 6:30 a.m. to listen to a hearing on a net neutrality bill that is before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The bill follows this entry.

The differing views by the panelists was expected. Those testifying against the bill were people from the telecommunications and cable industries. The opposition also squeezed in an academic from Penn. Those testifying for the bill were consumer advocates, business owners and Hollywood writers.

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May 5, 2008 4:39 PM

Fancher story

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Seattle Times reporter Carol Ostrom had a nice story about Michael Fancher in Sunday's local section. Pleas check it out if you missed it. The piece can be found here.

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May 2, 2008 3:28 PM

Comcastiness!

Posted by Ryan Blethen

A recent story from the Philadelphia Inquirer showed how Comcast is fighting back against the growing outrage related to its service. I was not surprised when the story noted that Comcast rates near the bottom for customer service satisfaction. I use Comcast for the Internet and cable.

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May 1, 2008 3:33 PM

NAA's lobbying of Congress

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Newspaper Association of America is lobbying Congress to reject a resolution that would scrap the new media cross-ownership rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last December. Why, you ask, would the association that represents newspapers be in favor of policy that undermines a diverse marketplace of ideas?

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Recent entries

May 29, 08 - 11:39 AM
Salesman General

May 28, 08 - 04:32 PM
Consolidation, unasked questions, TV news & the First Amendment

May 23, 08 - 05:08 PM
McCain supports telecom amnesty

May 23, 08 - 09:20 AM
Content filtering felony

May 22, 08 - 04:50 PM
Consolidation investigation

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