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News ::
BTL:Activists Strategize at National Conference to Democratize US Media System (english)
15 Nov 2003
Speech delivered by Robert McChesney, co-founder and president of Free Press, at the National Conference on Media Reform, Nov. 8, 2003 produced by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Activists Strategize at National Conference to Democratize U.S. Media System

Speech delivered by Robert McChesney, co-founder and president of Free Press, at the National Conference on Media Reform, Nov. 8, 2003 produced by Scott Harris

When the Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Bush administration appointee Michael Powell (and son of Secretary of State Colin Powell), was gearing up to further deregulate rules governing the concentration of ownership of the nation's media last spring, their actions were met with a surprising tidal wave of grassroots resistance. Almost two million letters, faxes and emails poured into the FCC opposing the rules changes which would have abandoned a 1975 regulation that prohibits one company from owning a newspaper and television station -- or multiple TV stations -- serving the same market. Critics charge that the FCC's action will result in an ever-shrinking number of media monopolies offering less diversity of opinion and local perspectives on the airwaves.

Despite the prairie fire-like opposition, the FCC voted to implement these and other rules changes in a partisan 3-to-2 vote on June 2. But the public outcry was so forceful that Congress, feeling the heat, is now attempting to legislate a reversal of the FCC rules. Meanwhile a federal appeals court in Philadelphia granted a stay of the rules pending judicial review.

As grassroots groups across the U.S. worked to overturn the FCC rules, the National Conference on Media Reform was organized to bring together the diverse forces demanding an overhaul of the U.S. media system. Robert McChesney, research professor at the University of Illinois and author of the book "Rich Media, Poor Democracy," is the co-founder and president of the group Free Press which organized the conference in Madison, Wis. Nov. 7 through 9. Here he addresses a crowd of some 2,000 conference attendees in Madison's ornate Orpheum theater.

Contact Free Press, the group which organized the media reform conference, by calling (413) 585-1533 or visit their website at

Visit Robert McChesney's website at His new book, coauthored with John Nichols, "Our Media, Not Theirs" is published by Seven Stories Press.

Related links

Selected speeches from the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wis. Nov. 7-9 can be found at Al Franken, author of "Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced View of the Right" Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., on media reform movement in the Senate Robert McChesney, conference organizer and professor of journalism, on the history of the media Other links

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting,

"Plan to Loosen Network Rules Goes to F.C.C," by Stephen Labaton, New York Times, May 13, 2003.

"Media Monopolies Have Muzzled Dissent," by Ian Masters, Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2003

"Holding the Line at the FCC," by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, The Progressive, April 2003

"FCC: Public Be Damned," by John Nichols and Robert McChesney, The Nation, May 15, 2003

LISTEN to this week's half-hour program of Between The Lines by clicking on one of the links below:
"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Weekly Summary" which features a RealAudio link to the week's program for Between The Lines, send an email to btlsummary-subscribe (at)
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Q&A" which features a RealAudio link and weekly transcript to one of the interviews featured on Between The Lines, send an email to btlqa-subscribe (at)
betweenthelines (at)
Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
2003 Between The Lines. All Rights Reserved.
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