How Better to Fight the Media Monoliths? With Lobbyists or Direct Action?

On Wednesday the media columnist for the Boston Globe profiled four prominent activists in the current battle to keep the FCC from dismantling current media ownership regs. The profiles are relatively short and shallow, but what strikes me is that of the four, only one, Jenny Toomey of the Future of Music Coalition is not a “professional” activist, or more accurately, lobbyist. The three other dudes work for organizations with budgets of $4 million, $350,000 , and $500,000. Now, compared to the likes of FOX and Viacom, the total $4.85 million ain’t much dough, but compared to a community radio station or the entire Indymedia movement, that’s serious cash.

When I hear about those kind of budgets I start to think, man, wouldn’t it be better to throw that kind of money at some more constructive grassroots media efforts, rather than spending it on what basically amounts to PR and lobbying? I don’t mean to dismiss the good and important efforts of the Consumers Union (which actually does a lot more than just lobby against media consolidation), the Center for Digital Democracy, and, especially, the Media Access Project. They all do good.

It’s just, I think it could be much better to spend several hundred thousand dollars a year publishing truly independent newspapers or sending pirate radio transmitters around the country rather than beating our heads against the brick wall of Congress and the FCC where the gains are small and ever so hard won. My mind spins just thinking about what Indymedia could do with just half that $4.85 million.

Yes, it’s important to fight on the front of legislatures, law and regulation. But sometimes it seems like that fight takes economic priority over actually making the media we want to have the freedom and space to distribute.

I contend that $4 million spent on free speech and disobedience like underground newspapers, pamphlets and pirate radio could be worth way more than $40 million tossed down the drain of lobbying Congress and the FCC. How do we test this contention?






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