Reform the Media and BE the Media

In just about a week, Madison, WI will become a hotspot for media reformers and media independents.

First, Madtown will host the National Conference on Media Reform, put on by Robert McChesney’s Free Press organization. That conference is loaded with luminaries of the left and other folks who’ve recently made a name for themselves battling the FCC and the Entertainment Cartel.

Second, the Be the Media Conference is sort of a more grassroots parallel conference, aimed at sharing the tools for media creation. There are workshops on such topics as creating community centers and microradio.

I’m attending both conferences and hope I’ll have time to blog some impressions and reports of the activities. I will be doing a call-in from Madison to the mediageek radio show at 5:30 PM on Nov. 7th, to give a live report of the happenings. With luck, I’ll be able to drag my pal John Anderson (of and the guy giving me a floor to crash on) into doing the report with me.

I’m also lending a hand to do a webcast of some of the proceedings of both conferecnes, both for people who can’t make it to Madison, and for community radio stations (licensed and unlicensed) to rebroadcast. I’ll post more about where to tune in when I have that information.

There’s great potential for the weekend, if for no other reason than the synergy of having all these minds gathered together for the purpose of working on media reform and grassroots approaches to media making.

The greatest hope, of course, is that the weekend helps to gel a real functional and powerful movement to reform and take over the media. The Media Reform organizers state that their focus really is action, so I hope that ends up being true, and that time isn’t wasted on trying to form platforms or forumulate statements that won’t matter anyway to anyone who wasn’t at the conference.

These days I tend to be of two minds about reformative action, since the victories tend to be small — getting rid of the FCC’s June 2nd media rules changes is great and all, but the rules weren’t too great before June 2nd, either. At the same time, the FCC and Congress aren’t going away any time soon, so whatever power and influence can be postively exerted on these institutions is both useful and necessary.

The attack has to be two pronged, and the second prong is definitely in grassroots and independent media production. I’m sure that’s what the Be The Media organizers were thinking when they decided to throw a parallel conference. The point is not to be oppositional to the reform campaign — that would be stupidly defeatest. But it’s vitally important to bolster the ability to actually produce media, whether it remains underground and oppositional to the mainstream, or if the mainstream can be somewhat reformed so that there is much greater room for the public and individuals.

If more space can be cleared for truly progressive media, it will be the likes of Free Speech TV and Indymedia that will be most ready to jump in and start production.

I have no illusions that all the luminaries in attendance at the Reform Conference necessarily support real people’s media, like IMC or unlicensed microradio. I don’t doubt that many of those with establishment ties see reform as having more PBS and NPR as a side dish to FOX and Clear Channel. But I also think minds can be changed, and perhaps some of the more centrist-establishment types can be swung a bit to the grassroots if they see the grassroots in action, rather than having the Conference cloistered away in some big city convention center.

A last word on coverage — in addition to the webcast feed, there are plans to have a group-blog written by a number of grassroots and Indymedia activists who are outside even the Reform Conference’s mainstream. I’ve been invited to participate, as has Sascha Meinrath, one of my compatriots at the Urbana IMC, and a tireless Indymedia activist. The hope for the group-blog is that the participants will bring a critical eye to all the proceedings and perhaps provide a reality check, especially since there is likely to be a strong tendency for many Reform participants to be a little breathless in their accounts (especially while being around all those left celebrities).

Should be an interesting, and, I hope, fun weekend.






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