Friday, June 6, 2008

A Progressive Media Action Plan

Jeffrey Chester writes:
It's time to develop a progressive digital media action plan, creating a system of broadband video networks, mobile social networks, buying-recommendation services and other new media properties committed and managed on behalf of social justice. Some may be for-profit, others a mix of nonprofit and revenue generation. The opportunity to bypass the media gatekeepers is before us, with support from this and future generations of youth accustomed to getting their news and culture online -- not from the media mainstream. An array of local and national Internet TV channels, including those operated by women and people of color, could provide the compelling content that will help drive the political debates (or at least keep them more honest!), and also illustrate the power of the creative imagination when not bound to protecting the status quo.

To do so will require expanding the definition of media reform, moving beyond public policy to engage in market-oriented strategies. Progressives have experienced great success with digital media -- including's campaign for privacy rights on Facebook and its clever political quiz on the difference between Bush and John Mccain. Another good example is Web-based political organizing around the Jena 6 protests. But the steady consolidation of control online (including the cable and phone broadband access giants), and the growing power of interactive advertising as the Internet's business model, will have a profound impact on the evolution of our media system.

While the Internet and other emerging digital media will remain a source of diverse content, how well they promote the ideas and goals of progressives in the long-term will be greatly influenced by the commercial marketplace. Progressives can claim a great victory in the Net Neutrality debate. But we shouldn't rest on laurels and assume that our ideas and the online audience they can muster today will be there tomorrow.

US media history in the twentieth century illustrated how radio, broadcast television and cable were media with great promise, but once advertising took hold their public interest potential was soon scuttled. A hallmark of our new digital media landscape will be the flourishing of advertising-driven services; now practically everyone can create an ad for online or even for television. But whether this ad-supported system currently focused on generating corporate or individual wealth will help provide the resources to support long-term reform efforts will largely depend on our willingness to be progressive entrepreneurs.
Read the entire article on the AlterNet.

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