We Want the Airwaves

The Sideshow Annex

We Want the Airwaves!

A collection of links documenting the decline of free speech in the mass media (and the fight to retain it)

The dangers of media concentration under corporate control pose perhaps the greatest threat to our democratic system. The press, supposed to perform as unofficial but vital "fourth arm" of democratic government, is slowly ceding all claim to be informing the public. News departments on the publicly-owned airwaves have decreasing independence from their corporate owners, and even the Public Broadcasting System represents corporate sponsors and those who control Congress rather than the public. Local and independent radio stations using local talent and programming have become more and more rare as the likes of Clear Channel compound their dominance of the national airwaves.

The recording industry, who actually aid and abet the control of limited broadcast facilities in the air market, blame file-sharing and Internet radio for the decline in listener interest in the bland products that are promoted on these stations. They are manifestly wrong, but their actions - both in trying to suppress our control of our computers and in cheating their artists out of royalties - have created an increasingly hostile listenership. Knowing that little if any of the money you pay for a compact disc may ever reach the hands of the artists who provided the music creates an enormous incentive for fans to withhold their cash from the music shops and save it to spend on concert tickets, which is where the artists make their real living. Until the industry accepts its own responsibility for promoting artists, they have little right to call anyone else "pirates". Moreover, they are lying when they claim that sales are down as a result of file-sharing; they have reduced production, so of course sales are down. Their whining is just a scam to try to push Congress into making new laws so they can make more money for less product.

The broadcast airwaves are limited, and regulation is necessary to prevent everyone from trying to use the same frequencies, thus making none of it really useful to any but the biggest, strongest, and most expensive transmitters. Because the airwaves belong to the public, broadcasters are in theory required to serve the public interest - by keeping us informed and giving us a voice. In practice, however, broadcasters have always limited the range of expression they will allow, with the connivance of the FCC. Americans were largely accepting of this level of conservatism as long as it meant the far right and far left were equally excluded.

However, as the far right has taken control of the airwaves, even mainstream liberal voices are being squeezed out, replaced by more and more fanatical right-wingers who now almost completely dominate broadcast radio. Television news and news-talk shows "balance" coverage by showing a narrow range of centrists, along with a broad range of moderate right-wingers and far rightists; left-liberalism and the far left are largely unrepresented. Indeed, much of mainstream liberalism - the sort that most Americans agree with - is left off the schedule most of the time.

Many Americans are unaware that the Fairness Doctrine is no longer any real part of our system of checks and balances. Most do not know that the "respectable" press does far less fact-checking than it used to, in the wake of a 1984 decision in a libel case involving The Washington Post, in which Ken Starr himself let them off the hook. Even our Newspapers of Record no longer care if they spread egregious lies.

For many, the Internet has held out hope as an antidote, but media corporations are trying to foreclose on this freedom, too. Control of music, which helps drive radio listenership, can shut down much of Internet radio. Cable companies are fighting to be able to dispense with Usenet, our rapid-fire one-to-many communication system. Weblogs will survive only if Internet providers permit us the freedoms we have so far enjoyed. Censorship and other pro-corporate regulation drive prices up for individuals as well as interfering with content. Free speech must not become a privilege for only the most wealthy and powerful.

A democracy cannot thrive without an informed public, which is why the press is called The Fourth Estate - the citizens' facility for oversight of their government. The founders of the United States of America understood this, and so enshrined a free press in our Constitution's Bill of Rights. You will not retain that right unless you fight for it.

Sideshow Policy

The links at right represent sites that address media control and news bias, and sites that provide free radio and music content, on the 'net. I don't feel there is any need to provide yet more access to right-wing views - Americans get that just by turning on their radios and televisions - so the news/commentary audio links are for left/liberal sites. Music, on the other hand, is purely a matter of taste, and I make no claims about the wonderfulness of the music you will find linked there, except that it is entire and free. The Sideshow supports artists who allow listeners to listen to their music for free before deciding whether to buy it or buy concert tickets to their shows; this is the sole reason why some artists are linked at right. Feel free to recommend other sites that provide free music for listeners.

Article Links

31/03/03: New article links can be found at the We Want the Airwaves! weblog, joint proprietors Avedon Carol of The Sideshow and Lisa English of Ruminate This.

T.V. Smith lets you download his song "Not in My Name" from his site for free. I'm told that when people asked him to release it as a single, he said that would be profiteering from the war, and he'd leave that to Blair.

Two Rosie Thomas songs streamed at her site.

Mark Crispin Miller on how the rot has set in at newspapers.

Your tax dollars used to suppress jokes about the Second Lady.

Lisa English wonders where the media is on a big story.

Emma on the state of modern journalism.

Janis Ian updates us on her experiment with giving away her music for free on the web, and finds that sales have shot up as a result.

Don Henley makes some points at the hearings on Clear Channel.

The hounding of politicians by a cynical and corrosive media is a disaster for democracy - The Guardian on the current state of the British press. Emma of Late Night Thoughts considers the article from an American perspective.

Epicycle discusses a "landmark" deal between ISPs and the recording industry.

Orcinus on how The Washington Times (among others) may have helped cause 9/11.

From Emma, Four warning signs of propaganda.

On the eve of war, Lisa English makes a plea for responsible journalism in America.

Ted Barlow on payola and the "gangsters" of promotion.

Drudge on a conflict of interest on the part of Michael Powell, who failed to recuse himself on a matter in which his family had an interest back in the spring of 2002.

William Safire On Media Giantism.

A number of sites have an inane policy: Don't link to us!

Columbia Journalism Review on Cable Wars.

The Sideshow response to an RIAA proposal suggesting that ISPs should pay for music swapping - that is, pay some kind of fee or tax to the recording industry, passed on to users, for something you might not even use.

A mysterious "technical glitch" takes We The People 'net TV off the wires.

Skippy responds to a dubious White House statement about Americans' freedom of speech, and details some examples of what has happened to some people in our country who tried to exercise that right.

Talk Left on why the cops should not be policing fantasy on the Internet.

The Guardian asks What went wrong? with the American news media. (They don't really answer it, though.)

Macadamia points out that Tor Books has allowed Cory Doctorow's novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdon to be offered free online alongside its release on paper.

Two fine posts by Lisa English on what's happening to the media, on resources, and on THE BIG-BOXING OF AMERICAN MEDIA - or... Why is Time-Warner showering politicos with all-expense paid European vacations?.

Prominent Democrats notice they have a problem with media exposure, but don't notice why. Skppy explains it for them, and Digby follows up. (Too bad they won't be paying attention.

Phyllis Schafly says something true: Copyright extremists shouldn't control information.

Bush's Master Plan for the Internet by Kurt Nimmo, on political control of online free speech.

Sam Parry on how the media are already reprising their performance as RNC spin machines. (January 2003).

Robbed by a Fountain Pen on the claim that software that allows you to listen to all of your DVD is a "digital crowbar".

Gregory Harris with the story on the disposition of the MPAA suit against Jon Johansen, the author of DeCSS. The Norwegian Court ruled that designing software with which to make use of your own property qualifies as fair use.

Consortium News opens the new year with a new article, Price of the 'Liberal Media' Myth, and an oldie from 1998, In Search of the Liberal Media.

Gore & the Need for a 'Counter-Media' from Consortium News, reacting to Al Gore's decision not to run for the presidency in 2004. Also posted with an older piece, Democrats' Dilemma: Deeper than Gore, about the rise of right-wing media, from 1999.

Buzzflash inteviews Florida radio's ratings-topping liberal talkshow host, Randi Rhodes, asking, "Why Isn't Randi Rhodes Syndicated? The Dilemma of a Liberal Talk Show Host."


In Media Res by Paul Krugman.

Al Gore on the right-wing media in The New York Observer.

Part One of a two-part series Mainstream journalism: Shredding the First Amendment by Jon Prestage.

Think Hard by Jeff Koopersmith at American Politics Journal, on how the airwaves have been taken over by the right, and why Democrats need to find a way to counter-balance this.

From TomPaine.com, an article about how the American Family Association is using an FCC loophole to grab NPR stations for Donald Wildmon. (28 September 2002)

Artists' rights in the music industry.

Lean Left on review of FCC regulations (September 2002).

Audio: Interview with Hunter S. Thompson on the performance of the media (September 2002).

Janis Ian on file-sharing, and her follow-up piece, Fallout.

The Sideshow on Al Gore's speech on media concentration.

Artemis Recrods announcing that they will not demand the new, exhorbitant royalties for Internet radio play of their music.

Lisa English on media concentration.

Congressman Bernie Saudners (I-VT) on corporate control of the media.

The Sideshow on Teflon Presidents and other stories.

Ashcroft Asked to Target Online Song Swappers

Doc Searls and Electrolite in a discourse on web radio.

A 12-Step Program for Media Democracy by Jeffrey Chester & Gary O. Larson in The Nation.

Keith Olbermann's 1988 convocation speech, delivered in 1998 when he was the host of the top-rated show on MSNBC cable.

The Sideshow excerpts part of a reader's letter to Media Whores Online on The Fairness Doctrine.

Edward Monks' article on the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, talking about how just two networks dominate radio, and their voices are unrelentingly right wing.

The Sideshow on: House passage of ban on "morphed erotica" (one Republican voting against), and a discussion of regulatory capture and the Librarian of Congress' ruling forcing webcasters to pay higher royalties to record companies than broadcast radio pays. (June 2002)

The Sideshow on defeat of the UK government's attempt to expand abuses of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIP).

Slashdot on payola.

The Sideshow on the decision on royalty payments for webcasters.

Ethel the Blog on Stan Liebowitz on peer-to-peer file-sharing.

Rebecca Knight discusses The Media's Violation of Public Trust.

Mark Evanier on how the Screen Actors' Guild managed to get the worst deal in history - negotiated by Ronald Reagan for the SAG.

Media Protect Bush On 9/11 Security Failure, by Edward Herman.

Cable companies trying to establish broadband monopoly.

Bill Seamans on how the news media are shirking their responsibility.

All reporters need to question what they're told, by Steven C. Day.

Dr. Menlo reacting to a USA Today article on radio consolidation.

Clear Channel is awful.

Charlie Stross on the loony idea of ID chips in books.

Eric Boehlert's series in Salon about Clear Channel.

The Sideshow and others on the alleged obligation of television viewers to watch the commercials or be "thieves".

Eric Flint says that free unencrypted books make money.

Electrolite on more sleaze from Microsoft.

The Sideshow on MSNBC, balance in news programming, and a a Salon interview with Todd Gitlin on the media.

Supreme Court strikes down ban on thoughtcrime, and Gary Farber on Ashcroft's response.

Epicycle reports that Gateway joins the fight for your right to download free music, "providing legally downloadable music at their site, giving away blank CD-R disks at their stores, and hosting free 'digital music clinics' where the IT-illiterate can learn how to copy audio CDs!"

The Nation's guide to the Big Ten media conglomerates

We Want the Airwaves! weblog

Media Transparency
Norman Solomon
Clear Channel Sucks
Take Back the Media
Reclaim the Media
Robert McChesney
Media Reform Information Center

Consortium News
Daily Howler
Moose & Squirrel
Make Them Accountable
Failure Is Impossible
Manufacturing Consent
Honest Reporting
Youth Beat
Unknown News
Columbia Journalism Review
First Draft

Air America Radio:
AAR Main (NY)
AAR live feed
Radio Paradise
Grassy Hill

Mike Malloy
Liberal Resurgent
This American Life
Randi Rhodes

Listen to:
Country Joe
Daniel Cainer
Dana Lyons
Flaming Lips
Kelley Hunt
Sara Messenger

Janis Ian
Lojo Russo
Barry Thomas Goldberg


Back to Annex Index
The Sideshow

Back to Annex Index
Back to The Sideshow