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How Social Change Groups Can Influence Media Policy

Posted by Sara Freedman at Jan 05, 2010 |

In the face of ongoing mis-measuring and misreporting of economic and environmental reality, how can advocates of social change move their agendas forward? One constructive step might be to reach out to people and groups who are working on the issues of media policy.

How Social Change Groups Can Influence Media Policy


Our guest contributor this month is Bart Preecs. Bart is a former newspaper business reporter and technology marketing writer. He writes about media, technology, and public policy at www.mediapolicynetwork.com.


Groundwire Operations Director Christine O'Connor's article about the link between GDP reform and sustainability makes an important point, that the way we measure our economy sets up a false choice between the environment and the economy.

The best description of the connection between economic mis-measurement and sustainability of the planet may be found in Bill McKibben's book, Deep Economy.

"To most of us the health of the economy is more real, more palpable than the health of the planet. Think of the terms we use—the economy, whose temperature we take at every newscast with the Dow Jones Averages, is ‘ailing’ or ‘on the mend’ ... we cosset and succor it with enormous devotion, even as we more or less ignore the increasingly urgent fever the globe is now running."

Al Gore, in an interview on KUOW in Seattle, also says that current economic indicators and the emphasis on short-term profits make it difficult to gain acceptance for solutions to the climate crisis. (Listen here at about 35:00) Wendell Berry argues that solving the climate crisis and the current financial turmoil will require a change to what he calls “truthful accounting.”
 
In the face of ongoing mis-measuring and mis-reporting of economic and environmental reality, how can advocates of social change move their agendas forward? One constructive step might be to reach out to people and groups who are working on the issues of media policy. 
 
People who work on media policy, and I count myself among them, can feel a little lonely. We tend to get enmeshed in geeky arguments about "Net Neutrality," the nuances of FCC rulemaking notices, or the content-and-conduit issues raised by the proposed Comcast-NBC takeover. 
 
We don't always take the time to articulate the connections between these issues and the broader needs for social change, for social justice, or a sustainable economy that doesn't worship growth for the sake of growth. But I suspect that everyone involved in a movement for social change of any kind would agree that capturing public attention, or gaining a positive public perception, is a critical part of their mission—sometimes even the hardest part.
 
In the short term, social change groups could work with media policy people, if only to maximize their ability to use new tools of communication, such as social media or Web videos. But in the long term, debates over media policy are really debates over what society's priorities are going to be. 
 
Social change groups could add their influence help create a communication environment where their messages have at least a chance of competing with the marketing and PR budgets of Exxon Mobil, Monsanto, or Citigroup.
 
It will not be easy or quick. Reaching out to national groups like Free Press or Public Knowledge, or their equivalent in your neighborhood, will not magically produce a low-power radio station in your community.  It will not instantly transform an underfunded public access cable channel into an Internet-powered storehouse of interactive video.
 
But building those bridges now will be the first steps to creating a culture where the GGH (Gross Global Heath) is measured as carefully as the GDP.  We will not get a news and media system that takes clean air, clean water, forestation rates, or soil fertility as seriously as the S&P 500 until we make significant changes in the way communication resources are allocated.
 
We can continue to let the most powerful communications tools in the history of the human race be dominated by people and organizations that have a single goal—maximizing short-term profit and sacrificing the health of the planet on the rickety altar of “economic growth.”
 
Or we can work together and opt for communication justice.

--Bart Preecs

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How to connect media policy/reform
with your social change agenda

There are several ways social change organizations can combine efforts on their own issues with working for a better media system and better public decision-making.

 

 

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