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  • Thursday, January 20, 2005


    Rich Media, Poor Democracy

    I've been reading Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times by Robert W McChesney (The New Press: New York, 2000) and feel just depressed enough to share some quotes from it. It is an incredibly detailed critique of the media, heavily endnoted and incisive in its analysis. In the following, each paragraph is a separate quote; they are not contiguous.
    In the mid-1970s, foreign films accounted for over 10 percent of the box office at U.S. theaters. Every decent-sized city had one or more theaters specializing in foreign films, and Manhattan alone had two dozen such theaters. By the mid-1980s the percentage of box office accounted for by foreign films was around 7 percent, and by the late 1990s it is down to under .5 percent.

    By the late 1990s Coca-Cola and Pepsi were locked in a pitched battle to gain contracts to be the exclusive soft drink provider to public schools, using the schools to agressively promote their product to students. This trend reached the point of absurdity in 1998 when a Georgia high school student was suspended for wearing a Pepsi shirt to school on a day when all students were told to wear Coke shirts for a Coke promotional campaign in which the school was participating.

    But the main concern of the media giants is to make journalism directly profitable... First, lay off as many reporters as possible... Second, concentrate upon stories that are inexpensive and easy to cover, like celebrity lifestyle pieces, court cases, plane crashes, crime stories, and shootouts. Not only are such stories cheaper to cover and air, they hardly ever enmesh the parent corporation in controversy, as do "hard" news stories.

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