"In our time, political speech and writing
are largely the defense of the indefensible."
George Orwell, 1946.
For the last 30 years
WWUH has been an alternative source of accurate news and important
information. WWUH has also been a source for alternative music and
cultural events. Since 1968 WWUH has been in the forefront of the
alternative journalism movement in this country. The real challenge
in the next twenty years is to develop the foundation for a future
alternative mass media.
Historically the "broadcast reform
movement" of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s is the
precursor for alternative radio stations like WWUH. Robert W.
McChesney in a book entitled "Telecommunications, Mass Media,
and Democracy, The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting,
1928-1935" documents this early history. The "broadcast
reform movement" of the 1930’s was the acknowledged enemy of
the commercial broadcast networks and the big money interests that
they represented. These almost forgotten pioneers of early radio had
a completely different vision of what mass communications could
become. Robert McChesney’s book documents how these radio pioneers
tried during the early 1930’s to establish a public mass media
that was community controlled and how their valiant efforts failed
to be established into law. While their names have been largely
forgotten, their deeds live on in stations like WWUH. Their struggle
was an intense fight against the concept of a mass media that was
advertising driven and network-dominated. These early radio pioneers
built radio using the resources of universities, libraries, unions,
and progressive religious groups. These early experiments in radio
had a profound influence on the future of all media and while they
lost their fight for a truly "public" mass media in the
United States they have left us an important and inspiring legacy.
The work of I.F. Stone and other
alternative journalists, the development of the "underground
press" of the 1960’s, and the development of "pirate
radio" also played an important role in the development of the
alternative media movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Today the challenges facing producers,
readers, listeners, and viewers of this "alternative"
tradition are in some ways even greater than of the early media
pioneers. Recent decisions by the FCC and changes created by the
Communications Act of 1996 have strengthened the hand of the mass
media corporatists. In major cities through out the United States
one or two mass media corporations now have control of most of the
stations in that market. In Hartford, for example, two companies now
own the majority of the stations in this market. These corporate
behemoths have only one thing in mind: the financial bottom line.
Their definition of the financial bottom line is to extract as much
capitol out of the medium while providing the minimum of public
service as required under law. These corporations thrive on creating
a mass media that is homogenized and sterile. Since most audiences
are never given an opportunity to experience anything different they
become addicted to the sameness and ignorance that is mass media and
mass culture. This is then reinforced by program directors who say
without flinching that they "are giving the public what they
want." The public usually gets what is commercially viable for
these big media outlets.
The licenses for radio and television
stations are bought and sold at an increasingly fast pace and in
most cases are just another commodity in an ever inflated
marketplace. Mass media audiences are bought and sold by
corporations only interested in turning their clientele into
demographic groups that are used and abused. The law requires that
radio and T.V. stations work in the "public interest,
necessity, and convenience." Clearly the new ethic and
unwritten law require mass media to work for corporate interests,
oligopoly control, and the capriciousness of corporate leaders.
A famous French novelist once said that
"behind every great fortune is a great crime". The crime
that is perpetrated against us in this case is the destruction and
degradation of our cultural, political and economic institutions via
corporate control of media. The corporatists are not only for
maximizing profits they are also for a new kind of social control.
This social control is similar to that found in Aldous Huxley’s
Brave New World where mass media is a distraction that hides the
potential and reality of people’s lives.
The mass media corporations that run and
ruin our economy use the mass media as a gigantic home shopping
corporate network. For example, they will produce a movie, which
also creates CD’s, toys, and accessories that are designed as part
of a "concept" and create "buffo" profits.
Profits are further increased in movies by accepting donations so
that companies can have their products make a cameo appearance.
These mass media projects then are shown on HBO, sent to video
stores, and virtually work their way first into our homes, and then
into our minds and consciousness. They are then exported to foreign
countries to carry further the corporate messages that are
considered politically correct by mass media executives. We are
bombarded with hundreds of one-dimensional commercial, sexual, and
political messages each day that tell us how to dress, how to speak,
how to relate, and ultimately how to think and whom to vote for. We
are told that only violence solves problems, that Burger King and
McDonald’s produce the best food in the world, and that corporate
America has created the best of all possible worlds.
This approach to mass cultural control is a
new kind of censorship that filters out ideas much more effectively
than those of the great dictators of the 20th century.
Since the corporatists own most of the radio, television, newspaper,
and other mass media outlets, they control the overall world view
that most people get from these mediums. While the first amendment
protects freedom of speech it does not protect us from the
oligopolies that own the vast majority of the news and information
outlets. These outlet's control who is interviewed and whose views
Some people believe that "journalistic
integrity" or a "sense of fairness" will save the
day. Clearly we need to support those within established media
outlets who are willing to give alternative voices an opportunity to
be heard. But reliance on the idealism and the thoughtfulness of
those in mass media is not enough. We need public and community
control of such powerful mediums.
Since most of our government officials are
presently controlled by legalized bribery, also know as campaign
donations, there is little hope that a truly public mass media can
be established though government intervention. This makes the idea
of an alternative mass media become even more important and relevant
to our situation and dilemma.
If our government cannot control these
media giants then it becomes critical that we support and develop
alternatives to corporate mass media. The combination of the
internet and alternative radio is just beginning and it can become a
powerful force for new ideas and new political, social, and economic
institutions that can begin the process of change. Right now you can
hear WWUH on internet live using a free program that you can also
get off internet. The internet offers a great opportunity to develop
new ways in which old technologies can be interfaced and improved.
Clearly the various programs that you hear on WWUH are an
alternative to your media diet that give you interviews and
information that can make a real difference in your life. We hope
that you will continue to support WWUH and alternative news and
public affairs at the station.
But we are very far from the kind of
alternative radio, T.V. and internet that we need to develop the
kind of society which we deserve. Clearly we need new resources to
build this new alternative mass media. While volunteerism will help
to develop this new mass media, full time workers will be needed.
This means that we must develop bigger
resources collectively and effectively. Most of us are willing to
spend 30 or more dollars a month to be hooked up to a cable system
which basically is manipulating us in one way or another. Perhaps it
is time for people to make a major investment in the development of
a mass media that really represents them rather than
Perhaps we could get some relief from some
level of government on this issue. Some people have suggested a 1%
tax on all advertising or a $1 charge on all new radio, T.V. , or
other electronic devices which would go to developing a real public
alternative network. Perhaps we could get some help though
collective action. Many of the institutions which host many of the
alternative media outlets have to be educated on the importance of
these institutions in society. All of this takes time and effort but
the payoff is immense and important.
If you have some ideas about the future of
public affairs and news at WWUH why not drop a line to me Mike
DeRosa, Community Affairs Director, so that we can begin a dialog on
what the next 30 years should be at WWUH. Better still why not think
through all of the above ideas and let’s start a dialog about the
development of a alternative mass media. We need to start plowing
the ground before we can deposit the seed which will blossom into a
new media for a new tomorrow.
NEXT ISSUE: MEDIA ALTERNATIVES IN OTHER PLACES.