As part of the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy’s campaign to challenge the licenses of local broadcasters Media Mouse is submitting the following statement to the FCC:
For the past five years, Media Mouse has been creating independent media and encouraging critical analysis of the local media. We have been forced to create our own media in light of the significant shortcomings of the local media. Despite superior resources both in terms of capacity to report and distribute information, the local broadcast media has failed to serve the public interest.
While we have seen dismal coverage of both local and international issues over the past five years, especially with regard to movements for social change, in the just the past year the media has failed to provide adequate coverage of three issues important to our group—the ongoing occupation of Iraq, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and local elections.
Since the lead up to the invasion of Iraq the local broadcast media has repeatedly failed to provide perspectives critical of the Iraq war and continues to report on the war by consulting official sources and acting as a conduit for the perspectives of the Bush administration. While the war has cost the lives of between 24,712 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians, the local media has repeatedly attached more value to the lives of US soldiers and have used their deaths to foster support for the war. During the period of August 2, 2005 to September 5, 2005, the local broadcast media mentioned US troop casualties 73 times and only made 15 mentions of Iraqi civilian casualties in the 101 stories they did on Iraq. These stories constituted nearly 50 minutes of the total hour and fifty minutes spent on Iraq and the family and friends of local soldiers were the number one source of information in their Iraq stories thereby failing to provide any substantive critical viewpoints.
Prior to the passage of CAFTA, Media Mouse participated in the Stop CAFTA Campaign with 22 other organizations. Despite the significant number of jobs lost in Michigan to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the repeated attempts of the Stop CAFTA Campaign to get the media to cover CAFTA, there was little coverage of the agreement. WZZM 13 ran a story called “CAFTA 101,” yet it did so a day after the vote was passed. When asked about this the WZZM 13 reporter admitted that they had “been remiss in front-end reporting on the issue. It’s one of those big international things with compelling local impact that went unreported in the daily grind of local events .” While WZZM 13 was unique in that they admitted their failure to serve the public interest, the other two local broadcast stations, WOOD TV 8 and WXMI 17 also failed to provide adequate information to the public on CAFTA.
The WZZM 13 reporter said that CAFTA was lost amidst a variety of stories with “compelling” local impact. Presumably, the media feels the same way with regard to covering local elections. During the recent summer elections in Kent County, the local media ran more stories about “compelling” local stories including that of a missing boy (36) and a missing boater (16) than they did covering the local elections (28). As always, crime reporting trumped everything with a total of 334 stories in the month leading-up to the election. Moreover, when the media did cover the local elections, the stories often lacked substance and rarely presented the actual voices of the candidates. In one particularly egregious example, WZZM 13 did a two-minute and forty-second story on a candidate forum in Wyoming, yet failed to provide any of the candidates’ names.
In conclusion, we would like to urge the FCC not to renew the licenses of all of the local broadcast channels.