Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Do we have media issues?, May 19, 2008.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved gadgets. One of the earliest, my father, who was a print journalist, brought home a wire recorder—the same device used by Alfred Lord and his colleagues to record the voices of Homer's literary descendents practising oral literature in modern Yugoslavia. (The Singer of Tales)

As soon as I was able to understand the “means of production,” I was fascinated by the way that technology puts what I thought of as the “means of creation” into the hands of the people.

As McLuhan pointed out, this democratization of creativity is a process that begins at least as early as the written book. Augustine tells about his encounter with a medieval scholar reading aloud from a book in a library to an audience of illiterate peasants. The printing press extended this process dramatically and in Europe may have played a part in the Reformation and even the political uprisings of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. (Understanding media)

Today creative viewpoints exist on the right as well as the left, within the small business community as well as among organized labour, among market-oriented economists as well as outright socialists, among solitary hermits and great social collectivities. Today's left tends to forget that “owning the means of production” was for Marx what sex was for Freud. It was the central, motivating energy for what we now call social change. In the mid-twentieth century, Wilhelm Reich unleashed the sexual revolution by talking about sex-economics. (The Sexual Revolution)

Nicole Cohen has offered a rallying point for media activists:

“While it is critical for media activists to talk seriously about the business of producing alternative media and to find innovative ways to boost circulation, it is dangerous to believe that the only way to become commercially viable is to make content more mainstream. Alternative media exist to disseminate an oppositional or radical stance, and the development of creative sustainable business models should centre on strengthening that goal, not abandoning it” (Cohen Briarpatch May 31 07).

Lydia Masemola writes “if it wasn't for campus radio, Cancon (Canadian content) wouldn't have taken a hold even in commercial radio. Campus radio stations deserve to be recognized for developing that independent music scene” (See Kahn Briarpatch May 31 07).

The legal reality is that the Canadian broadcasting system is “effectively owned and controlled by Canadians.” The radio frequencies that it uses are public property.” This is entrenched the Broadcasting Act of 1991, which also defines Canadian broadcasting as “a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty.” In addition, the Act declares that information carried on Canadian airwaves should “be varied and comprehensive,””include educational and community programs,” and “provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.” (See Kahn)

So how is it going with Canada's publicly owned service exposing us to expressions of differing views on matters of public concern.

Surely one of the most volatile issues in recent months has been Mark Steyn's continuing crusade to make hate speech, um, debatable. His supporters claim that his right to free speech is being violated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and several provincial human rights commissions.

However, Steyn doesn't appear to be fighting for the rights of indigenous leader David Ahenakew, who was stripped of the Order of Canada for hate speech. Ahenakew was recently been given a new lease on power when the courts overturned his previous conviction for likening Jews to a disease.

Those of us whose KCR shows have recently become available as podcasts on iTunes may be interested to learn that just two weeks ago iTunes banned several Jamaican reggae bands from its website on the grounds that their lyrics were explicitly homophobic. Is that censorship? Are we ok with it? Once again, should hate speech be banned? Or is it better to debate the issues openly? This is an issue in which we KCR programmers are complicit even though the web service is resident in the US.

In the wider world, the shadow of these issues reappeared when some Western publications re-published the Danish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed. Toger Seidenfaden, executive editor-in-chief of Politiken, a leading Danish newspaper, articulates one problem: quote "there are politicians who are trying to use these issues to their political advantage, 'creating an enemy' and mobilising people against it." Fahmy Howeidy of the Egyptian publication Al-Ahram quote "cherishes freedom of expression above all else, because it has lost touch with anything holy." (For both quotations, see Shahine Al-Ahram Feb 28-Mar 5 08)

It seems I am not the only one with media issues. Do we (CJLY) have media issues? Do you?Recommend this Post

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