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What Tom Brokaw Failed To Say About Our Gerrymandered Media

by John on 12/31/2012


On yesterday’s Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw said that one of the main problems leading to the fiscal cliff is gerrymandering.

He pointed out that 75% of the Congressional districts are gerrymandered – allowing 3 out of 4 elected officials to remain safe and therefore the elected officials have no reason to take a stand on some unpopular aspects of financial reform.

Brokaw is absolutely right.  Gerrymandering is one – notice I say one – of the issues.

But here’s what I was thinking.  Another problem is the gerrymandered media – the exact platform Brokaw was speaking on, specifically NBC and more widely the corporate-owned media.

For the record, I like Tom Brokaw.  He might agree with me here, but he can’t publicly bite the hand that still feeds him.

In part, these news networks have led to the fiscal fiasco.  Think about this:

  • Lawmakers – through sequestration – drummed up this artificial crisis called the Fiscal Cliff.  They did it last year because they couldn’t come to a resolution.  The media plays into it – giving us the reasons it will be Armageddon and then why it is no big deal.  It’s all manufactured to get lawmakers talking points for their political ads and for the media to have a televised crisis to discuss.
  • Both networks pander to their core audiences.  Fox folks want drastic cuts in spending and no tax hikes on the wealthy.  MSNBC wants no cuts to entitlements, although Mitt Romney and many GOP candidates played this card too during the campaign.

These titans of TV news do more to confuse us than inform us.  If you look at most polls on the fiscal cliff or the debt crisis, the response is schizophrenic.

  1. Most of us want the rich to pay more.
  2. Most of us want cuts in federal spending.
  3. However, most of us don’t want our taxes to go up.
  4. Most of us don’t want our benefits cut.

Here’s a book I am deep into.  It’s called Captive Audience by Susan Crawford.  She delves into the media consolidation that has left our news and information in the control of five companies that have massive lobbying efforts.  I will have a full review on this when I finish.

I know of what Crawford writes first-hand.

  • First, I worked for Comcast.  Although I wouldn’t call NECN evil, I did see the erosion of its news genesis into an entertainment vehicle groping for viewership on the dying highway of cable TV.
  • Second, my stomach would turn when we NECN employees had to sit and watch closed circuit feeds of Brian Williams interviewing the corporate executives of Comcast and NBC about how great things are going to be – and how the networks will provide more news.  Although I am a big fan of Brian Williams’ talent, I also realize he is not entirely a journalist but also a shill of sorts for a media company that stifles thought for their own profit.
  • Third, I emceed an event in Washington, D.C.  In attendance were a lot of Comcast employees who I had a chance to meet.  Many of them were very nice and professional.  However, they were all lobbyists and government affairs personnel – no one from news.

Reading Crawford’s book confirms the brilliance of Comcast and its plan to dominate and control content and distribution.

For most of you, you won’t see the danger this brings – and has brought to us already.  You see Comcast Cable as a good cable company – with cool features.  And you see NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC catering to different audiences.

But as Crawford points out:

  • Comcast has stifled innovation.  The US is so far behind nations like South Korea when it comes to internet and cable penetration and speed.
  • Comcast has caused cable and internet fees to skyrocket while cutting off service to rural areas.

What’s worse, neither network — and I include Fox News here even though they control no distribution — will speak up on campaign finance reform – because that is how they get paid.  Millions of ad dollars are spent by campaigns of elected officials who bribe special interests to get the money.

In short, controlling content and distribution together is dangerous.

So, should you turn off all Comcast and Fox networks? 

No, but you should treat them for what they really are: used car salesperson.  You should question and even berate them for the content that they sell when it only helps them.  You should also find other credible sources – like the two books (another is coming up, read on) I mentioned here and sites like Third Way which does exhaustive and balanced research on issues that consider both left and right.

Unfortunately, too many Americans use MSNBC and Fox as their only source of news.

What’s my internal response?

Grow some balls, America.

However, the Informed Not Inflamed response is:

Wake up.  Get informed.

I am in the midst of another great book.  It’s called A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic by Nicholas Eberstadt.  It’s loaded with info and research.

I will give you a full review here when I finish this book too.  But one key point is this book: both political parties are guilty of these excessive and growing give-aways.  Ironically, the biggest growth in government doles happened during GOP presidencies.

But when you watch MSNBC or Fox, you get a skewed picture of what is happening.  In short, you are getting empty news calories.  You would think Democrats are the party of big spending and hand-outs while the GOP only cares about the rich and corporations.

The truth is this: lawmakers are fighting for their jobs first.  You need to fight for yourself – by getting informed — and stop being a news taker and be an informed viewer.  Nothing will get done until you do.


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