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One America, Many Voices: Open Media For The 21st Century

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One America, Many Voices: Open Media For The 21st Century

"The basis of a strong democracy is a diverse and dynamic media. It's time to take away the corporate media bullhorn and let America's many voices be heard." - John Edwards

Network television and commercial radio are now dominated by a few loud corporate voices, with little room for independent perspectives and local grassroots participation. Radical deregulation has removed critical public interest obligations from broadcasting, and while the Internet has the potential to be the most democratic medium in history, access remains divided by wealth and neighborhood.

John Edwards is committed to building One America where everyone has a chance to succeed. He believes that an open, democratic media is essential to enabling free expression, fair competition and the entrepreneurial drive of ordinary Americans. As president, he will promote local, open, diverse, and accessible media by:

Fighting Media Concentration: Eight business conglomerates control the majority of media content in America, with extensive holdings in publishing, print journalism, online content, movies and radio. In the two years after Washington removed the 40-station radio ownership limit in 1996, nearly half of America's radio stations changed hands, and by 2000, one company had acquired over 1100 stations. Over the last 30 years, two-thirds of all independently-owned newspapers have shut down. The Bush Administration has repeatedly tried to dismantle limits on cable, broadcast and newspaper concentration. Edwards believes extreme media consolidation threatens free speech, tilts the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and makes it increasingly difficult for women and minorities to own a stake in our media. Edwards will strengthen local and national media ownership and concentration limits so that a few huge multinational corporations are not in charge of shaping our democracy. [Free Press, 2007; Clear Channel, 2007; Consumers Union, Undated]

Restoring the Public Interest to the Public Airwaves: America's radio and television broadcasters use our public airwaves—worth more than half a trillion dollars—for free. Until radical industry deregulation in the 1980s, the government required that they serve the public interest in return, with public interest obligations on minimum public affairs programming, a Fairness Doctrine, modest limits on advertising, and most importantly a vigorous license renewal process. The subsequent concentration of media ownership into a few corporate hands and the loss of localism and independence makes the public interest tradition in broadcasting more important than ever. Edwards will appoint FCC Commissioners who will immediately define robust public interest obligations for digital broadcasters—a task twelve years overdue. These obligations will ensure closed-captioning and other tools for people with disabilities. He will use the license renewal process to vigorously review whether broadcasters have served their local communities, ending the current rubber-stamp "postcard renewal." [Copps, New York Times, 6/2/2007; Benton Foundation, et al., 2007]

Building a Universal, Affordable Internet: The country that developed the internet is now 16th in the world in broadband penetration. While half of urban and suburban households have broadband, less than a third of rural homes do. John Edwards will set a national broadband policy to help make the Internet more affordable and accessible to all Americans, regardless of where they live or how much money they have. Universal broadband would stimulate job creation and result in up to $500 billion in economic benefits. The starting place is setting a goal of giving all U.S. homes and businesses access to real high-speed internet by 2010. Edwards will establish a national broadband map to identify gaps in availability, price, and speed; create public-private partnerships to promote deployment; require providers not to discriminate against rural and low-income areas and to improve accessibility for people with disabilities; support and expand the e-rate program; encourage local service providers and municipal wireless projects, and use the newly available 700 megahertz spectrum and broadcast television white space to support wireless networks that can connect with all digital devices. [Newsweek, 7/9/07; CWA, 2006; Pew, 2007]

Keeping an Open Internet: Edwards believes America must preserve the uniquely democratic nature of the Internet, which has allowed regular people to contribute on equal footing with big businesses and organizations. As president, he will ensure that the FCC preserves free expression and competition on the Internet by continuing to enforce net neutrality ensuring no degradation or blocking of access to websites. He will also bring interoperability to wireless communications so that Americans can connect any device or applications to their wireless service, just as they can to their landline phone service.

Tuning in Thousands of Communities with Low Power Radio: In an age of unprecedented radio consolidation dictated by corporate playlists and syndicated disk jockeys, local voices are needed more than ever. Low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations are community-based, non-commercial radio stations that can broadcast within a 3-5 mile radius. In 2000, Congress authorized the FCC to grant free LPFM licenses to grassroots community groups, but the commercial radio lobby successfully limited it to rural areas. Since then, thousands of communities have submitted applications to open their own radio stations but virtually all of them have been denied, despite an FCC study in 2003 which concluded that LPFM would not interfere with incumbent radio stations. Edwards will lift this restriction and offer technical assistance to schools, churches and other local groups to bring local voices back to the airwaves. [Free Press, 2006]


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