Friday, November 09, 2007

Activists Rally for a Better Media...Video footage

Following up on Liisa’s recent post on the October 31st Free Press Rally outside the FCC Building in Washington, DC about media consolidation here is a video that features clips and key points made by guest speakers at the rally that I filmed and edited. While the FCC held hearings in the boardroom activists poured their hearts out, raising up their voices against monopolization of media.

First up in this video we have a clip of the Prometheus Radio Project “FCC Cheerleaders.” Dressed in blue and white uniforms with FCC stitched across their chests and armed with pom-poms the cheerleaders pumped the crowd up with a cheer about the FCC, finishing with a tough looking pyramid.
The rally also featured many powerful speakers who all had a say about how “big media” is damaging the diversity within the media.

Kim Gandy (President, National Organization for Women), Carol Jenkins (President, Women’s Media Center) and E. Faye Williams (President, National Congress of Black Women) all talked about the way consolidation affects women in the media, especially how it determines the role of ownership and higher positions held by women.

Wade Henderson (President, Leadership Council on Civil Rights) made the point that this was a civil rights issue because media consolidation goes against the rights of all people, not just people of color and women. Reverend Jesse Jackson (President, PUSH Rainbow Coalition) also spoke at the rally and he mentions that “big media” makes us lose hindsight of what’s really going on around us citing the Jena 6 case as an example.

Also in this video Rosa Clementè (REACHip-Hop) and Reverend James Coleman (President, Missionary Ministers Conference of DC) both spoke about the misrepresentation of people of color by the media.

All of these speakers had something interesting to say about media consolidation whether it was statistics, anecdotes, words of encouragement and outrage against the FCC.

-- Cristal A. Pinnix

The writer is an intern with American Forum and a student at Franklin Pierce University.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Protecting Older Women Against Cervical Cancer

By Susan Scanlan

(Click here to listen to a brief Public Service announcement distributed by American Forum. It is written by Op-Ed author Susan Scanlan and is advising for policy that promotes protection for older women from HPV.)

Much discussion recently has focused on a new vaccine that helps protect girls and young women against cervical cancer. The vaccine wards off the virus – the human papillomavirus, or HPV – that causes the disease. This medical breakthrough, however, does not protect against all cancer-causing HPV types and is only FDA-approved for girls and women aged 9-26. Therefore, it certainly won’t help women aged 65 and older, who account for nearly 20 percent of all new cervical cancer cases in the United States and more than 35 percent of all deaths from the disease.

Another technology -- a DNA test for HPV -- can better protect these women. And now, a proposal before Congress will ensure that older women get access to this test by requiring Medicare to pay for it.

This year, 11,150 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,670 women will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Many more thousands of women will be treated for high-grade pre-cancerous lesions in their cervixes, undergoing procedures that are uncomfortable, anxiety-producing and expensive.

Widespread screening programs using the pap test have produced significant reductions in cervical cancer rates in the U.S. The pap test helps detect cellular changes caused by HPV infection. The pap test alone, however, is 51 percent to 85 percent accurate, depending upon the type of test used.

An HPV test is approved by the FDA for use, in conjunction with a pap test, in women aged 30 and older. HPV testing identifies women who are infected with “high-risk” types of HPV that could potentially lead to cervical cancer. When used with a pap test in women aged 30 and older, an HPV test increases to nearly 100 percent a clinician’s ability to identify women who have the risk factor for cervical cancer and thus require more diligent follow-up as long as the virus persists.

Knowing if a woman aged 65 or older has HPV could help determine if and how often she should continue to be screened. Multiple studies have suggested that incorporating HPV testing into screening programs, per established medical guidelines, improves outcomes while being more cost-effective than those programs without HPV testing.

Ultimately, of course, it is up to clinicians to decide which tests are most appropriate for their patients. But if Medicare covers HPV testing, clinicians will have more options to help prevent older women from developing cervical cancer.

HPV testing is included in cervical cancer screening guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Cancer Society, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the American Medical Women’s Association and the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health. Most private insurance companies and state Medicaid programs already cover HPV testing as part of routine cervical cancer screening for women aged 30 and older.

By requiring Medicare to cover this advanced prevention technique, older women can be assured of access to the same level of healthcare that younger women currently receive. And this can help to better protect all women from cervical cancer.
Scanlan is chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of more than 210 women's organizations across the nation collectively representing over 11 million women.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Keep local media alive!
Activists rally to protest FCC’s corporate tilt

Outside the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C., a group of 200 people gathered on Wednesday morning, in an effort to bring public awareness and persuade the FCC to change its direction on media ownership. The rally, sponsored by Free Press, Inc., a non-profit that works to limit media consolidation, was held in conjunction with a public hearing – announced by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin just five days ahead of the hearing date -- on how media consolidation affects local markets. Free Press organizing materials suggested that the short notice was an attempt to lock the public out of the debate.

The Washington Post described the media ownership issue this way:

FCC rules govern how many radio and television stations a company can own in a city and how many radio stations a company can own nationally. They also prevent one company from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in the same city, a rule likely to be lifted during the current review.
The rally featured many prominent speakers, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Melanie Campbell, president of the National Project on Black Civic Participation, NAACP Director Hilary Shelton, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus, Rosa Clemente of REACH Hip-Hop and many others. They came together to speak about the possible negative results from the pending changes in FCC rules that would grant giant media corporations a much larger foothold in such local media markets as Washington, D.C.’s. Speakers argued that by indirectly forcing local Washington media outlets to close, the diversity reflected in local coverage – especially representation of people of color and women in local media – would likely be destroyed.

Ownership = content

A common argument in each speech was that whoever owns the media controls the content of media. Women own only 5 percent of television and 6 percent of radio, while minorities own 3 percent of television and less than 8 percent of radio. With their numbers so low in the seats of real power, it’s easy to see why members of these constituencies find perspectives not being presented in corporate-controlled media.

No matter the race or gender of its originator, the same narrative gets retold in media outlets nationwide when only a few hold the reins of media power; new ideas and alternative views do not get heard. This is important because if only one view is presented then the people will not hear the complete story. How well does a person make a decision when he or she does not know all of the facts?

One of the major problems with big corporations controlling nearly all major media is that they are more focused on ratings and money, rather than the story. Rev. Jesse Jackson pointed out that the Jena 6 story was originally ignored by the media. The only way the rest of the country learned of it was from local papers, blogging, and YouTube. Only then did the mass media pay attention to the news. As many of the speakers agreed, no social issue can be solved if the message doesn’t get out.

My Hip-Hop isn't your Hip-Hop

While many speakers focused on broadcast news, Rosa Clemente, a Hip-Hop activist spoke about the record industry. Definitely one of the more powerful speakers, Clemente pointed out that Hip-Hop is the culture of oppressed African- and Latin-Americans. However, the Hip-Hop she speaks of is not what is being played on the radio waves. This music does not mention social issues that are affecting the culture it represents, she asserted, partly because of the decisions made by record executives. It is a "fifty-plus-year-old white man" who controls the current Hip-Hop industry and creates the negative images of women and minorities, Clemente asserted. "The same white man," Clemente pointed out, "that in a meeting four weeks later said to us, 'I don’t let my kids listen to that music,' and we said to him, 'but it’s okay for you to be a multi-millionaire in Indiana and let my child listen to it?'"

The organizations taking part in the rally also included the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the United Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Church of Christ, Communication Workers of America, Consumers Union, Prometheus Radio Project, USPIRG, National Congress of Black Women, League of United Latin American Citizens, Women’s Media Center, Alliance for Community Media and Common Cause. The women of Code Pink were there, as well. They sang a parody about Rupert Murdoch and big media to the tune of "There’s No Business Like Show Business."

Interestingly enough, in my Understanding Mass Media class, I just finished a group project about media ownership. Each group had a magazine that they had to research in order to find the corporations that owned it. Presentation after presentation students noticed that it was the same companies who controlled the magazine industry, as well as television and radio. Common names were Disney/ABC, Hearst Corporation, News Corporation, and NBC/GE. It was easy to see how there was a lack of original news because it was all being recycled.

Debating what we already know

While my class has now been convinced that the media is run by a select few, the debate still went on inside the FCC building. The hearing did feature a panel of speakers, most of whom favor local ownership of individual television and radio stations. Each speaker was allowed five minutes to speak. Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and CEO of Media Access Project, pointed out that 2,000 radio stations receive broadcasts from Viacom. "What’s the diversity in that?"

Rev. Jesse Jackson stated that although D.C. is a very racially and ethnically diverse city, there is not a single station that is minority-owned. Furthermore, he stated that Don Imus was on the air in more media outlets than the combined numbers of all radio hosts who are minorities and women. Dan Isett, director of corporate and government affairs for the Parents Television Council, gave an example of how big corporations ignore rules and regulations set by the FCC. He said that CBS allowed profanity to be aired during the day, claiming they thought their contract dealt only with live broadcasts, when CBS executives should have known the exact terms of their contract since the network’s lawyer had negotiated it with the FCC.

Although some may not think that we have to worry about our media being completely run by a few major corporations, or even by one or two people, I think that it is something that should be taken seriously. The media is very influential and powerful. As Rev. Lennox Yearwood said, in war the army destroys the media first. If only a few are controlling the media it is very possible that it could affect others’ viewpoints and how the country is run. In order for a democracy to be effective it needs all of the people’s voices to be heard.

--Liisa Rajala

The writer is an intern with American Forum and a student at American University.