LISTEN RIGHT NOW to the first Digital Crossroads recorded in the downtown Boise studio at Boise Community Radio. The show is now 29 minutes, and available here and on Pacifica’s Audioport every Friday after airing at 11 AM in the mountain time zone.
Digital Crossroads is a radio program all about media literacy and media justice. Learn how technology politics affect free speech, journalism and your everyday life with headlines, clips and original interviews coming to you weekly, focusing on community media, grassroots activists, and government officials. Coverage including the February 2009 digital TV transition, media policies in Congress and at the FCC, privacy & surveillance, net neutrality, elections & voting, radio & recordings and international press freedom.
Today, a dramatic feature with two interviews and clip. In September I was in Austin, Texas and attended the major commercial radio lobby’s trade show, held in the Austin Convention Center, which was also sheltering more than 1200 Hurricane Ike evacuees from Galveston. Listen to audio from the keynote speaker and an evacuee. Then hear analysis from Jim Ellinger, international community radio consultant based in Austin. Remember, change starts with you.
ELECTIONS&VOTING_ McCain’s tax cut benefits corporate media–
According to an analysis published October 4th on Think Progress Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s economic plan includes large tax cuts for corporations. The Center for American Progress Action Fund suggests McCain would create the largest deficit in 25 years by doubling President Bush’s tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Think Progress points out recent criticism by cable channel Fox News of liberal American media companies’ obvious and transparent agenda. However, McCain’s tax cuts could net General Electric/NBC $25 million, News Corp/Fox $80 million, Viacom/CBS $190 million, Time Warner/CNN $500 million, and Walt Disney/ABC $640 million. America’s five largest media corporations made worldwide profits of more than $36 billion in 2007.
ELECTIONS&VOTING_ Counting every vote in Florida in 2008–
Kim Zetter wrote October 7th for Wired that the pivotal election battleground of Palm Beach County, Florida has twice flipped the winner in a local judicial race, revealing serious problems with the county’s infrastructure one month before the presidential election. Some vote tabulation machines were literally unable to produce the same results twice. The story has more twists than all the lousy movies by the director of The Sixth Sense combined. An August 26th primary election was close enough to force a recount. Then more than 3,400 ballots mysteriously disappeared and a different winner was declared. After a prolonged hunt, the county found them, also turning up more than 200 different ballots that officials never knew were missing. The original winner was victorious. However, optical-scan tabulation machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems rejected about 12,000 ballots and officials found legitimate votes that were marked clearly and correctly and should have been read by the machines. Other ballots were not marked correctly, but still indicated a clear choice by the voter. The winner was the same, but his margin of victory had gone down from 115 to 58 votes. Incredibly, officials then discovered 159 ballots from 54 precincts that had not been tabulated. The story goes on and on. Palm Beach County was using new optical-scan machines that it recently purchased from Sequoia for $5.5 million to replace paperless touchscreen machines the county purchased in 2002, which were bought to replace punch card machines involved in the 2000 election debacle. Pamela Smith of VerifiedVoting.Org told Wired it’s not enough to have paper ballots. Counties with optical scanners need robust testing and manual audits. Palm Beach Post reports the county has asked Sequoia to test all eight of its high-speed optical scanners before November 4th.
PRIVACY&SURVEILLANCE_ Skype: We didn’t know, and there are no security problems–
Veteran reporter Marguerite Reardon wrote October 3rd on CNET that Skype’s president claims he was not aware Skype’s Chinese partner TOM-Skype was logging and storing users’ instant messages, when they were deemed offensive by the Chinese government. All ISPs in China are required to monitor communications, as Skype disclosed to users in 2006. A text filter blocks certain words in chat messages, including keywords related to Taiwanese independence, banned religious group Falon Gong and political opposition to the Chinese Communist Party. Researchers at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab published a report saying TOM-Skype is logging and capturing millions of records including personal information and contact details for any text chat and voice calls to TOM-Skype users, including from Skype users. Still, Skype president Josh Silverman insists “Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private.”
PRIVACY&SURVEILLANCE_ NSA has repeatedly abused wiretaps, listening to Americans calling Americans
Mike Masnick reported October 9th on TechDirt that leaks are coming out highlighting NSA spying on Americans in the wake of Congress granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies for agreeing with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping. Under General Michael Hayden’s leadership the NSA created a domestic telephone call database, but Hayden stated conversations between Americans were not being intercepted. “We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it. It’s not for the heck of it.” In fact, according to ABC News, two separate “intercept operators” have come forward separately, saying they listened in on innocent calls between two Americans. Not only were calls between Americans listened to and recorded on a regular basis, highlights were sent around to other operators. One operator said that on a regular basis messages were forwarded because of “good phone sex” or “pillow talk”.
JOURNALISM&FREE SPEECH_ California passed anti-censorship journalism adviser bill–
Alberto Morales of Student Press Law Center wrote September 29th about a new bill signed into law by Governator Ahhnold Schwarzenegger in California that protects high school and college teachers, in addition to all other school employees, from being retaliated against because of student speech. State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) introduced Senate Bill 1370, building on other protective student journalism measures in California’s Education Code. Yee said in a statement, “Allowing a school administration to censor in any way is contrary to the democratic process and the ability of a student newspaper to serve as the watchdog and bring sunshine to the actions of school administrators.” Senator Lee continued, “It is quite disheartening to hear, that after we specifically prohibited prior restraint by administrators, that some are engaging in this type of nefarious activity and even firing quality teachers because of content in the student newspaper.” Adam Keigwin, Yee’s communications director, said “I would hope there are some legislators out there in other states who are listening and cutting and pasting our law into a bill of their own.” California’s Governator signed 163 bills, while vetoing 226 others all in the last weekend of September, once the state budget was finally passed.
JOURNALISM&FREE SPEECH_ New Delhi journalist murdered–
Qatar’s top-selling English daily newspaper Gulf Times reported October 4th that television journalist Soumya Vishwanathan was murdered. Described as honest and fearless by her former Kamla Nehru College journalism teacher Radhika Khanna, the young woman was found dead in her car around 3:30 in the morning after having returned home from work. The killing of the 25-year old woman, called by her former teacher a “sad reminder of the insecurity in our lives” has led to a ‘Justice for Soumya’ campaign organized by her colleagues at the Headlines Today news channel. A petition demanding justice was to be presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders, in addition to online social networking campaigns. At least 33 other journalists have been murdered in 2008, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Tune in next week to Digital Crossroads for Two Years Without Anna, Remembering the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Feature on National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show keynote lobbying against FCC localism mandates, a glimpse inside the Hurricane Ike evacuation common area inside the Convention Center with my Ronald Taylor interview, and response from Jim Ellinger on the phone from Austin looking back.
[September 17th I rode a bicycle up to the Austin Convention Center ready to report on the National Association of Broadcasters convention. Inside I discovered more than 1000 people provided temporary shelter by the City of Austin. FEMA was not at the Convention Center, though City of Austin staff were doing an excellent job coordinating.
Listen in for: audio from the NAB keynote address of David Rehr, interview clip of evacuee Ronald Taylor, and my October 3rd phone interview with Jim Ellinger, a community radio veteran who works with AMARC and runs Austin Airwaves.
Full audio of my conversation with Michael Jackson & Ronald Taylor and the phone interview with Jim Ellinger is coming soon right here. (Update soon! -Gavin)
FCC&CONGRESS_ Digital Transition means white spaces could bridge digital divide–
Media activist Joshua Breitbart is the Policy Director for People’s Production House in New York City. In a story he wrote called “Digital Gold up for Grabs” published Friday October 3rd in The Indypendent he says FCC certification of white space devices is the most significant step we could take toward closing the digital divide. The FCC auctioned most of the broadcast spectrum made available by the transition to digital television to Verizon and AT&T, but small white spaces in between active channels can be opened up for portable, low-power devices that could connect millions of new people to the Internet for less than what we now pay. The New York City Council Committee on Technology in Government held a hearing September 29th to consider a resolution urging the FCC to hold back from opening white space devices. Current license holders like TV broadcasters don’t want to share the airwaves, claiming potential interference problems outweigh public interest concerns. Still, public interest groups including Free Press, Common Cause, Wireless Harlem and Ethos Group advocated for expanded access to the Internet, criticizing the resolution. For more explanation of white spaces, visit: Speak and Listen
FCC&CONGRESS_ Defense Department’s propaganda program finally investigated by FCC–
Editor and Publisher reported October 7th the Federal Communications Commission will investigate the Department of Defense propaganda program revealed in the New York Times in April of this year, to determine whether news networks or military analysts violated the Communications Act of 1934 and FCC rules. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein issued a statement confirming the agency’s enforcement bureau sent letters to five TV networks and 19 former military officers. The DoD paid individuals referred to as “message force multipliers” instructed to deliver “administration themes and messages” to the public “in the form of their own opinions.” Analysts even conveyed specific talking points to the public when they suspected the information was exaggerated or false. Network officials argued it was the analysts’ responsibility to disclose any conflicts of interest. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Commerce Committee Chairman Congressman John Dingell wrote to the FCC to investigate whether the plan violated sponsorhip identification requirements. National Public Radio is the only news organization I know of to even address their internal vetting process. You can read my Op-Ed about the pentagon propaganda plan on Reclaim the Media HERE.
[Digital Crossroads is produced in the studios at Boise Community Radio. Music by Ooah, Gabriel Teodros, Ernest Gonzales and The Tasteful Nudes. Next week, Two Years Without Anna- Remembering slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. —Radioactive Gavin.]