by Guest Contributor Hannah Miller
The media reform movement is an offshoot and part of the civil rights movement. It was born in 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Everett Parker of the United Church of Christ initiated a lawsuit against white-owned TV stations in the South for consistently portraying African Americans in a racist manner, while refusing to show any coverage of the civil rights movement.
Because of their pressure, the FCC shut down a Mississippi TV station, stating that the power and influence that media companies have gives them the responsibility to operate with the broader public interest at heart – with special consideration given to oppressed minorities.
Since then, political pressure has been brought to bear against the FCC and Congress on a wide variety of issues: female and minority ownership of stations and publications, the dangers of consolidation of the media, the need to build public communications infrastructure like cable access stations or city-owned Internet networks, and the need for everyone to have broadband access.
The percentage of our time that the American public spends with media has been steadily climbing for 40 years, and with that, its influence over our lives. The media is our environment, and the battle I am engaged in is over the nature of this environment: whether it is an environment in which ordinary people have a voice – or whether we are to passively absorb content controlled by a small number of people and corporations. Whether the media is democratic, and reflects a variety of voices.