Archive | March, 2003

radioshow archives updated

The mediageek radioshow archives are up to date with the March 7 and 14 shows now on-line.

The March 7 show featured a sampling from the diverse public comments made to the FCC on the issue of media ownership at the public forum held in Seattle.

Joshua Breitbart of Rooftoop Films and Clamor Magazine was the guest on the March 14 program, where we talked about the indie-media-filled Power of Living Tour making its way across the Midwest this Spring (and appearing in Urbana on April 9)

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Overlooked and Underground Films at Urbana IMC in April

I’m excited for April this year, because the Urbana-Champaign IMC has a load of truly indy film and video events going on.

The U-C IMC’s Video group has been the most fun I’ve had at IMC in some time, and we decided to throw a mini film-festival in April, that just coincidentally happens at the same time as the big ol’ Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, that takes over the town every April.

We’re calling our film-festival the IMC Micro-Film Fest, which is a cooperative enterprise with Jason Pankoke and his Micro-Film magazine. We’ll be screening two feature-length films–Horns and Halos and Existo–and two shorts–Killing Michael Bay and Gimmie the Mermaid. The fest takes place Wed. April 23 at 7 PM (while Ebert is feeding optimistic patriotic rah-rahs with The Right Stuff). You can read more about the fest and the movies below.

On April 9th the U-C IMC will be hosting the Power of Living Tour, featuring Clamor magazine and Rooftop Films. Rooftop screens truly independent short films that don’t come from the “independent film industry” that serves as a farm league to Hollywood. On last Friday’s mediageek radio show I interviewed Josh Breitbart from Rooftop Films, who explained in more detail what they have in store. You can listen/download to a (low-birate) mp3 of the show here.

On the following Saturday, April 26, we’ll be hosting an Afternoon of Radical Video. We’ll be watching the Cascadia Media Collective’s fine Guerrilla Video Primer, and discussing techniques for getting out there and capturing some hard-hitting video. This will include some hands-on skill-sharing for everyone who’s interested. We’ll also watch a short documentary on anarchist TV in Amsterdam that was produced by U-C IMC Video Group member Dave Powers, called “Crashing the VIP Room.” It’s a simple but effectively presented interview with one of the founders of Vrije Keyser TV, which is housed in an anarchist squat and started out life by jacking into the city’s cable TV system to broadcast its pirate signal.

Finally, at the end of April (the 30th?) the IMC is hosting Eye of the Storm, which is an independent documentary project exploring the real and concrete effects of globalization on people in the global South.

If you’re located anywhere within 120 miles of Central Illinois, make a plan to come to Urbana in April for real independent film! I hope this is just the start.

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Fear, Loathing and Media Bias

The NY Press’ Michelangelo Signorile gives a fine explanation of how fear of flak — the fear of not pissing off powerful or useful people — is the source of bias and a lack of critique in the mainstream media. His big example is Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz who gets a pass from lefty media critics, despite his conservative leanings and apparent conflicts of interest. But he also looks at why these critics also don’t go after the slandering likes of Matt Drudge–his links to their websites bring in lucrative traffic.

Yes, dear media critics, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, even when half the meal is shit.

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The Digital War Will Happen By Satellite

The Poynter Institute’s Mike Wendland pens this gushing article about the transition of TV news from Electronic News Gathering (ENG)–the traditional videotape and studio model–to Satellite News Gathering (SNG)–marked by the use of miniDV cams and laptops to produce video news beamed back to the studio on ultra-portable satellite rigs. Of course, this new technology is expected to be put to service in covering the anticipated war on Iraq. Wendland quotes the CBS vice president of operations in charge of the network’s war coverage technology, who says

“This will be known as the digital war… Our people will be able to tap into the newsroom e-mail system at any time from right on the battlefield.”

Now, I’ll admit the tech is cool, but I’ll also bet that it won’t really be used to its full potential. By and large, the point behind the miniturization of the news crew is to save the networks money while allowing them to get the latest scoop from the US military-guided press pool a few moments ahead of the competition.

This tech could be used to do truly probing and investigative journalism. A news studio in a backback could allow just one or two reporters to be on their own in Iraq reporting what’s really going on — outside the paternal gaze of military guides. Using this kind of equipment could allow journalists to break free of studio trucks, big satellite dishes and military censors to follow leads more quickly, wherever they may lead.

But I’ll be suprised if any mainstream news organization takes any risks even remotely close to this. No, they’ll just use this stuff to bring the latest military-approved propaganda to our TVs quickly and cheaply.

It’s also interesting to note that the folks who make it possible for Patriot missiles to rain down on the citizens of Baghdad will also bring you the military-filtered video of the explosions in the Baghdad sky. The SNG systems being used by NBC is co-developed by Raytheon Corp., one of the world’s largest defense contractors. Now, that’s vertical integration!

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A Public Bombarded with War

Normon Solomon has a spot-on analysis of the mainstream media’s role in shaping–or destroying–public opinion about a possible war on Iraq:

“Daily media speculation about the starting date for all-out war on Iraq has contributed to widespread passivity – a kind of spectator relationship to military actions being implemented in our names.”

This is what I’ve been thinking lately (and I wish I’d written here first), especially as I hear “news” of recent opinion polls indicating that now a slight majority of Americans support attacking Iraq, even though questions and concerns abound, even as most people still want the US to have UN backing first.

But it makes sense, when war on Iraq is the most dominant theme in the broadcast news. You can’t fucking avoid it. So, even if you’re critical of the administration and the drive to war, you’re nonetheless goaded into recognizing it’s important.

And why is a war on Iraq important? Because our damn leaders say it is!

That’s it, there’s no other reason. Bush, Blair and Co. have decreed that this is the top of the international agenda, and so it is. Then the press, too afraid of being scooped by the next well-staged leak or re-release of years-old data, follows along like a good puppy, hungry for another kibble.

The press does it’s best to appear critical by meekly asking the rhetorical question of whether or not we should go to war, and then more strongly asking how we should go to war. But the press never asks, “Is Iraq the most important thing we should be worrying about?”

No, the press utterly fails to question the Bush administration’s priorities.

And so we’re constantly bombarded by “news” about if, when and how this war on Iraq is going to happen that it becomes more difficult to construe how it might not happen, or how something else might be more important.

No wonder, then, that opinion polls show that people are starting to acquiesce to war fever. It’s not so much a rally as it is a surrender. A colleague of mine said to me the other day (in a defeated tone), “I wish they’d just get this war over with and get on with things.” According to all press accounts, the agenda is set — all we have to do now is wait for the other bomb to drop.

To an extent, to question if we should go to war is nonetheless an acknowledgement that Iraq is a priority. To be anti-war is not necessarily to be pro- something. It’s a reaction and it puts the anti-war person in the position of being controlled by what she opposes. If there’s no war talk — or the press and public don’t take that talk seriously — then there’s not much point in being anti-war.

I don’t intend this to be a defeatest rant. Believe me, I oppose any war on Iraq and I further oppose this fascistic administration that’s ramming it down our throats. But I think it’s important to recognize how the agenda is set and how even if most people don’t want war, the constant pursuit of this agenda pummels us into at least acknowledging that it’s an important topic.

Pro-war, anti-war or apathetic, we’re all carpet-bombed daily with the assertion that this is the most important question in front of the whole world right now. Without the press, this simply wouldn’t be possible. The press is complicit in the drive to make war the #1 priority, and we are their audience. And so, war is our #1 priority, too, like it or not.

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