Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Media vs. Democracy

[this is from a posting of mine from an email discussion that's been going on between a bunch of mostly U.S.-based computer geeks.]

To my mind, one of the greatest anti-democratic tools used against us is the media. By the simple act of exclusion, they prevent any but the "selected" parties/candidates from having an opportunity to win.

For example, there are about a dozen national political parties in Canada that have "official party status". Of those, only four receive media acknowledgement (except in rare newspaper articles referring to "fringe parties"). A recent web-poll by one of our dominant national 'news' corporations asked the question "If the federal election were called today, who would you vote for?" with the choices being the four parties they consider "real". There wasn't even an "other" or "none of the above" option.

In the most recent city council election in Calgary, there were nine or ten candidates for mayor. Of those, the local media "selected" for us four candidates that they decided were 'real' contenders - giving virtually no coverage to, or even acknowledgement of, any of the other candidates (who happened to not be in the pockets of rich developers).

I would love to see "equal time" laws for elections. If any candidate for a public office is given media coverage, all other candidates for that office must be given equal time of equal prominence. Otherwise, the media is telling us who to vote for - which is not anywhere near democracy.

Sure the free-market/libertarian view would contest us forcing the media to cover candidates they don't want to. Tough. Media is power. And an extremely unbalanced and unequal power in our current societies. With power comes responsibility. Either the media fulfills that responsibility and we have a chance at democracy, or the media gets to do whatever it wants and we continue to have authoritarianism.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)


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