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Media and Communications

Alternative Media vs. Mainstream: History, Jobs, Advertising – Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas

Alternative Media vs. Mainstream: History, Jobs, Advertising – Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas


today are alternative views our guest is John downing professor of communications at the University of Texas John is author of the book radical media an editor of film and politics and the third world and question in the media today we’re going to discuss with John the difference between mainstream and alternative media in the United States and we’ll discuss ways that you can get various sources alternative sources of information and entertainment in the US and where the oppositional media are we use the term on alternative use a lot establishment media and alternative media these four words really have a lot of meaning behind them and imply a lot of things what can you tell us about those to establishment an alternative media I think established media basically media which in one way are subtly or not so subtly represent the views of the establishment of the of the power structure of the society alternative media can take a variety of forms I mean the word is very loose it alternative could mean an extreme latest publication like a KKK publication it could mean something which is just different like some golfing specialist magazine it could mean some of the high-level secret briefing papers which are delivered to the president and the cabinet and nobody else is allowed to see in my use and in terms of the work I’ve done I’ve looked more at small-scale grassroots radical oppositional media and that is those are the kind of media that I really know about and I hope we can talk about some more John let’s give some examples of what mainstream or corporate media are and then some examples of alternative media in terms of the press wouldn’t you say that papers like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times USA Today and the Washington Post our sort of national newspapers or the mainstream newspapers sure along with the networks and Fox and so on yeah absolutely and the news magazines Time and Newsweek right exactly but if you’re wanting alternative then not all of the national but you could look at a whole variety of things you could look at the alternative computer information network peace net you could look at deep dish satellite television you could look at alternative views you could look at a whole variety of small video projects which which everywhere you would look at papers like in these times or Mother Jones the list is endless there’s a huge number there’s even the thing called the Utne leader which is a digest of the alternative media which gives you some sense of how how many of them there are but they’re very often small-scale and underfinanced and the ugly readers now has a large distribution something like two hundred and fifty thousand and it’s supplanted Mother Jones is the most widely read of the alternative media okay well we talked about the establishment media and the establishment the power structure how do you see that in the United States you use in your book the term ruling class and power structure what are you describing I’m describing a relationship which is not quite as simple and blatant and overt as it used to be in the former Soviet Union where the mainstream media there were very careful to accurately to reflect the views of the power structure with a one-time here the relationship is not quite so simple to grasp but I think what it comes to in the end is it on crucial issues the mainstream media here will almost always exactly reflect the views of the power structure and only when that power structure is itself divided seriously divided about a particular issue like let us say in the later stages of the Southeast Asian war at that point then the mainstream media may come to reflect those divisions and it looks as though they’re being oppositional whereas in fact it’s more that they’re aligning themselves or some of them with aligning themselves with one wing of the power structure which is at odds with another wing now most Americans are not used to seeing or hearing such a thing is that I mean after all we’re democracy and the people rule right there’s no ruling class in fact I’ve had classes at the University of Texas where they say that no such thing is a class structure and when I was studying the u.s. power structure in the mass media there was only one class in which any of this was taught only one on the whole campus for 11 years and so people are not used to hearing this type of thing and yet the ruling class itself is very much aware of its existence and function Scotty Reston you had a quote in your book he talked about the intelligent minority yes well I mean in spite of the the rhetoric a lot of rhetoric about democracy in this country and some reality there’s also a large measure of hypocrisy and people will talk very readily about how democratic this country is that it is the most democratic country in the world and I would that it was so and I would that all countries were so democratic as this one is claimed to be the fact remains that repeatedly when it comes to the crunch on crucial issues that democracy just is shorn away and naked power is is evident let’s turn now Tilly is alternative press or radical press is a name of your book and they of course are the dissenters now there’s a quote which you have and I’d like you to talk about this you talked about the strict ceiling on significant dissent by the American power structure can you explain a little bit further well I think that ceiling on significant dissent shows itself in two ways that is to say there are many alternative media which have operated flourished ground and resurrected even without seeming interference by the power structure but at points at which they seemed to be threatening the can of the any kind of exposed nerve as defined by the power structure at that point the the amount of kind of repression directed against these small-scale media is really extraordinary we tend to think of these media as being well maybe nothing much matters and they’re pretty Picayune and so on the power structure tends not to share that view oddly enough and there are many examples I mean if you look at the kind of surveillance of black media in the United States during World War two when they were the only media significantly raising the question of segregation in the Armed Forces and they came within a whisker of all being closed down if you look at the the the media during the Vietnam War and the way in which rather than simply close them down by strict and overt government censorship people would approach the landlord and get the landlord to cancel the lease or to jack up the vents to an impossible point news vendors would be have asked during the McCarthy era new stands which carried the Guardian and other newspapers would be would be told not to do it people in small towns who subscribed would get a visit from the FBI and be told that they were being disloyal by even subscribing to and reading this newspaper it’s quite extraordinarily the lengths to which the pass structure will go at a point at which it is decided that one of these small outlets which has nothing like the circulation or audience of the of the major media one of these small outlets is saying things which ought not to be said I understand there are other examples like the FBI getting people fired from their jobs even bombing or died fighting presses and getting particularly record companies to cease advertising in some of these underground newspapers they recall that well we saw it recently with the ice cube the track about the police and the LA riots I mean that was a classic case in point of Ice Cube it’s a rap group that had a song about cop killer oh okay and I thought it was a new magazine there’s a lot of pressure to take that off of the market but you know with the alternative press today I don’t see that repression or isn’t going on I don’t realize don’t see any interference and public access television or you’re more you’re real familiar with the print media and are is this going on at all today I am not aware of it if it is well it is with different groups like the political groups activist groups like sis past for instance or the Socialist Workers Party but what about the alternate again I mean it depends what’s going on I mean by and large American politics have been relatively quiet for the last dozen or so years with the exception I would say of two major forces one was the anti-nuclear movement and the other one was various forms of particularly African American struggle but the problem is I think we can say well I don’t think there’s so much going on because you don’t maybe get to hear about it but this is a vast country very often the repression is directed against some relatively small group that doesn’t have a national voice some local community activity which doesn’t have some national amplification and so very often stuff is in fact going on that even those of us who are aware of these issues and lead the stuff and watch the stuff a list of the stuff don’t actually get to hear about so I’d be cautious about saying it’s not happening there’s a subtle way that a certain amount of repression of the alternative media took place during the Reagan and Bush years and that is they up the postal rates instantly so that it became more and more expensive to publish alternative publications and so several went out of business simply because of this John let’s talk about what a Democratic Society should be and what the role of the press in a democratic society should be and actually it seems to me that the founding fathers had at least the start in defining a Democratic a genuinely Democratic role for the media you mentioned this in your book radical media how did the founding fathers conceive of the role of the media in a Democratic Society I don’t think they were necessarily quite as democratic themselves as some of some of us are today but the fact remains that in their time they were certainly very radical by comparison with what is what was going on in the rest of the world and I think they saw the media as their best as providing a variety of you see some of the founding fathers did a variety abused the opportunity for a free exchange of opinions about issues of the day which would enable hopefully the the best wisdom to emerge on how to tackle the problems of the day given the fact there is no magical source of information about how to tackle the problems of the day we have only our own resources and so we need to exchange our views and even modify our views in that process of exchange and weren’t the media also conceived by the founding fathers as a check against corruption and excessive power there was an incredibly radical concept for the day because previously the media had been tightly controlled by absolutist states where the media were just simply not allowed to press we were talking about mainly in print media we’re not allowed to criticize the state or they were subject to censorship whereas the United States set up a bill of rights which gave freedom of the press and there was actual discussion that this was the role of the press was to attack corruption was to criticize the state to be a watchdog to the state to what extent has have the media in this society and particularly today really assumed that role or they become more sort of lap dogs of the state and a corporate power structure as opposed to say watchdogs I would say very little by way of watchdogs unfortunately the the kind of cases the people typically quote saying for the power of the oppositional press the the attack on McCarthy in 1954 and Watergate and the attack on McCarthy was indeed in 1954 he had been in full spate for four years at that point and why they attacked him was he eventually went after the army and indeed not just the army that the military top brass in terms of Nixon it was as I rightly recall the Washington Post and Public Television which were the only two media sources that in any way followed up the Watergate story until it had been right through an election and the other side of an election then when it appeared that there was something in it then you got the kind of the pact journalism syndrome where everybody launched in and and you couldn’t move without getting Watergate material but that PAC journalism is not my definition of an independent and stubborn press I think if I could clarify something or try to regarding the founding fathers when we talk about founding fathers I always say well which which group who are the founding fathers because the people who were in the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence were not the same people who signed the Constitution and the people who sat in secrecy in Philadelphia and devised this Constitution were not in favor of the First Amendment under the Bill of Rights which brought us freedom to the press this was forced upon them as a compromise after they brought out the Constitution there was so much opposition in the that a lot of books say than ever if there had been free and fair universal elections in never would have passed there was lot of chicane Ritu get the Constitution passed but they finally by saying okay will ik will let you pass the Bill of Rights in the first ten amendments if you’ll okay the Constitution I did it so it was the founding fathers in Philadelphia who necessarily were for this they were purely the good old white boy rich establishment and also the press itself there were a lot of repressive laws at that time which we don’t have now a lot of censorship and libel laws which were quite restrictive then so we’ve come a long way from the time of the founding fathers well II they did pass the Alien and Sedition laws right after practically the Bill of Rights was signed that was basically a censorship law so what happened when the radio and broadcasting first came on the scene how was this conceptualized as supposedly serving the interests of the democratic of a Democratic Society well initially of course there was a period of free-for-all which included a period when frequencies were overlapping with each other and some stations were much more powerful than others would drown each other out and so on and that period of maybe temporarily chaos was seized upon both here and also in in Britain as an argument for a certain kind of regulation and so at that point regulation of the Airways swung in and in some sense that ultimately it took a while for it ultimately realized but that ultimately the the same laws of free competition so calmed which applied to soap powder or shoes were applied also to this public resource which was the airwaves and the laws of the market prevailed and the result was that the the airwaves became fairly quickly dominated by two and then three major networks and that persisted until very recently when now we have cable and the fourth Network I suppose Fox but I could talk more about the extent to which that is or isn’t offering a plurality of views if you want but nonetheless what is evident in broadcast as well as the press media print media is the way that ownership is concentrated in major corporations for the most part and so those influences which determine which kind of shoes and cars and aeroplanes and guns and bullets and bombs are produced are the same influences which are very influential a very operative in determining the kind of news we have the kind of entertainment we get John people like Ben mag Dickey and have written make very good books about the concentration of ownership of the media and how the control is in fewer and fewer hands but even if the control were not in fewer and fewer hands if a lot of people own the media they’d still be owned by capitalists and they’d be for profit organizations would we see anything much different from what we see now do you think probably not although sometimes it depends of course always how you define difference I mean let’s take Fox for example which now has a lot of programs very popular with a younger audience they’re different The Simpsons are different but they’re only different in the sense that the three main networks were once described recently actually actually in the Wall Street Journal as the bland leading the bland and so to that extent Fox is not bland and in that sense it’s alternative but if you if you stand back and say well never mind that it’s alternative the network’s does it really give a voice to those people who are habitually shut out of the media then of course the answer is no it’s just different certain different formats which are you know a change of the Kaleidoscope in terms of entertainment the tragedy of the American system of media that from the very beginning we’ve had basically commercial media established in the United States in Britain in almost every European country and in most socialist countries and in third-world countries they had state-supported broadcasting not necessarily state-controlled broadcasting but state-financed broadcasting as in Europe like in Holland and Britain where you have public corporations that are independent of government set up to try to give broadcasting system that genuinely provides information that provides a wide range of views and entertainment at least that’s the theory of European media and to some extent the practice of it whereas almost from the beginning we’ve had commercial corporate media that basically were geared to sell advertising and thus to provide entertainment of the lowest common denominator to attract broad audiences and that were owned and controlled by corporations that had their own agenda that is a corporate agenda to strengthen the capitalist system and that that’s the system of mainstream media that emerged in the United States so that we’ve never really had any particularly in the broadcasting Specter until public access TV as we will soon see and as the audience is now seen but until then it’s basically just been the voices of corporate America that you’ve heard on broadcasting well I think the definitely the problem is the definition of the Airways has has not looked at the airwaves as a resource like air or water which are fundamental to any society’s health and well-being and so important that it is inappropriate to leave these simply to the imperatives of making money a society deserves to have certain resources which cannot be simply contaminated by that by the logic of profit and so that’s one thing the second thing is of course that typically over here people have assumed that if government is ever involved in media it is automatically a tremendously constraining for and I mean we could have a whole program on this but there have been so many variations of the forms of state involvement in broadcasting in Europe from the Dutch system where it has reflected for a long time the different religious traditions of that society to the German tradition whereby after World War Two they very determinedly put control over broadcasting at province level instead of a national level in order to avoid any possibility of an overly strong central government of izing and dominating the media system to the British system which has had a competitive channels some state-owned and some commercial I mean the whole varieties of ways of doing this none of which need involves some kind of top-heavy government interference in the various alternative media there seem to be constant political turmoil in all of these sometimes that would do a great detriment of these various publications or organizations is that endemic to the alternative press um its frequent but I think political turmoil and clashes between people about political issues are pretty normal in you know in in political life but in these media I think sometimes particularly in the in the 70s in the late 60s and early 70s I was particularly visible perhaps at that point because people had sometimes a very very instantaneous and simple view of how democracy works and they thought that by making a kind of like almost a mental religious decision I mean it wasn’t a religious decision but it was almost like a kind of religious decision saying okay we’re not going to be hierarchical we’re not going to push each other around we’re going to do this as a democracy inside and they thought that by making that mental resolution almost like a New Year’s resolution that somehow everything would fall into place and and there wouldn’t be any hierarchy emerging and in a sense what they did was as a very interesting argument by a feminist Guangzhou Freeman called the tyranny of structureless nests which is not exactly poetry but it’s an important piece of it’s an important piece of argument because she says that by denying that there was structure by denying that there was the possibility of hierarchy people actually disarmed themselves from recognizing the tendency for some people to boss each other around you know I mean and so people would say no no I’m not being hierarchical I’m just pursuing our common goals or whatever but I’m pursuing them better than you are and so there were all the mechanisms that we tend to use on each other to establish a certain kind of ascendancy which people were unable to to name the cat you couldn’t bail the cat because you’d said well this doesn’t happen this is them this is the power structure that behaves like this we have decided not to therefore we aren’t and I think that that was a major factor another one was the people were not reflective about one particular thing and that is the practicalities of running one of these shows I mean you have to have some kind of practical business sense I don’t mean some advanced commercial accountancy sense but some practical business sense about how to distribute a newspaper how to get it printed how to paint the printers how to just get all that stuff organized and very often that was a sign the people who did that were regarded as the kind of the the second-tier people these were the insignificant people and the veil sort of demons of progress were the journalists who talked and talked and talked and talked and talked while other people did and that was a continuation of our kind of class assumptions brought into the organization of alternative media which very often really fattened their survival from within there is an interesting point here though despite all of the political repression of the alternative media despite the all the internal internal turmoil of the different organizations that ran the alternative media still they were basically the investigative reporters of the last few decades who have scooped all of the significant stew is of our era way before the mainstream media just some examples it was first in the alternative press we learned the truth about Vietnam we learned the truth about the Kennedy assassination that the Warren Commission was questionable there very well could have been a conspiracy we learned the truth about Watergate we learned about environmentalism the problems of women of race of class the native-american movement problems all of these surfaced years before in the alternative media than in the mainstream media and to this day if you really want to be informed in this society you have to be plugged into alternative media because the mainstream continues to censor certain stories and simply not to give you the information but despite all the drawbacks and the problems that the alternative media have had over the years we should also give them praise for the Vanguard role that they played in this society in providing genuine information but if you were to tell your students or friends what alternative media you would recommend to get genuine information what would you recommend okay in terms of print media I would say the weekly in these times the up Nevada which was mentioned earlier I think that depending on your international interest then things like the north american congress and latin america report on the americas this is a monthly I think the merit Middle East research and information project report which is I think is it monthly or quarterly I can’t remember these days but anyway that’s really important on a very hot area of the world right now and then they’re probably locally where depending where you live there may well be some small medical news paper that you can read there I’ve been citing sources which accessible nationally for the may well be others locally which are important what about those they keep up with like the intelligence agencies like covert action information bulletin for instance sure I think it’s amazing the amount of for new and fresh information you can get out of out of a whole variety of these and of course there’s a whole bunch of environmental publications and feminist publications as well these days all of which are important to recognize and important to keep up with in fact I think alternative views has compiled a list of alternative print media that’s accessible to the public that you can write us and get a copy of we’ll give you that information at the end of the show that will force you to keep watching let’s talk about public access TV or you know in your book which was that’s the printed in what 83 84 84 public access TV hadn’t been all that well developed and you looked at kind of the jaundiced eye Oh what has it developed much now have you change your mind about public access TV yeah I think I have I think because they’re now something like I think it’s over 300 public access channels inside in the United States about over 2000 now it’s over 2000 well it’s really grown so it’s a much more significant presence than it was then also at that point the only examples really Canada was something of a front-runner in this and in the late 60s and early 70s but very often the net effect of public access in Canada was was not all that impressive at the time so that would partly account for my journalist attitude then today I think it’s very important because it is the one video source where alternative views small and large a can be seen and can be can be heard there are of course a couple of problems associated with it I mean one is that you have to be able to afford cable in order to receive it and that immediately cuts out a bunch of people right there and second of all by the nature of the definition of public access the time is shared with totally repugnant organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and others and so it’s a medium which is also open to those people who are actively seeking to oppress a section of the population still further even beyond the point at which they were pressed already and so it’s it’s a flawed situation but I still think that unbalanced it’s a very positive one it certainly has been able obviate a lot of the problems of the alternative press particularly the print media because it solves a problem of distribution access to equipment at a very low cost or in generally for free and even we if we’re lucky we raised five thousand dollars a year and yet we have a national distribution of our program that goes maybe into 11 million 12 million households it obviates the need for a big staff which in turn eliminates those staff problems though with which all the infighting and the main Doug and I get along I mean we don’t have to don’t have to to have those problems individuals can make their own stuff and put it right on you don’t have to have the great expense or the time but there’s nothing to be a problem now with public access TV not including the fact that their constant attacks on it at the local state and national levels at the regulatory level at the judicial level and the congressional level but there does seem to be a problem with access that even George stony he was considered the father of access at NYU New York has written about and I see it here in Austin that is just the airwaves or the cable time is best being taken over by religious groups by people just doing nothing and there’s nothing of written real significance I can silly or nothing of reeling it was part of the society goes so this seems to be a problem too now yeah I think part of the problem has been in a way it’s it’s access has now grown to be a kind of a micro industry at least in some places I mean now there’s some access stations with budgets of seven figures for the first time and so somehow in the process of all the fights with the Town Hall up and down the place all the fights over one program out of maybe 5,000 offering whatever it might be frontal nudity or some of the unacceptable words or whatever that gets some local citizens upset the process of all that a lot of people have taken a very deficient access of taking a very defensive line and a very overly professionalized line and said okay we’ll just like the telephone company we don’t determine what goes out we’re simply a resource and there’s an element of truth in that but there’s also a very dangerous element of untruth in it because I think it is the job of people in excess to make very active outreach efforts to those communities historically underrepresented in the media and to make sure that those communities know that they are welcome they are welcome to learn how to use the stuff and how to fill up the airwaves and begin to communicate their concerns not only to each other than that within their own community but also to other communities that that will I’m sure in many cases respond to the expression of those concerns so so there’s a certain responsibility it seems to me the public access TV has to compensate for the lack of democratic participation in the mainstream media and that is that democracy is a dialogue it’s a debate with all the voices in society participating in discussion and expressing their needs their problems their views and since the mainstream media cuts out so many groups certain minorities certain people of different political preferences certain public interest groups it seems to me that there’s a responsibility for public access TV to ascertain what the needs are in their community what the different groups are what the different segments of the population are that don’t usually get their voices articulated then hand it’s the responsibility of people in those groups to take use to take advantage of access and to use it to articulate their views to the public but it seems that all this needs to be discussed between the access center and the community so there is a certain responsibility in public access to really make democracy work when it comes to the media and probably far too few access centers take this Democratic responsibility seriously which is why I think you have the problem of just getting overrun with garbage and missing some of the things that should be seen and heard in the community I couldn’t agree more there’s always one question and everybody’s minds do who do anything with either public access or with print media you look to see how many copies are are distributed you see a 2,000 or 5,000 here and they always tell public access people well nobody’s watching but is there a public awareness of the alternative print well I don’t think there’s a public awareness in the sense that if you took a national survey that more than a tiny fraction of the population will be able to mention one single alternative medium but at the same time I think that some of that will be a misleading index of the significance of these media my example of choice is always that if you take a trip up to Boston Harbor and see the replica of the ship that they tossed the t-shirts out of it is minut by my standards it doesn’t look as though you get more in about five miles off shore without maybe kind of being swamped by a wave and the thought that something like that would have made the journey across the Atlantic repeatedly is hard to imagine and I’m sure the the chests of tea that they tossed overboard were also pretty small they weren’t giant kind of containers the fact remains that the significance of that small action on that small boat in that small Harbor kind of reverberating around America and to coalesce a whole movement of opposition to the profession which was coming from George the third now I think sighs what I’m trying to get to is that I think size alone circulation alone is not necessarily the only other most significant index of of importance of impact and I think that you know III spoke earlier about the way the power structure doesn’t think that way about these small scale media but I think the other indices I mean maybe the power structure could be long but I think there are other indices because when these media really become important around a particular issue it is not just those people who read them but those people who talk to others and others and others in a chain who will in a sense allow that information to mobilize them let me give you a very specific and recent example as an outfit or public data access and what they did was they got information from central government a federal government and put it on floppy disks about the location of toxic waste dumps and they found in the process of doing this that most toxic waste dumps are near ethnic minority communities were geographically speaking and they put the information not on some national piece of some national document they put it deliberately on local documents because it’s in local areas that people are most likely to get up some kind of upset and some movement against the toxic waste dump people in Austin are not going to demonstrate against the toxic waste go waste dump in Montana and vice versa but the the size and the Localism of this particular piece of information don’t give you any real measure of its potential impact at least at the level of a given community which is faced with this particular toxic waste of which is threatening the lives and health of the children and adults in the neighborhood so sighs for me is not irrelevant but it’s only one index of significance how do you sort of appraise the the role or the function of community radio in the alternative media spectrum well again I’m glad you raised it because it’s quite right with it’s the one medium we kind of left off to date I think community radio is real important I think that again the merit of radio is that it’s cheap its accessible therefore to a lot of people without extensive resources and I think that community radio has a major part to play both in delivering news and also in playing as we know video is full of as purely music these days but also in playing alternative rock and alternative music which doesn’t get on the on the main system in fact you studied some alternative radio in Europe that’s actually very radical some of it is low-power radio where individuals just get a transformer out and shoot out whatever political messages or whatever music or talk they want to engage in can you give some examples of that sort of really radical radio that we’re I haven’t seen anything quite like this in the u.s. as far as I know at least okay the the main examples from Europe and now perhaps you know sort of have gone by a bit in time I mean the the key places were France and Italy initially Italy both had a very strict law about who could broadcast and basically what happened was that first in Italy and later in France people just decided to break that law they saw it as a ridiculous law a law which simply gave the government of the day kind of free reign just to express its own views to the public and so they capitalized on public discontent and broke the law in that situation and eventually the law would seem to be an ass in this regard at least and was changed but for the while there really was an explosion of independent activity on the airwaves and all kinds of groups would be involved in in the social movements of the day be they anti-nuclear will be their feminist movements or a particular community which was suffering a particular problem or immigrants from the third world immigrant workers from the third world the variety of these interests could find voice on these radios which otherwise the Airways were totally closed to them likewise in Japan there are some examples of low-power community radio we have a friend at tattoo Kagawa who specialized in this and evidently in Japan they got some very cheap low power transmitters that basically just began a conversation in someone’s home or maybe in a community center and would invite people to come and join in the participation the community in the discussion and so a lot of people left their houses and actually became active participants in alternative media as opposed to passive recipients this became so popular that Sony started to market these low power transmitters with thousands of them all over Japan and they were very very popular this became a threat to the government in Japan that carefully controlled the mainstream media didn’t like these alternative media which needless to say were very critical of the government and were articulating views have never been heard before in Japanese society so they cracked down on them pretty fiercely so this is no more I’ve heard some stories about low-power radio in the u.s. of this nature do you have any idea of the extent or what type there is there’s Pacifica Radio which is a national alternative radio network but what else is there in terms of alternative radio in the US well I forget exactly how many stations are the the I certainly runs into quite a few hundred across the country there’s usually one at least in any major urban center sometimes more share with Austin of course is KCI fulfills that role Pacifica is not a low-power station of course own Pacific pacifica stations broadcast on on slow regular wattage low-power basically means that the signal won’t usually go very far and I remember Tetsuo Kagawa that you’re referring to standing on the roof of the house that I lived in Brooklyn two or three years back and broadcasting to the house of another friend of mine two blocks away from Flores and we were then picked up by some other people in the neighborhood who phoned in and said hey what’s going on this is amazing so it happens and the transistor I mean I can show it since we have a screen that the transmitter is literally this big I mean about the size of a remote or something for your TV that’s it’s real small and there’s a lot of I’m not a technologist or an engineer but there’s a lot of Pettit ization about how complicated some of the stuff is and it really is not you don’t need a whole lot of wisdom or electronic engineering knowledge to be able to put one of these things together Jon when we’re talking about the future of media in this society we need to begin to theorize computers do we not because this is a powerful new source of information and it’s against something that is controlled by the corporate mainstream that can afford these expensive databases or these less expensive like CompuServe and some of the dialogues on the other services what is the realm of alternative media in the field of computers where do you get alternative information FISA V computers and how does this work well I mentioned earlier a couple of these outfits which have used one or other aspects of the power of the computer to to communicate horizontally instead of vertically piece that and public data access and I think that the the possibilities here are very considerable as simple microcomputers personal computers desk computers come down in price for as long as they continue to allow us to to use the telephone lines without putting some extra charge on then at that point communication by these means it’s like having a data telephone and communication by these means is cheap and it’s very quick and it’s very easy and so I think the opportunities that we can sell and there is an enormous amount of activity today by the citizenry on all kinds of bulletin boards and and homemade databases of one kind of another but again as you say if you want access to the heavy duty information and private information about corporations and the rest of it then at that point the same kind of privileged access to media and communications and information still operates on computer networks as in any other sphere and that again is something which should be a battle for us to to begin to try to democratize those sources of information and probably one of the most successful alternative sources of information is piece net can you tell us a bit about that so a piece that was begun in California a few years back now and its objective was to provide a network for peace activists in this country to communicate with each other to exchange information about what was going on it later brought in another network called echo net as you see from the name of ecological concerns and now it has numerous groups on every conceivable kind of political interests which run their own bulletin boards and it’s real cheap it’s only a few dollars a month to join up and you can be plugged in not only nationally but now also internationally because it connects up with a whole lot of similar networks in Europe and Australia and elsewhere so it’s a very exciting new development and essentially all it means is that instead of hitting a few keys and calling up the file with on your computer which you put there yesterday you hit some different keys and you call up a file which may be located thousands of miles away and have been created by somebody else and you can access that and you can see it on the screen if you want to print it out you can print it out I continue to get information about the Gulf from the peace net database during the Gulf War every day I would get alternative information that was typed in from Australia from the Middle East from Britain from different alternative sources they gave a very different picture of the Gulf War then the Maine stream media and likewise on environmental issues on feminist issues and all over the world in China in Russia you have people in these bulletin boards putting information and it’s very different than what you get from the newspapers so I think this is a very important source of alternative information for the future from these computer databases I agree and it’s also a medium of exchange it’s not only receiving that useful information but it’s also being able to give information that’s being able to ask people questions be able to request information exchange views and so on so it’s in principle a dialogic form of communication which as he was saying is the core of democracy in fact it’s an alternative form of democratic forum but here people debate these different issues during the Gulf War there was a Mideast Gulf forum where people debated that issue there’s a palestinian-israeli forum where people give different opinions on this sort of thing there was a presidential forum where people argued out the relative merits or demerits of Clinton Perot Bush etc John what is the future of radical media particularly in relationship to society in your book you say that media communications is the fundamental element in the battle for power and also power culture and communications are induced highly linked those are pretty those are pretty significant things to do with the media and particularly alternative media well I think I also say some of their the alternative media flourish and the wastelands left by official media and I see for as long as official media and mainstream and established media failed to fulfill the objectives that they are supposed by the sort of the the law LOV of our nation – to fulfill as long as they they don’t fulfill those alternative media will continue to flourish and they will continue to be extremely important I think that the battle for power between the majority of the society and the minority which thinks that has the right under society is crucially waged in the field of communication because if the majority is dependent all the time on media run by and subservient to their minority then our ability to want to know what each other things to tap each other’s wisdom is going to be correspondingly constrained

11 thoughts on “Alternative Media vs. Mainstream: History, Jobs, Advertising – Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas

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