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Become a Media Maven: Join The Monthly Sustainers Circle

Posted by on December 22nd, 2016

Communication rights, and especially local and regional work to cement them at home, often gets overlooked, but it is key to so many struggles for health, safety, and freedom.

MA has been here for 38 years, always on one kind of edge or another, and we want there to be a year 39. Please join us.

How do we protect the right to dissent? Crackdowns on journalists, whistleblowers and activists are legion as a toxic combination of greedy telecoms and an unaccountable government try to plug every remaining space for free expression and organizing. They won't rest until the Internet is a toll road for big spenders, and a spy net for the rest of us.

Media Alliance has been carving the space for truth-telling for 38 years. And protecting that space when it is under attack, here in the Bay Area, and all across the country. So many times we are the only, or one of a precious few, voices at one or another public meeting where our freedoms are slowly pushed back, one step at a time.

But the corporations that run the government won’t help dismantle their own influence. The system that lulls us into complacency as our human rights get whittled away wants us doing busy work, not challenging them. Keeping the challenges going, steady and strong and right here at home in California where we live and work together, that can only be supported by you. Media Alliance will keep lighting the fire. With your help.

The arc of justice is realized by claiming the space to create alternate narratives.

We've got some great gifts for you, a 30% discount off the mind-bending titles from MIT Press, including Low Power To The People, the chronicle of the pirate radio movement. Local filmmaker Donna Lee's video story of blogger Josh Wolf's 226 day stay in federal prison to protect his videos, a crucial moment in the history of citizen journalism and Chinook Book, a modern-day coupon book featuring discounts and gifts at local sustainable Bay Area businesses to help you really buy local.

We know money is tight and so many worthwhile causes are asking you for $100 right now. So make it easy. Join the sustainers circle for $5 or $10 a month, and donate a cappucino or two to media justice every month.

Most importantly, you’ll know that you personally did something to reclaim the space to tell the truth here in California.

The truth will set us free. Nothing else can.

Lifeline Story Bank

Posted by Media Alliance, TURN, Greenlining Institute, Milestone Consulting on March 2nd, 2016
Media Action Grassroots Network

As the FCC debates the modernization of the Lifeline telephone subsidy program to include Internet access for the first time, Media Alliance and the Media Action Grassworks Network (Mag-Net) are taking action to make sure the agency hears from the program's users, its potential users in the future, and the communities most impacted by lack of broadband access.

 The Lifeline Story Bank will collect written testimonies, pictures and short audio or video clips and deliver them directly to the policy makers and the press to make sure DC just doesn't just talk to themselves.

So if you use or might use the program yourself, have friends or family members who do, work with or know of an organization that provides services to seniors, people living on fixed incomes, the disabled, limited english-fluency populations, recent immigrants, single moms or anyone on the wrong side of the digital divide:

Take a moment to 

1) Download our Story Bank Toolkit, a quick guide to everything you need to know about Lifeline and submitting a story to the Bank

and

2) Visit the  easy submission form and tell them what subsidized broadband access in the home means to you and your community.


The Brainwashing Of My Dad: March 9th

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on February 29th, 2016

Jen Senko seeks to discover why her WWII veteran father’s personality radically transformed from that of a non-political Kennedy Democrat to an angry right-wing fanatic after his discovery of Talk Radio and Fox News. She pulls back the curtain on the wizards behind the right-wing media phenomenon, and through interviews with Noam Chomsky, David Brock, Jeff Cohen, George Lakoff, Claire Connor, Dr. Kathleen Taylor, Frank Luntz and others, uncovers the true story of the behind-the-scenes strategies designed to shift the national discourse to the Right. Matthew Modine produces and narrates with Senko. 

Camera 12 Cinemas - Cinequest Film Festival

201 South Second Street  San Jose California

March 9th: 4:30pm


Diversity in Television: An FCC Principle Now Being Reconsidered

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on
Huffington Post

An op-ed on the FCC review of retransmission rules and their potentially destructive impact on low-income audiences whose access to pay TV and high-speed broadband is limited due to affordability issues.

**

A founding principle of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is protecting the public interest in communications - in television, radio, internet and new emerging mediums. In a country of increasing diversity, the public interest is not a "one size fits all" proposition. In the United States of 2016, the public interest must serve a Spanish-speaking mother in Los Angeles as well as it serves a rural rancher in South Dakota or a millennial urbanite in Brooklyn.

As an industry, broadcast television has long served the largest number of Americans with its mass, free, over-the-air broadcasts.

For this reason, Media Alliance finds it troubling that the FCC's current re-examination of the rules for exclusivity may jeopardize local broadcast television as it exists today. The Commission is in the process of reexamining rules which allow broadcasters to negotiate the terms of use for broadcast content to be disseminated to cable providers.

As it stands, broadcasters count on the revenue stream that comes from content negotiations with pay-TV providers. If the current system is upended, some local stations across the country will face the very real possibility of having to shut down due to a lack of adequate funding, because they are not being compensated for their own content.

If stations were forced to shut down, it would be the stations that do not garner the most viewers - including stations that serve minority communities, for example. Spanish-language broadcast networks - such as Univision or Telemundo - are often not viewed at the high levels of their English-language counterparts such as NBC or CBS, simply because many communities have fewer Spanish-speaking residents. Yet, these stations are sometimes the only avenue for low-income families who cannot afford other types of media to get their news and information: from severe weather alerts, to community events, to a roundup of local and national news. If these stations were forced to shut their doors because of fewer viewers, many families that depend upon them could be quite literally left in the dark

The current exclusivity rules preserve diversity in broadcast programming. And while there is nowhere near enough diversity, taking actions to further reduce it in order to increase profit levels for cable providers is not in the public interest.

Media Alliance has long been interested in protecting diversity in media, and holding government accountable for any action taken to decrease diversity in favor of increased corporate profits. It is clear that any action taken by the FCC to change these rules will have a disproportionately negative impact on small, over-the-air broadcasters, many who are minority-owned or serve minority audiences.

We believe that the current exclusivity rules should be preserved by the FCC. Any change to these regulations is a win for Big Cable and a terrible loss for small broadcasters across the country and the local communities in which they serve. The "public interest" that the FCC must protect includes Americans who have affordability challenges with pay TV and high-speed broadband access and the FCC must recognize this when considering how it should act on this important issue.

Tracy Rosenberg is the Executive Director of Media Alliance, based in Northern California. Media Alliance is a member of TVfreedom.org

IVP: Internet Architecture

Posted by on
New Jersey Institute of Technology

An infographic from the New Jersey Institute of Techology serves as an easy intro to the web's internal architecture. 


NJIT Engineering Online

Why The Charter/TWC Merger is Bad News

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on January 21st, 2016
LA Progressive

Published in the LA Progressive   January 21, 2016

 **

On January 26, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a poorly publicized public hearing in LA on whether to approve the merger of Charter Cable with Time Warner and Bright House Networks. People with good memories may recall that not long ago, a merger between Comcast and Time Warner was the subject of a public hearing. That LA hearing played a really big role in the Comcast merger’s demise, as Southern Californians showed up in droves to avoid forcible absorption into “America’s Most Hated Company (two times in a row!).

But Charter Cable is no happy ending. Chief Charter shareholder John Malone was dubbed the “Darth Vader” of cable for his aggressive (and shady) business practices as head of TCI. The nation’s single largest landowner in 2011, Malone, if this merger goes through, will own 25% of the second largest broadband provider in the country (after Comcast), and will have a huge influence on the future of the Internet.

Charter is a player in the plethora of industry lawsuits against the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, which are wildly popular with Americans

So it ain’t just about cable.

What are Charter and Malone’s plans for the second biggest broadband provider in the country? It bears repeating that Charter is a player in the plethora of industry lawsuits against the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, which are wildly popular with Americans who flooded the FCC with a record-breaking number of comments in the lead up to the February rule-making. It was probably the only FCC proceeding to ever be featured on late night television as John Oliver begged FCC chief Tom Wheeler not to be the “dingo who steals the baby”. Wheeler wasn’t a dingo as it turned out, but the industry has not taken their defeat lying down.

But merger applicants always come to regulators bearing sweets and Charter is no exception. They have pledged not to engage in a variety of unpopular and anti-competitive practices: throttling, blocking, paid prioritization, data caps, zero rating and interconnection fees.

For three years. And just for three years. After that, we’ll just have to take their word for it.

Charter’s expert paid witness, an Ivy League economist named Fiona Scott Morton assures us: “Current trends suggest that broadband competition will limit any anti-competitive conduct in future years”.

The current trend is that 55% of Americans can only access one source for high-speed broadband service and most of the rest can only choose from two. If the premise of competition is that consumers can dump services they don’t like and replace them with services they like better, where are consumers supposed to go?

Captive audiences don’t usually get the best deals from big corporations. The record of increased media concentration is clear: higher prices, worse service and less choices for you. Post-merger, Comcast and New Charter would corner the market on 90% of all high speed broadband access in California. That’s a duopoly. And it’s not competitive in the least.

So if you depend on the Internet to do your work, connect with your friends and family and access information about the world, you’ve got a lot to lose.

Come out on January 26th at 6:00pm to the Junipero State Building at 320 West 4th Street in Downtown LA and take your one or two minutes to say “Hey, public here, and I don’t think I’m getting much out of this deal.

Details:

Charter Cable Purchase of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks Application
Public Participation Hearing
Tuesday January 26 at 6:00pm
Junipero Serra State Building, Carmel Room
320 West 4th Street
Los Angeles CA

Tracy Rosenberg

Posted on January 21, 2016

About Tracy Rosenberg

Tracy Rosenberg has worked as Media Alliance's Executive Director since 2007. She has organized and advocated for a free, accountable and accessible media system, focusing on the protection and sustainability of alternative media outlets monitored the mainstream media for accuracy and fair representation and facilitated the training of numerous nonprofit organizations and citizen's groups in effective communications. She blogs on media policy at the Huffington Post and is published frequently in newspapers and blogs around the country. She currently sits on the board of the Alliance for Community Media Western Region and serves on the anchor committee of the Media Action Grassroots Network.

Recording in Progress: Media, Tech and Social Justice

Posted by Recording in Progress on December 7th, 2015
https://audioboom.com/boos/3888597-recording-in-progress-media-tech-and-social-justice-pt-1

Media Alliance is pleased to be a media sponsor for this series of conversations:

Recording in Progress is a series of panel discussions about innovation and new developments in technology, entertainment, culture, business, art and design. 

Moderated by Tara Conley (Race Forward), this discussion on media, tech and social justice includes panelists Susan Simpson (Undisclosed), Jackie Zammuto (WITNESS), Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen).

#RecordinginProgress

Please enjoy!


Practicing Communication Rights: Honduras and South Korea

Posted by Dorothy Kidd on
University of San Francisco

This brief academic paper by USF Media Studies Professor and former MA board member Dorothy Kidd examines democratized media in Honduras and South Korea. 

"Some 30 years after the commission’s publication of Many Voices, One
World, I analyze the contribution of contemporary grassroots communication
praxis to the democratization of communications practice and theory.
Because if the neoliberal shift captured global information and communication
systems for corporate giants and state powers, it also created
conditions of radical possibility. Media activists around the world have
appropriated technologies that were first designed for military, state and
capitalist apparatuses, and have reshaped them to meet urgent information
and communication needs of majority populations underserved by commercial
or public service media. As the MacBride Report promised, these media
have provided living examples of more democratic communication.


The Honduran Network of Indigenous and Garífuna Radios, andMediACT
in South Korea, exemplify this movement to democratize communications
from within social justice movements. South Korea is a relatively wealthy,
urban and industrialized country, and one of the most digitally connected
nations in the world; whereas Honduras is primarily rural, with high rates
of poverty, and where only 4.5 percent of Hondurans have regular access
to the internet. Nevertheless, people in both countries share long struggles
for democratization against colonialism and military rule, and more recent
pressures to conform to neoliberal development agendas. Operating in very
different national contexts, the Honduran Radio Network and MediACT are
both deeply embedded within local centers, linked together through a complex
web of global social justice movements and radical communicators,
who are connected both face to face and online.

Read more ...


Towards Public Broadband - SF Civic Makers Salon

Posted by on
Civic Makers

If you missed the October 8th Civicmakers Salon on public broadband in San Francisco, here's a recap:

 **

Last Thursday civic tech enthusiasts, local government representatives and telecommunications industry professionals gathered together to discuss what the future of public broadband in San Francisco looks like. This was third event CivicMakers has hosted on the issue, and momentum is building, as evidenced from a standing room only crowd at the event.

A decade after the city’s first initiative to bring free city-wide wi-fi to its citizens the lack of public broadband is again a hot topic and there is growing consensus that we need to find a solution. As we learned, there is no question about the necessity of making internet accessible to all however finding the right approach is a bit more complicated. The question is as much about technology as it is about people, access, and fairness.

Our emcee and CivicMakers co-founder, Brian Purchia set the tone for the evening, “We are going to solve this problem — it will happen. What is it going to take? And who is responsible for making this so? That’s what tonight’s event is about.”

The Chairman and CEO of Orange, Stéphane Richard, started the discussion by sharing some examples from France. He pointed that while Europeans are constantly learning from the Silicon Valley, there are a few things that work well in Europe that San Francisco could learn. One such example is offering fiber optic cable at a price that makes it truly accessible to all.

There was a general agreement about the importance of fast internet not only for a more connected city, but for deeper economic implications. Today, over 100,000 people in San Francisco don’t have access to internet at all while 50,000 are using dial-up connection. In today’s connected world a digital divide like that equals economic disadvantage.

CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval noted that availability of broadband speed internet will become a crucial part of urban competitiveness of cities, just like rent. She highlighted the need to learn more about people who do not have access so the government could best help them. As California brings Internet to under-served and un-served areas of California classifying certain urban areas as such might be a part of the solution.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell emphasized that internet is a necessity, not a privilege, and as such a basic economic right. There is a very real digital divide that exists in San Francisco that the city is trying to solve. The report that is due to come out soon will address potential solutions for the problem and it is important to act on it soon as possible since the need for it won’t go away. New proposed legislation includes solutions such as mandating that construction projects lay a public conduit line for future access when they lay down fiber.

Jay Nath, the Chief Innovation Officer at the City of San Francisco reviewed some public broadband benefits and challenges. On the one hand there are things like universal access, bridging the digital divide, and the economic and educational opportunities associated with it, which are all positive. On the other hand the city needs to take into consideration some challenges, most notably the scale of public investment, the fact that while it has been done in many small cities few bigger ones have implemented it, and predatory incumbent practices.

During the panel discussion we heard many interesting perspectives on different issues related to making universally accessible public broadband a reality. Three key takeaways from the panel were that the public broadband access is a political issue, that access is critical on multiple issues, and that there is big infrastructure involved that will have impact of both privacy as well as the role of government in communications.

This is a problem that is going to be solved. There is a growing chorus of CivicMakers that want to help make it so, including in that is our extensive list of co-sponsors for the event, Startup Policy Lab, Mozilla, Free Press.net, The Greenling Institute, Demand Progress, Media Alliance, Engine, EFF, Internet Archive, Zero Divide, and the Community Technology Network. We will keep you posted with updates and share the City Hall report when it is released. Stay tuned!

Everett C. Parker Dies at 102

Posted by Robert MacFadden on
NY Times

Parker, who founded and directed the Communications office at the United Church of Christ, won a historic lawsuit causing the first ever broadcasting license to be removed for failure to serve the public interest and continued to advocate for unbiased broadcasting for decades following. His NY Times obituary is below. 

Rest in power, Reverend Parker. You set an example for us all.

**

The Rev. Everett C. Parker, who won a landmark broadcasting case and led a civil rights crusade to hold television and radio stations accountable for presenting racially biased programming and for failing to hire blacks and other minorities, died on Thursday in White Plains. He was 102.

His death was announced by the United Church of Christ, where he was the founder and longtime director of its Office of Communications. With church support, he used the office as his civil rights platform for 30 years.

In a nation with a history of racial discrimination, it was not unusual decades ago for minorities to be ignored or to have their dignity trampled on radio and television. Station executives, under no pressure from federal regulators, gave little thought to segregated shows or on-the-air slurs, let alone to minority hiring.

But as the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s, Dr. Parker, a minister and director of communications for the socially conscious, 1.75-million-member United Church of Christ, began to survey the performances of radio and television stations in the South. He identified WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., as a flagrant purveyor of racist programming.

While blacks made up 43 percent of the viewing audience, he found, the station did not cover civil rights news or the black community and often referred to blacks pejoratively on the air. Typically the only blacks shown on WLBT were in police custody. Dr. Parker, who had worked in broadcasting, asked the National Association of Broadcasters to issue guidelines to give blacks a more positive presence on television, but the industry group refused.

On behalf of his church and some viewers, he petitioned the Federal Communications Commission in 1964 to deny WLBT a license renewal for failing to serve the public interest, as required by law. The F.C.C. conceded the facts but dismissed the petition, saying the church, and even viewers, had no standing to challenge the license. Only broadcasters or others with an “economic” interest had such standing, the commission said.

“I thought that through,” Dr. Parker recalled years later, “and concluded that the public did have ‘standing,’ and an economic interest, because they owned radios and television sets.”

An appeal was filed, and in 1966, Warren E. Burger, then a federal appellate judge, recognized the right of the church and viewers to petition the F.C.C. But after a hearing, the commission renewed the station’s license, leading to another appeal. In 1969, Judge Burger, soon to be chief justice of the United States, ruled that the F.C.C.’s record in the case was “beyond repair” and ordered WLBT’s license revoked.

“After nearly five decades of operation,” Judge Burger wrote, “the broadcast industry does not seem to have grasped the simple fact that a broadcast license is a public trust subject to termination for breach of duty.”

The decision marked the first time that a license had been lifted for a station’s failure to serve the public interest, and it established the right of ordinary citizens to challenge a license. It began a new era of heightened sensitivity by the F.C.C. and broadcasters to communities and minorities.

Armed with the power to threaten licenses, Dr. Parker, in the 1970s and ’80s, joined other religious and civic groups — the Citizens’ Communications Center, the Media Access Project and Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen organization, among others — in challenging television and radio stations on broadcast content and other issues, including employment discrimination.

After another petition by Dr. Parker showing that minorities were underrepresented in the industry, the F.C.C. issued rules banning unfair employment practices by broadcasters. But Dr. Parker found that informal meetings with station executives, rather than federal complaints, often led to reforms in hiring and content.

Dr. Parker recruited volunteers in many cities to monitor broadcasters’ programs and hiring practices. He widened his campaign to include network, cable and telecommunications policies; set up programs to train minority broadcasters; produced documentaries and children’s programs, wrote several books, and lectured at Fordham University in the Bronx. He became known as the dean of civil rights reforms in broadcasting.

“All we’ve ever wanted to do is make it possible for people to express themselves through the system of broadcasting,” he told The New York Times when he retired in 1983. “If broadcasters are to serve the public interest, they need to be reminded that they serve all the publics.”

Everett Carlton Parker was born on Jan. 17, 1913, in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1935, joined the Depression-era Works Progress Administration in Washington as a radio producer, and in 1936-37 was the station manager of WJBW in New Orleans. In 1938, he opened an advertising agency in Chicago, but gave it up a year later to train for the ministry. In 1939 he married the former Geneva Jones. She died in 2004.

Dr. Parker is survived by his daughters, Ruth Weiss and Eunice Kolczun; a son, the Rev. Truman E. Parker; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Dr. Parker earned his doctorate in 1943 from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He worked for NBC in New York as a war program manager, and from 1945 to 1957 taught communications at Yale Divinity School. In 1954, he created a public relations office for the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which became the United Church of Christ in a 1957 merger.

Asked in 2012 by the website Broadband & Social Justice how he would like to be remembered, Dr. Parker said, “I want them to remember that I was a guy who fought like the devil for the rights of minorities.”

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a former executive director of the Office of Communications, suggested in a statement that Dr. Parker’s legacy would be far broader.

“Everett’s lifelong clarity and insistence that ethics, accessibility, diversity and social justice are central to, not peripheral to, a fair and effective media forever changed the landscape of broadcast journalism in this country,” he was quoted as saying on the church’s website on Friday. “By challenging previously unchallenged assumptions about media ownership and access, he altered the course of U.S. media history and skewed it toward fuller inclusion for all people. His remarkable courage and tenacity will be forever remembered by history.”

American Day Dream

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on
Media Alliance

A Review of American Daydream by Margot Eve Pepper

American Day Dream is situated in San Francisco and embedded in the things we love about the Bay Area, but also lodged in the rear corner of our minds that hasn't forgotten the Snowden revelations of June 2013. Or Cointelpro. Or every bit of sickening evidence that we are less free than we think.

In the long tradition of dystopian science fiction, but imbued with a humane and strongly feminist tilt, American Day Dream grabs hold of the red pill/blue pill dilemma of Hollywood's Matrix, but without all the futuristic shiny toys.

What if, right here and right now and right down the block, everything we see and do and own, isn't real? Job, home and friends are all a carefully planted illusion to keep us circling a hamster wheel for a social order running for the benefit of others.

In American Day Dream, the gadgets we love don't connect us to humanity. They are the tool that traps us into dreams and prevents us from seeing our own imprisonment. 

The novel addresses the price of looking up from the screen into the void. What would you say to the person who tells you reality isn't real?  Would you love them or hate them, or both at the same time?

The protagonist, a Marin-residing graphic designer with a seemingly cushy job at a biotech firm in downtown SF, temporarily breaks his circuits and faces a dilemma: remember that crack in the fabric of appearances or forget it as quickly as he can.

As he walks the road to choosing frightening reality or comforting dream world,  the designer ponders who he used to be before his cushy condo, how friends, family and acquaintances reconcile their own illusions and what life might be like outside the penal colony.

And he meets a woman.

American Day Dream asks us to consider the joys, and the dangers, of authentic existence when the human experience isn't what we thought it was. When the price of the little compromises is more expensive than we ever imagined and everything we thought was true about life, really wasn't.

There is still a choice to be made in the world of American Day Dream, but time is running out on the dreamers. Jailbreaking isn't just for i-phones. It's for all of us before there is nothing left but pretty trappings on top of a penal colony.

In a society where we are being watched more than we can fully grasp, the distance between American Day Dream's Bay Area and our own is shrinking.

It's a small step between dawn to dusk surveillance and planting us in a customized-just-for-us existence to meet all of our needs as incarcerated worker bees.

American Day Dream makes that leap and then paints the picture of what the hesitant walk along the road of resistance might look like - without the superpowers of Neo - for just a guy and a girl in Northern California.



Anti-Abortion Hackers Target Progressive ISP MayFirst/PeopleLink

Posted by Alfredo Lopez on August 4th, 2015
MayFirst/PeopleLink

Attackers continued their assault on May First/People Link operations Monday evening shutting down the organization's website at https://mayfirst.org. All other services continue operating.

The Denial of Service attack targeted the website but, as collateral damage, much of May First's hosting system was paralyzed for a short time about 11:00 pm Monday evening. May First technologists restored all services except May First's own website, the specific target, by 11:30 pm.

The attack follows several days of Denial of Service attacks on May First servers, targeting specifically May First member the National Network of Abortion Funds whose website, http://fundabortionnow.org was down for almost a day last week. That attack appears to have been part of the campaign aimed at the pro-choice movement which included the attacks last week on Planned Parenthood and various pro-choice websites.

Today's action is the first time the attackers have targeted the May First/People Link website specifically.

"We consider our organization attacked when one of our members is targeted so we've been under attack for several days now," according of Jamie McClelland, MF/PL Leadership Committee member. "But the targeting of our website means that these people are not just focusing on the issue of abortion or trying to repress communication about it but punishing an organization that allows that communication. This isn't about choice specifically, this is about May First/People Link and, because of who we are, it's about an entire movement in two countries."

Technologists continue working to return the website to service. No other services are affected at this time.

May First/People Link is a political progressive membership organization specializing in Internet work and the sharing of services with most members in the United States and Mexico. It is the largest organization of its kind in either country.

An Overview of the Open Internet Order

Posted by NANOG on July 28th, 2015
North American Network Operators Group

A 45-minute video describing the historic February 26th Open Internet Order (the net neutrality rules). 

From NANOG (The North American Network Operators Group) 

It's Time for Consumer-Driven Pricing Policies in Cable and Broadband

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on July 28th, 2015
Media Alliance

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a request for comments on how consumers are being charged for video-related services, the notice they are given before these costs appear on their monthly cable bill and whether these fees cause consumers to pay higher prices than the company’s advertised rates for monthly service. The FCC has always had jurisdiction over how common carriers, broadcast, wireless, satellite, cable companies and other telecom entities address consumer interests in their business practices.

According to the FCC website, through the Consumer Policy division, they are “…tasked with issuing orders to resolve complaints about unauthorized changes in local telecommunication providers (slamming); conducting rulemakings on slamming, truth-in-billing telemarketing and fax advertising; and monitoring informal inquiries and complaints to identify trends that affect consumers.” Unfortunately, many advocates believe that the focus on consumers has been sidelined since the passage of The 1996 Telecommunications Act. While the act spurred innovative platforms for video distribution and creative content for internet users, it was to the detriment of cable subscribers who realized no real benefits, and instead have experienced nearly two decades of limited choices for service, rising monthly prices and deteriorating customer service. With consolidation happening at a breakneck speed in the cable and broadband markets, it is time that the focus of our 21st century video market policy-making process be placed squarely on the protection of the consumer.

For this reason, Media Alliance applauds the FCC’s undertaking to augment their next video competition report with detailed pricing data and information through their comment process. We have long advocated for increased transparency when it comes to the billing practices of pay-TV and broadband providers and are further encouraged that the FCC’s action is not an isolated incident.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are increasingly losing their patience with the unscrupulous practices of the pay-TV industry and are calling for inquiries with the interest of consumers in mind.  Last year, Senator McCaskill asked probing questions of cable providers who experienced first-hand how cable operators have overcharged and misled consumers with complicated fee structures and surcharges. Time and time again, McCaskill has sought to bring accountability to the pay-TV industry by calling for legislative hearings around cable billing practices.

The momentum continued with a letter on July 9 from Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) calling for the FCC to collect detailed pricing data on broadband and cable services on a state-by-state basis and comparatively in rural versus urban areas. Their letter also recognizes the lack of competition in the pay-TV industry citing that fact that only “37 percent of Americans have more than one option for high-speed broadband providers.” The senators declared that a lack of competitive choices and a marketplace that continues to move toward more consolidation has left Americans with “de facto telecommunications monopolies” across the nation. These are factors that need to be addressed at a granular level by federal regulators.

The FCC’s action to collect broadband and pay-TV pricing data will go a long way in helping consumers better understand exactly what it is they are paying for in their monthly bills. The pay-TV companies have this information. We simply need our leaders in Washington D.C. to ask the right questions so that regulators can then deconstruct the fees, surcharges, equipment rentals and other miscellaneous costs.

Thanks to leaders in the nation’s capital, we are taking the first step towards creating greater pricing and billing transparency for consumers of pay-TV and/or Internet subscription services in America.



2015 Northern California Press List Out!

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on July 22nd, 2015
Media Alliance

The Media Alliance 2015 Northern California Press List is out!

The 2015 Northern California Press List provides 1200+ media contacts in an easy-to-manipulate Excel spreadsheet, including daily/weekly newspapers, televison and radio stations, hyperlocal news websites, and selected national alternative press.

Use this link to pick up your copy.

Media Alliance produces this community press list to help nonprofits and activists reach the media consistently without having to pay the prohibitive prices charged by commercial public relations efforts.

Pair your press list with a Media How To Guide, if you haven't already, to get everything you need to know for low-cost high-impact guerilla publicity.

The press list retails for $50 (discounted for MA members) so make sure to let people know about it who could benefit from the resource.


We're Moving!

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on July 4th, 2015

MA is pleased to announce that we'll be returning to San Francisco in May of 2015, joining the new artistic community at the Pacific Felt Factory in San Francisco's Mission District.

First the details: Our new address as of May 4, 2015 will be: 2830 20th Street, Suite 102  San Francisco CA 94110

Our building has entrances both on 20th Street and on 19th Street at the corner of Bryant behind the gate that would be at 2751 19th Street.

Follow this link for pics of the new office in development.

Our new telephone number as of May 4, 2015 will be (415) 746-9475. ED Tracy Rosenberg can also be reached directly via mobile phone at 510-684-6853, which is unchanged.

The good news: The new space will provide the classroom, workshop and event space that Media Alliance has been missing in Oakland, contained within a new vibrant art space with lots of cross-fertilization and fun, creative things going on.

Being a part of the community will allow us to permanently lower our rent while increasing our physical capacity in a long-term secure space dedicated to art and social justice, freeing us from the commercial real estate market and the exploding costs in our adopted Oakland home.

It was a difficult decision to leave Oakland, a city MA has grown to love after the forced exodus from San Francisco in 2005, but the long-term security and stability of the nonprofit in today's always-challenging financial conditions was our first priority. Media Alliance intends to continue robust participation in public policy throughout the Bay Area, but especially on both sides of the Bay, which are both our professional and personal homes.

There will be a little moving upheaval during the last week of April and first week of May, but bear with us and we'll do our best to be fully up and running as quickly as possible.

 And stay tuned for classes and events. We've heard you these past few years about wanting more of that, and this new office is designed with more public events and workshops in mind.

Thank you for your support and sharing the excitement of this move with us. Any helping hands in the last week of April for the schlepping of boxes are very very welcome.

 Towards peace and justice (and San Francisco)

 Tracy





Cable Competition Vetoed at FCC

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on June 5th, 2015
Media Alliance

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dealt a blow to cable regulation when Chair Tom Wheeler declined to join democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel in dropping the presumption of effective cable competition in most cities and counties.

The presumption means that the burden of proof to assert that cable competition is insufficient falls on city and state governments who must mount a case to prove their point. Failing a monumental effort on their part, federal regulators will presume that effective cable competition exists. 

Clyburn and Rosenworcel argued that "streamlining" should not take the form of an expedited process to avoid oversight and accused the agency of racing past the statutory requirements and providing such broad relief to cable companies as to increase burdens on local franchising authorities and potentially result in price increases for consumers.

However, FCC chair Tom Wheeler voted in favor of the presumption and it passed the commission on a 3-2 vote.

Media Alliance agrees with Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel and hails them for their attempts to preserve oversight by franchising authorities and not streamline away local cable regulation.

Below is the public interest letter sent by several organizations including MA asking the FCC not to presume effective cable competition.


Kick The Kickbacks Video

Posted by Champaign Urbana IMC on May 27th, 2015
Illinois Campaign for Phone Justice

This video produced by the Champaign-Urbana Independent Media Center and the Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice exposes the actions of phone service provider Securus Technologies and the Illinois Department of Corrections in gouging nearly $12 million a year from the families of the incarcerated from over-priced phone call.

Sign the petition to encourage the FCC to finish reforming the prison phone call system and cap phone rates for all kinds of phone calls for good. 

Make Cable Prove There Is Competition

Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on May 7th, 2015
Media Alliance

FCC filings can be dry: but what it comes down to is whether cable companies have to prove there is effective competition or whether communities have to prove there isn't. 

 We believe the burden of proof should be on the big cable companies, not local towns and cities with less resources and less to gain from a big federal fight.

Here's our note to the FCC, joined by the Greenlining Institute, to say the burden of proof belong with Big Cable.


Talking About Media Concentration

Posted by Kellia Ramares on
https://soundcloud.com/tracy-rosenberg/media-concentration-discussion-with-tracy-rosenberg-media-alliance

This 30 minute interview was recorded and produced by Kellia Ramares and will eventually be part of an article for Alternet looking at the impact of monopolies of many kinds on the democratic deficit. 

The impacts of media concentration on freedom of expression, implied and absolute censorship and information economics in a wideranging discussion with MA Ed Tracy Rosenberg. 

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