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Local News

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August 26, 2007

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Finally, Marshfieldians have a place to find local news.

The sad news prior to the start of is that, like most places in America, there was no place for local news and cultural information in our town.

Too few people have too much media power in the United States and the rest of the world – and that’s not just sad news, its very bad news for the majority of citizens.

Turn back the clock just a single generation (less really), and you would find a Marshfield newspaper owned by a Marshfieldian, written and edited by other Marshfieldians, and a Marshfield radio station which devoted significant time, effort and money to keeping Marshfieldians informed about Marshfield news and culture.

Now, we have a local paper owned by Wal-Mart minions in Bentonville, Ark., printed in Springfield, and run by people who don’t live here, or care much about what happens here other than ad revenue. There’s a radio station playing the same records as about 10,000 other stations in the state which claims to originate in Springfield and Marshfield, but I’ve yet to meet anyone from Marshfield that works there, or hear any news about Marshfield going out over the airwaves.

We should be mad as hell about this disconcerting turn of events. The airwaves belong to us. Not long ago, our government required radio station owners (folks who basically have a license to make money using our collective property) to submit detailed reports about how they met requirements to serve the public good every three years. (Listen to that Springfield-Marshfield station and pick out even a single minute of serving the public good and I’ll eat one of my hats.)

Now, since the deregulation folks have joined forces with their buddies (and often their relatives) the lobbyists, the FCC is run by yes men who know they will soon be hired by the industry they are supposed to be regulating, if they play ball. And playing ball has meant that station owners just send in a post card every eight years asking for license renewal which is quickly returned to sender. If you are wondering what I consider actions in the public good, try the example of the radio stations which kept working after Katrina battered the gulf coast. The big boys left town, the little guys kept working, even though their own homes were flooded, or gone.

Clear Channel and a very few other radio giants own more than 1,000 stations each, and they program nationally, with no local news other than the emergency broadcast system. These conglomerates fire local staff and run syndicated shows, period. Local talent need not apply. And just try to find out who is calling the shots at these corporate giants, if you like looking for needles in haystacks.

The internet, and web sites like this (if and when Kim and Stacy create a good community chat board), could be our hope for the future – a place where Marshfieldians can post the news and information which matters to Marshfieldians.

If we can keep the current media moguls from taking control of the internet, which they are trying to do by bribing our legislators (they call it lobbying). The top news websites on the internet right now are run by the same conglomerates, and they are trying to squeeze the little guys out at every turn.

However, the younger generation is our hope and they like their internet free, like it has always been. Recently, millions of people contacted the FCC with regards to new (even friendlier for the big guys) rules concerning station ownership. And though the administration (non) regulators ignored the public outcry, those of our legislators facing a re-election have listened, and responded with House Bill 2802, which will allow low power FM stations. I hope a non-profit group in Marshfield will take advantage of this bill if it passes, and start a Marshfield radio station dedicated to Marshfield news and culture.

The public airways should serve the public interest was the simple, though all too logical tenant our forefathers came up with once radio became a viable, and important, communication tool. The factors which were important to the men in charge when radio was in need of rules were location, diversity and competition. All of which has faded away as the free market overlords wrestle away our birthright.

Do you feel like you own the airwaves? Democracy is in danger, not from acts of terrorism, but from acts of conglomeration. Maybe this website can do a little to even the playing field.

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