American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
The Media Carta
By Adbusters, the Culturejammers Network, www.adbusters.org. The Unbrand America pledge can be signed at http://adbusters.org/metas/politico/unbrandamerica/pledge.jhtml.
We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century. We believe culture jamming can be to our era what civil rights was to the '60s, what feminism was to the '70s, what environmental activism was to the '80s. It will alter the way we live and think. It will change the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, the way TV stations are run, the way the food, fashion, automobile, sports, music and culture industries set their agendas. Above all, it will change the way meaning is produced in our society.
Media Carta is the human-rights battle of our information age. It is about us, the people, taking a stand against a media system that shuts us out and dominates our lives. It's about building-up an entirely new communication order to replace it, one that has at its foundation the direct, democratic participation of citizens. It's about reclaiming our most basic freedom -- the Human Right to Communicate.
This is a fight that we cannot avoid. Without a media democracy -- meaningful public access to the most powerful forms of communication -- we cannot raise healthy children, create good public policy or hold elections that matter. We lose the power to shape our own consciousness, our own future. We lose even the power to imagine what that future might look like.
Change is already underway. Recent attempts by the FCC to further relax US media ownership rules have hit a serious nerve; a groundswell of public opposition has emerged. Led by movements for Media Reform, Media Democracy and Media Justice, battles are raging against corporatized communications. Independent, community-based alternatives are breaking new ground everyday.
Still, progress on the big issues has been slow and victories scarce. The reality is this: we need a total revolution in how we relate to the media. And we're not getting there.
What we need is a plan. We need a long-term strategy with concrete, achievable goals and targets for our grassroots activism -- something to give our movement focus.
What follows is a Four-Step Plan for Media Carta. We hope it will pull together media activists of all stripes, from all corners of the world. And we hope it will bring new activists to the movement. Each of the four steps hits a central issue. Each is laid out to build on the others, to raise the stakes and grow this battle. Take the Tour below to learn about the plan and get involved.
Media Carta is a great personal, intellectual, social, cultural and legal test. It is the freedom fight of our generation. When we win, it will tip the balance of power from corporations to people, from money to ideas. This is the issue of issues, the jam of jams -- the ultimate struggle for a genuine democracy.
A victory here will change everything.
Step 1: We Break the Corporate Advertising Monopoly
Here's how it starts: with a fight that anyone can believe in... an action that shows this media system for the madhouse that it really is. How bad have things gotten with our public airwaves? So bad that you can't even buy a piece of airtime.
Our first challenge in the battle for Media Carta is winning the legal right to walk into our local TV station, put down our money and say, "Give me 30 seconds of airtime, I've got something to say." Right now, we can't do it. Why? Because the private networks controlling our publicly owned airwaves won't let us. They decide what gets on and what doesn't; if your message doesn't fit their political or commercial interests, they'll simply refuse to air it. They're gatekeepers. They're the world's most powerful censors.
For more than a decade, Adbusters has been trying to buy airtime for its social marketing TV spots, often called uncommercials. CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, MTV: they've all shut us out. And that's just in the US. We've also been rejected by major networks in Canada, the UK, Australia, France, South Africa, Japan and Germany.
We have to get our fight on television -- the most powerful and persuasive form of mass-communication on earth. It's the battleground. It's where we can compete, face to face, with the media corporations and their sponsors. We have to break their monopoly; disrupt their slick, one-sided flows; and force debate, wherever there is none.
The first battle for the right to buy airtime
will be launched in Canada, in the next few months. For the networks
to deny citizens access to their airwaves, "is an infringement
of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression,"
says Canadian civil rights lawyer, Clayton Ruby, who's building
the legal case for Adbusters. Soon after the Canadian case --
with momentum and precedent on our side -- we'll launch
a similar First Amendment legal challenge in the United States.
Step 2: The Two Minute Media Revolution
Fast-forward a few years. Legal battles are won and our TVs are an entirely different animal. We have the right to buy broadcast airtime and duke it out meme-to-meme with the corporate image factory. That's a good start. But something still doesn't make sense. We own the public airwaves, right? So why do we have to pay -- or beg -- to get our viewpoints on the air?
We shouldn't. It's time to demand free-airtime.
Call it the Two Minute Media Revolution: We tell our media regulators that, from now on, every commercial broadcasting license they issue must include a new rule. One that requires networks to set aside two minutes of every broadcast hour, on every channel and station, for citizen-produced messages, free of charge.
We've written-up the demand in a letter and you can email it to your country's regulator from our site.
How do we build two minutes of public access into the system? Speakers' corners; video lotteries; first-come, first-served public service announcements... the options are endless. Just so long as the system must be free, uncensored, 100-percent public access.
What will it look like when the airwaves are open? No one knows for sure. But the lesson of the Internet is that more voices equals better media, no matter how rough, no matter how wild. (Laws against hate speech and the like would, of course, still apply). All we're talking about is democratic debate -- it works.
Two minutes every hour: the first experiment
in hands-on ownership of the public airwaves... and a glimpse
beyond the corporate media dictatorship we've been living under
for too long.
Step 3: We Take Control of Our Media System
In the past 20 years, a wave of consolidation has swept the international media industry. Thanks to government regulation that favors private profit over public interest, what has emerged is a small and ever shrinking club of multinationals -- Viacom, NewsCorp, General Electric, Walt Disney, TimeWarner, Vivendi-Universal -- whose position and power stand in the face of democratic communication. Civil society has been marginalized to the point of irrelevance. So long as we remain outside, we will never realize a just media system, based on competition, diversity, depth, fairness and access -- a system we control.
Can citizens really be in change of the media?
It's time we try.
Pull the Plug
Let's identify the worst infotainment offenders in our communities - the worst media polluters taking up space on our airwaves - and petition our regulators to pull the plug on their public licenses. We'll send a message to the local arms of Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel and the rest of the media dinosaurs: the public is once again taking charge of the public interest.
Make New Rules
Let's fight for regulations that put media
in the hands of people. We'll demand that our governments take
radical steps to limit ownership and concentration; ensure access
to citizens; and protect independent, not-for-profit media outlets.
"Trickle-up" media is the future. But for civil society
to tell our stories, we need laws that keep media corporations
in check and make space for alternatives.
Let's break-up the media cartels. We'll demand that our competition watchdogs, like the Department of Justice in the US, file anti-trust suits against the media monopolies. We'll push to reverse decades of mergers that turned mega-corporations into unimaginable juggernauts, each with more money and power than most nations.
Every revolution has its flash point: when
the dictator loses control of the military, when the masses openly
defy an unjust law, when the wall crumbles. We'll know we've reached
ours when the people control our media system.
Step 4: We Enshrine a New Human Right
Freedom of thought, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression -- these are basic, legal rights that we won in long, hard-fought battles. They are now protected in national constitutions covering almost half the world's population and globally, in Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
But the question must be asked: in our modern age of hypermedia and global communications, satellite broadcasts and billion-dollar information flows, are these rights still sufficient?
Times have changed; we need to update our concepts, expand our theory and demands.
We need new rights if we are to safeguard our freedoms.
So, after we've cracked the corporate advertising monopoly, won free airtime and gained control of our media system, we'll take our most important step towards media democracy. We'll enshrine a new human right for our information age: the Right to Communicate -- the right of every person to meaningful access to the world's most powerful communication media.
We hereby launch a movement to enshrine the
Human Right to Communicate in the constitutions of all free nations,
and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.