The Media Knowledge Gap

During a recent publicity trip to Los Angeles, I confirmed that independent non-corporate media is alive and well in the United States ... kind of. My visits to The Young Turks, several KPFK/Pacifica radio shows and other local Los Angeles media brought in more website traffic, new memberships and other opportunities than having The David Pakman Show mentioned on CNN,

The Howard Stern Show and many other corporate media outlets ever did, confirming that audience engagement, while not size, is certainly higher among the likes of the shows often relegated to the bottom or top of the radio dial, or even more negatively regarded - the Internet.

As someone whose television and radio show program only got off the ground as a result of the Internet, the power of independent media has never escaped me. Without the Internet, I wouldn't have been able to offer my program to the more than 150 affiliate stations that broadcast it. I'd have no mechanism to increase awareness through portals like iTunes and YouTube. I'd have no easy way of setting up the paid membership program that today is flourishing and funding the show.

And nor would I have made a majority of the personal contacts now integral to the growth and promotion of the show.

Over the last week, I've bumped into several examples that show that while funding and staying afloat is an ongoing systemic problem for independent and non-commercial producers, the lack of depth and nuance of increasingly homogeneous corporate media is taking a significant toll on the awareness of the average casual media consumer.

I cite two examples:

Trader Alessio Rastani's interview on BBC television shocked both mainstream media anchors and reporters, as well as corporate media audiences. This was a brief interview during which Rastani explained that traders, Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and other financial services companies actually don't care about whether the economy does well or not.

He made the point that they make money in both cases, and that Rastani in particular actually "dreams of another recession," explaining that recessions are actually some of the best opportunities to make money for those who are prepared and know what to do - which Wall Street and financial services companies absolutely know how to do.

For me, the shock wasn't in what Rastani said, but in the fact that it created as much buzz as it did.

Independent media outlets are not beholden to corporate interests. My program and countless others have been saying what the trader said for years. Corporate media, however, in part because of its dependence on and connection to many of the Wall Street companies that so actively disregard the effect their profit-taking has on the average person, have barely reported on the issues Rastani discussed on the BBC.

This confirms another aspect of what grassroots producers have been reporting on for years: Mainstream corporate media puts out a product designed primarily to make money by delivering an audience to their commercial breaks, and to keep sponsors happy - sponsors like those mentioned by Rastani who are making a killing from recessions.

For exhibit two, I'd like to cite coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests by corporate media. I'd discuss that coverage in detail, but after the first two weeks there had barely been any.

The cause is the same as the one that caused so much "surprise" from Rastani's "shock" interview - corporate influence on mainstream media keeps the story out of the news in any significant way. Unfortunately, as discussed on a recent broadcast of my program, the way that the mainstream media will cover the protests in a more significant way will be if the protesters become violent, start looting, committing other crimes, or otherwise get negative attention. That's a double-edged sword, given that the only way to push for attention will be by bringing negative coverage onto their cause.

One aspect that has started to receive interest is the result of a video posted to YouTube showing NYPD Officer Anthony Bologna, or "Tony Baloney" as he has been dubbed, being a little too liberal with pepper-spray around protesters.

Media coverage I've observed over the last week, combined with my trip to Los Angeles, have shown that there actually is a strong hunger for something different - something more honest and complete - than what is being presented to us by the "acronym" news outlets we're so used to.

Unfortunately, I've also learned just how far we are from the average media consumer recognizing the huge information deficit they bring on themselves by consuming only corporate news. That deficit is a lack of context and awareness about significant issues. It is not a coincidence, but rather the result of conscious, profit-driven decisions made by those news outlets so many of us have come to "trust."

David Pakman of Northampton, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at www.davidpakman.com.


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