Public Access

Culture, Politics

In March, I posted a letter by a friend, Thom Powers, to Hillary Clinton. He suggested that the solution to concerns about sex and violence in the media isn’t more studies, or censorship, or even V-chips, but supporting quality programing on PBS.

I mention this because I think this is exactly the kind of thinking that Amy Sullivan had in mind when she said:

I believe there are actually policies Democrats can pursue that don’t involve censoring free speech or impacting how adults consume popular culture. But sometimes it’s not about policies. It’s about proving that you’re not hopelessly out of touch with the real anxieties and concerns of many Americans. Maybe I’m starting from the wrong square, though. Maybe the Democratic Party really is out of touch. If so, it’s time to settle in for a looooong winter’s night in the minority.

Democrats should seize this issue and use it to promote public culture: not just PBS, but public access radio stations, television stations, and other forms of alternative media. Take the control of local programming from a handful of corporate giants and give it back to the communities. And use moral issues” as a way of making this argument.

I also think Brad Plumer is correct when he says that most parents … simply aren’t concerned about the effect of MTV, etc., on their own kids,” but only about other people’s kids. His conclusion is that we need to change the nature of the debate — but this is the wrong conclusion to draw. As Amy Sullivan points out, part of the political process is engaging in a dialog with voters and convincing them that you take their concerns seriously. Telling them that you think they are obviously mistaken (i.e. “stupid”) isn’t any way to do this.

Giving communities power over producing their own media content will not eliminate corporate media, but it will improve the diversity of voices in this country. It will create real alternatives that families can feel comfortable showing their children and which, like Sesame Street, children enjoy watching. It will also counter the myth (?) that the East and West coast liberal elite just want to foist our own values on the rest of the country, and don’t care about what they have to say.

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