In Boston, #NCMR11 re-energized 2,000+ in the national movement for media reform

Over 2,000 media reformers traveled from all over the country this weekend for the National Conference for Media Reform, hosted by media reform advocacy group Free Press. Panels, workshops, speakers, film screenings, and more energized the national media reform movement over three days at Boston’s Seaport Hotel. As Sean Kerrigan explained in an NCMR preview in last week’s Phoenix, the conference drew activists, journalists, academics and lawmakers, all dedicated to fixing the corporate ownership and intense consolidation that stifles our media.

#NCMR11 -- the fifth NCMR ever, but the first in three years -- came at an urgent time for media reform, not only because of media-industry changes over the last three years, but also due to drastic changes in the concentration of media ownership in the past three months.  (In January, Comcast merged with NBC. And last month, AT&T announced its plans to purchase T-Mobile, which could leave the country with only three wireless carriers.) On top of that, the urgency was further strengthened by dangerous Net Neutrality threats that actually occurred in DC during the course of the three-day conference: on Friday, the House of Representatives voted 240-179 against Net Neutrality protections previously set by the FCC that would ensure an open Internet.

  1. Carly Carioli
    carlycarioli Speaker @nancypelosi is in the hizzouse. Congrats on losing the #NetNeutrality vote. #ncmr11

Speakers ranged from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and FCC Commissioner Michael Copps to radical grassroots activists who “maybe in their town or community are the only ones who are being outspoken about what’s happening to the media,” said incoming Free Press President Craig Aaron to Democracy Now hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonalez, during a live broadcast of the show from the conference on Friday morning. “Bringing everybody together at a gathering like this is a real opportunity to reenergize the movement and to begin to come up with new strategies and stronger alliances,” he explained. (Watch the whole NCMR Democracy Now segment here.)

  1. Free Press
    freepress By following Sharif of @DemocracyNow on Twitter you knew more about events in #Egypt than US intelligence, says @emptywheel #NCMR11

#NCMR11 sessions covered said issues with session topics like “The National Broadband Plan,” and “The New Face of Media Concentration: Mega-Mergers and Cover Consolidation.” But policy and politics were only a fraction of the weekend’s topical territory -- other sessions covered culture and the arts, local music and local media, women’s issues in media policy, the media’s sexualization of young girls, the future of public media, the future of journalism, Wikileaks, the state of Boston media, strengthening community access television, censorship in the age of Facebook and Twitter, and dozens more. One session discussed “Building a Media Reform Network in Boston,” establishing a first meeting date for May 21 at 2 p.m., location TBA. Follow @BOSMediaReform for updates.

  1. liz pelly
    lizpelly At a panel called "Local media and culture: what does it mean for the music scene." #ncmr11 psyched

  1. liz pelly
    lizpelly Net neutrality is an issue for entire Ecosystem of local music scenes-bands labels bookers writers- even people who just go to shows #ncmr11

The weekend’s most momentous high points were the opening and closing plenaries and keynote addresses, particularly a presentation by Harvard professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig, who spoke on Friday evening. Lessig set a greater context for the conference’s discussions by getting at the root of what hinders the media reform movement and other social justice movements in America: “Every single issue you and I care about is blocked by the same fundamental rock,” he said. “There is no progress in Congress so long as private funds right public elections,” he repeated throughout his presentation. (Watch the entire presentation below, and read more about Lessig's keynote here.)

Lessig presented the audience with a Thoreau quote: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." And in America, the root of our political evils is corporate interference, Lessig said. He urged the audience to Tweet every time they saw money buying results in Congress, and to tag the tweet with “#rootstrikers.” All of these tweets will appear on a new website he has created, “It’s not politicians that will wage this war. It’s citizens. It’s us. It’s root strikers.”

Earlier on Friday evening, Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice also gave one of the weekend’s most moving addresses. She urged that it’s time for media reformers to move from reactive to strategic, asking the crowd: “Are we ready to partner with the movement for environmental justice, for reproductive justice, and racial justice to confront corporate power? …Are you ready to expand the progressive base for media reform while advancing a popular agenda for media access, rights, and equity?”

  1. liz pelly
    lizpelly "The revolution will be televised, the question is, by who? AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or you?" #ncmr11

The next night, after keynotes by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (during which he confirmed that after his term is up, he will remain committed to media reform advocacy) and Representative Edward Markey (who urged media reformers to “reclaim America”), Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman gave a compelling presentation as well. (Video below.)

Goodman recalled her arrest at the Republican convention in September 2008, and the police brutality inflicted upon two Democracy Now staffers. “We shouldn’t get a record when we try to put things on the record,” she said, urging listeners to fight corporate globalization with grassroots globalization. The night's other speakers included U.S. Representative Mike Doyle and Free Press president Josh Silver. 

  1. liz pelly
    lizpelly Josh Silver quoted Justice Brandeis saying "Most things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they were done." #ncmr11

And on Sunday, John Nichols of The Nation closed the conference by also urging for a reconnection with the grassroots. “Our goal in the weeks and months and years to come is to re-connect with the grassroots… to the people who have built this movement from the start …where we began to build out this understanding that media reform is not a technical issue, it is a moral issue, it is a justice issue…”

Nichols made one of the weekend’s most critical points: that media reform is not a left or right issue. “We have work to do with our conservative friends. We need to go out to people who think of themselves as conservatives and we need to say to them, ‘look, you don’t want your lives controlled by big government but you shouldn’t want your lives controlled by big media either. When we come together, we can create a journalism that represents all of our voices … then and only then will we realize the promise contained in that first amendment of the constitution, the promise of a free press… We are going to do as Martin Luther King Jr suggested, we are going to bend the arc of history towards justice, and when we bend it, we will realize the American promise…. for all of us, for all Americans … because it rests with us to make real the promise of the American experiment.”

  1. Chris Faraone
    Fara1 John Nichols for President!!! #NCMR11 #NCMR

For more recaps, recordings, and videos go to the Free Press website and Facebook, or search #NCMR11 on Twitter.

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