The Media Channel
An IPO a day seems to keep the market in play as Internet deals continue to hit the jackpot throwing up new e-commerce driven sites and throwing off a new crop of instant gazillionaires. Business schools across the world report their best students dropping out to join the gold rush. ABC's Nightline recently devoted a show to documenting the launching of a site created by two such 20 something biz-wiz's with l00 million dollars in backing from CBS. Their claim to fame is to have figured out how to effectively entice, or should we say, bribe visitors by giving them a micro- chance to win big bucks on line. They called it their "sauce." These entrepreneurs offered little vision exhibiting no shortage of greed.
So far, most of the money made on the Internet has been made on their stocks, not their substance. Even Amazon.com, which pioneered a high profile model of cyber-retailing, is in trouble. Reporting a $500 million dollar loss in the last quarter, Amazon rang alarm bells among investors who thought they had found an easy way to cash out on a high volume business.
Think of all of those 'masters of the universe,' as an early generation of financiers was called until their wings were clipped and bodies jailed. Remind yourself of their rhetoric, their insistence on hard-nosed detailed business plans and skilled managers. And ask: just why are they falling for all these techno-dazzling on-line schemes and schemers? Why are they just shoveling billions their way? As one astute letter-writer put it in a national magazine, they "give the markets some mystical technology, a few outrageous claims and venture fueled quick growth, then stand back and watch the feeding frenzy." The irrationality of capitalism as an explanation, anyone? Where have all the old fashioned snake-oil salesmen gone?
Missing in all of this "new" media, course, is what has been missing in old media-a commitment to serving the public interest and elevating democratic discourse. While the web still has many relative advantages in terms of its low entry costs, interactivity, many players, and potential as a global distribution platform, it is quickly being steered in a commercial direction to serve as the marketing tool of a new economic order.
At the same time, out of media view, there has been the proliferation of non-profit sites, with vast educational resources and a dazzling array of diverse perspectives, including, most impressively, ZNet. As a result, the web is also emerging as an organizing medium, a way for activists of all stripes, and on all continents, to mobilize constituencies and galvanize political action.
One ongoing example is the Zapatistas of Mexico, some of the poorest people in the world, who have mstered one of our most advanced technologies. Another dramatic case is provoided by the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China which uses the web as a way to link and update its practitioners globally. It is no wonder that its sophisticated use of e-mail and array of web stites has driven the Chinese government to covert electronic warfare in a vain attempt to hack into and disable their communications network.
It is in this context that my colleagues at Globalvision and I are launching a new non-profit global internet supersite, The Media Channel (www.mediachannel.org) in association with OneWorld Online, based in England, (www.oneworld.org) to monitor and try to influence the monstrous media machine that is dominating world affairs as no one government or empire ever could. We have created the Media Channel, with the help of our partners at One World, to make it possible for media professionals, advocates, educators, and activists to interact on-line and find out what we're thinking and doing.
We've been gratified, in developing this site, to find so many thoughtful and experienced writers, media artists, researchers and reformers willing to take part. So far, and I write before we launch, 234 media issues organizations have agreed to participate and 75 leading analysts and activists from 25 countries have said they will contribute. We will not only aggregate their deep supply of content, but add original stories and opinion pieces. They will benefit when more users discover and visit their own web sites.
We are not the first to say that there is a crisis in journalism in this era of gigantic media monopolies in some parts of the world, and continued state repression in others. But we are among the first to argue that this is a global problem and that an international response is needed. And we are among the first to create a practical way for us to communicate across borders specifically on media issues. You are invited to get involved, to join Z and our other affiliates You can subscribe to our free weekly e-mail to stay in touch. Become a media watcher in your home town, and send us information about media issues of more than local interest. Give us feedback. Criticisms and corrections are especially welcome. And Journalists: tell us about the stories that are beings spiked in your shops and help us document censorship and self-censorship.
An old friend of mine, Scoop Nisker, inventor of the "underground" radio newscasts of the 60's, says, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own." And if you want to help make it better, participate in Media Channel's efforts to inform, inspire, engage, and change the media order.
Danny Schechter, author of the forthcoming Electron Press on line book "News Dissector" is the Executive Editor of the Media Channel. (www.mediachannel.org). You can reach him at: (firstname.lastname@example.org)