What Does Post-Corporate Media Look Like?

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I know you’re wondering. But it’s hard to imagine. Kind of like a fish imagining life without water. We’ve known corporate media for generations. Since the advent of psychology and marketing, the influence/manipulation of corporate media is ubiquitous. And not in a good way.

But let’s take a few moments to imagine the features of post-corporate media, where increasing the audience [by a variety of questionable, sensationalist means, sometimes] to increase ad revenue isn’t the goal.

Let’s start here with this:

  1. The CBC. Mothercorp. Publicly funded, at arms length from the taxpayer funder. It has access to national radio and TV network space. It has an orchestra and a variety of stations that run no commercials. It contributes to the shared creation of a national culture, while celebrating regional flavour. Most of this isn’t the case any more as funding cuts, and leadership appointees are driving the corporatization of the CBC. Of course, corporate media complains that the CBC has an unfair public subsidy. OF COURSE IT DOES! It is the public broadcaster! It’s supposed to be outside the competitive realm. Maybe we can fix/restore it. Maybe not. We’ll see.
  2. Media coops. Mediacoop.ca. A cooperative of media producers and consumers.
  3. CHEK TV is a worker coop, with community investors. It was about to be mothballed when workers and community members moved to save it. It still runs ads, but its ownership is better than that of corporate investors. Unfortunately, the Kamloops Daily News is closing, but instead of the 60 day countdown, they’re actually stopping tomorrow.
  4. Co-op Radio is a cooperative of media producers.
  5. Consumer Reports: a fully subscription-funded magazine that reviews products. It accepts no advertising because ANY advertising undermines its status as free of potential or perceived conflict of interest. And while objectivity is a myth, Consumer Reports works very hard to maintain their impeccable integrity.
  6. Rabble.ca and TheTyee.ca have significant union funding. That’s pretty post-corporate.
  7. Policy Note and the Progressive Economics Forum: two media portals for a variety of experts to weigh in on public policy and economic issues.
  8. Alternet, Truthout and Disinfo are also excellent post-corporate content providers, among MANY more around the world.
  9. Gender Focus, Bitch and Feministing are among great media from feminist analysts. Bitch uses its political filter to screen their ads/sponsorship, which is quite progressive.
  10. Then we have a variety of independent editorial/blog media that are not corporate, either because they operate without budgets, or have small budgets, or accept donations. Their reach is small because they have little or no money to advertise to the masses. Chicken and the egg problem. We are in this category.

What features do we see here?

  1. The capacity to do journalism and editorials.
  2. The capacity for letters to the editor, and equivalent engagement.
  3. The capacity to investigate stories.
  4. Sufficient transparency so that remaining free of conflicts of interest is a product of its community.

We can imagine new features too:

  1. Sharing content by building networks of independent media locally, regionally, nationally, continentally and internationally. This way each site does not need to have foreign correspondents and massive satellite transmission costs. Aggregators and distributors like ProgressiveBloggers.ca contribute here.
  2. And this is the magical part: there needs to be a mechanism to get “market share”. Remember, our culture are fish, breathing in the water of corporate media. We are trained to believe that mainstream media is “real” and the rest of flakes and unreliable. Absurd is that is, it’s what we have to work with. The magic we need is a transformation so that larger portions of our population can see what post-corporate media can offer.  We could just raise money somehow and advertise, but that is a losing game when we are trying to fight for ad space in a world created and run by corporate media with billions to invest and Madison Avenue and Super Bowl commercials always there to crush us. I suspect the magic is in human engagement. If you consume post-corporate media, you already know these truths. Tell someone. And maybe they’ll two friends, and so on and so on [sorry about that!]. Producing good content that is responsible, engaging, important, intelligent and respectful of audience makes the post-corporate media sites valuable.
  3. We need funding models that are not ad-dependent or corporate that can actually hire journalists, editors, publishers and managers to run this kind of corporate media. Once, people used to subscribe to newspapers. We should do that with post-corporate media.

So here’s something to ponder. The list up there is pretty long. Long enough to allow someone to allocate their whole media/news consumption time for each week just on those, and related sites. So it’s not like there is no alternative, it’s just that not enough people are exploring that alternative.

So your job is to promote post-corporate media content wherever you can and to challenge your people to not consider corporate media to be the mainstream. They only “are” because they have big corporate bucks to occupy and saturate our lives. We need to go Howard Beale and shut them off. We need to help our people understand how corporate media sensationalizes and censors information. And their goal is maximizing shareholder wealth by maximizing its audience to maximize ad revenue. Period. And sometimes they visit elementary schools in poor neighbourhoods and bring Subway sandwiches and toys to everyone [but that may just be PR [insert sarcasm emoticon here]].

And when I think about the disappearance of the Kamloops Daily News this week, that community may become a petri dish of spawning great post-corporate media production. I’m crossing my fingers. Maybe Politics, Re-Spun will spawn/incubate/partner a Kamloops installation. Who knows? If you are media provider, editorialist, journalist, consumer of post-corporate media or other interested party in that area, send me a line. Maybe we can create something amazing!

So, where did this whole review come from today? Some Twitter interaction earlier this week when pondering the end of the Kamloops Daily News. Here’s how it played out. It’s quite entertaining, actually. You’ll note a concern about funding for media professionals, which is sound. You’ll also note a premise that post-corporate media has to look and act like corporate media. That misses the whole point. You’ll also note it’s hard for people to hear post-corporate media messages. So don’t be surprised that in your evangelical mission, you get a bunch of blank stares at the start.

But persevere! A post-corporate media world is worth our effort, like this.

We just have to wrap our heads around a new paradigm. Together we can all be paradigm mechanics!

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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