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Media Reform Talk

Contact: Wally Bowen, 255-0182May 11, 2007

Media reform talk
set for May 24

ASHEVILLE - "The Progressive Response to an Undemocratic Media" is the title of a talk by Asheville media activist Wally Bowen at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24 at Jubilee! Community on 46 Wall Street in downtown Asheville. The talk is free and open to the public.

Bowen will be introduced by Jerald ter Horst, former White House press secretary to President Gerald Ford. A former Washington bureau chief for the Detroit News, ter Horst resigned in protest when President Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Bowen will discuss how a commercial media system driven by TV and concentrated in fewer and fewer hands is failing to serve the democratic goal of an "informed citizenry" envisioned by the nation's founders.

"The commercial media system limits our national dialogue by chopping up the world into sound-bites and sensational images," Bowen said.

"To add insult to injury, this system then forces our political candidates to pay astronomical sums of money to buy access to the public airwaves that, theoretically, belong to the American people. This system is deeply dysfunctional, undemocratic, and ripe for reform," he said.

Bowen will trace the historical roots of the U.S. media system and outline an agenda for media reform being pushed by a bipartisan coalition of organizations and political leaders, including U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Trent Lott (R-MS) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

As a founding member of that coalition, Bowen spoke last January at the third National Conference on Media Reform in Memphis, TN.

The talk will include an update on net neutrality, the possible re-allocation of the public airwaves, and threats to public, education and government access TV channels.

Bowen will also discuss Senate Bill 1068, currently pending in the N.C. General Assembly, which would ensure future funding for URTV and for public, education and government access (PEG) channels statewide.

Funding for PEG access channels was severely restricted last July when the N.C. General Assembly passed a statewide video franchise law, which bans local governments from negotiating cable TV franchise agreements. For more than a decade, Bowen led the effort to create public access TV in Asheville and Buncombe County.

Bowen will also describe the Mountain Area Information Network's nonprofit business model, which is based on providing high-speed Internet service and webhosting to local citizens and small businesses. This business model, in turn, provides sustainable funding for grassroots citizen-journalism, including MAIN's low-power radio station, WPVM, at 103.5 FM. Bowen is executive director and founder of MAIN and WPVM.

Bowen is currently consulting with the Media Giraffe Project at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to promote MAIN's sustainable community media model in the New England states.

For more information, call MAIN at 255-0182 or visit END

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