media

The Global Media Revolution: Don't Forget About Television

Tomorrow NDN hosts an intriguing  discussion, on Twitter, Iran, and More: Impressions from the Front Lines of the Global Media Revolution. Being 3000 and some miles away, I can’t come. So I thought I’d throw a thought across; which is not to forget about television, still the heart of most of the world's media revolt.

Twitter's final impact on Iran’s election protests remains in dispute. Andrew Sullivan first talked it up about a month ago. Various academics, including Harvard's John Palfrey, have since gently talked it down again, pointing out that the service has limitations as a truly revolutionary technology: its format is too brief to be meaningful, it's too easily censored (when the regime wakes up to its existence), and it's only used by a tiny minority. Twitter probably played some part in organising the protests: 2,024,166 tweets in 18 days surely had an effect, even if most came from outside Iran. But it became the story because of its novelty, not its utility—it was a technology many people in the west had only just heard of—and became it, in turn, was a useful way of telling the revolt's story.

In one sense this didn't matter. Increasing access to free media is an important part of the broader story of "the rise of the rest" which will play as background music throughout Obama's presidency. Twitter told that story in the context of Iran. But a number of dangers still lurk. The most obvious is that we associate new media with freedoms. An obvious counter-example over the last week has come from China, following last week's uighur riots. The west worries the Uighurs are unjustly treated, but so i'm told even when one takes into account that truly liberal voices aren't encouraged, the vast majority of China's online voices thinks the government hasn't punished the Uighurs enough. Free expression tends to go hand in hand with political freedom, but it's only a general rule.

Just as dangerous would be to expect a new technology, like Twitter, to accompany along with each protest and revolt. Often the most important democratic technologies, and the ones that the west can do most to spread, are the most obvious. Take Pakistan, which I visited a few months back. The country has dropped off the agenda a bit for the last month, pushed off first by Iran, then China, then Obama's Russia visit, and now by fighting in Afghanistan. But it remains America's geo-strategic priority. And the opinions of its people — do they support the Taliban, how critical they are of the United States, how angry they are about the latest drone strikes — will likely be more important to US foreign policy over the next 12 months than any other single population on earth.

Pakistan doesn't seem to have taken to Twitter. The army's violent retaking of the Swat valley last month went entirely uninterrupted by short messages, or news stories with blue birds. And while its blogging community has some influence, its suffers many of the limitations as newspapers in a country where only half the population can read, and many fewer have internet access. But what Pakistan does have is television; a massive explosion in domestic television channels, going from only 1 station about a decade ago to more than 100 today.

The channels are free of government control, increasingly professional, and hugely politically influential. Most are run in Pakistan (although some are based in Dubai), but they broadcast to Pakistanis in the US, and the UK. They have broken social taboos on everything from religious talk shows, to dating and marriage—while also playing a big role in recent pro-democracy protests. Without anyone really noticing in the west these channels (and their largely liberal, western-educated owners) have been influential in pushing Pakistan public opinion against the Taliban over the last couple of months. And most Pakistanis watch TV news - in the tens of millions. It's an old technology, but it's by far the most important way of expressing the aspirations of Pakistan's people. With luck, someone might even Twitter about it during tomorrow's discussion.

Cowardice, Not Courage

It is clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose this election. After a series of lies and mischaracterizations that have been chronicled by numerous news sources, U.S. Sen. John McCain released an attack ad today about Barack Obama's record on immigration.  Having participated in the immigration debate during 2007 as a Hill staffer as it was happening, and having delved into the dozens of amendments thrown at the bill per minute by those who would try to block immigration reform, and having had to sort through all the "poison pill" amendments, I feel a responsibility to distinguish between truth and fiction in regards to an issue as important as immigration reform.  The truth is that Senator Obama proposed an amendment to the section on a temporary worker program in order to ensure that those workers are a paid a prevailaing wage - i.e., to help push wages up.  It is disturbing to see this attempt to misinform Hispanic voters, as members of the Democratic leadership are accused in this ad for having halted immigration reform, when they were the ones who presented the legislation to the floor and fought to have the issue voted on and passed - not once, but twice.  The reason immigration even came to a vote twice is that many Republicans - including President George W. Bush - also recognize the dire need to fix the broken immigration system, and there was thought to be enough support at the time for reform.  What really happened: there were insufficient votes to close debate and move to vote on immigration reform because the Republicans who had pledged to support the legislation caved to the anti-immigrant rhetoric and voted against cloture.  The truth is John McCain changed his position and did not participate in the 2007 debate to provide the necessary political leadership to pass reform.  And that could have made a difference - one could argue that it was John McCain's absence and lack of leadership on this issue that led to its demise.  I'll refer you to our Hispanics Rising report, where we track the immigration debate and John McCain's abandonment of his own reform legislation.  The truth is, John McCain abandoned the reform he had once promoted because he feared the political ramifications.  As reported by the Washington Post (see Hispanics Rising), John McCain told his party "I got the message", immigration reform was not popular.  Sadly, it remains very necessary.  

Here is the translation of the ad, called "Which Side Are They On":

ANNCR:Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?
The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail. The result:
No guest worker program.
No path to citizenship.
No secure borders.
No reform.
Is that being on our side?
Obama and his Congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
ANNCR: Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee. Approved by McCain-Palin 2008.

I must say, this ad insults my intelligence, and it is a shame because John McCain was the first to come out promising to keep this campaign "clean", and to not reach for baseless attacks like this one.  You will see below, McCain said, "Do we have to go to the lowest common denominator? I don't think so". Well Mr. McCain, you already have - this is just another example of how low you can go. Is lying to voters putting "country first"? I don't think so.

More Than Just "Novelas"

As mentioned in NDN's report, Hispanics Rising 2, the growth of Spanish-speaking media is on the rise. In an article this week, the Associated Press reports: Spanish-speaking news casts are eclipsing their English-language competitors in major media markets all over the country: in New York, within the past few months, WXTV's 6 p.m. newscast has eclipsed its English-speaking competitors on ABC, CBS, and NBC stations in popularity among viewers younger than 49. This reflects a trend mentioned in NDN's report: among 25-54 year-olds, the September 9, 2007 Presidential debate on Univision had the largest viewership of any debate - with 1,166,000 viewers. Case and point of the growing influence of the Hispanic viewership: the Nevada State Democratic Party just named Emilia Pablo , reporter and producer for two years at Univision and one of the most recognized faces in the Las Vegas Valley, as its new spokeswoman.

In Los Angeles, KMEX had more viewers in June for its newscast than any of its English competitors, regardless of age, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"It talks about how the United States is changing," said Ray Rodriguez, president and chief operating officer of Univision Communications, Inc. "It's a bigger story than just television." One startling change has been the TV-watching habits of Hispanic viewers. In 1995, most Hispanic viewers in New York primarily watched English-language television (62 percent) over Spanish-language stations (38 percent), according to Nielsen Media Research. Last year, viewers favored the Spanish stations 71 to 29 percent.

This trend might alarm those who believe that it's because these new residents and citizens are not assimilating into the United States, but Univision executives have analyzed the viewership and explain: the majority of their viewers are bilingual. As Maelia Macin, Station Manager for KMEX in California explains, "The choice is made more for content than language."

Spanish-language news more aggressively cultivates the relationship with the largest growing demographic in the country by trying to be a resource for them in all areas of life: everything from participating in local community events, to running voter mobilization campaigns, health symposiums, etc. General news is not excluded, it's just packaged differently - in addition to covering the National Football or Baseball League, Spanish-language media also covers major soccer games in Latin America - when rivals were preoccupied with Christy Brinkley's divorce and the capture of a Brooklyn murder suspect, New York's WXTV led its local news with a story about graffiti saying "Get out of the USA " painted near a Peruvian restaurant on Long Island. The Spanish-speaking Univision affiliate figured it was a more meaningful story for its audience, and those kinds of choices are paying off.

NDN Influencing Debate

For years, NDN has been a leader on Hispanic issues, including comprehensive immigration reform and analysis of Latino demographic and voting trends. In the last few months, NDN has set out to make the argument that Hispanic and immigrant voters have become a critical voting bloc in the United States and will play a pivotal role this fall and in all future elections. Our arguments went public in a big way in late May as we released Hispanics Rising II, an in-depth, updated look at Hispanic demographic and voting trends and the critical role that the Hispanic community is playing in U.S. politics. Below are some of the articles relevant to our argument as well as Andres's presentation at NCLR's Conference in San Diego last week:

Latino turnout could hold key to White House - San Francisco Chronicle, by Tyche Hendricks, May 21, 2008

Obama closes in on Democratic nomination - Xinhua General News Service, by Yang Qingchuan, May 21, 2008.

Obama looks west in electoral map play - Politico, by Carrie Budoff Brown, May 27, 2008

Favorece voto latino a demócratas por tema de inmigración en EU - El Financiero, May 28, 2008

Obama woos key states with accent on Spanish - Financial Times, By Andrew Ward in Reno, Nevada, and Edward Luce in Washington, May 29, 2008

Group predicts record Hispanic turnout in next presidential election - Mashall News Messenger, by Bob Deans, May 29, 2008

Democratic Group Says Hispanic Voters Run to Democratic Party - Kansas City Infozine, by Christian A. Cheairs, May 29, 2008

Election 2008: Latino vote could be pivotal in Western states - San Jose Mercury News, By Frank Davies, May 29, 2008

El voto latino aumenta y se vuelve más demócrata - La Opinion, Pilar Marrero, May 29, 2008

Obama va por el voto hispano - CNN Espanol, May 29, 2008

Obama's E Pluribus Challenge - Rolling Stone, June 04, 2008

Obama leads in battle for Latino vote - Los Angeles Times, by Reed Johnson, June 06, 2008

Obama en busca del voto latino - La Opinion, by Pilar Marrero, June 06, 2008

Hispanics will be Obama's big challenge - Miami Herald, by Andres Oppenheimer, June 08, 2008

Spanish-language media key to victory with Latinos - Politico, by Gebe Martinez, June 10, 2008

El voto latino será crucial en 2008 - Univision, June 13, 2008

Shift on immigration could cost McCain - St. Petersburg Times, by Alex Leary and Wes Allison, June 21, 2008

The swing states of 2008 - Salon.com, by Thomas F. Schaller, June 24, 2008

Obama, McCain make strong bid for Latino votes - San Francisco Chronicle, by Carla Marinucci, June 26, 2008

McCain, Obama battle for Hispanic votes - The Hill, by Roxana Tiron, June 28, 2008

Swinging for Latinos - New Mexico Independent, by Marjorie Childress, July 1, 2008

Hispanic voters gaining strength in key states - Associated Press, by Stephen Ohlemacher, July 2, 2008

McCain revs efforts to woo Hispanic voters - The Arizona Republic, by Dan Nowicki, July 10, 2008

POLITICS: Latinos expected to play key role in presidential election - North County Times, CA, by Edward Sifuentes, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama prepara un "llamado a las trincheras" durante un foro hispano - EFE News Service, Andres's interview with Maria Pena, July 13, 2008.

NPR: 'Bush Hispanics' Say Goodbye To GOP, by Jennifer Ludden, July 13, 2008

McCain woos Latinos, touts immigration votes - San Francisco Chronicle, by Carla Marinucci, July 15, 2008

A Patriot With a Microphone

Following on Sarah's post, the two celebrities most recently added as U.S. citizens highlight an important point we should not forget: the United States is a nation of immigrants. The best way to attack existing negative advertising campaigns designed to perpetuate stereotypes and demonize immigrants is by introducing the public to who immigrants really are.

In addition to the beloved "Big Papi," a national sports figure, a celebrity of the Radio industry also recently obtained citizenship. Eddie "Piolin" Cuauhtémoc Sotelo, known by his listeners as "Piolin" (translation of "Tweety bird" in Spanish) due to this small frame, energy and comedic disposition, called becoming a citizen a "dream come true" during a ceremony in Los Angeles held two weeks ago today. He became a citizen next to 18,000 other people from 100 different countries.

His Spanish-language show is the radio show with the largest audience in the country, and as a citizen, Piolin reiterates his desire to use his microphone and celebrity to help immigrants adjust as they live in the United States. A native of Jalisco, Mexico, he has a strong religious faith and faith in the "power given to me to help my people." In an interview with Univision, he also highlighted the important contributions of immigrants to the United States, and the importance of having immigrants become citizens so that they may demonstrate their love for this country and prosper. Piolin himself has spearheaded citizenship drives, voter registration drives, get out the vote campaigns, and he has lobbied Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. Eddie is an immigrant who, like so many others, came to this country to be better. He is hard working and he attributes his success to "hard work and group effort." Eddie is also a friend of NDN, here he is with Simon Rosenberg and Joe Garcia:

Misogyny Monday

Geraldine Ferraro reports on sexism in the race for the Presidency in the Boston Globe.

A new Brookings report shows that there are not more women in office becuase we aren't interested.

Editor and Publisher interviewed Senator Hillary Clinton on sexism in media coverage.

Not only are we not interested in politics, Elaine McArdle at the Boston Globe writes about a new study that shows women don't like science and engineering either. Even more interesting, the three grand winners at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair...All Young Women! And yet we aren't interested in science? huh.

The Women's Media Center put together this clip of sexism in the media.

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