Break the Monopoly on Local TV News

May 8, 2014

TRNN Senior Editor Paul Jay says we have to create local TV news that engages millions of people in finding solutions to the critical problems of our time

TRNN Senior Editor Paul Jay says we have to create local TV news that engages millions of people in finding solutions to the critical problems of our time



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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Hi. I’m Paul Jay of The Real News Network.

Concentration of ownership leads to concentration of political power. An important piece of the structure of this power is a handful of major media and telecom conglomerates that have a monopoly on daily national and, very importantly, local television news. According to a USC Times poll, most people rely on local television for news and information. The same poll found that local newspapers were second choice. Amongst younger people, Facebook was first and local television news was second. It found that African-Americans are more inclined to turn to local television news.

While local TV news is influential on the whole, its journalistic standards are extremely low, and according to Pew, 40 percent of its content is sports, traffic, and weather. When it does cover news, it turns tragedy into infotainment. It dehumanizes victims and perpetrators. It shuns historical and social context and avoids seeking effective solutions.

If we’re to engage in people in solving the critical problems of our time, we have to break the monopoly on daily television news, starting at the local level. Throwing more facts into the information sea will not change the game. We have to address people’s immediate concerns, investigating and debating short- and long-term solutions.

Our news can’t be just a critique of what’s wrong. At The Real News, people working for change to find solutions will be the most important stories we cover.

For most people, life is a day-to-day struggle for existence. When the majority of people watch news, it’s mostly about the city or town where they live. That’s one reason why we think that the path to real democracy lies through the cities. While we will continue to improve our international and national coverage, the next big initiative of The Real News is to help transform the news and political culture of an important American city, and the place is Baltimore, Maryland, a city that straddles North and South. It’s 65 percent African-American. It’s only a 45 minute to the nation’s capital and is located in one of the top ten states with the most pronounced income inequality in the country.

Real News moved its headquarters to downtown Baltimore in May 2012 with a $3 million investment. The small family foundation Quitiplas donated two buildings, totaling 31,000 square feet, located one block from City Hall. The centerpiece of the Real News Media Center is the Baltimore studios. The facility features production offices, three TV and radio studios, including one that seats 125 people for townhall and cultural events.

The Real News distribution is growing. Our web traffic is up. And convergence, where people get programming delivered to their television sets over the internet, it’s finally here. We’re already on Roku in 5 million homes. And if you don’t know what Roku is, I guess Google it, but we’re going to be explaining that soon. But it’s a little box that you plug your ethernet cable in, has a lot of channels, including a Real News channel. We’ve signed a contract to be on Comcast on demand in 8 million homes in the northeast of the United States. And there are many other ways to stream our web content to a TV set. We’ll soon be producing formats targeting the mobile market and internet radio, and our one-hour news show will be on public access stations in millions of homes, starting in New York, Baltimore, and D.C., and soon after across the country.

With verifiable investigative journalism, a participatory process that involves life-cast town hall debates, a Jacobs Ladder Cafe that will be a social hub for everyone that wants to change the world, hip-hop shows and films screenings, internet radio channels and live stream events, training programs for at-risk youth, we will help engage the community in taking up problems for solution.

Through this participatory process, we will strive to answer the question, if a state and a city are run in the interest of the majority of the people, what does that public policy look like?

With lively, innovative local news and entertainment programming in addition to our current international and national news analysis, we plan to be mainstream media in Baltimore and soon after in other cities.

Of course, we will continue our model of no corporate or government funding and no advertising. That’s what gives us the ability to reach rational conclusions based on an uncompromising search for the truth.

We think this plan is a game changer. If we break through to a mass audience in a big city, we’ll have a far more significant impact nationally and internationally.

But, of course, we can’t do it without you. Our spring matching-grant campaign is on. A hundred and fifty thousand dollars–that’s what we need to raise. And for every dollar donated, our donors will match up to $75,000. You give a dollar, we get another dollar. This all leads up to a big live webathon on June 2 that will feature Real News guests and music and much more.

Please donate generously. We can’t keep this work going without your support. Join us in making real news.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.