Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Press 'Asleep At The Wheel' On Astroturf

Allowing baby bells a greased track for 'franchise reform'

Consumer advocate Bruce Kushnick wonders why nobody in the press seems to care that the baby bells are using consumer groups (often fake ones) to manipulate the public as part of their recent push for video "franchise reform". Consumer advocates (real ones) note the reform bills making their way through dozens of states will eliminate public access, legalize cherry picking resulting in less broadband penetration, erode local eminent domain rights, and strip away consumer protections -- which will lead to higher prices.

Yet the vast majority of the news coverage of these laws is bubbly editorial regurgitation of incumbent lobbyist talking points, fed to consumers via these conflicted groups. In a piece for the Harvard University Nieman Watchdog, Kushnick laments the fact that nobody in the technology sector seems particularly concerned about any of this (there are, after all, iPhone stories to write).
You would think it would be embarrassing for the press and media to quote astroturf and co-opted groups as ‘authentic’ – but most press simply are asleep at the wheel. In many cases, as with the Newark Star Ledger, op-ed pages run pieces by astroturf or co-opted groups while news coverage seldom questions why various non-profits have come forward to support a corporate position.
He points to similar Gordon Cook concerns from last summer. Also see the older Common Cause report on astroturf organizations and their impact on public telecom-related discourse.