This time of year, entertainment awards dominate the news cycle. From last month’s Golden Globes, Screen Actors and Directors Guild Awards to Sunday evening’s telecast of the 54th Grammy Awards, it’s all celebrities all the time. Then there’s Oscar’s big night on February 26th. Between all of the excitement and anticipation of award season, is it any wonder that US news workers have neglected a few important stories?
For readers weary of snarky comments from the Red Carpet fashion police, or otherwise bored to tears by George Clooney’s PR blitz for that elusive Best Actor Award, the Bloomington Alternative presents the Award Season edition of the annals of censorship.
We’re Number 47!
Last month, Reporters Without Borders issued its 10th annual press freedom index. Reporters Without Borders has been defending press freedom around the world since 1985, so it knows a thing or two about the dire circumstances news workers encounter on a daily basis.
"The bad news: the United States came in at number 47 on this year’s press freedom index."
The report begins, “This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world.”
The good news: countries with a long history of press censorship, such as Tunisia, improved their standing considerably. The bad news: the United States came in at number 47 on this year’s press freedom index.
While U.S. news media produced sympathetic coverage of some, but certainly not all, of the pro-democracy movements across greater Middle East, American news workers have been silent on one of the more disturbing aspects of last year’s history making events: the assault on press freedom here at home.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the United States “owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.”
The UK-based Daily Mail put the U.S. news media’s lackluster performance in perspective, “The slide in the United States places it just behind Comoros and Taiwan in a group with Argentina and Romania.” Nuff said.
Political ad profits
As if the horse race coverage of award season were not enough, the handicapping surrounding the GOP primary is generating more heat than light. Rick Santorum’s three state-sweep last Tuesday only added fuel to the fire.
"The broadcast industry is doing all it can to avoid disclosing how much radio and television stations make during campaign season."
Campaign financing – and all of the political advertising this money buys – is a perennial news story in an election year. And yet, despite all of this coverage, the broadcast industry is doing all it can to avoid disclosing how much radio and television stations make during campaign season.
Writing for AlterNet, Jay Costa reports, “Last week the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed another in a series of comments to the FCC opposing new rules that would require broadcast TV stations to post information online about the political ads they air.” Costa, who works with MapLight.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that examines the influence of money on electoral politics, goes on to document some of advertising buys of GOP rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich during this, the most expensive election cycles in U.S. history.
Between the uncertain outcome of the Republican primaries and President Obama’s “reluctant but principled” acceptance of Super PAC financing for the general election, broadcasters have earned bragging rights on their election year windfall.
But it seems the broadcast industry’s appetite for campaign minutiae only goes so far.
Kevin Howley is associate professor of media studies at DePauw University.