News aggregator

A Win in Spin for the Corporate-Backed Tea Party

PR - Fri, 11/05/2010 - 20:16

In the weeks before the 2010 mid-term elections, the Tea Party and its activities dominated the media, but there was a decided lack of discussion about exactly what the Tea Party is. Major media seemed sold on the idea that the Tea Party is one big homogenous, spontaneous grassroots uprising, but this was not the case. Apart from a single, exhaustive article in the August 30, 2010 edition of The New Yorker (aptly titled "Covert Operations,") that linked the wealthy billionaire Koch Brothers' and their corporate interests to the Tea Party, few media outlets discussed which factions of the movement were truly grassroots, which were corporate-backed, and to what extent corporations supported the "movement."

Here at PRWatch, we strove to tease out the difference between various Tea Party factions, like the GOP-backed Tea Party Express, the grassroots Tea Party Patriots and the for-profit corporation called Tea Party Nation. We found out which factions were getting the big money, who their PR operatives were, what types of PR tricks they were engaging in, and more.

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Upcoming Report on Election 2010 & the Corporate Agenda

PR - Wed, 11/03/2010 - 17:31

Lisa Graves, CMD Executive Director With the flood of opinions about the meaning of the 2010 election results and the hundreds of millions spent by front groups and special interests, I'll be taking a deeper look at the results, spending reports and other research in the coming days.

Some of the spending data is in, and some will remain concealed, but we will be digging through it to give you the Center's unique perspective on what it means for PR, for public policy, and for our democracy.

So, please look for our upcoming analysis, which we'll email and post online in the coming weeks. This weekend, will be offline as we prepare to launch major upgrades to this website, but we will be back online next week and our redesigned website should be live later this month for you to use and explore.

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Obama Economic Team Passes Out the Kool-Aid

PR - Wed, 11/03/2010 - 13:43

It’s the day before a hotly-contested national election, where it appeared the rabble was well positioned to deliver a colossal spanking to the elites who have for too long ignored their plight, so what does Team Obama do?

They have a press conference to talk about their eagerness to complete the Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiated by President Bush. "The president has long said we want to try and address the outstanding issues regarding the Free Trade Agreement in order to bring it forward for approval," said Mike Froman, Obama’s deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs. “[W]e're going to put every effort into achieving ... an acceptable agreement, a satisfactory agreement, by the time the president comes to Seoul," he told a news conference on Monday.

Are these people nuts?

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Voter Intimidation in Wisconsin

PR - Tue, 11/02/2010 - 05:08

The progressive advocacy group One Wisconsin Now has uncovered a plan by the Wisconsin Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, and local Tea Party groups to engage in what One Wisconsin Now is calling a “voter suppression” scheme. The GOP and Tea Party groups have denied the existence of such a plan, instead claiming that their efforts are aimed at preventing alleged "voter fraud."

The voter-suppression charge arises from right-wing groups training “election observers” to challenge people they somehow suspect of voting fraudulently in Wisconsin’s elections. Americans for Prosperity is paying for a series of mailings targeted at communities of color, to assemble a list of “ineligible” voters that Tea Party election observers will challenge at the polls. Such challenges are not only intimidating and intrusive, but contribute to long lines at polling stations, further discouraging voters.

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"Deadly Spin" Coming November 9

PR - Mon, 11/01/2010 - 22:31

CMDs Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell PotterThe Center for Media and Democracy's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, has a new tell-all book coming out November 9, Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans. The book details disinformation campaigns that health insurers use to cover up their misdeeds and manipulate public policy, reveals insurers' public relations tricks, like commissioning bogus scientific studies, working through fake "grassroots" organizations, and disseminating rhetoric designed to scare the public. (Think phrases like "socialism" and "death panels," that Wendell reveals were created by health insurance companies.) Wendell tells about the methods insurers use to "dump the sick," discusses the skyrocketing premiums and high deductibles that are putting health care out of reach for working people, and discloses the outrageous salaries that insurance companies executives make while denying care to patients. As the former head of Corporate Communications for CIGNA, Wendell is uniquely to qualified bring this important information to the public. The book, published by Bloomsbury, can be ordered at

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The Illicit Action Network

PR - Fri, 10/29/2010 - 20:57

Fred Malek (from YouTube)The Center for Media and Democracy continues its series exposing the right-wing political operatives, billionaires, and corporate executives behind the American Action Network (AAN), the group running grossly misleading ads attacking Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. This week, we highlight AAN board member and CREEP-er, Fred Malek.

Our past articles have suggested that AAN is attacking Russ Feingold as revenge for his votes for financial reform, and against TARP and the Wall Street bailout. We have demonstrated that some of AAN’s board members benefited personally from TARP and the Wall Street bailout, and are trying to convince voters to support corporatist candidates who will do their bidding and stall needed financial reforms. We’ve also noted how the Washington, D.C.-based AAN operates under a veil of secrecy, collecting over $25 million from anonymous corporate donors. American Action Network Chair Fred Malek is well versed in punishing those considered “disloyal” and carrying out acts of deception.

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Can We Really Call the AFSCME the "Big Dog?"

PR - Fri, 10/29/2010 - 20:48

A variety of media outlets are reporting that the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal, Employees (AFSCME) is spending $87.5 million on election activities in 2010, making it the “big dog” in spending for the campaign season. The Center for Media and Democracy is a nonpartisan organization, and encourages voters to be skeptical about campaign messages from outside groups regardless of whether they are supporting Democrats or Republicans. However, we feel it necessary to point out that AFSCME’s spending does not equalize the playing field.

First, although AFSCME may be the single biggest spender, the “big dog” title is a little disingenuous, as the corporate-funded interest groups supposedly outspent by the union are numerous and coordinated. Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads, is spending $65 million, and it shares office space and harmonizes its activities with American Action Network, which is spending $25 million.

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Millionaire Insiders Hide Behind Group Attacking Feingold

PR - Wed, 10/27/2010 - 04:02

An activist group called SpeechNow.Org is running ads against Senator Russ Feingold. It blames him for the deficit and claims that clean election laws he spearheaded are “attacking free speech.” But who’s really behind SpeechNow’s folksy, cartoon attack ads?

The Money Bags: One funder is multi-millionaire Fred Young, the heir of the Young Radiator fortune in Racine. He sold his Wisconsin company for over $70 million in 1998 to a group that quickly merged with Wabtec Corporation, a multinational with a history of outsourcing jobs to make goods in China and elsewhere. But even before Young sold the company, he worked to ship well-paying Wisconsin jobs out of state. Back in 1991, Young Radiator closed its Racine plant and fired 120 Wisconsin workers in order to boost his profits by outsourcing work to Iowa and Tennessee plants that did not give union-negotiated benefits. Young donated over $100,000 last month to fund attacks against Feingold, constituting the bulk of the funding. With millions in profits from helping to sell out Wisconsin’s industrial base and time on his hands, Young has become involved in Washington, D.C.-based groups, like SpeechNow.

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Special Report on Outrageous Election Spin and Misinformation

PR - Wed, 10/27/2010 - 01:51

Doesn't it seem like there are more negative political campaign ads than ever before?

It's difficult to watch almost any TV without being bombarded with repetitive ads "paid for" by some group that claims to be just like you, or like someone you want to be, like "Americans for Prosperity" and its so-called "Prosperity Network." But you can help fight back.

With most everyone else tightening their belts as the economy staggers back from the meltdown caused by Wall Street gambling, who can afford to blanket our airwaves with scary "independent" political ads? Wall Street. But these fat cats are trying to hide their role in this obscene wave of mid-term election spending by funneling their profits through front groups. Together we can shine a light on their efforts to take control of our democracy.

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The Ubiquitous "Too Much Big Government" Theme

PR - Tue, 10/26/2010 - 18:55

We hear it everywhere this election season. Candidates, ads and TV pundits say we have "too much big government!" Virtually any attempt to regulate or tax any industry is a government intrusion into our lives. Candidates say they want less government. What's up with this ubiquitous, anti-government theme?

The "Government intrusion" argument is a powerful propaganda theme that has been around for a long time, and one that big businesses often use to manipulate public opinion. As with so many other corporate-derived propaganda tools, the anti-government theme originated largely with the tobacco industry, which has relied on it for decades to get its way in public policy.

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What Can Indie Film Learn from Indie Music?

Center for Social Media - Tue, 05/18/2010 - 19:26
On May 7, I led a discussion at the Maryland Film Festival  of what independent film can learn from the upheaval in the music business. At the festival's "Filmmakers Taking Charge" conference, music manager and promoter Jason Foster talked about the value of providing free downloads of songs, in order to make money at live events and with direct sales, often at those events. (He also noted that it was a lot cheaper to make music than to make movies.) Promoter Cullen Stalin talked about the challenge of dealing with industry behemoth Live Nation/Ticketmaster, which has a lock on many venues and on promotion as well. Both said that promotion via social media was absolutely key to their work; giving…

Fair Use Question of the Month: Can I post recordings of me playing a video game?

Center for Social Media - Tue, 05/18/2010 - 14:27
QUESTION: Dear Center for Social Media, I have a question that touches on point four of the Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Online Video. I own and play a game called Audiosurf. The game uses songs as a base and creates game levels based on the properties of the song such as BPM, pitch etc. Each level is the length of the song chosen and the player plays it in a Guitar Hero like game play, with varying game modes changing how it's actually played. Due to the difficulty of making a repeat performance of a perfect play in some levels, I make it a habit of recording my play sessions. These recordings then include not just…

MYMM presentation: New Models for Impact Assessment

Center for Social Media - Wed, 05/12/2010 - 19:32
Jessica Clark: Making Your Media Matter 2010View more presentations from Jessica Clark.

At Making Your Media Matter: Two new CSM reports examine emerging models for media impact assessment

Center for Social Media - Wed, 05/12/2010 - 11:00
At today's Making Your Media Matter conference, the Center for Social Media is excited to release two reports that examine new models for assessing media impact: Investing in Impact Throughout the spring, the CSM and The Media Consortium (TMC) drew together dozens of leading public interest media makers, funders and researchers in Chicago, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Boston for a series of Impact Summits. These convenings—which asked attendees to describe how they measure reach, relevance, engagement, inclusion and influence in their work—informed a new analysis co-published by CSM and TMC: Investing In Impact: Media Summits Reveal Pressing Needs, Tools for Evaluating Public Interest Media. In Investing in Impact, we outline the major arguments for…

Talking about Documentary Ethics—Among Friends

Center for Social Media - Mon, 05/10/2010 - 19:30
What keeps filmmakers from having a sure sense of what’s acceptable, in an environment where every day the demands for entertainment, sensationalism, and extremism are ratcheted up? Fear of talking about the problems they encounter, according to conversations members of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Women in Film and Video (which also by the way includes men) had at dinner meetings throughout the city and at WIFV’s Wednesday One. Filmmakers risk reputation and contracts if they share doubts, conflicts and questions they have about the best way to get their work done. All of WIFV’s hosted conversations, including Wednesday One, were off-the-record and unrecorded. WIFV organized informal, intimate conversational spaces precisely to overcome the very real problems that filmmakers face…

Fair Use Online at IFP Chicago

Center for Social Media - Thu, 05/06/2010 - 19:23
On a splendid sunny spring day, Chicago-area filmmakers got together at Columbia College and resolutely faced away from the art college’s magnificent eighth-floor view of the lake. They were too busy learning about changing business models, how to use social networking to promote their work, and about fair use. Filmmaker Gordon Quinn and I hosted a panel on fair use in a digital environment for filmmakers, with the MacArthur Foundation’s John Bracken, who brought his brand-new iPad for everyone to play with. Gordon Quinn talked about the balancing act of copyright, which offers both limited monopoly and the right to access copyrighted material. He showed clips demonstrating how he had cut out material that should have stayed, before he understood…

The FCC’s Future of Media Inquiry: Copyright, Public Media, and more

Center for Social Media - Thu, 05/06/2010 - 19:14
The Federal Communication Commission has tackled the gigantic job of providing some policy direction on the turbulent world of media. It has launched an inquiry into the future of media and put lots of great material on its pretty cool (for a government website) blog site It has asked the public for input on dozens of questions. Today was the deadline, but the FCC will be accepting followup comments and blog posts till about mid-summer (when the FCC scribes will start writing), on its blog site or, for longer and more formal filings, at its portal for submissions. The Center for Social Media has filed two separate comments. On copyright questions, Peter Jaszi and I suggested that making…

Media That Matters Film Festival in June

Center for Social Media - Wed, 05/05/2010 - 20:07
As presenting partners, we're thrilled to announce Arts Engine's upcoming Media That Matters Film Festival in June. If you're going to be in New York, don't miss the premiere of the eight jury-selected films on June 2nd, as well as a workshop on June 3rd which addresses impact issues. Also you can pre-order your very own copy of the films to host your own screening.

FCC Future of Media Workshop Explores New Public Media Structures, Functions and Funds

Center for Social Media - Mon, 05/03/2010 - 13:11
On Friday, the FCC's Future of Media project held an all-day workshop on "Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era.” Center for Social Media Fellow Ellen Goodman served as one of the day's moderators, quizzing noncommercial media executives and academic experts on new forms of public media, the role of noncommercial outlets in addressing the journalism crisis, and the rise of networked structures for producing, distributing and engaging audiences via public media. A few clear themes emerged: local journalism is currently the most glaring market gap; much more refined standards are needed in order to bring emerging public media experiments into the taxpayer-funded fold; collaborations are a hot topic, but protocols for establishing them are still shaky; and…

Fair Use, Piracy and Good Data

Center for Social Media - Wed, 04/28/2010 - 16:16
How dangerous is piracy in intellectual property? Despite everything that the MPAA and RIAA say, and the dire suggestions that downloaders will wreck the economy, the real answer is: we have no idea. The General Accounting Office reviewed the existing estimates, typically grounded in reports by large copyright holders and their associations. The GAO concluded that industry reports typically kept their methods and assumptions private, and therefore the conclusions, without the ability to look at data or methods, were not verifiable. Oops. The GAO points out many ways that piracy can be bad, but calls for more transparency and better data. The report, “Fair Use in the U.S. Economy,” issued Tuesday by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, does reveal…
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