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Censored Art News.
Those who protest major media say that many important political issues are never covered. They rightly fight against censored news. I agree. The press should go beyond the scandal of the few and cover the issues of the millions.
But the problem is more than censored political or social issues. There is censored art news. This article looks at some major art stories that are seldom talked about.
When was the last time you heard a protest song on any mainstream radio station? Should all protest be banned from the airwaves? Should the only recordings that are sanctioned by radio be bland, safe, and blanched of any challenging thought in the lyrics? And should no reporter, or art critic, ever write about this issue?
The lack of protest songs on radio, covers one problem; but censored arts, is not confined to radio or to music. It is in all major media, and it's in all arts coverage. Those who research the record of what's been reported and what has not been reported in major media outlets will find it is true.
For 24 years as editor of the media and art zine, Musea, I have written about these issues over and over with example after example. Yet my zine was far from the first to do so.
Ben Bagdikian, in his groundbreaking 1983 book, "The Media Monopoly" spoke out against the consolidation of the media into too few hands. He worried that there were 50 major media companies. Now it's closer to ten and some claim six, The Big Six!
These same media conglomerates now control most of the mainstream arts and entertainment too. They not only make the art and distribute the art; but through their media and entertainment outlets, they promote the art, and review the art. And, not surprisingly, when they review their art, they usually give themselves great reviews. This mess is called synergy. It should be called illegal. The control of the arts of a nation should never be in so few hands. Governments should never let that happen.
The arts are the soul and lifeblood of a nation. It is its culture. The culture of a country is not up for bid. The people, and the government of the people should oppose any system that allows only corporate arts to be promoted and reviewed; while all independent arts are marginalized, censored, or kept from reasonable coverage.
Here are examples of censored stories in the arts.
1. There are less than ten major conglomerates that control much of the following; making of the art, distribution of the art, the entertainment outlets that promote the arts, and the media that reviews the arts.
2. Three CEO's from Warners, Universal, and Sony control 80% of the music business. They have made it clear that only teen pop will be promoted, and only by the same stars. The rest of the music world is marginalized out of most coverage, reviews, awards shows, etc. For best music quality, there should be thousands of competing companies, not three. The quality and variety of mainstream music is at an all time low and hasn't changed much in 10 years.
3. The few major book publishing companies give huge unwarranted book advances to politicians for their books. This seems like a legal way to buy influence for both the publishing company and the parent company that owns them.
4. NPR has revenue sharing on all books and music sold through it's website. That means they get money back when they are able to promote and help sell music or books. This seems more like a kickback to me. Musicians and writers opposed to this, are never reviewed or written about on NPR. All songs are not considered.
5. There is a Public Domain crisis. Media and art conglomerates are using their power to extend their intellectual rights to works that should long ago have entered the public domain. Perhaps the biggest example is the image of Mickey Mouse.
6. The FCC, Federal Communications Commission, too often sides with media conglomerates to block competing independents from the radio dial. That includes many low power FM stations. The airwaves should be regulated by the government, not offered for sale by the government.
7. The cost of tickets is excessive. Prices for tickets to concerts, films, theater, etc. is exorbitant. Many best seats go to promoters, and press. The audience is denied best seating, and is treated shabbily. One company, Ticketmaster dominates the industry.
8. Most people hate ads, but the media will not write about any group that opposes the abuses of advertising. Examples include those who oppose advertising to children, product placement in shows, pop up ads, false claims in ads, ads that oppose sharing, ad tactics that trump personal privacy, ad targeting strategies,15 minute advertising blocks on radio, billboard clutter, etc.
9. NPR and PBS are shifting more and more from listener and viewer control to corporate control. This slow change has influenced much of their programming. To give two examples, all comments have been dropped on the NPR website, and the Ombudsman's role has diminished in power to paper tiger status.
10. The media, when talking about consolidation of the arts and media into fewer and fewer hands, stresses the price for customers as the major problem of consolidation. What they seldom question is that the quality of the arts suffers, diversity of opinions is lost, and any protest of content is blocked.
11. There is a problem of cut and paste art journalism, where press releases from major corporations are printed as unbiased news articles or reviews.
12. No one can protest art reviewers. They praise and fluff up mediocre work so as to not anger major corporations and loose access to their popular artists. More and more arts are presented as subjective works that cannot be judged on quality, instead of objective arts that can and should be critiqued. Best seller lists celebrate sales, not quality. The public is not allowed to challenge reviewers.
13. There is a lack of access to reviews for any art not controlled by those conglomerates. Only big budget corporate works get reviewed. Many daily newspapers have only one reporter covering all local arts. There is seldom any coverage of city art centers, local theater productions, local dance groups, or other local arts. This limits the pool of art that the public is exposed to, and chooses from.
14. No local music is played on most local radio stations, no local films are played in most theater chains, no local TV shows are played on most TV stations. And no one is allowed to protest all this.
15. There is seldom coverage or reviews of websites or online artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other types of artists. For example, there are thousands of press releases for Hollywood films, but no reviews for the thousands and thousands of independent films on Youtube.
16. There is seldom talk of the mass marketing of paintings, and painting reproduction technology that would shift art from museums and galleries to painting copies exhibited anywhere. There is no talk of all the online artists, painters, and sculptors that are outside mainstream art. There is no coverage of critics of modern art such as the worldwide Stuckists advocacy group.
17. No protest songs are allowed. Songs on almost all mainstream radio are blanched and sanitized from carrying any social message, challenging idea, or political thought. Neil Young has a website page with links to over 3,000 protest songs from artists from all over the world, none of which are ever played on major radio. But the problem is not just with radio. Media will seldom cover any artist that protests; and never if those artists protest abuses of corporate sponsors or corporate behavior.
18. Seldom is there any news of any minority arts of any kind, or those who advocate for fair coverage for minority artists. The same goes for foreign arts, the art of local schools or universities, arts that appeal to seniors, or arts that appeal to children. Most of these ostracized groups, are not a targeted group for advertisers, so their art is marginalized. This business strategy maximizes profits for corporate art that targets a narrow age group of consumers who do buy.
19. There is no coverage of zines or the era of desktop publishing in the nineties, the last major publishing movement before the internet. This was also the last golden age of literature in the world. The entire original writings and literature of a generation have been scraped from the history books. Many well meaning people take a day each year to talk about censored books. But do they understand the breadth and scope of the thousands of zines that have been censored because they were not corporate sanctioned publishing?
20. Movie theater workers are paid the lowest wages and benefits allowed by law. No story of minimum wages has ever discussed theater workers. No media dares to offend Hollywood millionaires, and challenge them to support fair wages for the people selling the tickets. Media talks about the millions each picture makes in weekly box office reports, but never the low wages and benefits of theater workers.
21. There is seldom coverage of price fixing in the arts.
22. So called major media watchdogs turn their backs on problems of art coverage in the media.
23. There is no talk of unions connected to the arts in the major media.
24. There is no coverage of the art and media conglomerates attempt to control the internet, by buying up popular independent websites, squeezing out independents, and lobbying the government to support all this by regulations and laws.
25. Quality doesn't count. Throughout history the best arts were also the most celebrated. The best artists had the best chance at rewarding careers in the arts. Today these best and brightest are marginalized; while generic corporate clones are the only ones allowed major promotion and reviews. Now, for the first time in history, the world of arts is upside down, generic arts are celebrated, and great art is marginalized.
26. The media has set up no fair way to be challenged in anything they do in arts coverage. That includes when they report false facts, distort the news, refuse most investigative reporting, promote scandal over issues, and reduce most art journalism to a moderator who asks rehearsed guests, "What do you think?" No arts advocates are allowed to appear as guests on any major media to talk about the problems of so much of the arts controlled by so few hands.
27. There is a new paradigm in the country. The political division of liberal versus conservative is changing. More and more the paradigm is the people versus the power of corporations. Both compete for control of the government. This is clear in all the arts as well. The story never reported is how a few media and art conglomerates marginalize independents. They lobby the government to pass laws and regulations that promote them at the expense of all their competitors. Everyone looses but a few corporations. There are fewer voices and less variety in the arts. Quality suffers.
Finally we should ask ourselves, do all the arts deserve our attention and respect. Does the business of arts deserve fair play? Does the media have a responsibility to cover all arts and all arts issues? My answer is a resounding yes. Time for a change!
* The Big Six are; Comcast, Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, CBS Corporation, and Viacom. (Wikipedia.)
** The problem of coverage of the arts concerns both the press of the right and the left. Liberal watchdogs such as FAIR, Ralph Nader, TYT, Project Censored, Move On, Occupy Wall Street, etc. have not covered censored art news any more than the most conservative press. All things are NOT considered.