Associate Professor of History
Director, Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation
Diablo Valley College
You Wrote to me and said:
"I am open to having you submit a list of what you believe to be the most significant issues in the arts vis a vis censorship for our review and will look into creating another section on our website at the very least, if even linking to organizations with this particular focus."
Here goes, though it is hard to sum up 18 years of work on censorship of all the nation's arts, into a page or two. The subject is vast, deep, and wide. Here are some of the main points - though they can only allude to the problems.
The main censored story of the last 3 decades is two part:
1. The consolidation of the arts and media from thousands of companies into less than 10.
2. Those handful of art and media corporations, blocking independent arts, and artists, from fair distribution, sales, and review. And the blocking of their advocates and advocacy groups from fair coverage in the media to protest this consolidation.
This censorship of independent arts fits every criteria under your mission statement:
Modern censorship as manipulation of reality, intentional non-inclusion of a news story, political pressure from powerful individuals, economic pressure from advertisers and funders (I add this too - economic pressure from the companies that control the arts and media), legal pressure, etc.
This censorship of independent arts threatens the free speech of the nation, and all of its culture outside of corporate art for profit.
The problem is vast, wide, and deep. The nation's art has been sanitized and blanched by the Corporate Art conglomerates, of almost all innovation, range of opinion, and opposition to those in power .
The consolidation of arts and media under the synergy banner was first suggested by Ben Bagdikian in his book "The Media Monopoly". Since then more and more media and arts outlets have been consolidated.
Here is a chart of the major five.
We end up with corporations who control almost every aspect of the arts either through direct ownership or influence and power.
Examples: They own most of the review media. They give themselves reviews and block reviews of independents. Though there are reviews in countless mainstream magazines, and TV and radio media, they almost exclusively cover the art of these handful of corporations. Reviews are the key to any artists career. Without fair reviews they have no career. With reviews, no matter how good or bad, artists get the promotion they need for active careers.
Though they don't own all newspapers, these mega corporations pressure the newspapers they don't own, to cover their films, books, recordings, etc. to the exclusion of independent artists. Otherwise those newspapers will loose major ad revenue and special perks etc. Their news outlets seldom cover independent arts advocacy groups, or lawsuits for fairness, in these industries brought by the independents. They seldom talk about excess pricing of the art in their industries (books, concerts films, CD's) or, waste in their art industries, or unfair labor practices in their art industries. etc. etc. They choose to rank books, films, and music, by sales instead of quality. At the same time they refuse to accept quality challenges from independents.
Their media outlets cover pro corporation business stories such as piracy issues - a pro corporate art issue; but seldom pro independent stories like the importance of public domain art as opposed to corporate art ownership extensions. They promote corporation legal rights but seldom talk about the dangers of the consolidation of the arts and media into too few hands - example FCC and airwaves ownership conflicts are reported as consumer price problems, never free speech issues, and are almost always pro media corporation coverage. They seldom cover their own illegal behavior. Example payola and other price fixing scandals. They use lawsuits to block and limit independent artists and independent art and media companies.
Perhaps the worst problem connected to these corporations, is their art and media outlets refuse any outside media critics or independent criticism on any of this. They can't be questioned on any of their policies.
They limit art to what sells - thus reducing art coverage. Yes to novels and non fiction, no to zines, plays, poems, essays, etc. etc . Here's another example, the Disneyfication of Broadway and plays. Overall it is 'yes' to safe, generic, non controversial, non threatening, PC art that in no way challenges or offends or questions any one or any idea - specially any art that challenges the corporate art few or the art they sell - and 'no' to art with bite - bite that's necessary for the health of any democracy. Art is turned into product placement ads.
Corporate art is always passive art - art that is to be watched. The emphasis in passive art is on the personality of the artist, not the quality or message of the art. What's seldom allowed is active arts that not only support change, growth quality, or innovation, but advocates for active involvement in the process.
They promote arts and arts coverage that put advertisers needs over the wants of their customers. Specially those customers outside the targeted demographic are blocked from the arts they want. That limits arts to mostly only rich spenders, leaving out everyone else.
They limit all reviews of art outside their control. Examples: no coverage of thousands of independent myspace musicians, or of thousands of youtube film, tv, and video makers or of thousands of zine makers, or thousands of blogs, and independent websites. Thus the culture of almost everyone outside of a handful is blocked, ignored, and forgotten. Example: award shows that only nominate those under their control to the exclusion of independents. Example: they strongly influence NPR to give most coverage to their books and music. NPR's reviews of their books, and music never get bad reviews, PLUS NPR gets revenue sharing deals in return for promoting these mainstream books and music. And NPR refuses to cover, not only independent artists, but any independent on air, criticism of these policies. Corporate art owns thousands of interview programs, but none of these seldom if ever interview artists or those in the industry that are outside of these conglomerates control. Never a discouraging word in media outlets. Plus there is corporate pressure, to oppose any smaller media outlet from covering any art outside of their control.
They pressure the government to support the consolidated few to the exclusion of the independents in countless ways. Then to pay back those politicians, they give book deals with excessive advances (that they then give great reviews to).
What's not covered by the consolidated few mega corporations, include not only most all independent artists of every kind of art, and independent media, but the new art reforms, the revolution in arts and media*, it's leaders and the new advocacy groups.
What's not covered is a call for the end of the media monopolies. Example: these conglomerates can either manufacture the art, or distribute the art, or review the art, but they can no longer be allowed to do all three.
There is a new paradigm shift in the arts and media. No longer left versus right, instead it's corporations versus democracy - corporate interests of the few, versus freedom of expression of the nation.
(editor of the 18 year old zine Musea)
*For an introduction on my part in the arts and media revolution against corporate art and for independent artists see:
Five Doors to the Art Revolution (6 part video series)
zine that opposes the abuses of the corporate art few while supporting the best of independent artists
FAIR on Media (Just add "and arts" to their discussion of - What's wrong with the news - AND ARTS - article)
ZINE, Named one of the best ZINES by UTNE magazine. Featured on ROCKETBOOM)
MUSIC, 5 full CD's of free Post-Bands Music)
BLOG for Musea, Art Contests, Weekly E-mail Messages)