Category Archives: Media Ownership

Mergers, diversity of ownership, and multiple perspectives.

CPUC Should Say No To Supersizing Comcast

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Bigger isn’t always better.

Of all the cable, telephone and Internet companies, the one with the most awful reputation is Comcast. Type the words “Comcast customer service” into a search engine and prepare to be flooded with customers using words like “nightmarish,” “embarrassing,” “worst ever,” “epic failure” and “customer service from hell.”

And America is not enduring this for the sake of bargain-basement prices.

 

Continue reading CPUC Should Say No To Supersizing Comcast

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New Members Flock to Stop Mega Comcast Coalition

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For Immediate Release: January 12, 2015

The Stop Mega Comcast Coalition, which comprises public interest organizations, private companies, labor unions and industry associations opposed to the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, today announced the addition of 12 new organizations, bringing the coalition to 27 total members. The new members include:

Continue reading New Members Flock to Stop Mega Comcast Coalition

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Facebook Faces Twin Protests in New Year

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by John Ferrannini Bay Area Reporter

California activists are planning twin protests against Facebook, even as the Menlo Park-based tech giant is facing criticism from a San Mateo County supervisor over profiting off user data after years of controversies involving the LGBT community.

“Save Our Democracy, Protest Facebook” is a two-hour protest scheduled for January 9 at 4 p.m. at Facebook’s headquarters at 1600 Willow Road (Building 10, closest to the Facebook sign) in Menlo Park on the Peninsula.

The protest is being sponsored by more than a dozen organizations, according to Andrea Buffa, a straight ally and “frustrated Facebook user” who initiated the protest and is a lead organizer.

“I was sitting around at Thanksgiving talking with family and friends expressing incredible frustration at Facebook for its most recent policy to allow politicians to blatantly lie in their ads,” Buffa said in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter. “I decided to reach out to a couple of organizations, to Media Alliance, to see what we can do.”

Tracy Rosenberg, a straight ally who is the executive director of Media Alliance, said that she is “hoping some Facebook employees will come out and join us.”

“We know these are issues they care about,” Rosenberg wrote in an email to the B.A.R. “And this isn’t going to be a one-time thing — it’s going to be just the beginning of a pressure campaign to get Facebook to stop allowing lies and hatred to be spread using its platform.”

Rosenberg said that she expects to have a better idea of how many people are going to join the in-person protest after New Year’s Day.

“We know the exasperation with Facebook is widespread,” Rosenberg said. “It remains to be seen how many people think going to Facebook’s door and saying something directly will make a difference.”

The other January 9 protest is a Facebook “blackout,” which was started by Andrew Arentowicz of Los Angeles.

Arentowicz is asking people to turn their Facebook profile pictures black for 48 hours “to demonstrate the overwhelming opposition to your reckless political ad policy,” according to an open letter to Facebook on the blackout’s website.

“Usually you can’t tell when people are ‘blacking out’ a company by staying off of a platform in protest, but we’re hoping that this idea of blacking out your cover photo and profile photo will really appeal to people because it’s something visible,” Rosenberg said. “We don’t expect it to be the last and it is growing over time. We expect a series of these online actions to continue to grow as we move closer to the 2020 election.”

Rosenberg said that the Facebook blackout has a Facebook event page, but that Facebook won’t let the organizers run ads to promote it, claiming a violation of its ad policy.

No stranger to controversy
Facebook, of course, is no stranger to controversy. It has been criticized for allegedly inconsistent policies regarding ads and political messages and blocking drag queens, trans people, and others from using their preferred names.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before congressional committees in 2018 and 2019 over concerns about user privacy and his intention to create a cryptocurrency, Libra.

While on Capitol Hill, he also faced questions about how Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm assisting in the 2016 Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump, harvested the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge and used it for political purposes.

In the 2019 hearing, Zuckerberg had a heated exchange with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) that clarified that false political advertising is allowed on Facebook. It is this policy that has led directly to the upcoming protests.

Relations with LGBTs strained
As the B.A.R. previously reported, in 2018 Facebook banned the GLBT Historical Society, which runs the GLBT History Museum at 4127 18th Street in the Castro, from boosting a post about “Fighting Back: Transgender Rights Activism,” a community forum on the history of trans activism, because the society’s page had “not been authorized to run ads with political content.”

A year earlier, Facebook rejected an ad from the society seeking volunteers for the Folsom Street Fair.

Terry Beswick, a gay man who is the executive director of the society, said he would not comment for this story; but Rosenberg said that what happened was an example of Facebook doing “too little, too late for so many groups of people whose policies it has harmed.”

“Zuckerberg has wrapped himself in the mantle of free speech when he wants to let politicians lie in their ads and let extremism and hate speech run wild, but at the same time the company regularly won’t allow nonprofit organizations to boost posts on ‘political’ issues like a transgender rights seminar,” Rosenberg said.

Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence echoed that sentiment.

“It sounds to me like Facebook is refusing to add the manpower to fact check the advertising and therefore denying any accountability for the content of those ads,” Sister Roma wrote in an email to the B.A.R. Monday, December 23. “It’s lazy and shameful.”

Sister Roma was part of a dust-up with Facebook several years ago. Facebook required individuals to use legal names while setting up accounts, a policy that many transgender people and drag performers found inappropriate.

After a September 17, 2014 meeting that included Sister Roma, Facebook decided not to change the policy but it did apologize to the LGBT community for the harm that was done and promised to change how the policy is enforced.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted, but the #MyNameIs team did have a great impact on Facebook’s understanding of queer and trans identity,” Sister Roma wrote. “As a direct result of our activism, Facebook implemented changes to the way a profile can be reported for having a ‘fake’ name. We also got them to add an appeals process that includes a provision for being LGBTQ — which was a huge accomplishment. People are still getting flagged and suspended but it’s much better.”

Sister Roma stopped short of endorsing the January 9 protests, but encouraged LGBT activism and involvement.

“I absolutely think that LGBT people should support and participate in this protest — and any and all protests — that interest them,” Sister Roma wrote. “Our civil rights, our freedom, our very LIVES are at stake with every election, especially the one approaching in 2020.”

Data dividend
In a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom Friday, December 20, District 5 San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, a straight ally, said that companies that make money off the personal information of their users, like Facebook, should either “pay out” or users should “log out.”

“The data dividend could either be distributed to the consumer directly or put into a fund that would then be redistributed to the working poor and middle class,” Canepa wrote in an email to the B.A.R. Thursday, December 26.

The idea of companies paying Americans a dividend on the money their data produces picked up steam in 2019, with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang discussing it at length in the primary debates and Newsom himself endorsing the idea.

“It’s a lofty idea but when you look at Facebook being a 500 billion dollar company because it peddles in our data, then I think some of that revenue should be given back to us,” Canepa said. “It’s like the oil dividend in Alaska.”

Canepa was also critical of Facebook’s policies as they relate to LGBTs.

“I think Facebook needs to take a deep look at itself when it arbitrarily decides to deem LGBTQ-themed ads as political,” he said. “Transgender people are the most discriminated against group in America. They should be able to communicate on social media and have a sense of safety.”

Facebook and Newsom’s office did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

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KCSM TV Spectrum Sale Dissolves Into Lawsuits

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailCalifornia’s fifth largest public television station, KCSM-TV, has been the property of the College of San Mateo and its governing board, the San Mateo Community College District, for more than half century.

Recently the station, which once trained much of the Bay Area’s broadcasting corps with probably the best educational program ever offered at a public community college, has been very much unwanted property.

The station was put up for sale, twice, and some very reasonable offers from new operators were turned down in favor of a deal with a hedge fund, the Blackstone Group, to have subsidiary Locus Point Networks, eradicate the station entirely by selling its spectrum to wireless companies in the FCC’s spectrum auction.

The get rich quick scheme foundered. The District’s authorized bidder, who appears to have been VP Jan Roecks, failed to make a bid at some point in the complex procedure and KCSM-TV was dropped from the auction.

This article by Media Alliance ED Tracy Rosenberg describes the troubled history in the AFT May 2017 Bulletin.  Continue reading KCSM TV Spectrum Sale Dissolves Into Lawsuits

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90,000 Californians Sign Petition Calling on PUC to Block Comcast Merger

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For Immediate Release: February 26th, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Consumer groups renewed their call today for the California Public Utilities Commission to reject the proposed Comcast–Time Warner Cable merger and announced that they had collected 90,000 petition signatures from Californians opposed to the deal.   Today’s announcement coincided with the California PUC’s All-Party meeting on the merger scheduled to begin at 2pm in San Francisco (California PUC Auditorium, 505 Van Ness Avenue).

The petitions organized by Common Cause, Consumers Union, Courage Campaign, CREDO, Daily Kos, Greenlining Institute, Media Alliance, Presente, TURN, and the Writers Guild of America, West, will be delivered to the California PUC, which is currently reviewing the merger. Continue reading 90,000 Californians Sign Petition Calling on PUC to Block Comcast Merger

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PEG Community Sees Challenges Coming From Combined Comcast/TWC

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Communications Daily  Feb 27 2014

The public, educational and government channel community plans to continue its push to protect the interests of PEG channels while monitoring Comcast’s efforts to buy Time Warner Cable for about $45 billion, PEG advocates said in interviews this week. If the companies combine, PEG channels could be negatively impacted, they said. Continue reading PEG Community Sees Challenges Coming From Combined Comcast/TWC

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#ProtestFacebook

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On February 17, President’s Day, activists organized by Media Alliance and Global Exchange took to the streets in San Francisco and Palo Alto to tell the world’s biggest social network to stop sabotaging democracy for profit.

In San Francisco, FB founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pied a terre in Dolores Heights was surrounded with chalk and signs and besieged with kazoos and whistles, as locals told a bevy of observing press that AI formulas sold to political candidates to abet the spread of viral disinformation was an unacceptable business plan.

Images courtesy of Pro Bono Photos

And in Palo Alto, “TRUTH MATTERS” hung over the Oregon Expressway overpass on Highway 101.

Image courtesy of Pro Bono Photos

Neighbors in Dolores Heights and SF General (Chan-Zuckerberg) Hospital workers joined the San Francisco protest to highlight other disproportionate impacts from the Facebook founder on local communities.

For more on why SF’s safety net hospital should not bear the name of the Facebook founder, see this op-ed from Sasha Cutler from SEIU 1021.

Press Coverage: Newsweek, CNET, SF Gate, SF Examiner, KCBS Radio, SFIST, Xinhua, Mission Local, Breitbart

The President’s Day actions were the third in a series that began on January 9, 2020 with a protest outside Facebook headquarters and were followed by a Truth Matters human billboard the following week.

On February 28th, there will be an action at the headquarters of the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation.

On April 9, Earth Day, the campaign will speak up again with an emphasis on viral climate change denial.

For more on the campaign, visit the Protest Facebook website.

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CPUC Slaps Charter

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Charter ended up being the successful suitor for Time Warner Cable after Comcast’s offer for the Southern California cable/ISP giant went down in flames.

Charter, which made much of being “not nearly as bad as Comcast” got their merger, but they got it with some conditions attached, noticeably in the State of California, where the Public Utilities Commission went through a robust approval process.

However, Charter was not content with yes for an answer and spent much of the last few months agitating about the merger conditions and trying to get them abated, using typos and other lame arguments to do so.  Continue reading CPUC Slaps Charter

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