Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled his comprehensive plan to preserve and protect “real journalism” from “Wall Street, billionaire businessmen, Silicon Valley, and Donald Trump” in an op-ed published in the Columbia Journalism Review Monday.
Sanders – who has veered from his progressive counterparts and openly criticized media giants like the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post – warned of the dangers of “corporate conglomerates and hedge fund vultures” consolidating newsrooms across the country and driving their desired narratives– the narratives that, Sanders says, often ignore his ideas like Medicare for All and the “climate crisis.”
“At precisely the moment when we need more reporters covering the healthcare crisis, the climate emergency, and economic inequality, we have television pundits paid tens of millions of dollars to pontificate about frivolous political gossip,” Sanders said, adding that it is happening “as local news outlets are eviscerated.”
He also took direct aim at Silicon Valley:
For example, two Silicon Valley corporations—Facebook and Google—control 60 percent of the entire digital advertising market. They have used monopolistic control to siphon off advertising revenues from news organizations. A recent study by the News Media Alliance, a trade organization, found that in 2018, as newspaper revenues declined, Google made $4.7 billion off reporting that Google did not pay for.
Sanders repeated the fake news narrative that President Trump has waged war against the free press, calling him a “pathological liar who has spent his presidency trying to demonize journalists when they dare to debunk his lies.”
“Worse, he has called the media the ‘enemy of the people’ in a deliberate attempt to destroy the very idea of a free press,” Sanders wrote, despite the fact that Trump called the “fake news,” specifically, the enemy of the people– not the free press.
“Trump’s authoritarian bullying of the media is totally unacceptable and it must be denounced and rejected,” Sanders continued, noting that condemning Trump alone “will not solve the journalism crisis”:
Today, after decades of consolidation and deregulation, just a small handful of companies control almost everything you watch, read, and download. Given that reality, we should not want even more of the free press to be put under the control of a handful of corporations and “benevolent” billionaires who can use their media empires to punish their critics and shield themselves from scrutiny.
Sanders’ solution includes:
- Stopping the “Trump administration’s attempts to make corporate media mergers even more likely in the future.”
- “Requiring major media corporations to disclose whether or not their corporate transactions and merger proposals will involve significant journalism layoffs.”
- Reinstating and strengthening “media ownership rules.”
- Passing his Workplace Democracy Plan, “which will boost media workers’ laudable efforts to form unions and collectively bargain with their employers.”
- Appointing “an Attorney General as well as Federal Trade Commission officials who more stringently enforce antitrust laws against tech giants like Facebook and Google, to prevent them from using their enormous market power to cannibalize, bilk, and defund news organizations.”
Sanders also suggests “taxing targeted ads and using the revenue to fund nonprofit civic-minded media.”
“More than two centuries after the constitution was signed, we cannot sit by and allow corporations, billionaires, and demagogues to destroy the Fourth Estate, nor can we allow them to replace serious reporting with infotainment and propaganda,” Sanders added:
Corporate conglomerates and hedge fund vultures have decimated independent and local news.
We'll protect independent news and a free press by enforcing antitrust laws, empowering journalists to form unions and increasing investment in local public media. https://t.co/xO7Kd9Kkw9
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 27, 2019
“Media organizations sponsored by fossil fuel industry ads may provide a platform for guests who insist that our oligarchic economy is great, but the same outlets often downplay or omit coverage of the climate crisis those advertisers are helping create.” https://t.co/ZLDDN9VJrR
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 27, 2019