Alternative media plays crucial role

Independent news sources bring balance to media landscape

Ayame Ulrich

“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”

- Howard Zinn

Ask any businessperson. Ask any activist.

Getting into the media is a big deal.

It is no big secret that corporations dominate this sector of our cultural commons, which should be a big concern.

There are reasons why major companies like Samsung Mobile and Audi shelled out close to $4 million for 30-second clips during last Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Such sponsorship comes at a price, not just to the sponsors themselves, but to the body politic.

One need no longer be a student in the field of communications to understand that such sponsorship inevitably has an impact on content. This is particularly a concern when it comes to news programming.

Those of us who recall the lead-up to the Iraq War, 10 years ago this month, will remember the concentration of propaganda from mainstream media outlets boosting the profile of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as a clear and present threat to the U.S. with his notorious weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Now, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians later, the claims of WMDs in Iraq have proven to be false and more than likely fabricated.

Those of us dependent on commercial and state (CBC) media might have been surprised by these revelations.

However, those of us who consumed the so-called alternative media were well aware of the deception long before operation “Shock and Awe” unleashed its fury on the children of Mesopotamia.

Amid racket of fear-mongering press and commentaries disparaging the critics, smaller media were boldly challenging official doctrine.

In Winnipeg, one of the most prominent of these was a humble little radio station on the University of Winnipeg campus known as CKUW.

Listeners to this station would be treated to programs like Democracy Now, Alternative Radio and locally produced shows like The Beat and Black Mask, which regularly interrupted this kind of messaging with authoritative analysis that wasn’t being heard elsewhere.

CKUW listeners could hear one hour lectures by people like Scott Ritter, former UN Weapons Inspector, an authority who explained in detail why the WMD claims of the Bush/Cheney Administration were false.

Noam Chomsky, the dissident professor of linguistics at MIT, could arm listeners like myself with exquisite talking points to challenge the din of the Stephen Harpers and the Ezra Levants and their followings who were broadcasting their disappointment with the Canadian government’s refusal to become an official member of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing.”

This divergent programming is only possible because alternative media, like CKUW, is not dependent on companies like General Electric, Cisco Systems and Monsanto, which inevitably drive and shape content to their liking.

Alternative media generally depend on secure funding from players without such entrenched interests.

Alternative media like CKUW, and other community radio stations across the country and around the world, rely heavily on the support of listeners to finance their operations.

News programming aside, alternative media often introduces us to music and culture you can’t hear anywhere else.

As a consequence, they play a principal role, I think, in introducing the community to the community.

As CKUW’s news director, it is my challenge and privilege to continue the tradition of bringing accurate, relevant and unfiltered information to our community.

My colleagues at the station are likewise working hard to facilitate through our spoken word and musical programs a better understanding of ourselves and each other.

This Friday, Feb. 8, CKUW kicks off its annual fundraising drive.

This is an opportunity for our listeners to lend a hand, and a buck, to keep this unique station an oasis of independent thought in the midst of a corporate-cultural desert.

We hope you’ll be there for us, as we’ve tried to be there for you over the last 50 years of our existence as an on-campus medium.
Check out the alternative!

Michael Welch is news director at CKUW 95.9FM, and host of the Global Research News Hour.

Published in Volume 67, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 7, 2013)

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