America has a media problem.
Much of commercial radio consists of music and advertisements for corporate products. Network and cable news are increasingly hyper-focused on political gaffes, irrelevant scandals, sensationalism and gossip. There are very few serious, compelling programs in the mainstream media that aim to educate and enlighten audiences about issues that deeply affect millions of Americans.
With this in mind, we have launched a weekly radio show and podcast. Along with my co-hosts Stephen Skrovan and David Feldman -- two talented comedic minds based out of Los Angeles -- we aim to discuss the vital issues that challenge the corporate state and which are so often overlooked by mainstream news and talk radio. The show, known as the "Ralph Nader Radio Hour", airs on several Pacifica radio stations and is also available online. We all make the show each week as volunteers.
Of course there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cable news channels, radio stations, podcasts and the like which discuss politics and current events. Unfortunately, too few truly delve into serious matters that affect millions of people in their own communities. Our program covers a wide range of these subjects such as corporate crime, Wall Street excess, citizen activism, American imperialism, unreported movements and authors, the two-party duopoly and more. Our goal is to be informative, engaging, and even funny -- there's no reason why discussing serious matters always has to be tedious, for in humor there is truth.
We hope that by reaching a new listening audience, we can bring light to matters that are given such disturbingly limited, if any, coverage by the large news outlets that reach the most people, and thus do not find their way into the grander public discourse. We also believe that our country has far more problems than it deserves and far more solutions than it applies. Therefore while it is important to expose problems, it is equally important to showcase their solutions, such as David Bollier's work on our immense commonwealth that is owned by the people but mostly controlled by corporations. (See his new paperback, Think Like a Commoner.)
Once upon a time, television network talk shows like Phil Donahue, and even lighter fare hosted by Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin, found some time in their schedules to inform audiences about subjects like dangerous consumer products, unsafe medicines and critical worker and environmental issues. Now, these topics are practically taboo. And forget about local television or radio covering many issues related to your own community. Too infrequent here as well.
As a whole, this degradation of the media has fueled public cynicism far more than public enlightenment. The consequences are direr than most realize. Without media coverage, the civic community cannot expand it ranks, spread word of its accomplishments and be recognized and respected by decision-makers in government. Important press releases, reports, and testimonies on key issues are routinely ignored or marginalized.
The great progress made in the past by citizen activists in the peace, consumer, environmental and civil right movements was dependent on civic leaders being able to spread their message to America via the news media. Now, global companies have concentrated their influence over the two major political parties, the federal government, the economy and our culture itself. Except for smaller, independent media like Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, these small but powerful voices of progress have been shut out of the public discourse.
Even traditionally progressive outlets like PBS and NPR fail to give adequate airtime to many top progressive leaders, scholars, experts, writers and commentators. Names that come to mind are Harvey Wasserman, Jim Hightower, Ed Mierzwinski, Rob Richie, Patrick Burns, Robert Weissman, Phineas Baxandall, David Morris, Wenonah Hauter, Jamie Love, Amory Lovins, Margaret Flowers, Greg LeRoy, Gayle McLaughlin, Michael Gecan, Russell Mokhiber, David Halperin, Harvey Rosenfield, Sid Wolfe, Winona LaDuke and Chris Hedges . Unfortunately, many Americans have not heard of these warriors for justice who work tirelessly for our society. I recommend you to research a bit about every one of them -- our country would be far better off if these experts were given as much airtime as the warmongers, the corporate apologists and the partisan talking-heads.
With the "Ralph Nader Radio Hour," we want to provide a platform for many of these leading minds to share their expertise and wealth of knowledge. Once recent such guest was David Freeman, a profound energy expert, attorney and author, with serious renewable energy conversion proposals coming from decades of experience running giant utilities such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). Other recent guests were slip and fall expert Russell Kendzior, the aforementioned David Bollier, and Bill Curry, former aide to President Bill Clinton and gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut. I think that you'll find that these lively conversations are far more interesting, substantial and enlightening than anything you'll hear on the cable news networks. Next week our guest will be Stephen Goldstein, author of The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit.
If there is an author or activist who you would like to hear interviewed, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the appropriate information.
All past episodes of the non-profit "Ralph Nader Radio Hour" are available to listen to, free of charge, here. I hope you'll check them out and spread the word about what we are trying to accomplish.
And if you want your local radio station to carry the show, please contact them and let them know. After all, the only way to overcome the trivialities and distortion of the media and redefine what is considered important news is to demand treatment of the issues that matter to us most.