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Media Regulation At Home and Abroad

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June 26, 2003

Media Regulation At Home and Abroad

Bremer declares "prohibited activities" for nascent Iraqi Media

L. Paul Bremer III, the top US official in Iraq, recently declared a new set of restrictions on the country's recently unshackled press. A list of nine "prohibited activities" includes incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred, publishing material that is patently false, or "calculated to provoke opposition to the CPA or undermine legitimate processes towards self-government". Media found to not comply can have their license revoked, or be fined $1000. The only recourse for media outlets found in violation is to appeal Bremer himself.

Iraq, long under a stringent censorship regime, has recently seen an explosion of new publications, many sponsored by political parties or religious leaders. Many new papers reportedly print unattributed reports accusing western forces of everything from gang rape and robbery to 'insults to Islam'.

The US Government has invested $20 million to rebuild the "Iraqi Media Network" (formerly Iraqi state TV & radio). US officials have demanded that the network stop broadcasting readings from the Koran, "man-on-the-street" interviews (which are usually critical of the US invasion), and submit to pre-broadcast checks. Bremer has "reserved the power to advise" the Iraqi Media Network on any aspect of its performance.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one US army major was relieved of her duties and removed from her base when she argued that the order was against principles of free speech. US soldiers are required to take an oath to "support and defend" the US constitution. (Christian Science Monitor, Index on Censorship)

British Regulator: Fox News not Biased

In Britain, the Independent Television Commission responded to complaints of bias at Fox News, saying the network had not violated "due impartiality" rules regulating television news coverage inside the UK. During the recent invasion of Iraq, high profile interviewer Bill O'Reilly told viewers that the US should go in and "splatter" the Iraqis.

Well ahead of its competitors in ratings during the invasion, the Fox News Network has drawn fire from prominent figures at the BBC, CBC, and CNN--among others--for sacrificing objectivity to win viewers. In 1999, the ITC revoked the license of a Kurdish TV station, MedTV, for failing to comply with "due impartiality" rules. The popular Arab network Al Jazeera does not fall under the ITC's jurisdiction, as its European base is in Paris. (Media Guardian)

FCC Ruling Inspires Wide Resistance

After hundreds of thousands of Americans wrote letters, made phone calls, and staged nationwide protests, the US Senate Commerce Committee this week approved a bill rolling back a recent controversial ruling by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC ruling in question would have eliminated a cross-ownership ban which prohibited a single company from owning a TV station and newspaper in the same market. The bill, which will be debated in Senate, would also bring the national TV ownership cap back to 35%; the FCC ruling would have raised the limit to 45%.

Canadian regulations place very few restrictions on cross-ownership. NDP media critic Wendy Lill has charged that Canada's media ownership laws allow larger concentrations of media ownership than would be allowed in either the US or the UK. (Mediageek.org, Urbana-Champaign Indymedia Center, NDP Media Release)

compiled by Dru Oja Jay


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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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