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Ralph Nader on Technology

2008 Independent for for President; 2004 Reform nominee; 2000 Green nominee


TV immersion deprives children of exposure to nature

By the early 1970s, we were well on our way to the total immersion experience of the television age, in which most children watched 30 to 40 hours of TV a week. They read less and their vocabulary decreased. The decades that followed saw the arrival of 24-hour cable television, VCRs, home computer games, and the Internet--each in turn cementing the place of the TV screen in our children’s lives.

In those years I remember reading about the Fresh Air Fund, a program that offers NYC’s poor children a chance to spend a few summer weeks in the countryside. For many of these children it was the first time that they had ever walked on soil! For some, it was the first time they’d seen an authentic sunset, not just the televised variety.

Today, children everywhere are deprived of exposure to nature in the same way; they grow up with their eyes & ears trained on a corporate world of sensual virtual reality removed, as no other generation in human history, from the daily flow and rhythm of nature.

Source: Seventeen Traditions, by Ralph Nader, chapter 1 , Jan 30, 2007

FCC is hapless agent in media regulation

These media moguls are doing all this on our property - the public airwaves - and paying us no rent for exclusive use of our property. Yet they are deciding who says what and who doesn’t say what 24 hours a day. The public airwaves are the property of the American people. The FCC is our hapless, industry-indentured real estate agent that gives away the spectrum.
Source: In the Public Interest, “Giving Airwaves to Media Moguls” , May 31, 2003

The media needs more diversity and competition

There remains the base of a large movement for recovering some diversity, localism and competition from the mass media. It is bad enough that about 90 percent of what is carried on television and radio is advertising and entertainment. Our country needs serious talk, more good reporters, and citizen access to the great but unseen and unheard talent in our land - from artists to candidates for office.
Source: In the Public Interest, “Giving Airwaves to Media Moguls” , May 31, 2003

Media coverage moving from sound bites to sound barks

I went to find NBC for an invited interview by Maria Shriver on the premises of the Republican National Convention. The area was like a military encampment: security personnel, multiple checkpoints, and trailers with security equipment were omnipresent. Demonstrators were not allowed within the fenced encirclements.

Inside, I was driven in a golf cart to the NBC installation. I asked the driver where the interview was to take place, and he pointed skyward. At the top of a 40-foot scaffold were perilously perched Ms. Shriver and her camera crew. I asked why--why this Tower of Pisa? She pointed to the view of the Convention Center bathed in a spotlight as the one and only reason. A quick three-minute interview followed, allowing only for short answers to complex questions.

I climbed down the narrow staircase, wondering how reporters like Shriver can take year after year of what they believe are shallow formats with ever shorter sound bites heading, it seems, for a future of sound barks.

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, Chapter One , Oct 9, 2002

Internet encourages small donations but not voter turnout

All the presidential and vice presidential candidates used the Internet with elaborate, heavily worked Web sites. They enthusiastically counted the millions of hits. They poured out notices and messages and got replies back. Millions of voters purportedly got more engaged in watching, reacting and commenting on these campaigns. The Internet age, a hundred pundits predicted, would greatly change political campaigning and fund-raising. Well, it proved to be a very cheap fund-raising medium that encouraged small givers. But for increasing voter turnout--another frequent prediction--it was disappointing.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.128-129 , Jan 17, 2002

TV news is sparse, abbreviated, and very repetitious

The newspapers take elections more seriously than the broadcast media. TV and radio have many ready-made excuses for their shrinking coverage. A 22-minute national television news program, excluding advertising time, is not sprung from holy writ. The format of the local television news, with its 9 minutes of ads, with several leadoff accounts from the police crime blotter, 4 minutes of sports, 4 minutes of weather, 1 minute of chitchat, and the prescribed animal and medical journal health story, is not carved in stone. Apart from public radio and the few nonprofit community radio stations, commercial radio and TV devote about 90% of airtime around the clock to entertainment and advertisements. News is sparse, abbreviated, and very repetitious. When radio is not singing or selling, it is traffic, weather, and sports with headline news spots. The number of reporters and editors has been cut to the bone. No more are there FCC requirements for ascertaining the news needs of the community.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.161 , Jan 17, 2002

FCC gave away $70B of spectrum but blocked non-profits

No more are there FCC requirements for ascertaining the news needs of the community. Gone are the Fairness Doctrine and the Right of Reply. In 1996 there was near silence on the tube regarding the congressional fight to block the giveaway of $70 billion worth of the new spectrum to the television stations--a giveaway opposed even by the GOP candidate that year, Robert Dole. The notorious Telecommunications Act of 1996 received the cold shoulder, notwithstanding its paving the way for a massive binge of mergers and further concentration of media power. In 2000 the FCC, under its chairman, William Kennard, started granting community radio licenses to nonprofit neighborhood associations. The formidable media lobby, led by the national Association of Broadcasters, descended on Congress. They pummeled into line a majority of Congress to pass legislation, which Clinton reluctantly signed, that blocked the FCC from licensing these little stations, which could accept no paid advertising.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.161 , Jan 17, 2002

FCC gave away $70B in airwave licenses to large corporations

In 1996, Congress quietly handed over to existing broadcasters the rights to broadcast digital television on the public airwaves-a conveyance worth $70 billion-in exchange for. nothing.

Although the public owns the airwaves, the broadcasters have never paid for the right to use them. The FCC has recently begun to recognize the large monetary value of the licenses and typically auctions licenses. The 1996 Telecommunications Act, however, prohibited such an auction for distribution of digital television licenses, and mandated that they be given to existing broadcasters.

How to explain this giveaway, especially when other industries, such as the data transmission companies, were eager to bid for the right to use the spectrum? Look no further than the National Association of Broadcasters. The NAB are huge political donors & have close ties to key political figures.

Not surprisingly, the nightly news was silent on this giant giveaway. It represents a failure of our working democracy

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 17-18 , Oct 9, 2000

Domain name registration needs openness to replace monopoly

The federal government currently contracts with Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), to manage domain name registrations (including .com, .org, and .net). NSI’s monopoly on the valuable .com domain names has turned a tiny initial investment into a firm with market capitalization of $2.5 billion-thanks to control of the power to sell the public the right to use their own domain names. At no time did the government seek any competitive bids to determine the prices that consumers and businesses should pay for domain name registrations.

The federal government is now trying to find ways to introduce competition and replace the current NSI monopoly with something new. This new initiative raises a number of questions regarding its lack of accountability, and it is justified largely on the basis that the NSI monopoly needs to be “fixed.” But it is hard to see how the creation of a new unaccountable body constitutes a “fix.”

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 54-55 , Oct 9, 2000

Put all Congressional voting records on Internet

Nader today urged Republican and Democratic leaders to support efforts to provide the public easier access to Congressional voting records. “Astonishingly, the Congress continues to obscure significant data-voting records-by failing to place this information on the Internet in a searchable database format indexed by bill name, bill subject, bill title, Member name and related information,” Nader wrote. Contending that “citizens deserve better than this,” Nader said placing Congressional
Source: Press Release, “Improve congressional accountability” , Jun 26, 2000

More free info from govt via computers & airwaves

Citizens should be accorded computerized access in libraries and in their homes to the full range of government information. Inserts in billing statements from monopolized utilities and financial companies should invite consumers to join consumer action watchdog groups. The public, which owns the TV/cable/radio media airwaves, which are leased for free to large commercial businesses, should have its own Audience Network to inform, alert, and mobilize democratic citizen debate and initiatives.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 6 , Feb 21, 2000

Ruling against Microsoft bodes well for competition

The judge’s finding of facts in the Microsoft case are a devastating indictment of the company. The judge found Microsoft responsible for a litany of anti-competitive and illegal practices that have harmed consumers. The 207-page decision is a textbook on the use of monopoly power. Microsoft was seeking to control and monopolize key sectors of the PC software market.
What does this mean for consumers? It means a Reagan-appointed judge agrees with the Justice Department that Microsoft’s actions are anti-competitive and must be reined in. It means Microsoft’s dominance in many markets is often due to underhanded efforts to sabotage rivals rather than to superior products. It means that the introduction of new and innovative products has been retarded and sometimes extinguished by Microsoft, reducing consumer choice.
Mostly, though, it means the government may do something about the Microsoft monopoly. This bodes well for the future of competition and the Internet.
Source: New York Daily News , Nov 9, 1999

Bold investment needed for public transportation

Maintaining the public transit system at current levels will cost $9.7 billion a year. Improving the infrastructure to a condition of “good” would require upping expenditures to $14.2 billion a year. [That] is not nearly enough. Bold new investments are needed to create a modern mass transit system conducive to livable cities, one which will bring community residents closer together, combat the momentum toward sprawl, abate air pollution and improve transportation safety.
Source: Article, “Perspectives On Federal Spending” , Jul 27, 1999

Microsoft is anticompetitive and anticonsumer

Everyone who uses a computer or depends on computers has an interest in seeing Microsoft’s anticompetitive and anticonsumer practices curtailed by antitrust authorities. Microsoft’s claim that it’s defending its right to innovate is a cruel joke in an industry that sees its best innovators attacked by the company’s anticompetitive actions. Microsoft’s agenda isn’t innovation, it’s imitation, as well as the imposition of suffocating control over user choices and an ever-widening monopoly.
Source: Article, “Why Microsoft must be stopped” , Nov 9, 1998

Microsoft must be stopped

If the government can’t curtail Microsoft’s anticompetitive conduct in the browser market, the company gets the green light to become even bolder elsewhere. And for Microsoft, elsewhere is just about everywhere.
What’s critical for antitrust enforcement is to find remedies that address the sources of anticompetitive conduct and are appropriate for an industry with short product cycles, changing product definitions & production innovations. Drawing from past antitrust actions in the computer, software and other industries, the government could require, among other things, divestitures; nondiscriminatory sharing of technical information, such as data file formats; nondiscriminatory licensing; and required support for nonproprietary Internet protocols.
Ultimately, the industry will benefit from more diversity and less monopoly. We need to stop Microsoft’s efforts to transform the Internet into a private network dominated by a single, ruthless company.
Source: Article, “Why Microsoft must be stopped” , Nov 9, 1998

The public owns the airwaves; express our rights

The public legally owns the airwaves. The broadcast companies lease them through the FCC. We’re the landlords; the radio and TV stations are the tenants. But they pay us no rent and they decide who says what 24 hours a day. We’ve got to get a chartered audience network that’s open to viewers and listeners, and take control of one hour a day at prime time or drive time, so that we can communicate with one another without the restraint of advertisers or broadcast executives deciding what we talk about.
Source: CNN’s Inside Politics with Bernard Shaw , Apr 9, 1996

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Page last updated: Oct 09, 2013