The Chicago Area Progressive Media Unity Statement is a synthesis of input from participants at the People’s Movement  Assembly (PMA), the afternoon session of 2010 Media Democracy Day – Chicago (MDD), held November 7, 2010 at the Teamsters Building in Chicago.


The event was inspired by the People’s Movement Assemblies featured at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan, in June 2010.

Participants at the MDD People’s Movement Assembly were grouped into smaller discussion groups on the World Café model and posed several questions in each of two rounds.  After each round, each group reported back to the plenary and comments were recorded.



The goal of the Unity Statement is to stimulate dialogue, increase clarity and focus of issues, and develop a common sense of mission that will enable the progressive media community to be more unified, interconnected and effective.



Area progressive organizations, especially media-oriented organizations, are invited to review the draft Unity Statement, discuss it and submit input.  They are invited to vote on adopting the resultant revised Unity Statement as an organization. 



The questions presented during the People's Movement Assembly broadly cover the big picture for a holistic media revolution and also focus upon specific plan of action. We want to have to vision for where we are headed in the future, but we also want to focus on direct initiatives that we can start with today.


Round I:

Defining Where the Media Is and Where We Want It to Be?

1. What is a “democratic media” and why does it matter?

In what ways does media impact our society? Why do we need democratic control of media, and particularly now at this point in history?


2. What are the important media issues we share in common as progressive media activists and progressive activists?

What are your concerns about the current state of the media? How does media effect you personally?


3. What is our vision for a democratic media? How would you shape media for the future?

What would a better media system look like? What are our goals for media and what exactly do we want to achieve?


Round 2:

Outlining How We Can Achieve Our Media Goals

1. What Planks/key demands/changes in media in America do you want covered in our Unity Statement?

Examples might be: Net Neutrality, media concentration, public access, broadband, censorship, free speech, rights of content, ownership, privacy etc.


2. How are media and communications major tools that can be used by Change Agents for to benefit our communities and our society?

In what ways could the social changes you seek for your communities make use of media tools?  How are you using media tools to get across your message?


3. What are the specific commitments we can make to take steps towards achieving our media goals?

What actions are you (or your organization) willing to take?  What actions might be recommended for the larger progressive media community?




For more information on the World Café model, see: http://www.theworldcafe.com





We submit this Unity Statement as progressive media professionals, progressive media activists, and individuals and organizations that are concerned about the media:



Media, which we recognize as including all outlets of broadcast, print, electronic and performance media whether mainstream or alternative, is a powerful tool for communication.


Media allows people to connect with one another and reach out to others around the world. Media is the lens used to view the world, people use the media to get local and global perspectives; media shapes the worldview and impacts the way people perceive and interpret reality


Media helps people express themselves, their concerns and their visions.



Our founding fathers recognized that an informed public is essential to maintaining a democratic form of government.  They believed this so strongly that they set up laws and structures to establish it, including  subsidized postage for newspapers. Democratic media, open to all views and free of centralized control by powerful public or private interests, is essential to properly inform the public.


A democratic media provides the public with information that is accurate, educational, and informative, and which is useful toward promoting the well-being of the society.


A democratic media allows people to represent themselves and not be dominated by interests with a private or even secret agenda.


A democratic media will watch and report accurately on the actions of public figures and elected representatives


A democratic media enables people to participate comfortably in the democratic process,


Such a media should be structurally organized democratically, not directed by politics but by community decision making.




At the present time the media is not fulfilling its role within a democratic society.  There are numerous aspects to this problem, including:


1.  The consolidation and tightening of media control in the hands of a few; which promotes a bland uniformity and superficiality that does not adequately address important issues.


2.   The dependence on corporate financiers and advertisers to sustain operations which creates a serious conflict of interest and often leads to bias and censorship


3.   The high cost of an FCC license for radio (250K), ownership and accessibility to spectrum, which limits license ownership to a few corporations or wealthy individuals. Wealthy corporations and their investors are given the special privilege to control the media and communications infrastructure while the public is being excluded, denied access, and refused a needed service.


4.   The surrender to a profit incentive and financial motivation, which benefits the few while long-term public interests are neglected


5.  The fabrication or dissemination of disinformation and propagandizing in order to promote an agenda that benefits the few at the expense of the majority, such as in the case of the build up to the War/Occupation of Iraq


6.   The repetition of insignificant stories around the world, the scarcity of original programming of critical issues, and failure to cover important but “small” stories.


7.   The bias of many of the TV and Radio talk show hosts. Commentators are often simply regurgitating talking points without any original thought;


8.  The broadcasting by networks of stories without adequate research on their validity


9.  The failure of mainstream media to present any significant amount of real, powerful journalism


10.  The use of the media to overwhelm and to silence dissenting opinion / ideologies


11.  The suppression of factual reports


12.  The way in which stories and narratives are designed to shape the way that people think.  People's ideas are being conditioned by the media; this is restricting critical thinking, distorting consciousness, and perverting culture


13.  The way in which people are over-saturated with sensory stimulation and overwhelmed with useless information and superficial distractions


14.  The manipulation of people to be consumers / shoppers at the expense of being participatory citizens


15.  The lack of access to alternative media sources for those with a low income who can't afford internet, cellphones, computers or other electronics which are becoming increasingly essential.


16.  The poor quality of service to small communities and dwindling local coverage around the country.


17.  The failure to include all legitimate candidates for office in the public debates, in clear violation of the Fairness Doctrine which mandates that networks maintain standards of fairness and journalistic integrity in order to be eligible to lease the public spectrum.


18.  The instances in which individuals have been barred from recording the police in public or charged with felony eavesdropping for recording a misdemeanor arrest.


19.  The extreme copyright infringement laws, under which personal photos of copyright material could be claimed by corporations


20.   The inequality of access by the public as compared to the access of the major networks


21.  The lack of appropriate mechanisms to hold the major networks accountable, and lack of repercussions for bad behavior




In order to address these critical issues we present the following platform:

The government

1.  That media standards be set as universal, accessible, affordable, available, based on democratic ideals, accountability, integrity, and upholding of the social contract


2.  That monopolies and media consolidation be broken up to provide more diversity and access


3.  That the right to reply be reinstated


4.  That the public media structure be developed as a viable alternative to the corporate networks


5.  That the public share in the control of the public media


6. That community centers be offered with free or low cost internet access, and provide public access studios for production,


7.  That  public tools and resources along with media literacy courses be provided to empower people to be successful producers, including training on how to produce media, how to utilize media to reflect their perspectives


8.  That tools be used to make the media more accessible and affordable to people, create a local media infrastructure that is open to the public, provide multimedia tools and resources for the public to utilize for their own purposes, put the power in the hands of the people,


9.  That spaces be established that are open to the community so that people can get together and work cooperatively:  build media centers that educate people on key media issues and advance people closer towards achieving goals


10.  That the infrastructure for public broadband be built to provide access for every citizen


11. That the principle of net neutrality be protected


12.  That  media literacy be a standard part of the curricula at all levels; that students be taught  how to make media more democratic; that communication and media  be a required part of the educational curriculum; that schools  provide training and resources for the public to use:


a)  learn about the constitution, how the government works, the issue of free speech and how these issues impact our lives


b)  learn about the essential role of media in our society / civilization; illustrate how media and communication is an integral part of the global infrastructure


c)  learn the history of media, including such historical media figures such as Edward Bernays, and William Randolph Hearst, and how media can be used for good or bad; learn how propaganda can be used to manipulate public opinion in order to gain political or economic control; look at the old regulatory framework that did exist prior to deregulation, restructuring, the Fairness Doctrine.


d)  learn about media consolidation of ownership and the monopolies in control; learn about how this poses a conflict of interest with the public and give examples, such as how editorial decisions are made based on corporate bias.


e)  promote better understanding of how to use narratives and stories in order to move the discussion of important issue from the fringes into the wider public discourse.


d)  provide opportunity to engage in opposition research in order to gain awareness of how actions could be constrained or diminished; have fact based research to add context.


g)  utilize multimedia as educational tools and incorporate films, websites, diagrams, facts and research, PR campaigns, advertisements, marketing...etc.


13.   That there be public access on regular TV not just on cable;  that regular networks open the bandwidth and free-up unused digital stations for public access stations like CANTV; that networks open up the airwaves for community programming and provide access to  the digital broadcasting scheme and utilize the full bandwidth,


14.   That the public access networks integrate and share programming between communities; that a system be created by which it is possible to tune into other channels being broadcasted from other communities. We need to build our social networks so that communication flows between groups


15.  That PEG- public educational and government access outlets develop massive set of servers so all community access can be archived


16.  That there be a media bill of rights for journalists, artists, and media producers, (especially independent media, who are not affiliated with a major network) to provide legal protection and equal access to cover important events.


17.  That open source content be promoted and people encouraged to contribute to the creative commons so that media can be used and distributed freely.


18.  That there be community kiosks so that people can post bulletins locally and keep in touch


The public

1.   That a news wire for independents be created to provide a vehicle for getting stories out


2.   That we have better communication with each other, and a clear message


3.   That we find a common ground / issues to build upon


The corporations

1)   That we work as a community to redefine the rules for broadcasting and establish a set of standards for integrity that will define a public code of conduct for the media, including accuracy in reporting, social responsibility and the promotion of the public wellbeing of all communities


2)   That diverse representation on the media staffs be ensured


2)   That providers that fail to observe the principle of net neutrality be held accountable.


4)   That minimal standards be established for violence and racism shown on broadcast media, video games and other media that reaches children


5)   That alternative ways of financing media be developed so that media is not dependent upon funding from commercial advertisers and corporate sponsorship. We need independent/ public funding for the media. Commercial media outlets should pay more money for licenses and the proceeds invested directly into community media and public access.


6)   That campaign financing and use of media for political advertisements be reformed


7.   That public access be lived streamed and paid for by cable companies


8.   That there be additional funding to supply technical equipment used for public access


9)   That community announcements be given free air time





As a progressive media community we commit to the following actions in order to take steps toward implementing our platform:

1.  To stay intact as a group, to keep the solidarity, keep the momentum going, and strengthen our progressive media network


2.   To make available a list serve for those interested in exploring solutions and actions


3.   To link with each other as individuals and as organizations to integrate ideas into a central website


4.   To get together for follow up meetings and keep the conversation going, such as a monthly meeting where people can address these issues and fine tune the actions


5.   To establish a committee to draft a media bill of rights


6.   To develop the language and concepts of media to illustrate how the system should work ideally, including a redefinition of “public” and “democratic”


7.   To make use of the tools and services provided by local organizations, such as Chicago Indy Media, CANTV, Cooperative Media, and ethnic media and to explore additional resources, such as the Media Education Foundation


8.   To organize training and workshops and to promote training with the American Media Center, CAN TV, Community Media Workshop, Radio Arte and other such centers.


10.  To publicize airtimes of our program to our local groups to watch and discuss


11.    To look at media licenses and leases; see what is available for public use and develop progressive outlets, whether broadcast or virtual


12.   To seek funding for media projects through organizations like the Crossroads foundation


14.   To make creative use of all forms of media. Progressive media needs to be more appealing to the broader public. We need to raise the volume, highlight our own issues, make content so compelling that it can't be ignored, engage the audience emotionally. We need to compete with the major networks in producing quality aesthetics and compelling narratives.


15.   To repackage the content to reach different audiences, and connect with to the mainstream


16.   To release content as creative commons wherever possible so that it can be redistributed freely


17.   To use emerging distribution methods such as Google TV box that brings content tailored to TV


18.   To be media watchdogs, ensure that the media networks are held accountable and forced to uphold standards of integrity, organize community watch dog groups who are constantly patrolling the media, and to organize petitions when appropriate


19.   To develop coalition policy initiatives which are directed at improving media policy


20.   To challenge the FCC regarding renewal of the licenses of corporations who have not upheld their obligation under the fairness doctrine or community service requirements


22.   To use the legal system and organize class action lawsuits if necessary in order to obtain justice and accountability


23.   To continue to discuss and refine these principles and to implement these actions.