"The political battle over the Bush administration's planned war in Iraq is filtering down to impact the U.S. media and advertising industry. A growing number of groups opposed to the war allege cable networks are censoring citizens' political views by refusing to accept placements of their anti-war TV ads. Some peace groups are thwarting the networks' rejection by buying local time in major cities for the same anti-war ads.
"Did the media stumble on Iraq, downplaying opposition to war with Saddam Hussein until the USA's recent confrontation with Germany and France in the United Nations and worldwide protests gave them no choice?" asks Peter Johnson. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes, "For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war."
"You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him," writes Roy Greenslade. "How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq?" Murdoch publishes 40 million papers a week and dominates the newspaper markets in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and none "has dared to croon the anti-war tune.
Terrorists and the U.S. government are both using the media to achieve propaganda goals, according to Hafez Al Mirazi, bureau chief of the Al-Jazeera satellite TV network. "If CNN or Fox or others are not going to have breaking news flashing on their screens if Palestinians are killed, but only if Israelis are killed, then [terrorists] will go out and kill an Israeli," he said.
"The Federal Communications Commission, led by Michael ('my religion is the market') Powell, is fixing to remove the last remaining barriers against concentration of media," writes Molly Ivins. "This means one company can own all the radio stations, television stations, newspapers and cable systems in any given area. Presently, 10 companies own over 90 percent of the media outlets.
"Readers have a right to assume that what they read on the letters page is not canned public relations material," Boston Globe Editorial Page Editor Renee Loth said. Responding to unknowingly running GOP "astroturf" form letters, the Globe is instituting a new policy to "confirm original authorship on any letter that could be part of an organized campaign." Globe Ombudsman Christine Chinlund writes that while readers may find the fake grassroots letters-to-the-editor offensive, in political campaigning circles, there is bipartisan support.
"Newspapers and political organizations are engaged in technological one-upmanship over 'AstroTurf' - letters to the editor that look like authentic grass-roots responses from readers but are not," reports Jennifer Lee.
The Columbia Journalism Review's Neil Hickey ponders the impact that cable TV is having on news coverage. "The big story in cable news is the effect that supercharged competition is having on the quality of the prime time cable news schedule. All three networks are battling with the same weapons: talk, opinion, punditry, debate - not to mention the psychedelic, color-saturated graphics, a rataplan of computer-generated sound and screens so crowded with info-bits, including a traveling zipper of text across the bottom, that they look like pinball machines in a penny arcade. ...