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Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Is it me?  Has anyone else noticed a gradual degradation in U.S. television news over the years?  Maybe it’s my imagination, but I seem to recall that when CNN started out with their continuous news coverage channel they really had lots of news to report. Didn’t they used to have reporters all around the world, from Tokyo to Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, sending in reports of the latest news from even the remotest parts of the planet? Now, if you watch CNN, you seldom see a report from one of their reporters from some exotic locale.  When was the last time we had a CNN report from Mumbai or Shanghai?  How about Brussels or Manila?  What about Auckland or Toronto? Doesn’t news happen in those places anymore?

I suppose budgets being what they are, the news people have had to cut back on their major expenses – you know things like covering the news.  Today, if you turn on CNN you have a 50/50 chance at best of getting coverage of a news event. You are just as likely (if not more likely) of getting one of their staff “experts” commenting on the economy and what you should do with your money or another CNN “expert” commenting on politics and whether Barack Obama has a chance of being reelected in 2012. This is news?

Lest it appear that this is an anti-CNN rant only, let me assure you that I find Fox News equally, if not more so, vapid.  Besides Fax’s vapidity, I find I also have to contend with what seems to be a slight right-wing spin on their reporting. Has anyone else noticed that? I have to wonder if they are trying to influence my opinion rather than just reporting the news as it happens.  The result is that I seldom watch Fox. It’s just my opinion, but they seem to be just a little too, how shall I say it? Foxy. Yes, that’s it, a little too foxy.

It seems that the old, established networks like NBC, CBS, and ABC still put together a nightly version of the news that is fairly straightforward. However, I still feel they are provincial, if not myopic, in their coverage of important news in the today’s world.  There is still a great emphasis on happenings in the U.S.  Perhaps too much.  Remember the global economy?  Remember multinational corporations? Remember the United Nations? The world today is not the same world we had  twenty or thirty years ago.  Everything is interconnected and whenever we pull on a string here, or someone on the other side of the world pulls a string there, the effects are felt everywhere.  We are caught up in a giant web of interconnectedness. The world economic collapse is a very good, but not the only, example of this. So shouldn’t we have news reported to us that is much more global in scale? Don’t the U.S. news organizations realize that the world really is round and that as a result something very important is happening somewhere in the world 24 hours a day?  So why don’t they tell us about it instead of inundating us with hour upon hour of vapid opinions by their staff commentators? Could it be because they are running low budget operations and can’t actually afford to cover the world news as they should?  I don’t know.  Maybe.

But, just for the sake of comparison, take a look at how other countries cover the news on television. Check out how the news is covered in England on the BBC. This is their website, of course, but their televised news is similar.  You can even see it in many parts of the U.S. on your local PBS network.  Their coverage of the world is infinitely superior to the U.S. news media. Of course the BBC is well known for that, but they are not alone in this regard. Check out Radio Telefis Eireann in Ireland at this link. Once again, it’s a website, but their broadcast world news is very complete also.

But wait!  There’s more.  The Germans, perhaps not as famous for their world news coverage, also do a very good job of providing real information via their Deutche Welle broadcast.  This is also available in parts of the U.S. via the Public Broadcasting Network. The good thing is that the news is broadcast in English so that we monolingual Americans can actually understand what they are saying.  Check out Deutche Welle at this link and see what I mean.  Finally, one of my favorites for keeping up with events of the day throughout the world, is a French (yes, French – I know) network news program called France 24. Their website is worth looking at and so is their broadcast. Although I have yet to find it in the U.S., even on PBS, I am hopeful that someday it will show up here.  Maybe the answer is the internet.

Which means that I think it’s time our U.S. news media took a look around at the competition.  With the advances in broadband and the capability to view television programs on the internet, it may not be too long before we will be able to watch internet-based news broadcasts from around the world,  maybe even on our own television sets.  It seems clear to me that these two media are bound to merge in the not too distant future. When that happens CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, and the other U.S. news media will find they are competing directly for audience share with the BBC, RTE, Deutche Welle, France 24, and many, many more.  I don’t think our news networks realize this, and because they don’t, they may find themselves in the not too distant future going the way of a few other U.S companies that ignored their foreign competition for far too long, companies like GM, Chrysler, and Ford.

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It was the Greeks who invented democracy, but their democracy was very different from ours.  In ancient Athens citizens voted directly on the issues, sort of like the traditional New England town meetings in the U.S.  However, as the U.S. developed it became clear that this type of democracy simply could not function in a land as large as ours and a new form of democracy, representational democracy was created.  This is the form of government we have today: we elect our Representatives and Senators, our President and Vice President, and we expect them to perform and make decisions on our behalf.  The problem is that sometimes it doesn’t seem that our representatives remember just what our interests are.  Sometimes our representatives are swayed by inputs from lobbyists.  Sometimes our representatives just don’t seem to have good judgment – at least they don’t make the decisions we would have made.

We are in an interesting position now – actually we have been in this position for ten years or more – we can, if we want to, return to a more “pure” form of democracy, a form of democracy that more closely resembles ancient Greek democracy or New England town hall style democracy. We can vote via the Internet.  This isn’t a new idea, the concept was discussed by Jodi Kantor in a CNN article in 1999, and I imagine others had talked about it before that.  Perhaps many Americans thought we weren’t quite technologically ready for it then. There were concerns about security and fraudulent voting and such.  There were, it seems, also concerns by some elected officials that they might be out of a job if this happened. So it didn’t.

Now, about nine years later, we are no closer to using the Internet to cast our votes than we were then.  The issues about voting security have long been put to bed. After all, if our banks are happy to conduct millions of financial transactions every day over the Internet it ought to be safe enough for secure, private voting too.  Yet, it is surprising that we don’t even talk about this. We don’t even do this on the level of small town voting, and yet it would be so easy and convenient to have virtual town meetings and let everyone vote on issues relevant to any particular town. But we don’t

I guess everyone has heard that we, the USA, have now officially lost the lead in physics research to Europe. You know, the CERN facility in Switzerland and the large hadron super collider that will soon try to create the conditions that existed immediately after the Big Bang.  Well, we haven’t only lost the lead in physics to Europe, we’ve also lost the lead in democracy to Europe (Oooohhh…those “European ideas” the Republicans are so afraid of). In 2007, Estonia (yes, Estonia) conducted their Parliamentary elections using Internet voting.  It went very well, thank you. What did you expect?  So now the good citizens of Europe have shown that they have the technology to transform democracy and lead it into the 21st century, while the U.S. pretends that it can’t be done and just ignores the whole idea.

The thing about Internet voting is that it could allow each of us to vote on issues that we care a lot about, things like: should we go to war with Iran now or wait a year; should we go ahead and actually build the bridge to nowhere; should we make the rich pay their fair share of taxes; should we make the taxpayers bail out the banks; should we have national health care; should public education be free all the way up through college level; and whatever else we think we should do.

So how come no one talks about this? How come no one is interested? It can be done. Estonia (a former member of the Soviet Union) already did it! It’s time for America to awaken from its Bush/Cheney induced narcolepsy.  Those Europeans, with all their scary “European ideas” are leaving us in the dust in technology, education, health care, and now, even democracy.  It would be very simple to start using Internet democracy for small towns; but it could quickly grow and be used on the state and national level. We certainly have the technology readily available.  Perhaps we should listen to Robert F. Kennedy when he quoted George Bernard Shaw who said, “Some men see things as they are and say why – I dream things that never were are say why not?”

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