Media Matters for Party Platforms

Jun 15, 2008  •  Post A Comment

National political party platforms appear to be the new venue for debates about media ownership and advertising content.
A request from a consumer group that the Democratic Party platform include a plank calling for limits on advertising to kids is presenting the possibility that this summer it won’t be just the Iraq War, gas prices, immigration and the economy under discussion among the Democratic and GOP platform committees. There also will be requests or pressure to tie the party candidates to media issues.
Those requests could come from opponents of media consolidation and those concerned that the nation’s media has become too profane and sexy.
The platform committee of the Democratic National Convention has started taking comments; it plans hearings on what issues to consider before it heads to Denver, the site of the party’s convention Aug. 25-29. Normally the platform committee decides what it wants in the platform the week before the convention.
The chairman and co-chairmen of the Republican National Convention’s platform committee have been revealed, but the plans to take comment have yet to be announced. Republicans hold their convention in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 1-4, with the platform committee to meet the previous week.
So far the only request detailed publicly has come from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Last week the group called on the chairs of the Democratic platform committee to include a plank “committing to protect our nation’s children from the excesses of our marketing-driven media culture.”
“The health and well-being of America’s children depend on our ability as a nation to safeguard them from what has become an onslaught of harmful media and marketing,” said a letter signed by Dr. Susan Linn, the group’s director, and Enola Aird, a member of its steering committee.
The letter asked that the platform language state parents are “rightly concerned that driven by an almost single-minded focus on financial profit, the nation’s media and marketing institutions are teaching young people lessons and values that undermine good parenting and harm children. … These industries have also contributed to a profound coarsening of our culture with a steady stream of messages that sexualize children, promote unhealthy eating and glorify violence and materialism.”
It suggests Democrats work to provide parents an opportunity to raise kids in a “healthier” media environment.
Dr. Linn said a similar request will be made to Republicans.
Patti Miller, director of Children Now, another consumer group concerned about children, said her group is working on a proactive children’s media policy agenda “that will highlight our comprehensive plan to ensure that children are provided for and protected in the digital age.”
She said that plan will be presented to both presidential candidates and the group hopes to brief their staffs at the conventions, but the group is primarily aiming at the new administration rather than the conventions.
Several other groups concerned about broadcast content didn’t return calls or said they were uncertain of their plans.
The Democratic platform could include a media reform plank because its candidate wants one. Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign Web site includes material expressing extensive concerns about media ownership.

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