Alternative International Media Website outside Corporate Control

Article excerpt

When it comes to democracy and diversity, new media technologies always promise more than they deliver.

Cable was to revolutionize television by expanding choice and decentralizing production. What we got for choice was "narrowcasting" and an excuse for broadcast networks to downsize news and documentary production. And, rather than promoting local-origination productions, as promised by the media corporations, cable providers have reneged on promises to support community programming.

Many of the same promises about media democracy greeted the creation of the Internet and the World Wide Web. With the corporate integration of entertainment and Internet providers (AOL-Time Warner, etc.), diversity on the Web also seems to be giving way to homogenization, commercialization and the hegemony of journalism for profit.

The lesson seems to be that real democratization of media will require a movement of professionals committed to producing and distributing content, not just corporate "good will."

That's the goal of Globalvision News Network (GNN), a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987 by veteran journalists, and the purpose of its innovative website, the MediaChannel (www.mediachannel.org).

In February 2000, GNN launched MediaChannel with a mission--"to foster more diverse and responsible media." The company claims that MediaChannel is now the largest Internet site dedicated to exploring global media issues.

GNN has organized an "international network of local media partners to syndicate global news and information" and to present analysis of the interaction between events and journalism, what the company calls an "inside out" perspective. The network says it was "founded on the belief that the market for world news and information will flourish once media increase global collaboration, add new technologies and improve delivery mechanisms."

Mediachannel.org fills a double function as a web-based site for media criticism and as a portal for more than 900 affiliated news sites around the world, all of them reachable via the online directory and search facility. Spanning an incredible diversity of cultural and ideological perspectives, reporters and news consumers alike have no excuse for limiting information gathering to corporate-dominated media. The editors sift through reports of affiliates on a daily basis for nuggets that are produced by good reporters who do not happen to work for The New York Times or another elite news outlet.

In addition to news and commentary on world events, a major feature of the site is in-depth examination of media issues from an international perspective. Recent articles have included analysis of deregulation in the United States, Vladimir Putin's attempts to shut down Russia's last independent TV network and China's insistence on maintaining state control over its media.

The site also provides direct access to a number of key newsletters monitoring the media, among them the Tyndall Report, a weekly breakdown of TV network news coverage, and Media Reader, a biweekly, international "multimedia" magazine produced by GNN.

The "Global News Network" also serves as a portal for hundreds of affiliated media--mostly newspapers--online. A link on the homepage calls forth a list of these sources organized by continent and country. More than half are available in English. GNN editors select outstanding articles from its affiliates and link them directly from MediaChannel site.

This is not merely a matter of selecting interesting headlines. The editors say that articles directly accessed from MediaChannel are "thoroughly fact-checked and held to the highest standards of journalistic accountability. …