PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE | January 11, 2021

Supporting Community Media and Our Democracy 

There are too many things to say about last week’s demonstrations and attack on the US House and Senate – and like a lot of folks I’m still trying to digest everything that’s being reported about the events we witnessed last Wednesday.  

It’s hard though not to think about the work I’ve done with other members of ACM walking those halls in Washington, DC – even as recently as our National Conference in Baltimore a couple years ago.  I spend a lot of time encouraging people to meet with their legislators and get involved in the democratic process – I’m profoundly committed to involving people in democratic changes. Last Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol Building and the people who do the business of Congress is also an attack on our democratic work.

I’ve also seen a lot of pictures of harassment of the media covering the events and destruction of cameras and other equipment by the mob. This is what happens when the press is deemed to be the “enemies of the people”, rather than their servants. Our ethical duty as media creators means we must be devoted to meeting the needs of the people and our democracy.

And in the debate about the banning of the President on Twitter and Facebook, I’m reminded of a couple things:  They are not the Internet, and those companies are not the US government.  I feel like paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen by saying “I’ve run a First Amendment free speech forum; I have friends who have run those forums; Twitter and Facebook are not those forums.”  Regardless of the legal issues involved with that determination, it’s pretty clear that violent insurrection against a lawful government and calls to assault others are not protected by the First Amendment.  

The demonstrations weren’t just in DC last week – they were in state capitols across the US and one of our member organizations had to close down because of the threat of violence. That’s unacceptable and we need to ensure that all media are treated with the respect that our democracy deserves.  

Jon Ossoff & Reverend Raphael Warnock 

In the middle of Wednesday’s events came the news that Jon Ossoff had won the second of two special elections for US Senator from Georgia. Reverend Raphael Warnock won the other contest on Tuesday. The effect of a 50-50 split in the US Senate will be large in Washington DC, supporting the ability of the incoming Biden Administration’s efforts to get approval of appointments and legislation.   

Things on Capitol Hill are still unsettled as a result of the elections and the insurrection. We are conferring with allies in the House and Senate about ways we can help stations across the country and will keep members posted about legislation that will be introduced in the new Congress.

ACM Virtual meetups

It was also exciting to meet folks in NC and VA in our first PEG channel Meet-Ups last week – if you are interested in attending a Meet-Up in your state, go here to register and let us know if you want us to host on in your state!