Perhaps you think media consolidation does not affect our everyday lives. Please read the following story (from Democracy Now!) and try to explain that to the residents of Minot, ND.
Five years ago, a one-hundred-twelve car train derailed just outside Minot, North Dakota – the state’s fourth largest city. The accident occurred shortly before two in the morning on January 18, 2002. Minutes later, the train’s conductor called the local emergency dispatch.
Two hundred forty thousand gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked out of the train producing a vapor plume that floated over the town. Limited exposure burns the eyes, the skin, and the lungs. Larger doses can shut down the human respiratory system.
The chemical leak in Minot ended up killing one person. Approximately 330 were treated for immediate health problems and more than 1,000 people needed medical care for recurring illnesses in the next month. But questions remain to this day over how the crisis was handled and the role played by media consolidation.
The radio giant Clear Channel owned all six commercial stations in Minot, North Dakota. None of them broke into regular programming to provide emergency information to the city’s residents. After the town’s Emergency Alert System failed, local officials tried to call the stations, but no one answered. The stations continued to play music piped in from out of state.
The independent media program ‘Democracy Now!‘ broadcast some of the emergency phone calls placed by Minot residents, which you can listen to here using Real Player.
I would like to repeat once again that radio airwaves are public property and should serve in the public interest.