On Friday December 7th from 5:00 to 6:30PM, about a dozen media activists braved freezing temperatures, a blockade of violence-prone Chicago police, and thousands of mostly indifferent holiday shoppers, to take part in the 2007 Chicago Media Action Holiday Singalong.
It was held outside of Tribune Tower, the national corporate headquarters of the Tribune Company. The media giant's TV station and newspaper cross-ownerships have come under an increasing level of scrutiny by the public and Congress due to FCC actions concerning the pending sale of the Tribune Company to billionaire Sam Zell.
The event -- organized by Chicago Media Action, a Chicago-area group actively working on media issues -- featured several Christmas carols, rewritten with a media politics motif. Some of the lyrics involved the Tribune and the controversy involving the highly questionable legality of its media cross-ownerships. The full songbook is online here:
The Singalong was timed to reach a great many Chicagoans: It was held outside of Tribune Tower on Chicago's Michigan Avenue -- the Chicago thoroughfare with the most foot traffic in the city -- during Friday evening rush hour, amidst the busier-than-usual Christmas holiday shopping season. Hundreds of copies of an informational factsheet explaining the issue were handed out.
The entrance to the Tribune was guarded for much of the Singalong by about a dozen officers from the Chicago Police Department -- perhaps to protect against the "hugely violent" activity of singing songs and handing out informational factsheets to the public. Event participants made no plans and made no attempts to enter the building. Indeed, police dismissed repeated attempts by Singalong participants to interact.
Participants also brought protest signs which read "All I Want For Christmas Is An $8.2 Billion Waiver", "I Saw The FCC Kissing Big Media", and "Zell = Hell", along with signs of Malcolm X and George Orwell. Other signs featuring FCC chair Kevin Martin depicted him as The Grinch, and with Rich Uncle Pennybags from the board game Monopoly.
The Singalong was held near the showcase studio of WGN-AM radio. Passersby on Michigan Avenue could watch afternoon lip-flapper Steve Cochran perform his afternoon program. Repeated attempts to call in to the radio station at 312-591-7200 to discuss the Singalong and issues were all dismissed.
Action alerts were emailed to our member list twice, the event received advance promotion in the Daily Herald, a suburban newspaper, on the Chicago Indymedia and Free Press web sites, several local blogs, and elsewhere.
The sky was overcast and dark already with temperatures below freezing. Fortunately for participants, it didn't snow during the Singalong despite having snowed in Chicago twice earlier in the week.
Biggest Irony Of The Evening: The police were guarding Tribune Tower, owned by the Tribune Company, which holds five of the long-verboten broadcast-newspaper cross-ownerships. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
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