Race / Ethnic Issues

Nigeria Strikes Back at British American Tobacco

Tobacco companies target Nigerian youth (Photo by Essential Action)If you think the U.S. tobacco industry is bad, you'll find the behavior of many of the same companies overseas to be truly shocking.

Happily, the industry is beginning to be held accountable for its operations in the Global South. Nigeria's two largest states are following the lead of U.S. states, in suing British American Tobacco (BAT) of Nigeria, its U.K. parent company and Philip Morris International for the health care costs of treating sick smokers, The Times of London reported this week.

The new lawsuits demonstrate the importance of the online public databases of previously secret tobacco industry documents. The 1998 U.S. Master Settlement Agreement required major tobacco companies to reveal millions of pages documenting unethical -- and even illegal -- marketing, public relations and lobbying campaigns. A lesser-known treasure trove is the British American Tobacco Documents Archive, which has made some seven million pages of BAT documents freely available. These documents are of particular importance to countries like Nigeria.

Tampa Testimony Against Media Consolidation, for Media "Convergence"

On April 30, "the Federal Communications Commission was in Tampa to hear from opponents and advocates of media consolidation," reports Pat Walters. "Since June, the FCC has been reviewing several planned changes to the rules governing media ownership.

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Gonzales Seeks Support in the Court of Public Opinion

As more information surfaces about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' role in the Justice Department scandal over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, Gonzales is going "on a public relations tour to boost his image," reports Jennifer Hoar.

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An Army of Thousands More: How PR Firms and Major Media Help Military Recruiters

Army recruiting poster

Increasing "the ranks of our military" is "one of the first steps we can take together" to "position America to meet every challenge that confronts us," said President Bush in last week's State of the Union address. "Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years."

The 92,000 figure was put forward by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 12 that more troops are needed to boost "combat capability" and "strengthen our military for the long war against terrorism." The Pentagon plans to meet that goal by reenlisting former Marines and increasing the Army's recruitment and retention rates.

Under the plan, the Army would only "slightly increase its recruitment goals -- by 2,000 to 3,000" a year, according to UPI. But in 2005, "the Army failed to meet its annual recruiting goal by the widest margin in two decades," reported the New York Times. To meet its 2006 goal, the Army hired more recruiters, raised the maximum allowable age for recruits, doubled the percentage of recruits who scored low on aptitude tests, issued waivers for some recruits' prior convictions, and significantly increased cash bonuses.

If it was that difficult for the Army to meet past recruiting goals, how will it meet future, larger ones? Some clues are offered in the Army's self-nomination for a prestigious public relations award.

Marketers Seek Multicultural "Magic"

The Association of National Advertisers recently held its Multicultural Marketing Conference, "which drew more than 300 attendees from companies such as McDonald's Corp., Sprint, Home Depot and Lexus." Earvin "Magic" Johnson told the conference that early engagement of communities of color resulted in brand loyalty. If "somebody beat you in, we're going to stick with them," he said.

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Media Consolidation Means Less Diversity

Media consolidation comes at the expense of ethnic diversity and serving the interests of women and minorities, according to several academic studies recently released by the Benton Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. A study by Dr. Carolyn Byerly of Howard University examined U.S.

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What Media Democracy Looks Like: Testifying in Milwaukee

FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein"Media democracy" is a term that everyone defines a little differently.

Is it quality reporting that not only informs about local, national and international issues, but also facilitates citizen involvement? Is it having the diversity of our communities represented among media owners? Is it giving local programmers access to the airwaves? Is it holding broadcasters to the terms of their freely-granted licenses? Is it ensuring a variety of news and cultural media offerings?

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