FCC June 2 Meeting" />
May 22, 2003
Why You Should Care About Media Concentration and the FCC:

Because the FCC intends to lift the restrictions on media concentration at their June 2 meeting. So instead of 4 or 5 megamedia outlets, we can have 3, or 2 or eek! 1 (check out this media map, or this one from the Nation, or this one from Media Channel). Breadth of media outlets is a critical check and balance on our democratic system, one that determines other voices, formats and viewpoints for our freedom of expression. Tipping what concentrated media balance we have today in favor of less competition, for getting information news and entertainment, will be bad all the way around. Check out this short video from the Center for Digital Democracy.

There has been a lengthy conversation going around the past couple of weeks or so about the FCC hearings scheduled for June 2, 2003 (watch the hearing via webcast at 9:30am EST, as the request for delaying the hearing was denied.) This hearing is the biennial review of rules governing media concentration. Every category from radio to newspaper to broadcast to cross-ownership rules is up for change. (Look here for the FCC hearing video from May 15.)

Among the topics discussed recently: the FCC's desire to break the Clear Channel hold over radio (htm) (see this bIPlog post on Clear Channel and the public emergency they weren't "in" to broadcast), the idea that Michael Powell believes that the Internet can adequately balance increased media concentration despite the restrictions ISPs and other access providers want to place on what you can attach to the Internet (see Larry Lessig's response to this kind of argument -- where he did not say the Internet is Dying, but instead that the Internet as Savior is a dying concept), and today's Salon piece on the The Big Blackout: "And perhaps unsurprisingly, the two television news operations most reluctant to cover the FCC debate -- CBS and Fox -- are owned by the two media conglomerates with the most to gain from a lenient FCC ruling: Viacom and the News Corp."

Tom Barger documents the change in concentration over the past six years: "I have heretofore been loath to subscribe to a conspiracy theory of the Military/Entertainment Complex. Rather, I have written on the herd mentality of journalists, and their fear of losing jobs or that coveted seat on Air force One; a relentless "dumbing down" of American culture and the obsession with celebrities, non-scripted reality programming, car wrecks, adultery, child abductions, and murders-all at the expense of critical examination of public policy. I have changed my mind."

"Commissioner Adelstein and Copps have informed us that the fix is in. On a split decision (3 Republicans to 2 Democrats), in June, all regulations on media ownership will be thrown out.... Adelstein's comment is perhaps more prescient, "The toothpaste is out of the tube.'"

Then there is the Nation's FCC: Public Be Damned: "...an examination of roughly half the 18,000 public statements filed electronically with the FCC show that 97 percent of them oppose permitting more media concentration. Even media moguls Barry Diller and Ted Turner have raised objections, with Turner complaining, 'There's really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It's not healthy.'"

William Safire also opposes the proposed media consolidation (or htm): "We've already seen what happened when the F.C.C. allowed the monopolization of local radio: today three companies own half the stations in America, delivering a homogenized product that neglects local news coverage and dictates music sales. ... Ah, but aren't viewers and readers now blessed with a whole new world of hot competition through cable and the Internet? That's the shucks-we're-no-monopolists line that Rupert Murdoch will take today in testimony before the pussycats of John McCain's Senate Commerce Committee.

"The answer is no. Many artists, consumers, musicians and journalists know that such protestations of cable and Internet competition by the huge dominators of content and communication are malarkey. The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many."

Check out how the Regulators travel on the Regulated's Nickel as reported by the Center for Public Integrity: 2,500 trips costing $2.8 million over 8 years, paid for mostly by broadcast and telecommunication companies, separate from tax payer funded travel. Also, the same report mentions the FCC's heavy reliance on industry data.

Take 5 Minutes To Do Something About It:
The Future of Music Coalition suggests writing a letter (or email the letter: mpowell@fcc.gov; or call: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)!).

Moveon.org also has an easy way to participate.

Or Mediareform.net.

Considering how many ways giga-organizations can shape our tastes (or htm) and control our access to media, we have to keep what few protections we have in place.

Update (5/23/03): Salon has an article: Last Stop Before the Media Monopoly (Thanks Frank!)

Posted by Mary Hodder at May 22, 2003 08:31 AM
Comments

I'm confused? Should there be ZERO changes to the FCC's media ownership regulations -- most of which are more than 25 years old? I'm sure we can all agree that society, the media, technology, etc., have all greatly changed since 1975. Are we to believe, therefore, that the FCC perfectly predicted the future ills/benefits of media ownership structure so long ago, such that no reforms/changes are necessary? Seems like this debate is now hopelessly off-track, bashing 'media giants' instead of getting to the real issues of whether these old-fashioned regulations can be better calibrated to maximize freedom and diversity in a more sophisticated, digital world. If these new rules stick around as long as the current rules do, should we not be forward-looking?

Posted by: Russ Taylor on May 29, 2003 07:15 AM
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