May 13, 2003
The FCC is about to give the big media companies a huge present. The agency is proposing more deregulation, which will mean that Rupert Murdoch and Viacom and Disney and AOL Time Warner can concentrate their ownership of the media at even higher levels.
The networks could buy up enough local stations "to reach 90 percent of the nation's viewers," The New York Times reported.
And the major newspaper in a big city now may be able to own more radio and TV stations, so their domination over what you see and read will become even more ominous.
Or a major network could buy up the local metropolitan paper, as well as three local TV stations and several radio stations.
"Nationally, it will mean the largest firms will be able to swallow up any other media firms they set their eyes upon, and industry observers all expect a flurry of large deals," says mediareform.org, a new web site founded by Robert W. McChesney. He's the author of "Rich Media, Poor Democracy," and co-author with John Nichols of "Our Media, Not Theirs."(McChesney and Nichols wrote "Holding the Line at the FCC," in the April issue of The Progressive.)
"At the local level, we should expect a single firm, or perhaps two or three firms, to own the vast majority of the media-daily newspaper, TV stations, radio stations, cable TV system-in a single community," the site adds. "There is enormous profit to be made by having such monopolistic power, and firms are scrambling to get the rules changed so they can dominate markets and crush competition."
This move by the FCC, headed by Colin Powell's son Michael, goes 180 degrees against the mission of the agency, which is to assure a "diversity of voices, localism, and competition."
You may not have heard much about this yet, because the huge media companies that give you the news have a vested interest in downplaying the story.
But this is a money grab, pure and simple.
And what is at stake is any semblance of a competitive media in this country.
Already, so much of our news is homogenized and dumbed down and Foxified. But if Michael Powell gets his say, it's only going to get worse.
Yes, there are alternatives--community radio, leftwing magazines, the Internet. And thank god for them.
But most Americans consume their news from TV, commercial radio, and mainstream newspapers. When fewer and fewer giant corporations own the debating forums of our society, they make a mockery of the free exchange of ideas.
The airwaves belong to the people, not Rupert Murdoch, Clear Channel, and their ilk.