Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Media Consolidation

Apparently there was a public meeting on media ownership here in Seattle last night. I've been listening on KBCS to the statements of various participants. It's been very interesting. Of course there are the usual community "activists" and "hip hop artists" and other categories of young idealists, who I find somewhat less interesting. I respect their passion but their speeches are often just idealistic appeals without much in the way of persuasion or educational content. On the other hand, there were also many seasoned veterans of the broadcasting industry, former and current reporters, community leaders, union leaders and public servants. Even the 2000 Republican candidate for governor was present and spoke (and, clearly knowing the crowd, quipped that it was too bad that the three invited Republican members of the FCC had declined to attend since that would have made [wait for it...wait for it] four Republicans in the room [har har, eh?]). Even the self-appointed token Republican came out in favor of not allowing for more media consolidation, of favoring local control of the media, and hitting hard on the concept of the free press as a crucial component of a democratic society.

Media consolidation in particular isn't necessarily one of my pet issues, but I do certainly come down on the side of the necessity of the free press in the same way that I absolutely support Net Neutrality (holy crap, if for no other reason than Alaska's Senator Ted "series of tubes Stevens was (is still?) Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and we need to protect the Internet from him!). The situation seems to be this: In 2001, the FCC created a MEDIA OWNERSHIP WORKING GROUP to "to achieve its long-standing goals of promoting diversity, localism, and competition in the media." Apparently the working group decided that media consolidation and loss of local control was actually ok, because in a 2003 decision that went to court, the media ownership working group replaced the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule and the radio-television cross-ownership rule with a single set of cross-media limits. The FCC decided to hold official public hearings but Seattle wasn't one of the locations. They had a meeting about it anyway.

I had more to say but my ancient laptop has crashed twice in the process of writing this much, so I'm going to call it good and move on for now. Just give the concept of for-profit news and consolidated media some thought, would you? There are some who make this argument: "Broadcasters, who earn huge profits from this public resource, pay the public nothing in return for its use. It is time for the public to reclaim a share of the airwaves we collectively own to strengthen our democracy." My gut reaction is that they're right but if you feel strongly another way, do let me know. I'm open to discussion on this one.


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Blogger Jeff Tidball Says:

Honestly, I don't see diversity of ownership translating into local and/or quality news coverage. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox are indistinguisable in all meaningful ways, as far as their programming goes.

It's the free use of public airwaves for for-profit corporations thing that's always bothered me. Let's auction access to the public airwaves, instead. It's not like we haven't got a gigantic national budget deficit and a ginormous national debt. Let the broadcasters pass the cost to their advertisers.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is still chairman of the Commerce Committee, but only for another three weeks.



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