Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Media Consolidation and the FCC

Earlier, some deranged wingnut brought up the Fairness Doctrine. Without getting into the finer details, the Fairness Doctrine was designed to try to present people with an opportunity to hear opposing views on media outlets. This was instituted because the airwaves belong to the public, and the thinking was that hearing both sides of an argument was in the public interest.

There is no shortage of hysterical, Orwellian, mind-blowingly stupid reactions to the idea of bringing it back--all of them seem to emanate from the people who think that it's going to put Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly out of business. It simply won't do that. Only the marketplace can do that. But if AM radio were dominated by liberals commentators, the conservatives in this country would be howling for it. There is also the Equal Time rule, which grew out of Eugene McCarthy's attempts to be heard in 1968 when he was challenging Lyndon Johnson. (Wonder if the wingnuts remember THAT?)

Another issue is media consolidation.Do you like how Media Consolidation enthusiast Rupert Murdoch has taken over the Wall Street Journal and started his own business network?

In honor of Cyber Monday, Fox Business did a segment yesterday on online shopping. A Fox reporter went to ESPN Zone in Washington, DC and interviewed Peter Perweiler, who was identified only as an “online shopper.” Perweiler told Fox Business that he is planning to shop on Cyber Monday and is looking at “big-ticket items this year.”

It’s no surprise that Perweiler was boosting online shopping. As Silicon Alley Insider uncovered, Perweiler is actually the marketing manager at the National Retail Federation. The NRF has blamed Fox Business’s sloppy reporting for the incident.

The FCC, under the leadership of Kevin Martin, is considering relaxing the rules that are now keeping the Rupert Murdochs of the world from consolidating even further so that they can continue to bring such high quality and excellent journalism to the American people. has compiled some excellent reasons and done some fine work exposing the lies being spread by the FCC about consolidation and big media ownership. Sometimes, it feels like Rupert Murdoch is able to simply tell the government what to do and how to do it. Does THAT serve the public interest? Of course not.

Here are ten reasons why we should oppose this change:

•FACT #1: Martin’s ‘modest’ proposal is corporate welfare for Big Media.
Martin’s plan would unleash a buying spree in the top 20 markets, making it easier for companies like Belo, News Corp. and Tribune Co. to push out independent, local owners.

•FACT #2: Loopholes open the door to cross-ownership in any market.
Under Martin’s loose standards, cross-ownership waivers could be approved in hundreds of smaller cities and towns.

•FACT #3: Loopholes allow newspapers to own TV stations of any size.
The same technicalities could permit top-rated stations in any market to combine with major newspapers.

•FACT #4: FCC history shows weak standards won’t protect the public.
The current rules forbid cross-ownership, but the FCC hasn’t denied any temporary waiver request in years.

•FACT #5: Cross-ownership doesn’t create more local news.
The latest studies — using the FCC’s own data — show that markets with cross-ownership produce less total local news, as one dominant company crowds out the competition.

•FACT #6: Cross-ownership won’t solve newspapers’ financial woes.
Claims that the newspaper industry is about to “wither and die” are greatly exaggerated, and no evidence shows that cross-ownership would make things better.

•FACT # 7: The Internet is an opportunity, not a death sentence.
Mergers and consolidation are not the answer to the financial problems of the traditional media.

•FACT #8: Martin’s plan would harm minority media owners.
Nearly half of the nation’s minority-owned TV stations are lower-rated outlets in the top 20 markets, making them a target for Big Media takeovers.

•FACT # 9: A broken and corrupt process creates bad policies.
The FCC’s lack of transparency, flawed research and secret timetable have tossed aside basic fairness and accountability in the rush to change media ownership rules.

•FACT # 10: The public doesn’t want more media consolidation.
Martin’s actions ignore the millions of Americans — and 99 percent of the comments in the FCC docket — who oppose letting a few media giants swallow up more local media.

There is something un-American about having a handful of people control everything we read, hear, and watch. Do you ever get the feeling that it's 1902 and there is no Teddy Roosevelt out there who is going to go after the monied trusts and the robber barons?

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