More on Consolidation: Congress and Industry Butt Heads over Ownership Limits

  • More on Consolidation: Congress and Industry Butt Heads over Ownership Limits
    Today the Senate Commerce Committee, led by Chairman Sen. Ernest Hollings, held a hearing on broadcast ownership limits, which the FCC is scheduled to review later this year. Reuters reports that FCC Chairman Powell expressed that he is against more ownership limits except for preventing the major TV networks from buying each other, which drew ire from many lawmakers concerned about broadcast industry consolidation. Sen. Hollings voiced his support for diversity in broadcasting, and the president of the NYC PBS affiliate emphasized that diversity in ownership is the most important factor.

    Although I shouldn’t be, I am absolutely amazed at what greedy babies the major broadcasters and media companies are, begging for even more consolidation–like allowing newspaper and TV station co-ownership–even after the massive profits that have been racked up in the wake of the Telecommuncations Act of 1996. How much whinier can you get than Jack Fuller, CEO of Tribune Co., who complained that “Anybody, it seems, can own a television station except aliens, drug dealers and newspaper publishers,” twisting the catch-all public interest rationalization to defend his complaint: “With cross-ownership, public access to high-quality local news increases. It does not decrease.” Sounds great Jack, but what about proof? Show me how Rupert Murdock increased access to high-quality local news by being given an exception to own a TV station and newspaper in New York City.

    And this is the same group that wants to deny little non-profits a tiny 10-watt low-power FM radio station in major cities. I can almost hear the whining: “Anybody, it seems, can own a low-power FM stations except aliens, drug dealers and broadcast conglomerates. Waaah! No fair!”

  • In a related note: Sen. Hollings announced plans to introduce legislation aimed at slowing media consolidation. The bill he is drafting would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from eliminating any regulations that limit the size of media companies until it has conducted a thorough study of the marketplace.

    Of course, a “thorough study of the marketplace” can be construed in any number fashions. Instead I think what’s needed is a thorough study of the political economy of the mass media and the public sphere — let’s look at what the media is actually doing, and how it is affecting the course of democratic debate. Are citizens really getting the opportunity to know the news that they need to make reasonable choices in their lives?
    On second thought, Senators probably don’t really want us to have that information in the first place — it’s an intellectually armed citizenry that most threatens their power.

  • Posted





    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *