For the Media Economics Trumps Democracy

The LA Times has an interview with Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau Chief W. Kenneth Ferree, the man charged with writing the new media ownership rules that the FCC Commissioners will decide upon. In sum, it looks like Ferree is leaning towards using “hard number” metrics and some of the same formulas used by the Justice Dept. in assessing anti-trust matters.

This is not a good thing, because it means treating vital news and information only like commodities. It makes information about our world and our communities nor more valuable than hog futures or a ton of copper. And that’s fucked up.

It’s all a symptom of the utter failure of our executive, legislature and judiciary to pay any heed to the role of the media in a democracy, where citizens are expected to have real useful information available to them. Instead, it all boils down to economics and any discussion of competition in the “media marketplace” only pays lip service to the “marketplace of ideas,” since that makes for a nice facade.

When you boil it down to econometrics, the democratic imperative disappears, because the argument for democracy is not an economic argument. Democracy is not having two colas to choose from, having two candidates to choose from, or having two TV networks to choose from. Democracy is about actual people having a role in deciding how their world, their communities and their lives will be managed. It’s about living a purposeful life, not consuming.

But when the whole issue of media democracy gets reduced to competition in the marketplace, that’s what democracy is reduced to — consumer choice.

I’ll give up being a consumer before I give up being a citizen.






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