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The FCC’s Christmas Gift to Big Media

Posted on Dec 24, 2007

On Dec. 18, the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission met in Washington, D.C., and, by a 3 to 2 vote, passed new regulations that would allow more media consolidation. This, despite the U.S. public’s increasing concern over the nation’s media being controlled by a few giant corporations.

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  Dissident FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said of the decision: “We generously ask big media to sit on Santa’s knee, tell us what it wants for Christmas, and then push through whatever of these wishes are politically and practically feasible. No test to see if anyone’s been naughty or nice. Just another big, shiny present for the favored few who already hold an FCC license—and a lump of coal for the rest of us. Happy holidays!”

  It was Bush-appointed FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, now just 41 years old, who rammed through the rule changes. He has served President Bush well. As deputy general counsel for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, he was active during the Florida recount. Before that he worked for Kenneth Starr at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Rumor has it that he may run for governor of his native North Carolina. His wife, Cathie Martin, was a spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney in the midst of the scandal around the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. She now works on Bush’s communications staff.

  The federal regulation in question is the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban. It has for decades prevented the same company from owning both a television or radio station in a town as well as a newspaper. Underlying this ban is the core concept of the public interest. Copps couldn’t have been clearer: “Today’s decision would make George Orwell proud. We claim to be giving the news industry a shot in the arm—but the real effect is to reduce total newsgathering.” Mergers will result in newsroom layoffs and less, not more, coverage of local issues.

  Martin’s new rule is also going to hurt the diversity of the U.S. media. Juan Gonzalez, former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, recently testified at a congressional hearing on media ownership. He said, “Even as our nation has become ever more diverse racially and ethnically ... minority ownership of the broadcast companies ... has remained at shockingly low levels. ... Direct experience has shown us that ownership matters when it comes to ... a diversity of voices and meeting the news and information needs of minority communities.”


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  Gonzalez pointed out that the new rule will allow the 19 minority-owned TV stations in the country’s top 20 cities to be targeted for takeovers by newspapers, further reducing minority ownership.

  There is a reason that journalism is the sole profession explicitly protected in the U.S. Constitution. As a check and balance on government, it is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. As Thomas Jefferson famously stated, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

  By eliminating the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban, Martin claims to be saving newspapers. In a New York Times Op-Ed piece, he writes: “In many towns and cities, the newspaper is an endangered species. ... If we don’t act to improve the health of the newspaper industry, we will see newspapers wither and die.” As Copps pointed out in his scathing dissent to the rule change, “We shed crocodile tears for the financial plight of newspapers—yet the truth is that newspaper profits are about double the S&P 500 average.”

  The problem facing Martin and his big media friends isn’t that newspapers are unprofitable; it’s that they are simply not as profitable as they used to be. This is in part because of the Internet. People no longer have to rely on the newspaper to post or read classified ads, for example, with free online outlets like Craigslist.

  The media system in the United States is too highly concentrated and serves not the public interest but rather the interests of moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone, who controls CBS/Viacom. Media corporations that will benefit from Martin’s handout are the same ones that acted as a conveyor belt for the lies of the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We need a media that challenges the government, that acts as a fourth estate, not for the state. We need a diverse media. The U.S. Congress has a chance to overrule Martin and the FCC, and to keep the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban in place. It should do so immediately, before the consolidated press leads us into another war.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.
© 2007 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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By Christmas Trees, August 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm Link to this comment

I think I might just ignore the content and focus on positive aspects to our media. With journalism now available to every one through communication on line, the question remains that there is loads of rubbish being writen. When will we take what has been given to us as a signal to use it wisely. Our ability to communicate through technology is not to be waster as I fear it will be just a matter of time before there is must sensoring and controls placed by powerful investors into technology and the world wide web!

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By Tim Hollis, December 29, 2007 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

Folks here might enjoy this satire.

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By Leefeller, December 29, 2007 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

Now the 5 commissioners have job security, or did they also work for them Mass Media before, sort of like the FDA having chemical company employees running and calling the shots.  We cannot have the regular slob on the street making decisions that affect big business.

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By heavyrunner, December 29, 2007 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

I does not matter if three big capitalists own the media or nine do.  The problem is that all the media that most people see are owned by big Capital, and they all have the same agenda.

The global war on Socialism has reached a peak of sorts in the United States.

We should do everything we can, as concerned citizens, to move our country toward the mixed economy model probably best expressed in the Scandinavian countries.

I read the other day that one of those nations, either Denmark or Sweden, has eliminated over half of its income tax and replaced it with a carbon tax.

We need Dennis Kucinich’s leadership as he understands these issues better than any of the other candidates.  Please ignore the corporate brainwash and vote for Kucinich in the primary.

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By RICHARD SHADE, December 29, 2007 at 2:09 am Link to this comment
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By heavyrunner, December 28, 2007 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment

Amy Goodman had Harvey Wasserman on recently about the fact that the Ohio Secretary of State had concluded that the Ohio election was stolen in ‘04, and that, therefore, George Bush stole the White House that year through vote fraud in Ohio.

Wasserman commented during the interview that “the media laughed at us in ‘05” when he and Bob Fritakis reported the theft of the ‘04 Ohio election.  He was diplomatic enough to not directly mention that Amy Goodman also failed to cover the story at the time. 

I’m glad Amy had Mr. Wasserman on now, but she owed him an apology, which she did not give, at least on air, and, more importantly, she owes the nation and the world an apology for not covering this story appropriately 3 years ago.

Amy also should have Richard Gage on and interview him regarding the solid science that pretty much proves that the World Trade Center buildings could not have done what they did as a result of fire and gravity but had to have been blown up with explosives.

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By Gary Sargent, December 27, 2007 at 8:39 am Link to this comment
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The problem is not (repeat NOT) having single entity ownership of both a print and a broadcast news media outlet in the same community. The problem is having a few entities owning the bulk of news outlet nation-wide.

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By Thomas Billis, December 27, 2007 at 1:36 am Link to this comment

Why not get to the end point and skip all the steps in between.One entity owns all the media in the United States.Let us make it a government office.Now if we can only find a Joeseph Goebbels to run it.The track we are on to Fascism will have completed the biggest goal of Fascism to control the media.Congress as usual shows how freaking gutless they are.

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By D Pad, December 26, 2007 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment
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When can we finally say that we’ve lost all hope? Years of undemocratic rule enactments have left many with f-us-over fatigue. Now even the most devastating policies render little reaction from the public. Media consolidation in the United States is the most glaring argument against deregulation, Chicago economics, republicans and even, yes, Ron Paul and the libertarians. We will see if any candidate besides Dennis Kucinich (who gains little resonance with voters) steps up to put a stop to this madness. I’m not a betting man but…

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By phanco, December 26, 2007 at 11:20 pm Link to this comment
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Funny:  During the 60 minutes special, Ahmadinejad actually commented on the failure of the American media to act, as Miss Goodman put it, as a “fourth estate” which operates as a form of checks and balances.

In reality, all these regulations are doing is giving the CEOs of the printed page the opportunity to save their asses from what otherwise would be the financial bankruptcy of their business.  Bush, through the powers of those officials elected by him, is simply keeping the elite base elite.

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By SlimJim, December 26, 2007 at 5:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow, shocking, really…They’re only screwing themselves with attempting such mergers. I’ve been getting my news from sources such as Truthdig following a slow awakening and increased distaste for other source’s lack of journalism and the fact that I can’t acknowledge that I share 90% of the same opinions that the elitist subject me too.

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By ForeverDem, December 26, 2007 at 11:27 am Link to this comment

This tidbit comes for our heroes, CNN, “The Most Trusted Name in News”. It is such obvious PROPAGANDA I just had to share it! Give it read, and try not to vomit:

(Bill) Clinton closes gap with Bush as nation’s ‘Most Admired Man’ (Gore third place)

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Looks like all of Bill Clinton’s time on the campaign trail this year for his wife Hillary may be paying off in the polls for more than one member of the family.

Sitting presidents usually top Gallup’s list of the country’s most admired man, and this year is no exception: President Bush leads, as the choice of 10 percent of those polled. But in this survey, he’s in a statistical tie with former President Bill Clinton, at 8 percent. In the last survey, there was an 8-point margin of separation, with Bush leading 13 to 5 percent, and a 17-point difference in a 2004 poll.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who won several high-profile awards in 2007 for his work to raise awareness about climate change, also shot up in the poll — now in third place with 6 percent — 5 percentage points higher than last year.

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By cann4ing, December 26, 2007 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

This is but one further step by this nation’s economic elite to control what we see, hear and read; proof that it is impossible to have anything resembling political democracy until there is some level of economic democracy.  While the hard-right touts “freedom,” it is the “freedom” of capital to defeat the egalitarian goals of labor; the freedom of corporations to buy up and commercialize all forms of political discourse that equates to an Orwellian “freedom is slavery” for the masses.

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By GW=MCHammered, December 25, 2007 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment
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December 21, 2007

Producer Peter Meryash and Correspondent Rick Karr analyze the recent FCC vote and discuss what’s next.

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By mpgarr, December 25, 2007 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment

Right on the mark as usual Amy—thank God for you and other independent journalists such as yourself—you are the the last ones manning the ramparts of our dimished freedoms.

I wondered about Martin’s background—I figured it had to be close to Bush in the past—he certainly was Bush’s lapdog on this issue—-yet one more of many that Bush has tapped to run just about every agency imaginable—nothing more than hatchet men and woman who have pretty well eviscerated any effectiveness and independence the many federal agencies had.

I do hope that Congress does go through with their threatened overturning of this FCC action and can sustain it agianst Bush’s vow to veto such action by Congress.

You do have to wonder why the “need” to get this action done had to be done so quickly???

Like maybe they need to make sure the various consolidations that you know will take place now were done by November.

Hell—Martin sprung the announcement last Tuesday on his fellow commission members that along with the vote on the rule change—there were 46 waivers to the policy to allow companies in other markets to engage in such mergers and takeovers!!!

The waivers were granted—of course!!!

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By DennisD, December 25, 2007 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment
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“It was Bush-appointed FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, now just 41 years old, who rammed through the rule changes.”

No surprise that not much if any commentary about this was done in the MSM. A full blown try at a dictatorship is coming folks. Of course it’ll be under the guise of national security and the average American’s concern will be what will it do to the price of gas.

I’d like to know which country is going to monitor our next election - if there is one. The canary in the coal mine is screaming it’s warning. Is anyone listening. Congress ?

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By GW=MCHammered, December 25, 2007 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I overheard a communication tech say that he was going to feed his “f%#!ing corporate boss and the FCC to his dog.” Which brings me to some questions: If we choose this course, will prescription meds be strained from the meat before it is canned? How will massive doses of Botox affect my dog? Thank you and Happy Holidays!

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