The Media Oligopoly Hits the Jackpot at the FCC

by Mike DeRosa

On June 2, 2003, by a vote of 3 to 2, the Federal Communications Commission approved new regulations that will allow one corporation to own up to three television stations, eight radio stations, a daily newspaper, and a cable franchise in more than 100 cities in the US. While the two Democratic members of the FCC put up a spirited fight against this latest attack on democratic media, it remains to be seen whether the Democratic party members of the Congress will try to overturn these changes in telecommunications law.

The Republican dominated FCC has never seen a deregulation scheme that it does not like and their corporate sponsors were thrilled with this latest decision. Five or six giant corporations can now further dominate and control a market of which they already control a lion's share.

Many writers have observed that "freedom of the press belongs to those who own a press". This latest decision will further reduce the "presses" available to the average citizen by giving control of them to a few powerful corporations. Even in this age of the Internet and other alternative media, the majority of Americans still get most of their news and ideas from T.V., Radio, and mass media outlets.

This most recent repeal of restrictions on ownership flies in the face of three decades of ownership rules that have encouraged minimal competition and diversity of opinions on our public airwaves. The idea that the public owns these airways and that those who lease these valuable properties must operate these stations in the "public interest, necessity, and convenience" is no longer the law in the United States.

We have all observed, over the last 30 years, the destruction of our media system. The corporate mass media has been given permission to destroy local news coverage, homogenize our media, dumb down our entertainment, and buy more and more of the precious frequencies that give us the information that we need to make important civic decisions.

The attack on radio in recent years has been the most vicious, ubiquitous, and is a harbinger of things to come. Companies like Clear Channel communications are notorious in their pursuit of the bottom line (see www.clearchannelsucks.org). Clear Channel owns more than 1200 stations in the U.S. thanks to recent F.C.C. deregulation decisions. In Hartford they own 5 stations that have quickly eliminated public affairs, news programming, and diversity of opinion. Clear Channel in its greed has adopted a strict "rotation" format in music that plays the same 200 songs over and over again. It is well know for its stale and uncreative formats and its mistreatment of its on air and off air talent. A division of Clear Channel gave us Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura. During the recent Iraq war their stations and their employees organized what many people say were pro-war rallies. Infinity Broadcasting, another giant in the radio industry owns 4 stations in the Hartford Market. These two radio corporations own 9 stations out of 13 stations in the Hartford radio market.

The Tribune corporation, which owns the Hartford Courant, has been one of the biggest lobbyists for this recent FCC decision. This Chicago based corporation owns the Courant, the Advocate Chain, WTIC TV(channel 61), WTXX TV(channel 20), and numerous other print and internet companies based in CT. What's next? A cable franchise, another TV station, a bunch of radio stations, and a few other items?

While opposition to this FCC decision came from both right and left in the U.S., some critics see a connection between the pro-war views of Rupert Murdoch's Fox corporation (one of the major winners in this decision), Clear Channel, and other right wing media and this recent FCC decision. These critics say that the corporate media supporters of the Iraq war were paid off on June 2nd with this decision. A few even refer to the Industrial-Military-Media complex as the latest development in "crony capitalism". They also point to the payoff's given to ex-CEO Dick Cheney's Haliburton Corporation and to Bechtel Corporation for their "work" in post-war Iraq as another example of the Bush administration's insider control of the public resources in both the U.S. and in Iraq.

A few critics point to the conflict of interest of FCC Chairman Michael Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, in this decision. Michael Powell has publicly given high grades to the mass media's pathetic and biased coverage of his father's foreign policy and his father's support for the Iraq war. He and many Republicans and even some conservative Democrats look forward to a media system that has a homogenized right wing point of view and that espouses the values of this power elite.

Other critics say that the problem goes much deeper than simply support for the war and comes from big campaign and other donations given to high elected officials in the U.S.

If all of this makes you concerned, it is time to take action. You need to join with the over 750,000 people who protested this decision thought their comments to the FCC. The American people need to tell the Congress that we want the control of our media in our hands and that we want to build a truly democratic media that will give us the journalism that we deserve.

If you would like further information on this issue go to www.newfocusradio.org or listen to the New Focus radio program on WWUH (9l.3FM) on Friday at 12noon or Wednesday at 8:30PM.

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