Obama's FCC Intends To OK Unlimited Concentration of Radio, TV, Newspaper Ownership in Top 20 Markets

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Back in 2007, the George W. Bush's FCC tried to give Big Media the right to unlimited ownership of TV, radio and newspaper outlets in cities across the country. They were stopped by a timely court ruling and a firestorm of public rage. The Obama FCC intends to do in a secret proceeding before Xmas exactly what Bush could not do in 2007. Can they be stopped? Where are those who promised to hold this president's feet to the fire?

Obama's FCC Intends To OK Unlimited Concentration of Radio, TV, Newspaper Ownership in Top 20 Markets

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Imagine a US media landscape even more viciously unfair, more drastically tilted to favor greedy, irresponsible and immensely powerful media corporations than the one we already have. It would be quite a feat of imagination, but the Obama administration's FCC has done it for us, and intends to make it real.

The Federal Communications Commision is now considering a measure that will remove the few remaining limits on how many radio and TV stations and newspapers giant media companies are allowed to operate in a single market. Apparently, President Obama believes that we need even fewer wealthy corporations to control what we see, hear, and are allowed to broadcast to each other.

It's no surprise that broadcast media are not reporting this story. Corporate media never cover stories that reveal the extent of their own vast power and privilege in our supposedly “democratic” system. What is shocking, however is that President Obama's FCC Commissioner Julius Genakowski intends to push this measure through in what amounts to a secret meeting, with little or no chance for public input and not even the least pretense of transparency, before Xmas.

Bush's FCC tried the same thing back in 2007. They were stopped by two factors. The first was a federal court ruling that said shrinking the number of companies that own newspapers, TV and radio stations would lessen the already scant presence of media owners who were women and minorities. The second factor was a firestorm of public disapproval. The American people, left, right, black, brown, and white simply don't believe that a handful of giant media entities should have even more control over what they see, hear and can say to each other.

It's hard to understand at first glance, why the Obama administration would try something this blatantly evil, that flies directly in the face of federal court orders and explicitly kicks sand in the faces of many who supported him in 2008 and 2012.

But let's take another look. Suppose the Obama administration convinces a segment of minority media owners to accept some crumbs and withdraw their objection to fewer giant companies owning more of our media universe. A move like that would take the federal court and minority broadcasters out of the picture, and with them, most of the black and Latino advocacy organizations like the NAACP, who really don't answer to ordinary black and brown people on the street, but who do pay very close attention to what black and brown business people like the minority broadcasters have to say.

With the federal court out of the way, most of the traditional advocacy organizations sidelined, and corporate media not reporting the story anyhow, the Obama administration may think it can deliver to Fox Media, to Rupert Murdoch, to NBC-Universal, to Disney and CBS what the Bush administration could not ---- the legal license to lock down and monopolize the top 20 media markets by owning multiple radio, TV and newspaper properties. What George W. Bush could not deliver for Big Media at the expense of the people, Barack Obama intends to.

The US political system channels almost all grassroots activism into electing corporate candidates. Most of the preachers and others who marshaled support for the president's re-election all the while swearing to hold his feet to the fire are off somewhere right now not paying attention, simply because the election is over, and getting out the vote is all they every do, all they've ever done. It's time for something old school, something completely different. If Dr. King were around today, he'd say it's time to make some noise, time to disobey some unjust laws, until the law, and things in general get better.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be contacted via this site's “contact” page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.



The demise of any free press in the English-speaking world

This is truly amazing and shocking, especially given that Rupert Murdoch's Fox News has successfully litigated multiple times, at the federal level, for the "right" to fictionalize the news (and the majority of TV-Radio station corporate owners signed a friend of the court brief on Fox's behalf!!!).

Meanwhile, over in the UK, due to Rupert's NewsCorp execs and reporters hacking into deceased crime victims' cell phones, and hundreds of other living victims, the British government appears ready to further curtail any semblance of free press in that country (and that's were most of our American news comes from lately).

Bill Clinton anf The Telecommunications Act of 1996

From Jerry Mander’s article, ”Privatization of Consciousness”  in The Monthly Review of October, 2012:

“The single-most-alarming fact about global communications today—given the immensity of its reach, power, and effect is how few global corporations control it. The concentration of global media ownership rivals that of the global oil industry. But the difference between oil and media is that the former deals with tangible things, while the latter deals with consciousness. As such, it may be even a more central factor shaping how societies evolve and whether democracy functions right now.

One amazing expression of this power and control, though little noticed at the time, was the way the telecommunications industry gathered its forces in the 1990s and forced the eventual passage by Congress of the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was a tour de force that merged three dominant trends of our society: the grand promise of great new technology, the powerful capitalist drive for nonstop profit, and the already-advancing capitalist takeover of government and media.

The law was passed after tens of millions of dollars were paid by industry lobbyists to compliant members of Congress, and with practically no public debate. It mandated that by the end of 2006 (later stalled to 2009), the entire country would junk our “ancient” analog TV sets. Less than a decade later, we would all be required to buy new, digital TV sets or substitute auxiliary equipment, enabling the complete instant national conversion to a new technology that, really, nobody needed. The financial benefits to the corporate-tech community were stratospheric: instant obsolescence for a technology in every American home; new (forced) equipment purchases by an entire population; a tremendous economic stimulus for the economy (particularly technology companies); an instant congressional payback to campaign donors; and an effective subsidy to corporate executives and stockholders. (It also greatly benefited the shipping industry, which got to collect and lug those obsolete analog TV sets to ever-more-expansive waste-disposal fields in Africa and India.) What a vast, thoughtful undertaking, involving direct costs to every household in the country, with no public debate (or lawsuits) about the government mandate to buy, and doubtful benefit to consumers!

But the Telecommunications Act was not even primarily about selling more hardware. President Bill Clinton had promised that the act would also advance the democratizing of media ownership. But, after staggering levels of industry lobbying, it proved to have exactly the opposite effect. In radio, for example, it lifted ownership limits beyond the previous standard and made possible a new level of concentration. One company, Clear Channel, now owns at least 850 radio stations.

In cable TV, five companies News Corporation, General Electric, Disney, CBS/Viacom, and AOL Time Warner would soon own twenty-four of the top twenty-five cable channels in the United States. Together, they account for 85 percent of prime-time viewing, and 74 percent of programming expenditures, according to “The Case Against Media Consolidation: Evidence on Concentration, Localism and Diversity,” edited by Mark N. Cooper, of the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center at Fordham University, 2007. ...

Fox TV Network, Fox News Channel, 20th Century Fox Film Studios, Golf TV channel, twenty-two U.S. TV stations, 130 daily newspapers (including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and the London Times), twenty-three magazines, HarperCollins publisher, and the L.A. Dodgers. It has large interests in satellite companies like United Video Satellite Group and Echostar, and large interests in British Sky Broadcasting, British Interactive, Sky TV, and Latin American TV channels including El Canal Fox, Fox Sport, and Latin Sky Broadcasting. Fox owns majority shares in Munich TV station TM-3; Vox TV Network; Italian pay-TV venture Stream; Fox TV Channel, Netherlands; New Zealand Natural History Unit; Asian Star TV satellite; dozens of broadcast channels in India, China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, and Indonesia; and 52 percent of New Zealand’s newspaper circulation, among many dozens of others."

Obama's FCC

We really never had a free press to begin with, but perserverence on the part of a few have been able to provide us with messages that somewhat contradict those of the main stream corporate media and gives us a somewhat different perspective on issues.   I think Bruce and the rest of the staff at BAR, have said it many times before and it rings true now more than ever.   The irony, if you can call it that,  of Obama's term in office  is that he is  able to turn back the clock on social and  entitlement programs in a way that Bush could never have done.  That is why he is in office.  It is a deception that people are not yeat fully aware, or if so, do not find it in their self interest to confront or obeject to it.  It is what is called working against your own self interest......  pity.