here's my column from saturday. i'm out of town starting xmas day, so it might be a while before i post again. busy with all this christmas shite. does anyone else absolutely HATE shopping? i mean, i hate it in general, let alone when everybody else in the entire fucking world is also shopping.
in fact, i'm stalling right now, avoiding going out into all that.
oh well. read and enjoy, and please scroll down to the end to get the link to sign the protest letter to congress re: the fcc ruling.
Carpe Diem: FCC Threatens Free Speech Again
December 22, 2007
Did you ever wonder why you can turn on a radio in Peoria, Ill., and hear virtually the same classic rock line-up as you hear on a station in Petaluma, Calif.? Or in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.?
Did you ever stop to ask why virtually every television network and chain newspaper not only went along with the run-up to the Iraq invasion, but in some cases actually led the cheerleading—despite the Bush Administration’s demonstrably fact-challenged rationale, which was leaking out even then?
Your answer lies in a bill that was signed into law not by some heartless Republican business tycoon, but by Our Boy from Arkansas, Smilin’ Bill hisself: the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And now the Federal Communications Commission has just ruled in favor of degrading media ownership restrictions even further, voting 3-2 to allow companies that own newspapers in the nation’s top 20 markets to also own television stations in the same market. Some observers say that a close reading of the proposed policy shift would allow this cross-ownership in any market, regardless of size.
The rule change would open the floodgates for conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Gannett and the Tribune Company to further constrict their chokehold on what news is worth reporting. It’s even more chilling to think that these half-dozen or so CEOs would have even more dominance in defining what constitutes news in the first place.
Hope you’re a big fan of the type of “news” offered up by Nancy Grace, Glenn Beck and John Gibson.
All of this means it’s a good time to assess what has come to be our new media reality as a result of the Telecom Bill of 1996, since the same type of high-minded sounding rhetoric about “deregulation” and “competition” was employed to dampen the public’s fears back then. Since 1996:
• Cable television rates have risen nearly three times the rate of the Consumer Price Index.
• Radio conglomerates like Jacor/Clear Channel have gobbled up stations nationwide, control concert venues, and reap massive billboard advertising revenues, among other holdings.
• Minority ownership of television and radio stations has dropped to 3 percent and 8 percent respectively.
• Finding it easier and cheaper to produce content at a handful of “news factories” scattered across the nation, local content has diminished precipitously on stations and in newspapers owned by these conglomerates.
All told, we the people blew it in 1996 when we allowed the muscle of the conglomerates—aided and abetted by the fealty of congress members to their corporate overlords—to shove this anti-competitive, anti-free speech, anti-American bill down our throats.
We should not stand idly by and let the same interests pull the same trick.
This time around it looks like there is at least more awareness of the inherent problems: at a series of six public hearings staged by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, 99 percent of public comments were against the rule change. In some cases, the comment period lasted well into the night, as people lined up for hours to have their two-minute say on the matter.
Also, a group of 25 senators has threatened to override the FCC’s recommendations, and prominent House members are voicing similar threats.
But it’s not over. The problem is that without congressional action, the vote-pushed through by Bush-appointee Martin over the objections of, well, nearly everybody—will stand. To make your voice heard, go here and sign StopBigMedia.com’s letter to congress asking them to overturn the ruling.