In monopoly FCC trusts
On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission is likely to strike a blow for monopolies by letting the biggest media companies own more TV and radio stations along with newspapers in the same market.
The problem isn’t so much the rather hysterical hand-wringing that journalists en masse will suddenly stop doing their jobs. Fat chance. It’s actually more insidious and overwhelming, just as with the big trusts in previous eras in the oil, steel and railroad worlds that brought us wise antitrust laws in the first place.
There are great business advantages in owning a local TV and/or radio stations and the newspaper in a particular city or cities across the country. Little guys will still spring up with alternate approaches to the news and ensure there’s more variety in opinion. They’ll just have a lot tougher time staying in business.
Nationally, Time-Warner, Disney, General Electric and Robert Murdoch, Gannett already own quite enough of the country’s news media outlets in many critics’ eyes. They don’t so much shape the news itself as set the conditions of gathering news, though plenty of observers see the worst on the ground, as well.
The FCC giving the big boys more of a chance to squeeze out a buck might well signal a nadir in respect for First Amendment principles. Seems this country long ago forgot that the spine of American democracy is our notion of a free press, the one true novelty in our chosen form of government separating us from the rest of the world.
Make no mistake, the decision Monday will represent an erosion in those values.
What’s the use in having the greatest, widest-spread fleet of reporters if they don’t report? CNN as a company has a corollary problem to what The New York Times is enduring in the wake of revelations about a reporter who habitually made his stories up when he wasn’t plagiarizing other journalists or misquoting the sources he did talk to.
CNN admittedly toadied up to Saddam and just sort of didn’t report anything much about the Iraqi regime’s abuses of its citizenry. Why? So they could keep a bureau.
Same story in Cuba. To keep a bureau in Cuba, the only media to do so for a long time, CNN just sort of soft-shoed its way through stories dealing with Cuba and managed not to ask certain relevant questions that might send them packing, too. Not that CNN execs admit Cuba as they did Iraq. The National Review did a pretty good job of explaining this in its latest issue, faxed to the Daily by Eagle resident Terry Quinn. CNN’s case makes the argument for government supporting diversity of ownership of news media as it does with, say, refrigerator makers. Meanwhile the pressure’s on the journalists to have independent minds and pursue the truth always. D.R.
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