Media mergers hurt public

The FCC is holding a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Hamline University. All interested parties should attend.

In George Orwell’s “1984,” the Ministry of Truth constructed literature out of the same six plots. Modern society is not doing much better when it comes to broadcast media.

Concentrated into six media giants, they basically control what you watch, listen to and read. They decide what can be said and what cannot be said. Only the Federal Communications Commission has prevented them from owning every newspaper, radio and television station. The FCC is holding a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Hamline University’s Sundin Hall in St. Paul. It is important that all interested parties attend.

Surprised you haven’t heard anything about the meeting? Don’t be. Media giants have interests to protect. The hearing will focus on media consolidation and its effects. Media consolidation means the disappearance of independent and local media. It means the crippling of the free and diverse exchange of ideas.

It is that market of ideas that is essential to a functioning democracy. The media consolidation is most obvious with that of Clear Channel, which with the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act quickly gobbled up more than 1,200 radio stations, thousands of billboards and hundreds of music venues. The public is now left with starving music scenes, robot disc jockeys and bland repetitive radio play.

There are many aspects of media consolidation being discussed at the hearing. All of them are important. But we only have the space to address that of newspaper cross-ownership. In the past, media companies were not allowed to own the television station and the newspaper in the same town. Now, that rule is up for the fight. The ending of the cross-ownership rule will at least mean one thing: the end of the newspaper as an in-depth source of reporting. Traditionally, the public has turned to television for the news.

Quality is diminished, local news and investigative journalism disappear, differing points of view vanish, community service becomes an afterthought and jobs are eliminated. All are sacrificed in an incessant drive for ever-higher profits.