FCC needs to control media conglomerates

Karl Noyes

On June 2, the Federal Communi-cations Commission will make the most important decision concerning the American democratic voice since the Founding Fathers penned the First Amendment.

The upcoming decision will dwarf the 1996 Telecommunications Act in importance. At stake are the four most important and final hurdles for a complete corporate control of media. Under consideration are the rules govern-ing the radio-television cross-ownership rule, the limit on the number of national television stations a single entity can own and the dual network rule that prevents the major networks from buying each other. Additionally, the FCC will decide whether to allow cross-ownership of television and newspapers in the same area.

On a local level, the most striking part of the decision will not be its effect on television stations but its effect on newspapers, because other than the Internet, newspapers have remained in large part untainted by consolidation.

If newspapers are allowed to be melded into the media juggernauts, their real value will be lost. Stories that require time, money and effort will be cut, and the evolution of newspapers into businesses rather than disseminators of information will be vastly accelerated. Reporters, editors and writers will be fired and the television and newspaper newsrooms consolidated. The process will result in the “fast food” news of network television. Hard news stories such as corporate and political scandals will be sacrificed in favor info-tainment, a sorry mix of advertising and irrelevant entertainer gossip. Just as network news has refused to cover the importance of the upcoming FCC decision, members of the media giants will not cover scandals that are part of the vast media octopus. Journalism, let alone journalistic integrity, will cease to exist.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has done everything in his power to assure the media conglomerates will win out on June 2 by refusing to hold and broadcast public hearings, not attending public forums and refusing to delay the decision deadline. Powell’s actions are not surprising given the numerous and expensive media mogul perks he has received in the past, as detailed in a recent Bill Moyers report.

The last frontiers of democratic communication are being fenced in with media-mogul barbed wire. Television, the very medium that could expose to millions the dirge of this decision, is already owned by the conglomerates which would most benefit from this decision. And like the buffalo that so nourished and humanized the Great Plains, true-grit newspapers will become extinct.