FCC Keeps Us in the Dark on Consolidated Media Ownership
One of the benefits that George W. Bush has in maintaining a constant state of “war” is that he can work with the large corporate media to keep issues of mutual benefit that are adverse to the public’s interest under the radar screen of our citizenry. An excellent case in point is the move afoot by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to push through a rule change that would relax restrictions on how many media outlets can be owned by the same corporation. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, commissioned by the Project for Excellence in Journalism of Columbia University reveals that only 27% of those polled knew a little or a lot about the proposed FCC rule, with 72% saying they knew nothing at all.
Given the inherent conflict of interest for the media to be covering this story sufficiently, one could argue that it would be even more important for the FCC to be educating the public about this issue and allowing for public comment. Yet Michael Powell appears to want to keep this issue under the radar screen: the FCC scheduled only one public comment hearing on such a sweeping change for this past Thursday in Richmond, Virginia, an area of some religious and conservative media concentration. (note how the Post buried this story away from the main section and slanted it somewhat in favor of the industry).
Now it could be that Powell was distracted by the challenges facing his father in maintaining what is left of his credibility and being the only adult in the White House foreign policy operation. Or it could be that Powell is still stinging from a rare defeat for a FCC chairman when he was outmaneuvered in a vote last month by a recent White House appointee over the issue of allowing state regulatory agencies more say in controlling telephone long distance services in their states. In that case, Powell wanted little or no state regulation and Bush appointee Kevin Martin split the difference and pushed through an alternative on a 3-2 vote that granted some control to state agencies while still squashing the competitive ability of smaller companies to go up against the Baby Bells.
Most likely however, Powell doesn’t want this issue to get much sunlight. The media concentration issue before the commission now is relatively straightforward in how this change would allow a smaller and smaller number of conservative conglomerates to own numerous media outlets, thereby limiting the breadth of information available to the public. Much of the corporate media is a large contributor to George W. Bush, and their coverage of the 2000 election and his first two years in office reflects this support.
But an issue of this importance needs as much sunlight and opposition as possible. The only way to slow this down and possibly derail it is for members of Congress to apply pressure and start asking questions. But they will only do that if you tell them it is an important issue to you. And the recent poll shows that thanks to the media’s intentional lack of attention on this issue and Michael Powell’s willingness to keep this quiet, much needs to be done to overcome this stacked deck.