THE BLOG

WAR OF THE WORDS

05/25/2011 12:20 pm ET
  • Norman Horowitz Senior executive with almost 50 years of diverse media experience


In 1975 the FCC promulgated a rule that prohibited companies from owning both a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market.

It would be naïve to believe that the rule was to somehow protect the public interest, but rest assured that when it was announced it was sold to America in this way as today's changes have been sold.

There must be some heavy duty stuff going on to have the Commission take this action knowing that a big part of Congress was against it.

As an interested yet powerless individual citizen my first speculation for the "why then and why now" concerns the old fashioned motivation of money and power sold to us as "in the public interest."

Kevin Martin has "sold" us a "canard" by pleading that among other reasons we must help our dying newspaper industry. It is so nice of him to have done this.

Since 1975 the number of media outlets has increased, but ownership of content creation companies and the broadcast delivery systems has become more concentrated, and there is much, much less diversity of opinion, and less diversity of "real" news sources, than there were in 1975.

Media conglomerates have ALWAYS stressed profit maximization over concerns of news delivery, localism and diversity. They may speak of public service, but they do little or none of that.

In a predetermined outcome, a divided Federal Communications Commission approved a gigantic change in the country's media-ownership rules by allowing newspapers and broadcasters in a market to buy each other.

For a bonus, the FCC gave permanent waivers to newspapers and TV stations in 42 markets that already have cross-ownership. The FCC also added an exception that will let TV stations and newspapers buy "failing" rivals, despite the new requirement, and could let News Corp. keep two TV stations in New York as well as the New York Post. In its spirit of openness, these changes were made "in the dead of night." Legislators have promised to try to overturn the FCC vote in Congress.

My opinions are not based on holding hearings, but rather on 50 years of media experience.

There are many delivery systems, and in the near term there will be an almost unlimited number. Society requires more diverse delivery of news and opinions that can only come from independently owned newspapers that provide news and opinions that do not originate at "corporate headquarters."

THE BROADCAST NETWORKS DELIVER "MAGAZINE SHOWS" THAT I CONSIDER TO BE A HALF HOUR OF NIGHTLY DREADFUL, INSIPID, AND MOST OF ALL INCOMPLETE NETWORK NEWS.
If I want real news, I go on line and read a newspaper.
The stations that they own provide many hours of "man bites dog local news weather and sports," and this is not what matters or is at issue. That local "news content" delivery is not relevant.

We have cable networks that hide under the nomenclature of news such as CNN, FNC, and MSNBC. This content delivery is not relevant either. We could have a gazillion additional local or national Radio or Television stations, and it would not change the situation one teeny weeny bit.

An open and free society maintains an INDEPENDENT delivery of real news and commentary from as many diverse sources as possible. Newspapers represent those other INDEPENDENT sources of news and opinion.

Pop quiz: Who reported on the Domestic Wiretapping done by our Government?
Was it CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, or the New York Times?

When I read the New York Times I know that its news gathering apparatus and editorial staff are not controlled by the Walt Disney Company. I know that the Republican members of the FCC know this, and I can only conjure up nefarious reasons for their decision.

Paranoid that I have become, I can only speculate why no Broadcast network has done a single documentary about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has been suggested by many that they are solely motivated by commercial considerations.

Perhaps, but I doubt it.

I see the manipulative hands of the administration in all of this. An administration that will find it easier to intimidate and/or control a media that is still more concentrated then it is today.

DOES AMERICA WANT THE WASHINGTON POST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, OR OTHER MAJOR NEWSPAPERS SPEAKING WITH A VOICE CONTROLED BY NEWS CORP, DISNEY, GENERAL ELECTRIC, OR CBS/VIACOM?

A headline in today's NY Times: "Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of CIA Tapes," followed by a full story. I would not be thrilled if ANY US Broadcaster had ANY editorial control of the article, its content, and its implications.

How difficult is this to understand Chairman Martin?

I know that I don't.

By the way, I feel so warm and comfy now that the Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.

Don't you?

Norman Horowitz