--I heard the news today, oh boy, About a lucky man who made the grade...He blew his mind out in a car, He didn't notice that the lights had changed...-- (Sgt Pepper, The Beatles, 1967)
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 triggered a wave of media ownership consolidation.
You will, of course, remember the vigorous debate on that bill, recounted night-after-night on the major news programs, regaled even more on the "pundit" shows of the time, and consuming nearly all the air-time on the Sunday blabberfests? And, recall getting tired of 60 Minutes running this story week after week after week?
You don't remember?....well, not to worry, you are not suffering memory loss or suppressing a painful experience.
You do not remember it because the major networks and cable operators who stood to gain financially from this bad policy said virtually nothing about it. Their "independent" newsrooms reported next to nothing about it. There were no "round-tables" discussing its merits. I believe I recall ABC's Ted Koppel, who hosted Nightline (which prided itself on covering stories in depth and without apology for ruffling feathers), being asked whether he supported the bill, and giving a rather lame answer: "Yes, it is valuable to my network." If you knew about it at all, it was because you watched C-SPAN at some ungodly hour. (And, to be completely fair, Olbermann-Maddow-Schultz-Matthews were not on the air in 1996).
When it came to Citizens United--the recent decision by the Supreme Court that found the original intent of the Founders was to grant Constitutional personhood to corporations, creatures of the State--Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz and Matthews were intensely concerned about its implications. They covered the case, the aftermath, and have periodically followed up with reports of Congressional efforts to blunt its effects or overturn it by Constitutional Amendment.
Enter Comcast/NBC Universal. Comcast is the nation's largest cable operator, and NBC Universal one of the major content creators. Comcast wants to purchase NBC Universal from General Electric. MSNBC and CNBC are part of NBC Universal and would become owned by Comcast.
Where is the coverage, Rachel? Ed? Olbermann? Matthews? Where is the outrage over increased media concentration and corporate control? Where is the exposé of Comcast's past egregious actions? (For a chronicle of those, see, e.g., Josh Silver's article,"Senator Franken Rips Into Comcast CEO Brian Roberts", February 5, 2010).
Just to provide a taste--Comcast opposes Net Neutrality, and has already tried to violate it on its own. It lavishes money on Members of Congress, and packs FCC hearing rooms with paid "supporters". Brian Roberts lied to Senator Franken right in his office about the FCC protecting consumers against price increases while his lawyers argued it was unconstitutional.
So where are Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz and Matthews? How can they, as they all rightly have, extol the virtues of a Wendell Potter (former insurance executive who outed his industry during the healthcare reform debate), and yet sit idly without investigating and reporting the dire implications of Comcast owning NBC Universal?
The deafening silence from this quartet is all the testimony needed to show why this merger is...very bad news, indeed. .
Follow Paul Abrams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pabrams2001