My introduction to the FCC was in the late sixties when President Nixon appeared to use his FCC to punish CBS, NBC, and ABC for having the temerity to publicly oppose the Vietnam War.
Naïve person that I am, I continued to hope that the FCC's prime responsibility was to use the "spectrum" in the public interest. Not a particularly difficult task. They have done a crummy job and have followed the interests of the administration, congress, as well as their "clients" the GIGANTIC media companies. Somehow the public interest has managed to play, at best, a secondary role.
The Obama FCC is now preparing to revise its media ownership rules. They are going to "explore" (and we know what that means) future mergers between broadcast, newspapers, and cable.
And what do you think is going to happen now? Here we go again!
Comcast and General Electric have concluded a tentative agreement in which Comcast would own about 51 percent of NBC Universal.
General Electric currently owns 80 percent of NBC Universal would retain the other 49 percent.
Comcast says that they are looking to diversify its holdings beyond its cable television operations.
I say that the "litmus test" should be: Is this deal good for America? It certainly could be good for the shareholders, but it certainly is not good for America,
The FCC said that they will determine if they should continue to enforce media regulations regarding concentration by industry. This means that the FCC will find a way of re-arranging "the deck chairs" in order to allow the media GIANTS to become more GIGANTIC.
Purportedly the FCC is looking to determine how it measures media control.
I wrote something about the FCC a few months ago and I will paraphrase the content of it:
" ... As a person who has watched 'the media' expand in its number of delivery opportunities over the last thirty years, I also have observed its pernicious consolidation since the 1996 Communications Act revision.
I also notice in the present health care debacle, that the rich and powerful only want more of 'rich' and more of 'power.' So it is and has always been in the media.
The FCC has a quaint and arcane notion concerning over-the-air television. They actually pretend to believe that their responsibility to their rule-making supports competition, diversity, and localism. Sadly there is no comparable 'requirement' for cable networks, including those owned by General Electric or News Corp.
Under the administrations of Bush, Bush, and Clinton, the Feds managed to 'look the other way' as the big guys succeeded in getting bigger and either joined forces in a variety of media ventures or tried to do just that.
The media in our country has grown under the control of a politically motivated regulatory process. What we have done under the battle cry of 'deregulation' is to concentrate the power of the media into the hands of a few. They include: the Walt Disney Company/ABC, Newscorp/FOX, General Electric/NBC/CNBC/MSNBC, Viacom/CBS-UPN, and AOL/TimeWarner/CNN/theWB ... "
As I write this I realize that many readers of this will yell: "Hey stupid, what about the internet, blogging, Facebook, Twitter and such as informational sources?" My answer will be:"Yes but!"
Once upon a time the Broadcast Networks did investigative journalism. GONE!
Is it possible to perceive the Fox/Newscorp/Murdoch media holdings without considering the ramifications of its broad power?
Similarly the structure of CBS/Viacom/Paramount, NBC/Universal/GE, ABC/Walt Disney, and lest we forget Comcast is, on the face of it, "unacceptable" to unencumbered free speech "concept" in our country.
We all need an independent New York Times, Washington Post and so many more like it. And I wonder what would happen if the FCC eliminated its cross ownership requirements?
The FCC should be required to consider, above all, the benefits to society in having as many diverse media sources as is possible. They should also realize that it is the desire of the really big guys to become really bigger and more powerful even if it is at the expense of the public interest.
Thus it was ever so. Thus it will ever be.