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FCC: Break Up the Big Media Monopoly
Houston rapper Pimp C of UGK had a phrase that he frequently used for Texas rappers whom he felt inadequately represented his state.
“You embarrassin’ us.”
The same could be said for today’s spineless, weak-kneed, irrelevant mainstream media.
In a functioning democracy, the media is the people’s voice, and the entity responsible for holding power accountable. Without a free media fairly scrutinizing the decisions of political and economic power brokers and bringing important events to light, elected officials and corporate CEOs would be corrupt and unaccountable to the people.
It doesn’t take a genius to look around and see that power is clearly corrupt, the voice of the people is being silenced, and that the media has become the voice of the power they’re supposed to hold accountable.
The media isn’t reporting on the fact that the FDA, the federal agency charged with inspecting the food that ends up on the shelves at our stores, has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of agribusiness giants. Monsanto gets their hazardous GMO crops sped through FDA approval processes to increase their own sales revenue while potentially hurting all of us. And despite dangerous amounts of E-coli and other diseases coming up in poultry, the FDA is letting chicken processing plants inspect their own product. Instead of informing the public on what they were eating, mainstream news pundits were busy obsessing over the latest of many outrageously stupid remarks that came out of Herman Cain/Rick Perry/Rick Santorum’s mouth.
There was nary a peep in mainstream newspapers and cable news channels when tens of thousands of people took over their city streets during the Occupy movement’s May Day protests, as part of a global citizen-led resistance against austerity and corporate-controlled government. Even though Occupy Wall Street pressured Governor Cuomo to implement a millionaire’s tax he initially opposed, even though the Israeli youth movement pressured their government to make the richest citizens pay their fair share of taxes, even though hundreds of thousands of students in Canada protested against austerity as part of the nation's biggest demonstration in history, the mainstream news media was laser-focused on telling their readers that the US government had heard the demands of a lone Chinese activist, and was willing to meet him on his terms.
"Like the banks, the media shouldn't be too big to fail. By breaking up big media companies into smaller entities that are forced to compete with each other, we’ll end up with fairer, more accurate coverage, and a more informed voting public."
News came out this week showing that CEOs made 231 times more than their workers in 2011. Instead of being like their independent counterparts and reporting on the fact that the income gap in the United States is wider than even in Uganda, Ecuador and Rwanda, the conventional media was too busy covering Newt Gingrich’s departure from the tiresome 2012 horse race, er, presidential election.
While it’s easy to be a snobby media connoisseur and turn up our noses to the mainstream media, this problem is too grave to ignore and too easy to solve. The reason the bulk of the most important information won’t ever reach the exact people the Occupy movement is reaching out to, is because 90% of all media Americans consume is owned by six corporations. To put that in perspective, 232 executives at GE, NewsCorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS are deciding what 277 million Americans will watch, read and listen to every day. That’s one media executive for every 850,000 subscribers.
There’s an easy fix that doesn’t involve new legislation or Constitutional amendments: make the government do its job. Since 1995, the FCC forbade any company from owning more than 40 stations. Currently, Clear Channel owns 1,200 radio stations. We have antitrust laws already in place that broke up colossal monopolies like the kind Standard Oil had in its heyday. Why should big media monopolies be exempt from those laws?
Of course, making the government do its job means putting people in office who will do the people’s bidding, rather than the current crop of corporate puppets financed by corporations who will do everything they can to deregulate corporate power while in office.
Like the banks, the media shouldn't be too big to fail. By breaking up big media companies into smaller entities that are forced to compete with each other, we’ll end up with fairer, more accurate coverage, and a more informed voting public. And chances are good that a more informed public will undo past mistakes of voting for politicians who sold them out to the highest bidder.