Today, Bush-appointed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin rammed through a 3-2 partisan vote to remove the longstanding "newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership" ban that prohibits a local newspaper from owning TV and radio stations in the same market. Witness yet another shining moment: the Bush administration serving up a wholesale giveaway to the largest media corporations in the most corrupt process imaginable.
Let's go with that for a moment.....
Imagine that you are the Chairman of the FCC, with its congressional mandate to protect localism, diversity and the public interest. You are witnessing the wholesale consolidation of radio triggered by a bad law passed in 1996. You've seen the disappearance of over one third of independently owned television station owners and over two thirds of independently owned radio station owners since 1975. You're watching racial and ethnic minority ownership of TV and radio slip to 3% and 8% respectively. You're watching consolidated, corporate media churn out the kind of "faux-journalism" that we saw in the run-up to the war in Iraq, and that we're continuing to see on nearly every commercial television newscast: the place where 70% of Americans get their news about the nation and the world.
Imagine that under intense pressure, you begrudgingly agree to six public hearings across the country to listen to the American people so that they can guide your decision. Imagine some 99% of the people passionately implore that you not let media companies get any bigger. Imagine it's 11 p.m., you're seven hours into the hearing, and there's so many people waiting to give their two-minute testimony that you still have another two hours of testimony to go. Imagine that nearly all of the empirical data released during your deliberation shows that further consolidation damages the principles of "localism" and "diversity" that the FCC was founded in 1934 to protect. Imagine being hauled up in front of the U.S. Congress twice in the past week, only to be berated by members of both parties, imploring you not to proceed.
Welcome to Kevin Martin's world. A world in which the only possible, rational reason to vote for consolidation is to corruptly do the bidding of the largest media companies, with their campaign contributions and high-powered lobbyists that have greased the wheels of Washington for time immemorial.
There is a simple elegance to all of this. The administration is so corrupt, so completely willing to sacrifice the needs of regular Americans and democratic discourse itself, that virtually no amount of reason, ethics, or rationality is required.
Brace yourself. Today's vote - if Congress doesn't overturn it - means more coverage of Paris Hilton's latest drunken binge and less government and corporate accountability in the U.S. media. If that's cool with you, have another beer and turn the page. If it's not, go to StopBigMedia.com and raise holy hell.
Josh Silver is the Executive Director of Free Press a national, nonpartisan organization that he co-founded with Robert McChesney and John Nichols in 2002 to engage citizens in media policy debates and create a more democratic and diverse media system.
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