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"Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai wants to kill the wounded agency off," warns Flander, "and he may do it, to all intents and purposes, at the Commission’s meeting this December 14th." (Image: Fight for the Future)

Life or Death for the FCC

​If we don’t start learning from our history and perhaps repeating some of it, we might was well start burning books.

Laura Flanders

It’s life or death for the Federal Communications Commission and death may be the honest option.

Let’s face it, the FCC’s mission ​, to regulate communications media in the public interest,​ ​ has been beaten to a pulp by politicians of both parties over the last t wo​ decades. Now Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai wants to kill the wounded agency off, and he may do it, to all intents and purposes, at the Commission’s meeting this December 14th.

​T​he​ FCC​ date​s​ back ​close almost a century to a time when new technology was bursting with potential and open to use or abuse, with devastating implications for democracy. Its mission was forged by movements who understood that the nation teetered on a brink. Would the US be the land of misogyny, white supremacy, militarism, anti-semitism and anti-immigrant bias, or something better?

​Would monopoly capitalism accumulate unchecked? The social justice movements of the 1920s and 30s disagreed about many things, but they understood from experience that no one of them stood a chance of shifting power or displacing arrogance without a functioning pubic information exchange. The future of the nation would only go one way if only those who could pay could have a say.

​In the 1940s, the chairman of the FCC was a civil rights advocate, one of Rosa Parks’ lawyers ​.​ Clifford Durr pursued media justice with a social justice passion because he ​ and the movements at his back,​ believed ​that ​ diversity, localism and competition were ​civil rights ​ ​means to a civil, fair society.

All these years on, ​decades of paid propaganda have many Americans convinced that government has no business meddling ​in the business of media. Social movements mostly don't get too involved in media regulation either, because, well, groups like the AFL-CIO and the NAACP can afford to buy time big-dollar ads on the big bosses' media -- and cross their fingers.

Reverse net neutrality? Open the floodgates to more media monopoly? Chairman Pai, a former staffer to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has ​ in mind to accomplish all that and more. The FCC will probably vote on both things on Thursday. Pai​ leads the commission’s Republican Majority in lockstep and they’ve already done-in LifeLine, the meager subsidy that helped low income people connect to doctors and nurses and public assistance. They wiped out the Durr-era rule that required broadcasters to maintain local-stations too. Social responsibility? Corporations aren’t ignoring the human cost of communications break-downs. Far from it, they're just figuring out how to profit off getting cell service back up and running in Puerto Rico.

No, what surprises me, isn’t Pai or his pals. ​It's us. ​If we don’t start learning from our history and perhaps repeating some of it, we might was well start burning books. Anything with Democracy in the title.


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Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including "Bushwomen: How They Won the White House for Their Man" (2005).  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media, and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media. lauraflanders.org

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