- In six editions of "The Media Monopoly" and
subsequent update titled, "The New Media Monopoly," Ben Bagdikian
explained how deregulation let major media corporations consolidate to
- Since 1983, the number of corporations owning most newspapers,
magazines, book publishers, recorded music, movie studios, television and
radio stations shrunk from 50 to a handful, including Time-Warner, Disney,
News Corp., Viacom, Comcast, and Bertelsmann AG.
- In 1996, Telecommunications Act backers claimed it would
increase competition, lower prices, and improve service. In fact, TV station
ownership limits were raised to let broadcast giants own twice as many
local stations as before, charge what they wished, and dismiss public concerns
in the process.
- For radio, all national ownership limits were removed,
and, in large urban areas, one company could own up to eight stations in
a major market. In smaller ones, two companies could own them all.
- The bill also consigned new digital television broadcast
spectrum space only to current TV station owners, and let cable companies
increase their local monopoly positions. Media and telecom giants were
clear winners. Consumers lost out.
- Yet in October 2007, FCC chairman Kevin Martin proposed
lifting the 1975 media cross-ownership rule, forbidding one company from
owning a newspaper and television or radio station in the same city even
though some conglomerates already did like News Corp. In November, he amended
his plan to allow cross ownership only in large markets where competition
already exists, with deceptive loopholes through waivers to permit it anywhere.
- In 2003, FCC Michael Powell also tried loosening ownership
rules, despite opponents saying relaxing them would further stifle debate,
inhibit new ideas, weaken diversity, and more greatly consolidate oligopoly
- In June 2004, the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
favorably for the Media Access Project (MAP) in Prometheus Radio Project
v. FCC, ordering the agency to reconsider its ill-advised ownership rule
changes that included:
- -- ending cross-ownership restrictions that prohibits
a company from owning a newspaper and TV or radio station in the same city;
- -- eliminating the previous ban on radio/TV cross-ownership,
and replacing both types with a single set of cross-media limits;
- -- a dodgy "diversity index" based on assigning
varying weights to different media to determine if markets retained enough.
It not, ownership limits would be restricted, but the formula proposed
was deceptive and dishonest, including for smaller markets; and
- -- redefining National Market Share to let ownership
ceilings rise unfairly.
- In fact, the public overwhelmingly wants more, not less
consolidation. On July 7, an important victory was won when the same Third
Circuit Court issued its long-awaited verdict, throwing out proposed FCC
- The Prometheus Radio Project (PRP) "builds participatory
radio as a tool for social justice organizing and a voice for community
expression. (It) advocate(s) for a more just media system, and help(s)
grassroots organizations build communications infrastructure to strengthen
their communities and movements."
- PRP explained the court decision on its web site, accessed
through the following link:
- Headlining "Federal Court Rejects Media Consolidation
in Prometheus vs. FCC," it hailed PRP's "second historic victory"
this year, saying:
- The Third Circuit Court rejected FCC rules changes "that
would have allowed one company to own a newspaper and broadcast stations
in the same market," despite some already doing it.
- Other FCC broadcast ownership limits were also upheld,
as well as agreement that proposed changes failed to consider how women
and minorities would be affected.
- Media Access Project's PRP attorney Andrew Jay Schwartzman
hailed the decision, saying:
- "We won on almost every point. This decision is
a vindication of the public's right to have a diverse media environment,"
despite how little now exists, except through alternative media sources,
- On January 4, PRP won another victory when the Community
Radio Act became law, permitting thousands of new stations nationally.
Praising the decision, PRP's Policy Director Brandy Doyle said:
- "Media matters. Thousands of people fought to pass
the (law), and thousands more spoke out loudly when the FCC tried to further
consolidate broadcast media." However, despite important victories,
"we must continue to push the FCC to do the right thing for community
- On July 12, ahead of implementing the Local Community
Radio Act, "the FCC will again propose new rules." Key is ensuring
low-power urban FM community radio stations channel space as Congress mandated.
- "Commercial broadcasters must share the airwaves
with the urban churches, schools, and non-profits who have waited more
than a decade to serve their communities with radio."
- On July 7, a Free Press.net press release also hailed
the court ruling. Corie Wright (who argued with Schwartzman for PRP) called
- "a sweeping victory for the public interest. In
rejecting the arguments of the industry and exposing the FCC's failures,
the court wisely concluded that (media) competition....not more concentration
will provide Americans with the local news and information they need and
- Nonetheless, she said dominant media giants still lobby
hard for rules changes, very much against the public interest that won
this battle but can't relax.
- This win, however, prevented one company from owning
a city's dominant newspaper, eight radio stations, three television stations,
and a major cable operation, shutting out most other voices entirely.
- Distorted Major Media Coverage
- On July 7, New York Times writer Bill Carter headlined,
"Court Overturns FCC Cross-Ownership Rule," downplaying the decision's
- "In a narrow ruling unlikely to have an immediate
effect on current broadcasters," the court "did not rule on the
merits" of FCC's proposed changes. "Instead, (it) said that the
FCC had failed to allow sufficient time for official notice and public
comment on them," distorting what, in fact, happened in typical Times
fashion, suppressing vital information from its readers.
- Wall Street Journal writer Amy Schatz was no better,
headlining, "Appeals Court Bumps Up Pressure to Overhaul Media-Ownership
Rule," unsurprisingly siding with media giants while ignoring the
- Bloomberg's Sophia Pearson and Todd Shields also offered
a distorted, biased account, headlining, "FCC's Rules on Media Cross-Ownership
Are Vacated by Federal Appeals Court," saying:
- The court ruled that the FCC "failed to provide
adequate notice," downplaying the decision's importance like The Times,
including by quoting Newspaper Association of America president John Sturm
calling the decision "very disappointing. We're back to the original
rule that was passed in 1975. It strains credulity to understand why that
- In fact, following daily major print and broadcast media
explains clearly why less (lots less), not more, concentration is needed.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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