Posted by: bburatti | November 19, 2011

Greed is Good

The final chapters of McChesney encapsulated the drive to consolidate regardless of the will of the people. In 2002 the FCC disregarded the overwhelmingly negative input of citizens on increased consolidation of broadcast ownership.   The behavior of Congress in refusing to allow the Senate’s vote to overturn the FCC’s ruling even come to a vote in the House is anti-democratic. It leads one to conclude that a large number of our leaders don’t believe in democracy at all.   Fair legislation should not occur only through citizen action groups suing in court.   The Media Access Project helped citizens prevail. Unfortunately, the victory was short-lived.

McChesney writes that the consolidation march is very difficult to stop. This is exactly what’s occurred.  The Media Access Project’s winning outcome in 2004 has been diluted by recently approved consolidations. In 2007 the newspaper/TV co-ownership ban was relaxed. The cap on television ownership was raised to 39% of U.S. coverage—only 6% short of the 2002 proposal that generated so much citizen outrage.  Just this year the FCC approved the purchase of NBC by Comcast. This was the first time a multiple system operator (a cable company that owns franchises in several markets) was allowed to buy a national broadcast network.

All vestiges of the landmark 1948 case, the United States vs. Paramount Pictures, which ruled that vertical integration of the film industry violated anti-trust laws, have evaporated.  Gordon Gekko’s words in the 1987 classic movie, “Wall Street,” are lasting and prophetic:  “Greed is good.”

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do appointed officials such as the FCC commissioners have the same obligation to make decisions based on citizen opinion and feedback as elected officials?
  2. What other kinds of citizen groups are needed and what lobbying techniques are necessary to have greater citizen input into media legislation?

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