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April 07, 2003

Big Big Big Media

So is there anything wrong with one company or corporation owning a large number of media outlets? Yes, Houston, I think we have a problem:

In a move that has raised eyebrows in some legal and journalistic circles, Clear Channel radio stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, Cincinnati and other cities have sponsored rallies attended by up to 20,000 people. The events have served as a loud rebuttal to the more numerous but generally smaller anti-war rallies.

The sponsorship of large rallies by Clear Channel stations is unique among major media companies, which have confined their activities in the war debate to reporting and occasionally commenting on the news. The San Antonio-based broadcaster owns more than 1,200 stations in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Regardless of your feelings about the U.S. attack on Iraq, it's not hard to see how the increased concentration of media outlets into ever fewer hands threatens freedom and democracy—in the U.S. and elsewhere. And right now is the time to be concerned: The FCC is currently deciding whether to further reduce regulations that limit media ownership. For more, follow Jeffery Chester's ongoing coverage here, here, and here. Luckily, not all the news is bad. As Robert McChesney and John Nichols report, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps has taken a stand against further media concentration:

Copps has taken the law establishing the FCC literally. "That phrase, 'serving the public interest, convenience, and necessity,' appears 112 times in the statute. So I think Congress was serious about us serving the public interest," the commissioner says. "When you're talking about something like the airwaves, it's not just something of interest between different companies, between the wealthy and the very wealthy, because those airwaves, in fact, belong not to those companies but to the people of the United States of America."

See that? We own the airwaves, and they're worth billions! (insert evil cackle and Austin Powers' patented pinkie salute here) But seriously, take a minute to tell the FCC that you value a diversity of voices in American news and entertainment (click "Broadcast Ownership" button). Ask them to vote to maintain current restrictions on media ownership in order to protect the public interest in a free press.

(You might also note the FCC's feedback page gives you many options to comment on other contentious issues, including how TVs are built, whether phone solicitations should be further regulated (please, please!), digital rights management for TV broadcasts, and more. Just FYI, if you care about any of these issues.)

Posted April 7, 2003 07:16 AM | general politics

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