Sunday, March 18, 2007

Media Reform is a non-partisan American issue

Hi NewsHackers,

The following is exerpted from a message to my brother, a retired Air Force Colonel. My correspondence with him often inspires me, even though we think on different ends of the political spectrum. Writing to him about my views often crystalizes my thinking about an issue. In this case, my hope that Media Reform will be viewed as a non-partisan, American issue.

"...Anyway, I'm pleased you looked in [on Newshacker]. I hope more conservative people do. I want to engage Americans of all political stripes in discussing these issues. Big Media's ability to shape citizens' ideas is a frightful power that must not be allowed free rein.

Non-corporate social conservatives aren't my enemies, even if we don't always agree on policy. In the areas of individual freedom, government interference in private decisions, and preserving our personal privacy, our views aren't so different. I'm simply against letting corporate power brokers, and their publicists and political apologists, dictate public policy.

Just preaching to a Democratic choir won't insure that the institutional problems of FCC bias toward Big Media and the consolidation of media outlet ownership will be corrected. I expect I will have to hold some Democrats' feet to the fire occasionally to achieve media reform. Remember, as Bill Maher said a few years ago, "The only difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is the Democrats "drop trou" for a slightly less sleezy group of corporate interests." I'd like that to change for both parties, too.




Anonymous said...

I certainly agree it's in everyone's best interest to maximize diversity of opinions that are available to citizens. However, there are some very valid issues that get lost in the cries of big media, specifically the predicament of local broadcasters.

I do some consulting with the NBA on the media ownership issue and broadcasters are merely asking the FCC to consider whether these decades-old ownership rules should be updated to permit ownership combinations in local markets that will allow local broadcast stations to compete and continue providing free, local broadcast service. Given the amazing changes in the media marketplace that have occurred in since the rules were last examined. The rise of large online media outlets and continued growth in cable and satellite is hurting the ability of individual local broadcasters to compete for ad revenues and survive. I understand everyone's concern but luckily this isn't the 1960's when you had only a few options to get your news. Thanks.

Richard R. Jones said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for reading and responding. I'm glad you agree that it's in everyone's best interest to maximize the diversity of opinions available.

I certainly agree that our general access to diverse news coverage is far better than it was in the 60s, but the situation was radically different in the 60s. I know, I worked for ABC Inc. for the decade of the 70s.

Back then the FCC still acted as a public safeguard against the consolidation of power of the industry. Networks were only allowed to own five VHF TV stations and similar low numbers of AM and FM stations nationwide. A few other big companies owned their limit of about a dozen stations of each kind each. Each station's FCC licence was reviewed every two years and the stations had to show a record of providing public service programming. They still enforced the Fairness Doctrine (the passing of which I still mourn), which required that any station that gave air time to any political group or advocate in a dispute about local or regional public policy matters had to provide equal time for a response on the issue from an acknowledged leader of the opposition.

Pardon my ignorance but NBA stands for which organization? I liked where you started in your post but it's a long stretch from acknowledging diversity to what I presume is advocating cross-ownership of multiple news outlets in the same market. How does the cross-ownership you advocate increase the likelihood the cross-owners will continue to spend commensurate money covering local news and issues for two or more outlets, as opposed to the current big owner practice of dramatically reducing the local news production staffs and piping in lots more recorded national news? I don't believe it does. This serves neither the news interests of local viewers nor the nation's interest in encouraging diverse viewpoints in media.

Did I misunderstand your position?