Thursday, May 29, 2003

Let's Not Forget What's At Stake With Big Media

Public hearings are essential for determining whether to tighten, relax, or change the nature of restrictions on media ownership in America. This is one of the great issues of our day. Let there be no doubt about it. This is much larger than a mere monopoly interest issue, with implications on stifling competition and clouding markets. The media is in a unique position in America. In the pursuit of their self-interest, they have a unique capability to shape the self-interest of others. The content of the media can often frame and shape the content of people's minds and wishes. See the strangely moving public opinion numbers in regards to Iraq for a clear example. What the media pays attention to, the people and polls seem to follow. And we're to accept the decision of 5 appointed beaurocrats in this most crucial and defining matter?

Whatever happened to the great debates of American society? Where are our elected representatives and leaders, eagerly stepping up to ensure all voices and interests are heard? This process to relax restrictions on Big Media, the way it is happening, speaks more eloquently than anything else of the danger our democracy is in. Where are our leaders? Where is the opposition? One network news organization has reported on this, the others claiming "4 minutes" on a regulatory issue is a bit much. How about 1 minute? Regardless of the number, is 4 minutes too much time to spend on such an important consitutional issue, one that cuts to the very core of civic participation and the future of democracy? Good grief.

We haven't heard any passionate arguments from leaders for the changes. Who are they? Where are they? Why aren't they making a case? Pro or con? We hear from Rupert Murdoch, of course, who will greatly benefit from relaxed restrictions, and who can blame him for seeking his self-interest? He may end up owning all the networks. Who knows? I just don't understand why there is not some focused, loud opposition to this practically in-the-shadow-of-the-night regulatory change except in the blogosphere? If more senators and representatives held up government, and demanded a debate, the major media would have to report on it, whether or not it is in their corporate business interest.

This reminds us why people who hit the streets and protest are so important. It creates news. The news isn't necessarily the issue, which wouldn't be normally reported or given mainstream exposure (say for instance a WTO decision), the news is the protesters on the street. They're making news. Calling attention to the issue, which will have to be at least cursorily examined in the process of covering the news event. The Texas Democrats brings another case to mind, in which case they implemented a strategy and created big news out of something that would not normally deserve attention (gerrymandering).

We need strong, principled, courageous leaders in America. If this momentous and dramatic FCC decision, with far reaching and unknown implications, isn't news, than someone damn well needs to make it news! Shut down the government. Refuse to show up. Filibuster everything. People respect courage and conviction. Show some, and some nerve, and people will stop and take notice, including the mainstream media. Big Media is a phenomenon that needs to be checked, for the very reasons I mentioned earlier. We have monopoly rules to check against self-interest and distortion of markets. What about an industry with unprecedented power to shape and frame self-interest in its content, of its consumers? In my mind, we need the clearest and best understood rules in town.

The Clear Channel controversy, and the complexity and implications of the Dixie Chicks being banned, underscore this better than anything else. Clear Channel sponsoring pro-war rallies, with dismal turnout I might add as well, adds insult to injury. It's clear the influence is passive, in being unable to rouse people to action, to get people on their feet and streets and defending something, yet at the same time this influence is seemingly pervasive in polling, in coming to far reaching conclusions about the opinions of "the american people", or in just assuring the people remain arm-chair patriots. Seated, and subservient. Perplexing, and paradoxical.

Do I hear reasons to debate, discuss, engage? In the stuff of democracy? It's clear that Clear Channel has the right to minimize exposure to an artist, given its lack of popularity with an audience, but how far should this go? Even when they are still number one on the charts? Was this decision more political than economic? If so, then the resolution is clear. No Big Media, and shame on those like Clear Channel, with clear conflicts of interest in regards to our president, who seek to subvert and bring shame to our great nation. The biggest disgrace of all would be to do nothing, to say nothing, to pretend it's not a big issue and just let it pass. Are you a passive consumer, or an active member of a democratic society? Decide, and then engage.


Don't forget to see my series of posts on Big Media. There's about five in a row there from last week with excellent reference information. Very little from me actually, just spotlighting sourced articles. Cruise over, read up, and scroll down...