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Politics and Culture - American Profiles In Radical Independence

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Media Deregulation Erodes Democracy

October 30th 2007 05:17
Touting the benefits of the free market, President Ronald Reagan began the process of deregulating the mainstream media. Instead of offering the American public more choices, it has offered less. Worse than that, it has eroded American democracy. Abraham Lincoln said the government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” These days the government is in the back pockets of corporations, corporate media included.

According to an article by media critic, Robert McChesney, “The media have become a significant anti-democratic force in the United States and, to varying degrees, worldwide. The wealthier and more powerful the corporate media giants have become, the poorer the prospects for participatory democracy.”

In 1981 television licenses were extended from three years to five years. The maximum number of stations corporations were allowed to own increased from seven to twelve. A five-question process replaced a detailed inquiry for license renewals. License renewals were reduced from a detailed inquiry about how a station served the public interest to a 5-question application (the "post-card renewal" process). Guidelines for the minimum amounts of non-entertainment content were eliminated in 1985, along with the maximum amount of advertising allowed per hour.

The Fairness Doctrine insured media would be balanced, and serve the interests of the public. It required television and radio stations to provide public service announcements, local public affairs shows, and children’s programming, plus provide equal time to differing views on topics. In 1987 it was eliminated. The Congress voted to extend the Fairness Doctrine, but Reagan vetoed it.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed by the Congress and signed off by President Clinton, deregulated the telecommunications industry, supposedly allowing more companies to provide more services. The Act eliminated the restrictions on ownership of cable stations by broadcast networks, and joint radio-broadcast television ownership.

The FCC interpreted the Act to extend broadcast licenses from five to eight years under the rubric of fostering competition. A 1999 article in the Journal of Media Economics said the Act was “largely based on the presumptions of the effectiveness of competition and the success of earlier deregulation.”

In reality, the Act ushered in a telecommunications monopoly where a few companies provided all the telecommunications services. Economist and author, Jeremy Rifkin refers to the 1996 Act as, “A landmark piece of legislation that opened the media field to new competitors, including the large regional telephone companies and cable companies.”

Since 1996, and that “landmark piece of legislation,” mainstream media is controlled by a handful of corporations who have neither the incentive nor the desire to provide accurate information to the American public whom they purport to serve. The sad fact of the matter is that both the Republicans and Democrats created a media monopoly. While Reagan began the process, Clinton put the final nails in the proverbial coffin.

The FCC Commissioners voted three to two in June 2002 to relax ownership regulations so that a broadcast corporation can own enough stations to reach 45% of all viewers, up from 35%. Commissioner Michael Copps said that ninety-percent of the input from citizens was against the move. Congress voted to overturn the relaxed ownership regulations because the American people were against outraged. President Bush threatened to veto, and that forced Republicans in Congress to compromise with him and allowed the ownership caps to be set at 39%.


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4 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Jim Stillman

October 30th 2007 15:40
Excellent recap of the situation. The Right contends that the media have a liberal bias, but as I scan the radio available in the Tampa area, I notice that each and every one of the talk/discussion programs are far to the Right. One station starts of with Glenn Beck in the morning and Rush in the afternoon, with another conservative in drive time. The other major station here is run by Fox with its coterie of spokespeople.

Maybr the "fairness" doctrine had its faults but monopolies in the media are worse.

Comment by Gina-Marie Cheeseman

October 30th 2007 20:26
It's the same in the Fresno area. We lost our Air America station in the spring. However, we do have a Pacifica radio station. Without it there would only be right-wing talk.

Comment by Anonymous

October 3rd 2010 12:55
This complaining about having no Liberal media anymore is pretty funny in view of the fact that NY Times and The Washington Post are still far far to the Left.

I listen to both left and right wing radio. We have both in Charlottesville. The left wing commentators are embarrassingly inarticulate and misunderstand what is happening in the country completely.

They often blame all problems and anyone who disagrees with on racism, rather than real concrete cause for concern such as Job loss and extreme deficit.

Comment by Khalfani King

October 4th 2010 13:25
I think you hit an important point in the last sentence of your response...

"They often blame all problems and anyone who disagrees with on racism, rather than real concrete cause for concern such as Job loss and extreme deficit."

No matter how much we try to spin this in saying that the media has become "liberal" or "conservative" the problem clearly rests within the fact that we've all lost sight of what's important.

The media is no longer a beacon for free speech and a watch dog against government...

What's happened is the media has become a Fast Food service that pumps out a watered down product the consumer has become accustomed to.

A watered down product filled with partisanship, dramatics, hate speech, un-factual information and false bravado.

No matter how much we try to regulate it or try to bring it back to where it should be as a fair and balanced information source to serve the public good the innocence has already been lost.

It is our duty as citizens to find unbiased sources of information to enrich ourselves and family with the facts that separate the fluff and bull from facts and fiction.

We can not rely on any money making entity to do this for us just as much as we can't rely on a politician whose life blood is corporate money and allegiance to a political party to protect their jobs.

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