Media Consolidation Threatens Free Thought

 
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BY MILES SCHNEIDERMAN —

The American media system, once hailed as the ultimate check on the powerful, has become little more than another system of corporate control. You can switch to any channel on television and hear people talking about overt government tyranny, the bullet-buying spree of the Department of Homeland Security or the slow-but-steady transformation of the country into a drone-fueled surveillance state. The best kind of tyranny, however, is still the subtle kind, the kind that makes prisoners love the bars in their cells and convinces us to cheer for our own subjugation. This is the domain of the corporate media, and it’s made possible by the phenomenon of media consolidation: the transfer of the media industry into the hands of an ever-shrinking few.

(Editorial cartoon by Brian Regan)

(Editorial cartoon by Brian Regan)

Of all the media moguls, the most notorious is News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch. The man behind the nation’s most infamous outlet of lies and paranoia — Fox News. Murdoch is also the most blatant offender when comes to violating the cross-ownership rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These rules state one cannot own two television stations and a newspaper in the same market, and that makes Rupert Murdoch a sad panda. He wants to buy the Tribune Company, which includes the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, but he already owns two Los Angeles television affiliates. Unwilling to accept he can’t control as many American minds as he chooses, Murdoch wants the FCC to change the rules.

“There can be little debate today that the newspaper industry faces existential threats,” News Corp recently wrote to the FCC. “We urge the FCC to eliminate the cross-ownership rule as a relic from a bygone era.”

In other words, why can’t you just let us tell more people what to think? All the cool kids are doing it!

Never mind News Corp is already the second-largest media conglomerate in the world; Murdoch wants more, and he wants the government to give it to him. While it doesn’t look like the FCC is willing to re-write the rulebook right now, it is possible Murdoch could get a waiver from those rules and buy Tribune anyway. After all, Murdoch received such a waiver from the FCC in 1993 to re-acquire the New York Post, despite also owning TV stations in that market.

This would all be outrageous enough if Murdoch didn’t have a horrible record when it comes to newspapers. His now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World, collected lawsuits like baseball cards and was embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal in 2006. In 1992, another of his British papers, The Sun, brazenly claimed credit for winning the general election for John Major and the Conservative Party. Such is the power of a man like Murdoch, who influences national discussions and political agendas by purchasing our sources of information.

Craig Aaron, CEO of the media advocacy group Free Press, can’t believe anyone is even considering giving Murdoch another newspaper.

“The idea that the FCC would clear the way for somebody like Rupert Murdoch, somebody being investigated for bribing foreign officials . . . for all kinds of malfeasance . . . to take over one of the biggest newspapers in the country is really an outrage.”

Or, in the sardonic words of comedian John Stewart, “We’re going to have to decline your waiver, unfortunately. You see, the law against media consolidation was really written with people like you in mind—well, actually, you, in particular, because of how you like to do the exact thing the law was created to prevent.”

Murdoch’s News Corp is one of six companies that control 90 percent of the American media. Almost everything you see on television, hear on the radio or read in the newspaper comes from one of these bloated corporations who want us entertained, not informed. Media consolidation is a tool for promoting the illusion that the established order is normal and natural. If we’re going to change anything in this country, we have to start by taking the media back from those who want to use it to control us.

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