Appeals Court Rejects More Media Consolidation - Stephen Lendman
In six editions of "The Media Monopoly" and subsequent update titled, "The New Media Monopoly," Ben Bagdikian explained how deregulation let major media corporations consolidate to oligopoly size.
Since 1983, the number of corporations owning most newspapers, magazines, book publishers, recorded music, movie studios, television and radio stations shrunk from 50 to a handful, including Time-Warner, Disney, News Corp., Viacom, Comcast, and Bertelsmann AG.
In 1996, Telecommunications Act backers claimed it would increase competition, lower prices, and improve service. In fact, TV station ownership limits were raised to let broadcast giants own twice as many local stations as before, charge what they wished, and dismiss public concerns in the process.
For radio, all national ownership limits were removed, and, in large urban areas, one company could own up to eight stations in a major market. In smaller ones, two companies could own them all.
The bill also consigned new digital television broadcast spectrum space only to current TV station owners, and let cable companies increase their local monopoly positions. Media and telecom giants were clear winners. Consumers lost out.
Yet in October 2007, FCC chairman Kevin Martin proposed lifting the 1975 media cross-ownership rule, forbidding one company from owning a newspaper and television or radio station in the same city even though some conglomerates already did like News Corp. In November, he amended his plan to allow cross ownership only in large markets where competition already exists, with deceptive loopholes through waivers to permit it anywhere.
In 2003, FCC Michael Powell also tried loosening ownership rules, despite opponents saying relaxing them would further stifle debate, inhibit new ideas, weaken diversity, and more greatly consolidate oligopoly power.
In June 2004, the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled favorably for the Media Access Project (MAP) in Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, ordering the agency to reconsider its ill-advised ownership rule changes that included:
-- ending cross-ownership restrictions that prohibits a company from owning a newspaper and TV or radio station in the same city;
-- eliminating the previous ban on radio/TV cross-ownership, and replacing both types with a single set of cross-media limits;
-- a dodgy "diversity index" based on assigning varying weights to different media to determine if markets retained enough. It not, ownership limits would be restricted, but the formula proposed was deceptive and dishonest, including for smaller markets; and
-- redefining National Market Share to let ownership ceilings rise unfairly.
In fact, the public overwhelmingly wants more, not less consolidation. On July 7, an important victory was won when the same Third Circuit Court issued its long-awaited verdict, throwing out proposed FCC rules changes.
The Prometheus Radio Project (PRP) "builds participatory radio as a tool for social justice organizing and a voice for community expression. (It) advocate(s) for a more just media system, and help(s) grassroots organizations build communications infrastructure to strengthen their communities and movements."
PRP explained the court decision on its web site, accessed through the following link: