From The Nation
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is Rejecting Net Neutrality
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Eighty years ago, the dawn of the modern communications age coincided with the rise of authoritarian leaders who controlled and manipulated communications in Europe. President Franklin Roosevelt recognized the danger, declaring that...
"If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance, we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation."- Advertisement -
The FCC was charged in 1934 with the clear mission of protecting the "public interest" from profiteers and propagandists. That mission was enhanced and extended over time. It was threatened, as well -- but never so aggressively, nor so dramatically, as it is now threatened.
President Donald Trump's chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai, and the Trump-aligned majority on a commission is bent on clearing the way for precisely the sort of media monopoly that FDR and the small-"d" democrats of his time feared.
Last week, the FCC voted 3-2 for a radical rewrite of media-ownership rules that will benefit corporate conglomerates, while diminishing the character and quality of the discourse in communities across the United States. In so doing, they strengthened the hand of at least one conglomerate that is closely aligned with Trump.
Pai, who is also moving to eliminate Net Neutrality protections that serve as "the First Amendment of the Internet," portrayed Thursday's vote as an updating of "stale" regulations. But the truth was well stated by John Bergmayer, the senior counsel with the group Public Knowledge, who told CNN "the FCC did not vote to 'modernize' the rules, but rather 'to abandon them.'"
A dissenting commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, bluntly charged that, "Instead of engaging in thoughtful reform, which we should do, the agency sets its most basic values on fire. They are gone."
There was no hyperbole in Rosenworcel's assessment, as watchdog groups explained.
Free Press, the nation's media-reform network, noted that...
"The agency rolled back a local television-ownership rule that barred a broadcaster from owning multiple stations in smaller local markets and weakened the standards against owning more than one top-rated station in the same market.- Advertisement -
"The FCC also gave its blessing to so-called joint sales agreements, or JSAs, which allow a single company to run the news operations of multiple stations in a single market that would otherwise compete against each other. The vote also overturned the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, which prevented a single company from owning a daily newspaper, TV and radio stations in the same market.
"[These] moves clear the way for the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media, a deal government agencies including the FCC are now reviewing. Should regulators approve the merger, the resulting broadcast giant would control more than 233 local-TV stations reaching 72 percent of the country's population, far in excess of national limits set by Congress on broadcast-TV ownership."
Free Press President Craig Aaron explained,