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Donald Trump's FCC is a Clear and Present Danger to Democracy

By       Message John Nichols       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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It has rewritten media-ownership rules to benefit giant corporations, including the pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcasting.

From youtube.com: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is Rejecting Net Neutrality {MID-197159}
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is Rejecting Net Neutrality
(Image by YouTube, Channel: ReasonTV)
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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."

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Roosevelt and his aides were determined to guard against media-ownership structures that might place control of broadcast media in the United States in the hands of a tiny circle of elite individuals or corporations. To that end, they advocated for a muscular Federal Communications Commission that would guard against consolidation of media ownership and assure that all Americans had access to the information and ideas that sustain democracy.

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.

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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.

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"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,

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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PCM

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It's not just "Donald Trump's FCC." Its the FCC of Obama and of a majority of our US senators, advising and consenting to presidential nominations. And the mainstream media the FCC "regulates" just happens to hold FCC commissioners', presidents', and senators' political and revolving-door futures in their self-serving little hands. Is it just me, or is there a design oversight in this regulatory scheme?

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 11:32:07 PM

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The design oversight is yet another attempt and a very major one to screw the people over yet again. This one knocks out a major pillar of democracy namely the First Amendment which is arguably more important than democracy itself.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 4:08:35 PM

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PCM

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[W]ere it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.

---- Thomas Jefferson, 1787, in a letter to Continental Congress delegate Edward Carrington
If Jefferson had been capable of anticipating today's monolithic, conglomeratized, corporatized, advertiser/underwriter-captured media landscape, I'd like to think he might have added a few "supply-side" provisos mandating diversity, independence, and transparency in the press. Norway and especially Ecuador have apparently taken meaningful steps in that direction and we badly need to do the same.

I'm not sure what can be done to the achieve that in the US. The federal bench has been taken over by the Federalist Society, so private antitrust suits are unlikely to be entertained, let alone result in major breakups. (On the public enforcement front, Trump's DOJ is attempting to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, but that seems like more of a fluke motivated by personal animus than principled opposition to vertical integration of distribution and content.) Orderly constitutional reform -- fixing the lacunae in the First Amendment -- would be "informed" by the very media that need to be broken up and deconflicted.

I guess Americans need to reach the high level of media awareness apparently prevalent in China, where most citizens know that what they hear in "the news" is propaganda. For now, most Americans seem to believe whatever the authoritative-sounding voices in our "free and independent press" repeatedly tell them to believe. (Forgive my pessimism. I'm an advocate for national single-payer health insurance, a slam-dunk case on the merits that is being soundly defeated by a news media fully captured by for-profit-health-sector advertising and underwriting.)

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 5:16:44 PM

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Daniel Geery

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Thanks for the valuable comment, PCM. I was going to look for the Jefferson quote but didn't have time.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 7:25:27 PM

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911TRUTH

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Donald Trump's FCC is a Clear and Present Danger to Democracy

No, Donald Trump is.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 5:23:15 PM

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Michael Daly, artist

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i've been part of many political campaigns - some like anti-Monsanto/GMO go on for decades - it's always frustrating that more people don't know, don't rally on really fundamental issues that effect their whole world.

Whatever frustration I have about public apathy on anti-GMO actions and every other campaign it is eclipsed by the very stupidity of Internet users who ignore private corporate takeovers of it.

Here, I am dumb-founded beyond belief that educated progressives and co-activists don't rally for Net Neutrality or generally give a damn. I notice this in this current Trump/corporate FCC threat and the two previous Obama ones.

Internet users must have some notion of the general utility for it as a free and open system and it's specific importance for Free Speech and Free Press functionality.

This is in part the notion that the Internet should not be a means whereby information and communication exchange can be controlled: a global cloud of censorship and propaganda.

If the masses of Internet users are denying anything by their complacency in this month of FCC alarm it is the ultimate denial in self-worth, one's own intelligence and the right to participate even in their own circles and neighbourhoods let alone the globe - is this the final surrender?

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 8:36:51 PM

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PCM

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When I think hard about the important things that are afoot right now, the end of net neutrality, massive tax cuts for the rich, the renegotiation of NAFTA, Cold War 2.0, and our support of what amounts to a genocide in Yemen come to mind without straining my noggin. When I think about what our news media is covering, a suspiciously timed Gropegate scandal seems to be at the top of the list. My guess is that a lot of the educated progressives and co-activists you're referring to are just directing their outrage at the targets our media is pointing them toward.

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 at 1:54:19 AM

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Reply to PCM:   New Content

PCM - good points - you got the list of affronts right (without my having to strain my noggin either) - boom!


(it's so important to defeat Trump Tax right now for instance)


Agreed, "gropegate" gets trivial at times and puts us guys especially on egg shells. But child sex trafficking and women's rights are big ticket items - possible better adjudicated AFTER we establish a free Internet and a knee-jerk suspicion to corporate media.


Yes many progressives are lead by the stories set by ms media, like, I don-know, Democrates and Hillary Clinton fanatics.


But anyway, the progressives I was specifically referring to who rally on most good causes, and are not lead by msm (they rely on the Internet) - even them, skip over Net Neutrality - and free speech generally - shame!



Submitted on Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 at 4:26:18 AM

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Reply to Michael Daly, artist:   New Content

I wouldn't include child sex trafficking under the rubric "Gropegate," and I'm not minimizing what victims of sexual harassment go through. I'm just saying that the timing of the media-inculcated awareness explosion is curious. (Also, I realized that I'd missed the story at the very top of the media's agenda, even ahead of Gropegate and Russiagate: it's the the Trump Show, one of the best distractions of all time.)

I wouldn't know what to say to your fellow activists if they don't get the importance of net neutrality. If the Post Office got to decide what letters, magazines, and newspapers it would deliver and how long it would take to deliver them, they might get it (at least if we were still back in the day when hard-copy print was a leading means of information and communication). If the phone company got to decide who it would allow customers to call and receive calls from, or to assign the lowest quality of service (line noise, lagginess, echo, frequently dropped calls) to the callers it didn't like, they would probably get it. Maybe they're like our courts, and when something involves computers and the Internet, it's a mysterious realm of innovative magic and they're too diffident to challenge the (again) authoritative-sounding pronouncements of the business magnates who run it. Or maybe they're just beginning to acknowledge that our government and its militarized police are no longer responsive to petitions for redress of grievances, peaceful protest, and civil disobedience.

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 at 4:08:48 PM

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