My guest today is Sue Wilson of Media Action Center. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Sue.
Joan Brunwasser: It's been a while since we've talked. How have things been going with the people-taking-back-the-media department?
Sue Wilson: We are under siege, Joan. The Trump DOJ is threatening to block the AT&T Time Warner merger, a good thing, but for the wrong reason: they want to take CNN off the air so the news org cannot criticize Donald Trump. And in my bailiwick, broadcast consolidation, the FCC is undoing all the good we've achieved over the past several years, and will vote November 16 - without any public comment - to allow the newspaper and nearly every TV station in our local communities to have one corporate owner. One newsroom will be able to force feed us whatever information they want us to hear, and keep us in the dark about information they do not want us to know. The democracy is literally at stake right now, so I've come out of retirement to sound the alarm!
JB: Let's give our readers some background here, Sue. Media consolidation has been going on for some time, hasn't it? How did that happen and how much worse have things gotten?
SW: Let's go back to the beginning, to the days when radio was new and magically came into our homes with a push of a button. Pioneer broadcasters understood the power of such a medium, that it could be used for good or ill, and so they voluntarily came up with caps on how many stations one person could own. Congress thought that was a such good idea, they ensconced it into law. In those days, one person could own just three TV stations, three AM radio stations, and three FM radio stations. Those caps later increased to what was known as the rule of seven - seven TV stations, seven AM and seven FM radio stations. When Ronald Reagan came into office, those caps were loosened so a person could own 20 TV, AM and FM stations.
It was also Ronald Reagan's administration that got rid of the rule that both sides could access the broadcast microphones to discuss controversial issues (the Fairness Doctrine). That changed the political landscape, because Rush Limbaugh began a one-sided, pro-Republican daily tirade that helped Republicans so much, they made him an honorary member of Congress.
Learning that one-sided radio would help them win elections, the GOP drafted a new law, the 1996 Telecommunications Act, allowing one person (corporation) to own as many radio stations nationwide as they could own, and as many as eight in one market, which Bill Clinton signed into law (a decision he regrets). Despite promises from the radio industry that it would provide more opportunities for diverse programming, it instead programmed all right-wing radio all the time all over the country, creating a monopoly on political information in the USA.