"The fight against media consolidation is not liberal versus conservative or red state versus blue. It is a grassroots, all-American campaign to preserve democracy in America. Every citizen is a stakeholder in the outcome and every citizen should be part of the decision-making" ... Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner
If there's one lesson voters should learn from the campaign season thus far it's money will be more of a factor than accuracy in determining their perception about which candidate to choose. This comes as no surprise to independent observers such as myself who've written lately about the rapacious notion that pecuniary superiority makes right even if this model is predacious to the truth.
Cases abound throughout the past 26 years of fiscal conservative rule in which the application of predatory capitalistic principles have made a mockery of even our most basic Constitutional freedoms. Although illustrations of the inordinate tendencies of American free enterprise to exclusively dominate markets date back to the late 19th century in U.S. history they've become even more prevalent since the emergence of a Cold War mentality used by the nation's corporate oligarchy to tantalize citizens into fearful submission. Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Venezuela, Yugoslavia and Iraq are all examples in which modern Presidents have used the bully pulpit of their office to persuade us covert or direct intervention was necessary to prevent arrogate threats to this country's entrepreneurial spirit.
To Americans chagrin the realization they'd been lied to in some instances by the leader of the free world has often come too late to repair the image of the United States globally as the preeminent voice of freedom. These deceptions were made possible by a subservient mainstream media willing to sacrifice the ethical veracity mandated by their profession in pursuit of the same monopolistic greed afflicting their kindred CEO associates in the upper echelons of business society.
Although pockets of journalistic integrity remained at the end of the Vietnam historical time line the Fourth Estate gradually morphed towards a business prototype when President Reagan's Federal Communications Commission eliminated the Fairness Doctrine at the request of some media institutions during the era who maintained this provision hampered their ability to compete. Since its removal, the FCC'S role has become a tool for Presidents to exploit rather than regulate the industry it was established to oversee. Once politicians realized the value of stacking the Committee with ideological operatives willing to recast it as a media friendly abstraction the floodgates of influence peddling to them were opened as a source of campaign revenue and means of procuring biased news coverage. Neither entity has shown a serious inclination to revaluate this fallible partnership since.
The impact of a deregulated mainstream media has been to reforge longstanding, traditional journalistic rules in news rooms throughout America. The consolidation of the industry into corporate conglomerates has turned it into a business venture focused on net income rather than objective reporting. This framework rewards sensationalism while de-emphasizing content which news executives view as unprofitable. In such an environment both sides of the story becomes a front line casualty replaced by slanted coverage of what sells best.
The new media's willingness to mold public conceptualization into a politically correct message first became evident during President Reagan's reign when foreign press sources and domestic newspapers began to expose his secret, illegal war in El Salvador. Rather than seriously look in to or follow up on these allegations corporate television lapsed into a protectionist mode of the Commander In Chief, airing daily Congressional hearings which for the public viewer became a patriotic litmus test. By presenting the sessions in this manner while providing contrasting analysis from freelance pundits, spectators were left to decide which expert was most believable based on civilian conjecture in lieu of investigative reporting of the event by their own organizations. The motive for this was to appear neutral in its coverage of the issue even as they accepted advertising revenue from partisan groups intent on defining opinion.
In the wake of FCC rulings during the late 1990's and more recently January of this year, the corporate media has been given a green light to further solidify itself with the removal of limitations of cross ownership amongst newspapers, television and radio stations. In doing so, these outlets will no longer be faced with the dilemma encountered by news organizations during the El Salvador incident in which television competed against newsprint to report their interpretation of what our government was up to. Under the new duality, rivalry is eliminated as the source of news becomes concentrated in the hands of a few corporate moguls dedicated to monetary gain through standardized interchangeable parts under their control. Similar integration is occurring within the cable, telecom and internet sectors as these enterprises maneuver to dominate those spheres of influence.
Citizens have already witnessed during this Presidential campaign the way in which the new government enabled media monopolies intend to use their powers of persuasion to condition voters to accept limited viewpoints as the only valid postures. Examples include preventing candidates such as Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gavel and Ron Paul from participating in debates since they maintain positions which question prevailing establishment stances. In the case of Kucinich it's been alleged he was excluded from the MSNBC gathering because of his opposition to the war and nuclear energy both of which are income streams for General Electric.
Equally, employing partisan media commentators from sponsors of the public discussions provides audiences no clarity about issues vital to the future direction of our country on account of the prejudicial appearance it evokes.
Lastly, failure to critically examine the New Hampshire Democratic voting count subjects the MSM to accusations of bias because the outcome favored a celebrity corporate candidate most likely to help them preserve their exclusive dominance of the industry if elected in November. By not seriously questioning the results the Clinton campaign was able to maintain financial donor momentum, money which will be spent on media advertising as the race evolves.
The reprehensible way in which the commercial media operates today is best illustrated by the epoch dismissal of former Los Angeles Times Editor Jim O'Shea several days ago. New owner and Chairman Sam Zell made the decision for business reasons stating he was "returning control to people" with "direct responsibility for the staffing and financial success of the LA Times."
O'Shea countered he was leaving because of demands to reduce budget funding of projects he considered imperative for the paper's future success. According to him "a small investment in new resources more than pays for itself with added revenues." O'Shea surmised that the present philosophy of corporate media treats journalists as "naïve, starry-eyed budgetary adolescents who can’t be trusted." He concluded his retort with the following assertions:
"This company, indeed, this industry must invest more in solid, relevant journalism. We must integrate the speed and agility of the Internet with the news judgment and editorial values of the newsroom, values that are more important than ever as the hunger for news continues to surge and gossip pollutes the information atmosphere. Even in hard times, wise investment -- not retraction – is the long-term answer to the industry’s troubles."
"We must build on our core strength, which is good, accurate reporting, the backbone of solid journalism, the public service that helps people make the right decisions about their increasingly complex lives. We must tell people what they want to know and – even more important -- what they might not want to know, about war, politics, economics, schools, corruption and the thoughts and deeds of those who lead us. We need to tell readers more about Barack Obama and less about Britney Spears. We must give a voice to those who can’t afford a megaphone. And we must become more than a marketing slogan."
Will sage, veteran newsmen such as O'Shea succeed in restoring democracy to the American people by returning the industry to its previous honorable tradition of truth guardians or will corporate barons such as Zell and Robert Murdoch destroy the profession along with the FCC in a greedy quest to turn it into a political propaganda machine? Perhaps debate moderators should be asking this question of the Presidential candidates rather than fanning the flames of racial divide. Given the MSM's track record the past seven years covering impeachment, wiretapping, torture, etc. I'm not optimistic this issue will be addressed either. Stay tuned .....