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Putting a Noose around the News

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Message Jayne Stahl
If it seems to you you're getting the same news no matter which channel you watch, you're right, and you can thank newspaper consolidation for that. There are only three or four major newspapers left in this country, The New York Times, The Washington Post, among them; there is only one Reuters, one Associated Press, and now the FCC is investigating claims by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York congressman, that CBS television is "seeking to consolidate newsrooms," (United Press International) thereby introducing the concept of central command to television newsrooms.

CBS and the Writer's Guild are currently in the process of revamping their 50 year contract in some of the nation's biggest cities, which would involve mergers in such high octane markets as New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. These discussions center around staff layoffs, as well as divesting news producers of negotiating power. Clearly, the goal is to create corporate media empires which micromanage at the expense of diversity of opnion, and dissent.

Yet another remnant of the American Dream has been sacrificed at the altar of the almighty buck in an effort to reduce our collective field of perception to the size of an escargot. What's more, declaring preemptive war on news producers bolsters CBS, and others who are working towards newsroom consolidation, and a network central control, thereby emulating the empire-in-chief currently running this charade we call democracy. When there is micromanagement from the top down, decisions made by one or two people carry over to several stations, and there isn't any room for contrarianism. A climate that doesn't allow for difference, and the expression of contrary viewpoints, can expect only Slim Fast, not substance, in return.

Here in Los Angeles, we're used to reruns of the weather. On most major holidays, we're even treated to repeats of human interest stories, but to think that we, the American consumer and electorate, are being force fed pre-packaged, and often recycled tripe, much of which is inaccurate in the first place, should be more than enough to make our blood boil. Worse still, newsroom consolidation isn't so much about conceptual unilateralism as it is about ensuring swift, and steady profit at the expense of diversity of thought.

The good congressman from New York is concerned that newsroom consolidation will lead to the ultimate demise of independent news stations much as newspaper consolidation has. How does this affect each and every one of us? Imagine a world with only one Internet Service Provider, or being able to only access those Web sites that can afford to pay gargantuan fees if, and when, the world wide web becomes IRS territory. The only ones to benefit from consolidation are the behemoth corporations who tell us which underarm deoderant to wear, which cat food to buy, and which cars to drive. When newsrooms become profit delivery vehicles, as well as promoters of uniformity of thought, we're in even greater danger of losing ourselves in the totalitarian void that has cost us much of our civil liberties these past few years.

The FCC which has been hugely preoccupied with "public decency" ratings, over the past 6 years, must now be prevailed upon, as Rep. Hinchey told UPI , to "ensure that corporate interests stay out of newsrooms so that the American public can be on the receiving end of journalism...Any further consolidation of newsrooms and attacks on journalists would be contrary to the best interests of the public." Moreover, assaults on the First Amendment are "contrary to the best interests of the public;" it's high time Congress, and we, the viewing public, said so!
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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