After watching the FCC ownership rules hearing on C-Span, and listening to as much of the commentary by folks like KKK alumni Fritz Hollings and Trent Lott as I could stand, I came away with the belief that the uproar over these rule changes is groundless.
Lawrence Lessig said: “The FCC will liberate the networks to consolidate because the FCC feels pressured by the courts” and some other stuff, but the rules expressly forbid mergers or takeovers between the Big Four TV networks, so that’s clearly hooey. The big changes were easing of the limit on local stations a network can own (which brought existing ownership into compliance) and relaxation of the rule prohibiting newspapers, TV, and radio from being owned by the same company in the same market. ClearChannel doesn’t gain by the rules, and may have to shed some stations.
So if the opposition to these rules isn’t rational – and at least some of it isn’t (Susie “Medea” Benjamin, trust fund activist, got herself arrested again at the hearing), then what’s it based on? A lot of folks were comfortable with the way things were in America when TV news came from the three networks plus CNN, the same stories with the same liberal/centrist spin. Then along came Rupert Murdoch and we got the Fox News Channel, the New York Post, and the Fox Network, and the traditional liberal agenda got some competition. Fox isn’t always, or perhaps even often right, but it is a counterbalance and a different point of view.
The opponents of the rule change are scared that people like Murdoch will alter the media landscape at the level of local print news and broadcast news, an area still controlled by the liberal oligarchy. I hope they’re right, because I’d like to have a TV channel or a daily paper in the Frisco Bay Area with a centrist or right-wing orientation, and it certainly appears that we’d never get one under the old rules.
I don’t believe for a minute that opponents to these ownership rules from the left care about diversity of opinion, which is sure to be enhanced by allowing Murdoch to buy more media properties in more markets. More power to him.