The older William Safire gets, the more ludicrous he is, except when it comes to media consolidation. He's been one of the louder voices on the right opposing the trend toward media conglomerates, and on this at least, he's been consistent.

If one huge corporation controlled both the production and the dissemination of most of our news and entertainment, couldn't it rule the world?

The media giant known as Viacom-CBS-MTV just showed us how it controls both content and communication of the sexiest Super Bowl. The five other big sisters that now bestride the world are (1) Murdoch-FoxTV-HarperCollins-WeeklyStandard-NewYorkPost-LondonTimes-DirecTV; (2) G.E.-NBC-Universal-Vivendi; (3) Time-Warner-CNN-AOL; (4) Disney-ABC-ESPN; and (5) the biggest cable company, Comcast.
The only player missing here is ClearChannel Communications, which Eric Boehlert from Salon has done a wonderful job reporting on in the past.

Safire's vision for the future of media?
If the $50 billion deal is successful, the six giants would shrink to five, with Disney-Comcast becoming the biggest.

Would Rupert Murdoch stand for being merely No. 2? Not on your life. He would take over a competitor, perhaps the Time-Warner-CNN-AOL combine, making him biggest again. Meanwhile, cash-rich Microsoft — which already owns 7 percent of Comcast and is a partner of G.E.'s MSNBC — would swallow both Disney-ABC and G.E.-NBC. Then there would be three, on the way to one.
I like Safire, am not sanguine about the potential of Michael Powell, the antitrust division of the Justice department, or the Senate actually stopping any of this from happening, especially under a second Bush term. (I'm not particularly sanguine about it under a first Kerry term either, but that's another topic.)

Here's where Safire falls short:
The growing danger, however, is that media giants are becoming fewer as they get bigger. The assurance given is "look at those independent Internet Web sites that compete with us" — but all the largest Web sites are owned by the giants.
He fails to recognize that many of these companies are ISPs in their own right. Comcast, AT&T, AOL, etc., together control a significant portion of the internet access market, so while there's online dissent for now, who's to say that the giants won't find a way to consolidate control in this new medium as well? One thing is certain--they will try.

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