The latest on media consolidation

No one who reads this blog will be surprised to learn that about the only major media figure doing anything on the story of media consolidation is Bill Moyers. He's been on the story for a long time, and has been consistently the best mainstream (if you can call PBS mainstream) voice discussing this issue. And when I say discussing, I mean mentioning in the slightest.

In this clip from last night's program, Moyers' team talks about the move made earlier this week by FCC Chairman Martin, about whom I've written before, to change the rules of media ownership over the objections of both the public and a bipartisan Congressional group, including such disparate voices as Byron Dorgan and Ted "the Internet is a series of tubes" Stevens. Yeah, I was a little surprised by the latter, too.

Side note to the Moyers people--make it possible for bloggers to imbed your video on our sites, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease.

It was this quote that I thought exemplified the Republican FCC Commissioners.

FCC COMMISSIONER DEBORAH TATE: We traveled literally from sea to shining sea. These lengthy hearings provided an opportunity for thousands of American citizens to have unprecedented access to a governmental body about the role media plays in their lives and their opinion regarding media ownership. Over my 20-plus years of public service - at all levels of government - I cannot remember a single time that an agency expended this much institutional energy and investment on an issue, or was this open and thorough regarding a matter of public interest.
Everything she said was true. Everything she said was factually accurate. There was no dissembling or falsity in what she said. It's what she didn't say that was so disturbing, which was that no matter how much access they offered, no matter how many hours they spent before the public hearing how much we don't want more consolidation, no matter how much institutional energy and investment was expended by the FCC, it didn't matter, and it wasn't going to.

That's the real key. No matter what the public or Congress said or did, nothing was going to change. Kevin Martin and the other Republicans on the panel had decided that the rules were going to change, and the hearings were basically a show, a matter of form, a way of being able to say to the public who is blissfully unaware of what's going on (because the very media companies who benefit most from this rule change aren't reporting on it--how convenient!) "we gave you a chance to speak out on this before we made the rule change." A dog and pony show of massive proportions, in other words.

There are two replies in the works right now. Congress is mulling a bill that would reverse the FCC's decision, but I don't hold out much hope for it. It has bi-partisan support, but there's little doubt in my mind that Bush would veto any law doing so--Martin is his boy, after all. The other is a lawsuit being filed by a public interest group in D.C., which has a better chance of success, I think. Either way, the story continues, and Moyers will no doubt continue to cover it.

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