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From the left and right


According to an on-line article this week in Editor & Publisher, newspapers have been busy checking out potential broadcast acquisitions "like eager teenagers perusing used-car ads in the classifieds as they wait for their first driver's licenses."

Why? Next Monday the Federal Communications Commission will likely vote to authorize sweeping changes to the American media. It would no longer be illegal for two TV stations in a market to have the same owner, or for a newspaper, for instance, to own the local TV station, radio station and cable provider, for that matter.

Perhaps in Los Angeles, further media consolidation wouldn't be too serious a problem, but in small markets such as ours, it could only be detrimental to democracy.

One possibility I noted in a column last November is that MediaNews, the owner of the Times-Standard, could be allowed to buy Channel 3, or vice versa. Since those two media are the only ones left who have enough reporting staff to gather news on a daily basis, this would not be a good thing for this region. It wouldn't take long for management to figure out that one news department is cheaper than two. We've already lost two TV news departments recently. KAEF and KVIQ owners just decided local news was too darn expensive and quit.

Deregulation in itself is not good or evil, but when the floodgates to radio media consolidation were opened in 1996, the conglomerates went on a buying frenzy. According to the public policy watchdog,, corporate giant Clear Channel "used its might to support pro-war political rallies and conservative talk shows, keep anti-war songs off its stations, coerce musicians into playing free promotional concerts, and bully them into performing at its music venues [owned by Clear Channel]."

Clear Channel does not own radio stations in this market currently, but there has been notable consolidation here. Did we get better radio, more voices and choice -- or did we get more stations switching to autopilot satellite-feed?

Why isn't the public alarmed at the implications of these proposed FCC changes? Because it's a story that has been underreported especially by the media giants, those who stand to gain so much from an ill-informed public.

There are two rays of hope. One, the very smallest markets may be exempt, however no one can say if that would include Humboldt (which ranks 192 out of about 230 markets in the United States). In addition, Congress could step in.

Ironically, Congress is beginning to hear from both ends of the spectrum. The repeal of the FCC regs is being opposed by the National Rifle Association (worried that those liberals already own too much media and further concentration can't help) in addition to groups such as the left-leaning



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