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the left and right
by JUDY HODGSON
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
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, MoveOn.org,
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
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 MoveOn.org.
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