Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Article excerpt

A 'DANGEROUS' STEP

'E&P' has long backed repeal of the FCC cross-ownership ban. Here is another view, warning against 'media control.'

Most media-industry observers believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon repeal its rule prohibiting single ownership of a broadcast TV station and a newspaper in the same community.

This is a dangerous moment for American democracy.

Repeal will dramatically accelerate the country's already narrow concentration of media control, as well as the channels of information distribution, into the hands of an elite few. It will lead directly to the loss of an independent press and the diversity of voices essential to the survival of a democracy.

The very fact the FCC is considering repealing the cross-ownership ban is a reflection of the increasing concentration of media ownership and the market-driven demand to grow profits. Advocates of repeal are the largest conglomerates, who see lifting of the ban as their ticket to grow profits through new acquisitions and monopolistic market control. Not only are their business arguments questionable and speculative, they do not include any discussion of the social value of an independent press and a diversity of voices.

History shows us that democracy depends on a free press. The Constitution granted special protections for the press not to insure its profitability but to guarantee that a government of and for the people can be held accountable by the people. This accountability extends to all powerful individuals and institutions in our country, including Big Business.

And make no mistake: Most media today are Big Business. Consolidation of ownership has already eroded accountability of both government and Big Business.

There is no ambiguity about the public financial markets. They are driven solely by bottom-line financial performance. Investment in public service and news at both the local and national levels is in direct conflict with maximizing short-term profits. The unintended consequence of concentrated media control, combined with faceless stock-market ownership, has been less investment in news coverage and opinion. For this reason, the concentration of media ownership is bad in and of itself, but now it is combined with an element that makes this concentration even more dangerous: the increasing ownership by financial institutions.

This kind of institutional ownership of newspapers took off about 30 years ago. …

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