Media Consolidation Is Bad For Everyone

Bill Moyers produced an excellent segment on media consolidation and its disproportionate impact on minorities. African Americans and Hispanics account for over a quarter of the population, but own just 33 of the nation’s 1,350 television stations, and only 6% of radio stations. According to Melody Spann-Cooper, owner of Chicago’s only black-owned radio station:

Radio has moved from being in the business of empowering and educating people to Wall Street, to making money. And that’s not the big corporate conglomerates, you know, that’s not their fault. They were allowed to do this.

This is the fault of government who did not put the proper checks and balances so that this could not happen.

A tsunami of consolidation overwhelmed the industry in the wake of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, sweeping the price of an FM radio station to over $200 million. Six media companies, Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, CBS, General Electric, and News Corporation now control the vast majority of the country’s broadcast networks, television stations, cable channels, radio stations, magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, and film studios.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin thinks they should be allowed to own more. Moyers speculates that Martin wants to pass media consolidation by the end of the year to keep the issue away from the Presidential campaign calender. Even pro-business Republicans oppose consolidation; Trent Lott (R-MS), the Republican whip in the Senate, is leading the fight against consolidation with North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan. According to correspondent Rick Karr:

There’s no constituency out there saying we want more consolidation. It’s essentially just the big media companies. There are no citizens groups out there saying we want more of this.

The FCC’s proposal is currently open to public comment. Over two million people submitted comments last time consolidation was before the Commission, a strong indicator that the public cares about who controls the public airwaves. The Senate is also preparing its own effort to derail consolidation ahead of the Commission’s proposed December vote.

Transcript [Bill Moyers Journal]
Comment On Media Ownership Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Docket – 06-121 [FCC Electronic Comment Filing System]
Write Your Senator
Write Your Representative
PREVIOUSLY: How To Write To Congress
FCC Chairman To Relax Media Ownership Rules
(Photo: fsgm)

Comments

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  1. why does race matter? who cares if the owners are black or white or whatever.

  2. Sonnymooks says:

    @Petrarch1603:

    I agree with you on this, but leave it to Moyers to always find a racial angle in anything.

  3. canerican says:

    Actually according to the last census people who identify themselves as Black American account for 12.5% of the population (African American is about 1% lower). And Hispanic, although not a race but an ethnicity accounts for 12.3%. These two together account for 24.8% not over a quarter of the population.
    Now I agree, who cares which race owns TV or radio stations? I strongly doubt that the fact that white people owning the media is going to cause a return to segregation or slavery. Or a rise in racism or whatever Moyers thinks that this really means.
    The fact is, white or black if there is demand for a certain type of channel, it will be created this is the defining characteristic of Liberal capitalist economies.
    There have been studies and surveys saying that about 70% of cable news is Liberal leaning, yet slightly more of the country identifies itself as Conservative (although many Liberals identify as Moderates, so it is probably pretty even) and about 75% of radio is listed as Conservative, and everyone exceot the extreme Right or the extreme Left seems pretty happy with the media situation.
    Does it matter? No. The fact is that the media has sorted itself not really along owners racial or political lines, but on market forces. There was no “black” station BET was founded. There was no “Conservative” station FOXnews was created.

  4. Eliamias says:

    Whether or not you agree with the racial aspects of the arguments presented, the second part of the transcript outlining where major events are outright ignored shows the problem with the lack of diversity. Whether you base it on race or political opinions or what have you, if the make up of a citizenry isn’t reflected in similar proportions in the media, entire points of view are lost.

    Race is the easiest aspect to seize upon, but it’s by no means the only factor.

  5. taney71 says:

    “African Americans and Hispanics account for over a quarter of the population, but own just 33 of the nation’s 1,350 television stations, and only 6% of radio stations.”

    Well, from the sounds of the first part of this post it isn’t that consolidation is bad for everyone, just minorities. But I still don’t see how consolidation is bad? Where is the evidence? Nothing in this post has showed me that consolidation is bad for …, …, and … reasons.

  6. taney71 says:

    “Whether or not you agree with the racial aspects of the arguments presented, the second part of the transcript outlining where major events are outright ignored shows the problem with the lack of diversity. Whether you base it on race or political opinions or what have you, if the make up of a citizenry isn’t reflected in similar proportions in the media, entire points of view are lost.”

    Well, there is an ideology bias in the media. Does that mean we have to regulate it? Let market forces work. Just cause you want something doesn’t mean it can or will happen right now.

  7. Bobino says:

    Are the radio and TV stations owned by Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, CBS, General Electric, and News Corporation considered to be owned by ‘whites’ or by ‘minorities’? I’m pretty sure that all skin colors are represented among the shareholders of those companies.

    Richard Parsons, the CEO of Time Warner, is a black guy. So of the five companies mentioned, a disproportionate number — 20% — have African-Americans at the helm. Perhaps Moyers could do an ‘excellent segment’ about the injustice of that.

    And what of the 161 U.S. TV stations that are affiliates of Univision, Telefutura, or Telemundo? With 1350 TV stations in the U.S. all together, this means that 12% of them broadcast in Spanish. Is that more evidence of Hispanics being ‘shut out’ of the media?

  8. alhypo says:

    If black people were generally as wealthy as white people, they would probably own a representative portion of media. This has nothing to do with consolidation. It’s a matter of socio-economic status.

    However, I’m an avid opponent of media consolidation simply because it further limits the number of voices the public hears from. In the run-up to the Iraq debacle, the proportion of anti-war guests to pro-war guests on corporate media outlets was disappointingly small. Additionally, some media outlets have direct conflicts of interest with their parent companies. For example, NBC is owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world.

    The really ironic thing is that after we beat Japan in WWII, we mandated that they establish and maintain a viable public media system, that being one of the best ways to strengthen a democracy, while the quality of our own public media has been steadily chiseled away by the legislators beholden to corporate media influence.

  9. llcooljabe says:

    IF there’s ever a reason against consolidation, it’s the crap we have to endure on the radio stations these days. Thank God for internet radio.

  10. andrewsmash says:

    When cable television came out, there was suddenly a huge increase in the options for available viewing. Variety became the rule of the day, and some of the most memorable (maybe not the best, but certainly entertaining) television was the result. And then the big boys started buying up everything. Now, cable television looks just like network television…drab and corporate. Consolidation leads to a decrease in quality and a handicapping of the markets ability to let the best rise to the top. Let slow bankruptcy, not buyouts, slim down the competition.

  11. Falconfire says:

    @alhypo: was just going to say that… you cant consider most Corps ANYTHING of any race, since pretty much all races and religions are represented by them.

    I wonder if they considered those as “white owned” since they are big corporations, which would be far from the truth about them.

  12. Schmanz says:

    Bill Moyers has never really grasped the ideas of the free market or capitalism. I find it hard to take him seriously. Anyone can buy stock in a corporation, in fact the vast majority of Americans have stock in major corporations through their retirement funds. As far as not liking the content of the programming — their are alternatives and you can vote with your viewership. As a conservative, I find the mainstream media biased as to some of my liberal friends — we all tend to see what we want to see.

  13. badlydrawnjeff says:

    I’ve left a comment supporting further relaxation. Thanks for the link.

  14. Mr. Gunn says:

    No one but the big media companies want this, but since they do, that’s all we’ll hear about, at least through traditional media.

    Yea blogs!

  15. leftistcoast says:

    @Schmanz: Anyone with the funds to burn (or can afford to ignore a percentage of their incoming being diverted to a 401k) can buy stock, you mean…

  16. girly says:

    okay, this is perhaps only marginally related, but it seems like the news media is more and more about filling time than giving useful information

    I have seen before (and I imagine it happens all the time) a story on one news program, and then several months later, the exact same story is presented as if it is current, earth-shattering news.

    Wish I could remember the particular example…

  17. gibbersome says:

    There is not a single person of South Asian heritage in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB though they comprise almost 4% of America’s population. Now THATS racist! :-D

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    Say what you will about Black people, haters, but there’s no way in Hell that a Black-owned station would allow Brittney’s (or Paris’ or…) to play on their station. Uh, to those lacking ANY taste, that’s a good thing).

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    Hee Hee. “Free Market” used in a sentence involving the government deciding which megacorp is granted monopoly use of public airwaves, based on how much they paid politicians. Hee hee. You guys so funny!

  20. BigNutty says:

    I personally would hate to see consolidation of these media giants but guess what, that’s the American way. Two million comments? I guess that’s all those concerned are motivated to do, leave comments.

    Leaving this to the government makes no sense, especially when you don’t know who is behind the scenes pulling the strings.

    The race part of the picture could be debated for years. The wealthy and business minded of each race has the option of helping to bring change to many different industries. I’ll leave it at that.

    We all have choices regarding the media and one of mine is I refuse to pay for cable, so I watch network and local stations and I don’t see that I’m missing much.

  21. Consumer-X says:

    “Radio has moved from being in the business of empowering and educating people to Wall Street, to making money.”
    1. Radio is a business. It must make money to survive.
    2. NPR survives because of massive government subsidies. If they had to survive on their own they would likely fail ala Air America.
    3. Talk Radio does empower and educate people. It simply does so with a political message that Bill Moyers does not agree with.
    4. Bill Moyers wants nothing less than the political censorship of the people.

  22. RandomHookup says:

    @Consumer-X:

    According to NPR’s web site, they get about 6% of their funding from government sources, so you can’t really call that ‘massive’. Even considering that there may be some money buried in other sources (college support, etc.), they still would do fine. If they had advertising (which they do have in the form of ‘underwriting’, they would be more than able to support themselves.

  23. AD8BC says:

    Bill Moyers *snort* That’s funny.

    No matter if the stations were owned by blacks, whites, minorities, majorities, majors, lieutenants, etc. if the show would get the ratings and the ad dollars, it will be aired. If enough people want shows in Spanish, then it will happen.

    It’s all about ratings and money. If you can’t get the advertisers to support your little low-power station then pipe your stuff over the internet.

    Oh yeah. There’s a so-called digital divide too.

  24. Flibbetigibbet says:

    NPR plays a shell game with government funding. Most of the taxpayer money goes directly to the “public” radio stations, which then hand it over to NPR itself in programming license fees. That lets NPR itself make the claim that they get a small amount of money from taxpayers, when the actual amount is much, much larger.

  25. vladthepaler says:

    The companies have no responsibility for their actions because their actions were allowed? I’d say the companies chose from among a great manh of permitted actions, and that they are responsible for the choices they make. But then I think slaveholders are responsible for having slaves, so what do I know?

  26. Matt Taibbi wrote a great piece about living in Soviet Russia, how in every town, you found the same exact grocery store selling the exact same products at the exact same prices. He says that, when he returned to America, he found the exact same thing (via McDonalds, Wal-Mart, etc.).

    The point? When five or six giant corporations own all the radio and TV stations in America, we all suffer. Radio waves are a public trust leased to companies for the public good. And let me tell you: mediocrity and same-ness is not the “public good.” Companies that parrot the party line with no room for dissent (found only online it seems nowadays) is not the “public good.”

    The fact that minorities own few radio stations could be just a correlation, or it could be a symptom of the larger issue. I, for one, vote a big “no thanks” to more radio stations switching formats to play the latest Britney song.

  27. bearymore says:

    “There have been studies and surveys saying that about 70% of cable news is Liberal leaning, yet slightly more of the country identifies itself as Conservative (although many Liberals identify as Moderates, so it is probably pretty even) and about 75% of radio is listed as Conservative, and everyone exceot the extreme Right or the extreme Left seems pretty happy with the media situation.”

    This is complete hogwash. Cite one study that shows that 70% of cable news is Liberal leaning.Happy with the media situation??? When Michael Powell tried to ramrod a similar media consolidation measure through the FCC, public pressure was so vociferous that he was forced to back down — and Bush appointees back down on nothing if they can get away with it.

    Do you really want a situation where one company owns all the media outlets in your city, be it Newscorp, the Tribune Company, or whoever — a situation where all your news comes from a single newsroom, all your entertainment is programmed through a single national center with no accounting for local tastes, and where local news reporting is reduced to “if it bleeds it leads” on the radio, on TV, and in your newspaper??

    Don’t cite the internet, either. If there is only a single source that produces news reports, that will be the only source of news that will be available to appear on your blog or anywhere else.

  28. RandomHookup says:

    @Flibbetigibbet:

    Interesting, because the number I quoted from NPR includes the stations themselves. Do you have a reliable source?

  29. Consumer-X says:

    @RandomHookup: The bottom line is that Air America and every other Liberal slanted talk radio format has failed in the free marketplace. If NPR where forced to survive based solely on its ability to compete in the marketplace it would most likely suffer the same fate.