DIAMONDS | money bags

FCC GANG OF 3: 4 of diamonds
($) (what do these signs mean?)

On June 30, 2003, a 3-2 party line vote, Republican Federal Communications Commission Commissioners voted to relax media ownership rules, effectively allowing broadcasters to own a significantly greater proportion of both local and national media outlets. The decision was taken in the public interest.

America's largest media companies, such as Viacom/CBS, Disney/ABC, NBC, Time Warner (formerly AOL Time Warner) and News Corp./Fox, risk losing control of an issue they thought they had mastered. The energy behind the revolt against corporate domination comes from genuine liberals and genuine conservatives, both of whom rightly fear the influence of giant corporations on the media.

As of October, 2003, the FCC has received 3 million signatures opposing its rules. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed implementation of the new rules, and on September 16, 2003, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution of disapproval, which overrides the FCC rules. Democrats in the House are trying to force a similar vote, but the Republican leaders Hastert and DeLay are currently blocking a vote, demonstrating their commitment to democracy, George Bush style.

George Bush has threatened a veto, his first, if Congress insists on overturning the FCC ruling. Why does he care so much? Two reasons seem most important: George Bush likes a corporate media interested only in profits because it assists his re-election and rewards his supporters. Strengthening their hold on what we see and know strengthens his hold on office. Unfortunately it also undermines American democracy.

Corruption of public interest
The FCC is supposed to regulate the broadcast media in accordance with the public interest. The airwaves are owned by the American people, not big business. There is a good reason for this. A democracy depends on a diverse and energetic media, and broadcast media have become central for most peoples access to news, and to information vital to them as citizens.

Some people argue that with satellite broadcasting any number of outlets can compete, eliminating the need for concern about diversity or monopoly. This is currently a theoretical hope, an article of faith rather than a demonstrated fact. The stakes are way too high to rest the future of our democracy with major public policy changes based on the extrapolations of a few theoreticians. The reality is that the broadcast media are extremely consolidated around 80% of us get our news from a tiny number of sources.

The First Amendment protects freedom of the press the only private business explicitly protected by our Constitution not to guarantee corporations profits but to guarantee citizens access to information those in power might not want them to know. Private business and service to citizens is well enough served when there are lots of alternative sources that are more or less equally available. But when business centralizes into corporate media, all that counts are profits, not public service, and we as citizens are progressively denied easy access to information vital to us as citizens.

For example, on March 26, 2003, a Knight Ridder/Princeton Research poll indicated 44% of those polled believed most or some of the 9-11 hijackers were from Iraq. In fact, none were. Only 17% of those polled knew this. A Pew Research Center/Council of Foreign relations survey indicated that almost 2/3 of Americans thought UN inspectors had found evidence Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. The UN inspectors never made such a claim. This same survey showed 57% of those asked believed Hussein assisted the 9-11 terrorists. There is no evidence that he did. The New York Times /CBS News Poll of March 7-9 indicated 45% of those who answered believed Hussein was directly involved in the attacks on New York and Washington.

Intervening months have done little to assist public understanding. On October 3 an important study was released, analyzing Americans beliefs about the war in Iraq. According to the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, 60% of Americans believed at least one of these falsehoods.

  • U.S. forces have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
  • There is clear evidence Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists.
  • People abroad either backed the U.S, led war or were fairly evenly split between supporting or opposing it.

PIPA also correlated these errors with what people watched to obtain news. They found the following, as displayed in a graph from

The corporate media does a demonstrably horrible job informing Americans of even the most vital questions of life and death. How, we might ask, could a commission supposedly devoted to the public welfare of the American people seek to further entrench their control over our understanding?

Curiously enough, during the rule review, the broadcast industry reportedly had 71 private meetings with FCC commissioners and their top staff. The Republican Commissioners held only one meeting open to the public. In keeping with honor and integrity, George Bush style, FCC employees accepted some 2500 trips worth $2,800,000 over the past 8 years, all paid for by the communications industry. Some 330 of these trips were to Las Vegas. There were also 90 trips to London, which isnt even in the United States. FCC Chairman Michael Powell received the most over $80,000 in industry paid for trips.


The payoff for George Bush from all this is substantial. It explains why he threatens Congress with a veto and the American people with contempt. The corporate media is not interested in news, it is interested in profit. Running a good news bureau is expensive, and cuts into profits. Serving citizens is not as lucrative as serving consumers. If news can be turned into entertainment, or infotainment as the term goes, the corporate media will eat it up. Neat manipulated images can supplant information.

George Bush and his handlers are good at substituting sound bites and memorable image for genuine information. The man probably couldnt give a speech if he couldnt bring in the word children. And so we see him landed on an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit: the AWOL flyboy parading around as an action figure. Or we see him speaking outlined against Teddy Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore, or even, of all things, giving a talk where, from the perspective where photographs are taken, it appears Jesus has his hand on Bushs shoulder.

(For that particular obscenity, see Newsweek, March 10, 2003, p. 3. The link, has been removed.)

Writing down what you are told is also pretty cheap to do because you dont need to think about it or use any judgment. Being a simple conduit for the administration guarantees you access. And so, according to a study described by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)s Janine Jackson, 76% of all news sources or guests on NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBSs NewsHour wre current or former government officials. Only 6% of these sources expressed skepticism over Bushs proposed war.


We dont need a government controlled media when a corporate controlled one which, in pursuing profits, simply serves as a transmission belt for whatever the government wants us to hear.

Irresponsible power
In his first public appearance since the FCC passed new media-ownership rules and its repudiation by the Senate and courts, Michael Powell attended a hearing concerned with issues of localism in the media.

Salon reported that During the ownership debate, Powell suggested that a lot of the complaints he was hearing about the media that there's too much sex and violence on TV, and not enough community affairs programming on the airwaves stemmed from how individual stations were being run locally, not by who owned them nationally. Interestingly, he was present at a FCC hearing in Charlotte, NC, to evaluate how well radio and television are serving the public. Because the airwaves are publicly held, broadcasters must serve the public good to get their licenses renewed.

Several North Carolina residents protested the recent behavior of a Clear Channel DJ Bob Dumas for encouraging violence against bicyclists. In September, 2003, on Raleigh's WDCG-FM radio station, Dumas told listeners he hated to see bicycle riders on the road, laughed at stories about running cyclists down, and joked about throwing empty bottles at them. Just a local aberration? Probably not. Salon reported According to Bicycle magazine, it was the just the latest in a string of anti-bicycling rants recently aired on Clear Channel stations, with others erupting in San Jose, Cleveland and Houston.

Not one to let facts get in the way of ideology, Powell explained that while complaints had been filed, the FCC usually rules only on issues of indecency. Protect corporate profits, dumb down the media, coarsen public opinion, Michael Powell and George Bushs conception of public service.


Recently Clear Channel just happened to simultaneously attack the Dixie Chicks for their temerity of criticizing Bush while in Europe. Again, Clear Channel said there was no coordinated attack orchestrated by central headquarters. Given corporations penchant for lying, there is little reason to believe them. But even if they are telling the truth, all that suggests is that the craven jerks they hire as DJs know central policy well enough to curry favor with those above them in the hierarchy by attacking Americans who dare disagree with the government.

Now the same mentality that attacks bicyclists and the Dixie Chicks will be able to influence how the more naive Americans vote. Under the FCCs proposed rules a single company could influence elections of 98 US Senators, 382 members of the House, 49 Governors, 49 state legislatures, and who knows how many local races. And of course control advertising rates for their campaigns, making a bundle in the process. If it is bad enough already, the FCCs proposed changes would make it worse, and allow lying frauds such as George Bush an even better chance of slipping into power for another 4 years.

See Mort Zuckermans excellent Media-merger ruling imperils democracy

  American shadow

the web

copyright © 2003, inc | legal disclaimer | privacy policy