Big Media

by C.B. Renz



Never has there been a more persuasive tool than the media and its
airwaves. It is clear that whoever rules the airwaves generally rules
the opinions and sympathy of the country's citizens. Unfortunately, the
airwaves are getting into fewer hands and releasing fewer opinions as
multi-billion dollar media conglomerates are beginning to buy up their
competition.

It used to be that corporate media firms were only allowed to own one
media station per city and were not allowed to own a TV station and
newspaper in the same town. But, in 1996, Congress passed a bill that
set aside most limits on how much of America's broadcasting industry big
media firms could own. Now a third of the country's radio stations have
been bought out by media conglomerates and more than three-quarters of
all Americans watch television stations owned by one of six companies.

This combats the guidelines set by the Carnegie Commission of
Educational Television which was written in 1967: "We seek for the
artist, the technician, the journalist, the scholar, and the public
servant freedom to create, freedom to innovate, freedom to be heard in
this most far-reaching medium. We seek for the citizen freedom to view,
to see programs that the present system, by its incompleteness, denies
him."

The problem with "media consolidation" is that multi-billion dollar
media conglomerates buy up their competition and then centralize their
operations. Not only does this take away from better local programming
and more news stories, it also puts forth the possibility of endangering
communities due to inaccessibility to the town's airwaves.

One case of this possibility would be what occurred in January of 2002
in Minot, North Dakota. In Minot, a train derailed, spilling 210,000
gallons of ammonia. Officials wanted to put out a warning to its
citizens through the media but were unable to because 6 of the 7
channels in the town were owned by the Clear Channel Communications,
located in far-off studios.

Also, a recent study by Columbia University's Project of Excellence in
Journalism proves that local programming produces better newscasts with
less celebrity profiling and more local stories. And, one of the biggest
things the big media conglomerates don't cover is themselves.

Most Americans, seventy-two percent, aren't even aware of the debate
over media consolidation. And, according to the Center of Public
Integrity, big media conglomerates and our government are too tied
together to be comfortable. According to the center "the fifty largest
media companies and four of their trade associates spent 111.3 million
dollars between 1996 and mid-2000 to lobby Congress and the executive
branch." Also, from 1993 to 2000, media corporations have given 75
million in campaign contributions to candidates for federal office and
to the two major political parties.

This means that the government is in the wallets of big media
conglomerates and therefore the media conglomerates don't cover media
policy debates in their newscasts.

Plus, more and more often newscasts are finding it not enticing to
challenge the policies that their bosses philosophize so often. One case
would be a story that Channel 7 news was doing on their parent company,
Disney. In the story it was stated that Disney was not doing proper
background checks which were leading to the hiring of convicted
pedophiles. ABC quickly dropped the story when it was contended by
Disney.

This trend of media consolidation brings up the question that if this
occurs at the same pace it has been--Will democracy still exist in the
years to come? It is true that we are persuaded by television which can
be proved by our current war with Iraq and the 90% approval rating of
our president due to the media pushing for presidential support and
pro-war protests. But, are we on our way to a future dictatorship run by
the IBMs and Mickey Mouses?

Contact your local Congress and tell them that you do not agree with
media consolidation and that big media conglomerates should not have a
monopoly over the airwaves, which technically belong to the public. Be
patriotic, help democracy, and help keep news media independent and
worthwhile.