The State of American Monopolistic Media

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Do you wonder why you only see the typical kind of “he-said, she-said” commentary–and news, too–that calls for some flack on one side of an isssue to respond to the flack on the other side of the issue? Do you wonder why Bill O’Reilly slams Keith Olbermann on tv and then Keith Olbermann slams Bill O’Reilly? Michael Savage is a man so vile that he is not only not allowed to broadcast in Great Britain, he is not even permitted to–visit–Great Britain. He is not allowed in that country. Yet,┬ápossibly millions┬álisten to his lies and contemptible commentary every single day. The more civilized British will not tolerate having that kind of anarchical lunatic roaming about freely in their country.

The reason that we have these current circumstances is that we have, since 1996, enabled large broadcast and media organizations to consolidate vast amounts of media under the control of very few people. The CEO of Time-Warner Broadcasting can make an independent decision today that may affect the distribution of a piece of valuable information to basically every other person living in the United States and many tens of millions elsewhere around the world. That is true because of the supposedly unintended consequences of a piece of bi-partisan legislation, intended to increase competition.

In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was supposed to encourage more competition in all areas of media. In fact, it did the opposite. Within 8 years, one company owned half of all the radio stations in the country. The television business went from eight competitors to three. Then, in 2003, the FCC changed the rules for television networks.

As if it were not enough of a problem for networks to own a large number of television stations, the FCC increased the percentage total television stations that a network could own from 35% to 45%. In addition, the FCC altered long-standing rules that prohibited television networks from owning more than one station in a market place as well as owning a newspaper and a television station. In previous orders the FCC had maintained that this was not possible, but now in top 20 markets, because of the large numbers of stations and newspapers, the FCC felt that the network could not capture an unreasonable share of the entire viewing audience.

A network could own two television stations in a market with at least 8 other stations. So one network can own 2 television stations and comprise about 25% of the stations. But this might also comprise much more of the viewing population than 25%. One station alone might have 25% of the viewing audience. A media company can own a television station and a radio station in the same market, or in the case of certain large markets, two television stations and four radio stations.

It seems pretty clear that the FCC under the Bush Administration decided that media companies should be allowed to expand by up to around 25% of the market, perhaps a little more in some markets. This would include television stations, radio stations and newspapers. So in certain markets a media company could be dominant, depending upon the market share of each of the properties it decided to purchase.

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t know you exist and doesn’t care whether or not you have health care. His company, which now is headquartered in the United States has huge holdings around the world. Here is what he owns merely in the United States and Great Britain.

In Great Britain and Ireland he owns News Group Newspapers limited, (the Irish Sun, News of the World tabloid) The Sunday Times and a free newspaper, and the Free Newspaper The London Paper. Now some of these properties have subsidiary properties, such as the London Times, which has a separate Literary Supplement.

In the United States Murdoch owns The New York Post, Dow Jones and Company, which is the Dow Jones newswire, the Wall Street Journal, in several editions, Barron’s, and the Dow Jones stock market information, including the Dow Jones Index. He owns the Bayside Times, Whitestone Times, Flushing Times, Fresh Meadows Times, Little Neck Ledger, Jackson Heights Times, Richmond Hill Times, Jamaica Times, Laurelton Times, Queens Village Times, Astoria Times, Forest Hills Ledger, Ridgewood Ledger, Howard Beach Times. He owns the Courier-Life Newspapers in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Paper, Caribbean Life, and The Times-Herald of Middletown, New York.

He owns 20th Century Fox, Searchlight Films, Fox Television Studios (production company), Fox 2000 Studios, Fox Entertainment Group and Blue Age Studios. He owns the Fox Broadcasting Network, MyNetworkTVNetwork, Fox Television Stations Group, and has joint ventures with NBC and Scripps, Howard Broadcasting. He owns 17 television stations through Fox and another 10 through the MyNetworkTv network. He has stations in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Houston, Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa, Baltimore…and others.

Radio has a great deal of concentration of ownerships. For example, Clear Channel radio owns over 1,225 stations in the U.S. and is rumored to illegally control others. The Mays Family owns, therefore, 50% of the nation’s radio channels. Clear Channel is also the nation’s leading billboard advertising company. Premiere Radio Network, which syndicates the Rush Limbaugh, repulsive hate-speech program, and the similar Sean Hannity program is a subsidiary of Clear Channel and now Glenn Beck, another Right-Wing propagandist, whose television program on the Neocon Fox News Channel recently lost 46 sponsors for his reckless comments against the President and African-Americans.

This year the disgusting Mr. Limbaugh signed an 8-year contract with Premiere Radio Networks for $400 million. Limbaugh, thanks to the fact that his audience is underwritten by his appearing on the 1200 Clear Channel stations, reaches about 20 million listeners, or so it is estimated, per three-hour program. It is interesting that no legislation prevents one company from controlling both half the radio stations in the country and the programming that goes on those stations. It is as if you owned a majority of the big baseball players and half the teams. Which teams do you think would win the World Series every year?

Given the fact that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have been accused, and it is totally, daily, confirmed that they are anti-populist, anti-Democratic commentators, it is not surprising that many people accuse, Clear Channel of being a Right-Wing Neocon organization, devoted to the promotion of wealthy corporate interests. Lowry Mays and his family have been huge contributors to the Bush Family political enterprises.

It is not only radio that has become concentrated. The cable television market is heavily owned by Newscorp, Time-Warner, and GE. Newscorp owns the Fox Network, the Fox News cable channel, Fox Sports, FX and other programming, plus the other media properties discussed above. Time-Warner which is one of the largest cable distribution companies in the country, also owns CNN and all the various news spinoffs from that company, plus other former Turner Broadcasting channels, such as TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Adult Swim and truTV. MSNBC, which is owned by GE which of course also owns NBC, and recently acquired the Weather Channel, is also involved with Google in joint ventures and owns AOL.com.

Because newspapers are much more beholden to local advertisers and report more local news in detail, which is often necessary in order to understand changes in zoning, or crime statistics, or education policy or farm and labor issues…advertising is more local….and response to the community is more local. Consequently, details of government policy can be more thoroughly explained. And this is why, it seems, newspapers are often considered more Liberal. They are really more populist. Being local, they rely on the people in that geographic area for readership and support. So the truth is essential to readership. So, if the truth “is Liberal” as one pundit has jokingly said, then the facts presented in detail, with no opposing point of view, simply the facts, may be considered Liberal in current definition. Of course there are the screaming tabloids, sometimes telling a story for effect and other times telling it from the point of view of the owner. But this type of journalism doesn’t last nor does it have a long-term effect on readers.

In the current shouting and screaming against health care reform, the almost unlimited effort of the Right and the lobbyists for the health care industry to come up with false issue and irrelevant rants, we need media to be independent, to be honest, and to lay out the facts. If we cannot win a battle so clearly in favor of reform, because a small minority are either paid or propagandized into trying to shout it down, then we have a serious problem with our democratic system. If you cannot bring the truth to the People, they will hear the lies. And if they believe the lies about health care, as they believed the lies about nuclear weapons, and if they continue to believe lies, this country is in danger of control by a small handful of powerful men.

If you want freedom, you must have the truth. If you want the truth, you must have free and independent media, dedicated to reporting the truth.