Spectrum, Iraq, and the Media Problem
by Matt Stoller, Wed May 23, 2007 at 07:29:05 AM EDT
One of the reasons I'm going to focus much energy on the spectrum fight is because the key leverage point for going into Iraq is a media system that allows only the powerful to speak. Take this account by high priced operative Bob Shrum, of Time columnist Joe Klein's relationship with John Kerry in 2004. The nexus between high priced media consultants, high priced pundits, and politicians is poison to a democratic system. And then there are the more overt links between the press and the political class - Jeff Chester points us to this nice episode in Illinois:
Fourteen U.S. lawmakers urged federal regulators to waive media ownership restrictions that would allow Tribune Co. to be taken private in an $8.2-billion deal, according to a letter made available on Monday.
The deal, led by Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell, needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission as it involves the transfer of broadcast licenses.
Under current media ownership rules, a company cannot own a daily newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market although media companies do under agency waivers.
Tribune has such arrangements in Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Los Angeles and New York and earlier this month asked the agency to waive restrictions that could prevent it from owning television station and newspapers in the same city....
The 14 lawmakers from Illinois, which included Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin and House Rep. Rahm Emanuel as well as Republican House Rep. Dennis Hastert, encouraged the FCC in the letter dated May 18 to act on the applications "expeditiously and to avoid administrative delay."
Sam Zell, the mogul behind the deal, gave $5000 to Rahm Emanuel's PAC in 2005, the Common Values PAC, and to Dick Durbin. He was also a donor to Bush and now John McCain (as well as Russ Feingold and Tom Delay).
So a media and real estate mogul is calling in political favors to waive cross-ownership requirements to consolidate media properties. That's a problem. This weakens our ability to have a diversity of voices speaking out, and it prevents a media check on the powerful.
The internet is our best (and maybe) last hope. Here's Al Gore:
I truly believe the most important factor is the preservation of the Internet's potential for becoming the new neutral marketplace of ideas that is so needed for the revitalization of American democracy... People are not only fighting for free speech online, but they are also working to keep the Internet a decentralized, ownerless medium of mass communication and commerce.
That's why this spectrum fight is so important. If we can generate enough pressure on the FCC, we can ensure that the public airwaves can be used for a wireless open network which any citizen can use to create media. New business models will emerge, a diverse set of voices will use it, and we can revitalize democracy. How do I know this is possible? Well I'm doing it, in a care, right now, with nothing more than a laptop. And you're reading and commenting on it.
Now it's time to route around the damage caused by the George Bush's, Sam Zell's, Verizon's, and Comcast's of the world, and ask the FCC to free the spectrum for public use.