The Wavelength: Attack of the Media Mega-Mergers! Skyprosoft, AT&T-Mobile and more

by Eric Arnold, Media Consortium blogger

Another day, another media mega-merger. The latest? Microsoft is buying Skype, the Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion.

So exactly what does the Skyprosoft deal mean for consumers? That’s the eight-point-five billion-dollar question. Public News Service’s Mark Scheerer says the deal could be beneficial if – and this is a big ‘if’ – “Microsoft will more strongly embrace network neutrality and other policies aimed at keeping the Web free.”

Net neutrality is a key component to the merger because, according to the Media Access Project’s Mark Wood, “without an open internet, large and anti-competitive carriers like AT&T and Verizon will have the power to cripple potentially competitive services such as Skype’s that will depend on access to existing networks.”

Should Telecoms Break Up?

AlterNet’s David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick make a case for the break-ups of the telecommunications trust, which provides “overpriced and inferior service, and [is] systematically overcharging the hapless American consumer.”

Citing crusading muckraker Ida Tarbell, who went after the Standard Oil monopoly a century ago, as an inspiration for the project, Rosen and Kushnick argue that the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions has put the telecom industry on a similar course of anti-competitive behavior. The answer, they say, is divestiture, which “will lead to increased competition, lower costs and better service.”

FCC’s Revolving Door Keeps on Spinning

Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is the latest FCC official to land a cushy job at—you guessed it—a telecommunications company. In June, Baker will be moving to work as Comcast’s senior vice-president for government affairs. As Truthout’s Nadia Prupis notes, Baker advocated strongly in favor of Comcast during the commission’s review of the $30 billion merger with NBC Universal earlier this year.

Specifically, Baker objected to proposed FCC requirements for Comcast-NBC “to maintain fair and competitive operations over the airwaves and online, show a minimum amount of local and children’s programming and make high-speed Internet access available to 2.5 million low-income households.”

Senate Probe Focuses on Mobile Security

Truthout’s Prupis also reports that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is leading a Senate probe into privacy issues raised by smart phones and other mobile broadband-enabled devices.

Recent concerns over privacy issues have put companies like Google and Apple—whose officials testified Tuesday in Washington—on the hot seat. As Prupis notes, “Legislators on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law said that without sufficient privacy measures, mobile devices carry the genuine potential for security breaches.” However, the Senate panel’s intent isn’t to limit innovation, but “create strong consumer protections as mobile technology continues to evolve.”

Post-merger, Comcast Lags on Localism

According to a recent study by Free Press (PDF available here), Comcast-owned Telemundo stations haven’t kept promises made to feature more local news – a key condition of the Comcast-NBC merger. While the study suggests that a poor commitment to localism for Telemundo stations was a pre-existing condition, dating back to NBC Universal’s 2002 purchase of the Spanish-language network, it also found that “Comcast has committed to increasing local news production in only six of the 15 communities served by its Telemundo owned-and-operated stations (O&Os).”

The report also found numerous discrepancies in Comcast’s FCC localism filings, including falsely claiming that advertising constituted local news and failing to include descriptions of programs it claimed were local, making it “difficult for the public and the FCC to determine with any accuracy whether the programming listed actually meets the merger commitment.”

Revisiting Protest Music

What does protest music have to do with media policy? Well, when’s the last time you heard Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” on the radio?

Protest music has all but disappeared from the commercial music landscape, unless you count Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Yet, in an age of media consolidation and corporate-controlled media, it’s good to remember the music scene wasn’t always so timid. Recently, The Nation asked readers to list their Top Ten Protest Songs. They received an overwhelming response, with more than 3,000 entries, and even more streaming in daily.

As the editors note, “five seminal songs [vied] for consideration for the top slot: Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Florence Reese’s “Which Side Are You On,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.””

The first list posted online—more are planned—includes music by Public Enemy, Marvin Gaye, Paul Robeson, John Prine, Anti-Flag, The Jam, Malvina Reynolds, Iris DeMent, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.

World Press Freedom Day

“Press freedom is at its lowest level in 12 years,” according to Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery ofMother Jones. In honor of World Press Freedom Day, Bauerlein and Jeffery called attention to the 16 journalists currently held in Libya, as well as the two American journalists still detained in Iran (one of whom is a MoJo reporter).

Inter Press Service created a Facebook page to celebrate WPFD and compile reports on the state of freedom of the press from around the globe. It’s a fascinating list that outlines the dangers reporters face—which sometimes results in self-censorship—as well as the prevalence of censorship of political topics in other countries, especially those engaged in bloody civil conflicts. Here are a few choice stories:

  • As Amantha Perera reports from Sri Lanka, one casualty of that country’s decades-long civil war (which ended in 2009) was journalistic independence. “The media became a part of the military operation… No one was able to report objectively, there was pressure on them from all parties.”
  • In Egypt, Cam McGrath writes, the rebellion which toppled the Mubarak government has brought significant changes for reporters. “Before Feb. 11, we had strict orders not to discuss certain topics, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or (Mubarak’s political opponent) Mohamed El Baradei,” says Ashraf El-Leithy, deputy editor of Middle East News Agency (MENA), Egypt’s official news wire. “Now we have complete freedom to write about anything – without any restriction.”
  • In Mexico City, says Daniela Pastrana, the influence of drug cartels has presented distinct challenges to reporting in a state where corruption and violence are widespread, and journalists, police, and government officials are routinely murdered – resulting in collective efforts, meticulous fact-checking, and an emphasis on obtaining public records.

Ethnic Press Grapples With Media Policy Issues

New York Community Media Alliance’s Jehangir Khattak reports for New America Media that a recent information exchange between journalists and advocates held in Boston at the National Conference for Media Reform in April helped the ethnic press address ways to better cover media policy issues for their audiences.

As Khattak notes, the exchange “addressed steps ethnic and community media can take to increase coverage of media policy issues and how to improve the quality of current reporting. [It] also examined the role of media policy advocates in crafting the best course for effective messaging on these issues and what steps they should take.”

Understanding media policy issues can help close the digital divide, which affects underserved, ethnic and minority communities the most.

The Wavelength is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. This post features the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here.You can also follow us on Twitter.

 

 

A.W.O.L on Comcast/NBC Merger: Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz, Matthews

 

--I heard the news today, oh boy, About a lucky man who made the grade...He blew his mind out in a car, He didn't notice that the lights had changed..-- (Sgt Pepper, The Beatles, 1967)

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 triggered a wave of media ownership consolidation.

You will, of course, remember the vigorous debate on that bill, recounted night-after-night on the major news programs, regaled even more on the "pundit" shows of the time, and consuming nearly all the air-time on the Sunday blabberfests? And , recall getting tired of 60 Minutes running this story week after week after week?

You don't remember?....well, not to worry, you are not suffering memory loss or suppressing a painful experience.

You do not remember it because the major networks and cable operators who stood to gain financially from this bad policy said virtually nothing about it. Their "independent" newsrooms reported next to nothing about it. There were no "round-tables" discussing its merits. I believe I recall ABC's Ted Koppel, who hosted Nightline that prided itself on covering stories in depth and without apology for ruffling feathers, being asked whether he supported the bill, and giving a rather lame "yes, it is valuable to my network" answer. If you knew about it at all, it was because you watched C-SPAN at some ungodly hour. [And, to be completely fair, Olbermann-Maddow-Schultz-Matthews were not on the air in 1996).

When it came to Citizens United--the recent decision by the Supreme Court that found the original intent of the Founders was to grant Constitutional personhood to corporations, creatures of the State--Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz and Matthews were intensely concerned about its implications. They covered the case, the aftermath, and periodically follow-up with reports of Congressional efforts to blunt its effects or overturn it by Constitutional Amendment.

Enter, Comcast/NBC Universal. Comcast is the nation's largest cable operator, and NBC Universal one of the major content creators. Comcast wants to purchase NBC Universal from General Electric. MSNBC and CNBC are part of NBC Universal and would become owned by Comcast.

Where is the coverage Rachel? Ed? Olbermann? Matthews? Where is the outrage over increased media concentration and corporate control? Where is the exposé of Comcast's past egregious actions? (For a chronicle of those, see, e.g., Josh Silver's article,"Senator Franken Rips Into Comcast CEO Brian Roberts", February 5, 2010).

Just to provide a taste--Comcast opposes Net Neutrality, and has already tried to violate it on its own. It lavishes money on Members of Congress, and packs FCC hearing rooms with paid "supporters". Brian Roberts lied to Senator Franken right in his office about the FCC protecting consumers against price increases while his lawyers argued it was unconstitutional.

So where are Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz and Matthews? How can they, as they all rightly have, extol the virtues of a Wendell Potter (former insurance executive who outed his industry during the healthcare reform debate), and yet sit idly without investigating and reporting the dire implications of Comcast owning NBC Universal?

The deafening silence from this quartet is all the testimony needed to show why this merger is...very bad news, indeed. . 

COMCAST shows outrageous bias

by the way, people should know that a few months ago, COMCAST removed MSNBC from regular to PREMIUM.

Crossposted from Dailykos user, JLFinch

Go to "Top Picks" on your COMCAST On Demand menu.

You will see options for New Movies.

Then Hit Music.

Then Top Kids Shows.

Then an option for - REPUBLICANS.   With NO corresponding selection titled Democrats.

There's more...

Live from the DNC: Net Neutrality - The Battle For Democracy

To set the context for this blog, let me just start by explaining that there is currently an 8,000 square-foot, two story structure in my office building's parking lot, which is known as the Big Tent. The Big Tent is the place to be for new media journalists, bloggers, reporters, and non-profit leaders covering the Democratic National Convention. One of the great things about the Big Tent is the immense lineup of panels on the second floor throughout the four days of the convention. (Another great thing is the free beer garden provided by New Belgium Brewery).

This morning, I attended a panel on Net Neutrality. As a blogger, my interests in this issue are probably quite obvious, but the bigger picture of what I walked away with is how the real stakeholders in this are all people who live in the United States and are appreciative of our country's commitment to democracy. Panelist Adam Stoller, of OpenLeft summed up the importance of this issue:


"This isn't a story about technology - this is a story about democracy."

There's more...

ACTION ITEM: Coordinated Attack on Net Neutrality is Underway

[Cross-posted everywhere I can]
Just yesterday I posted a diary about a story about Time Warner rolling out 'metered' internet usage that has received a decent amount of coverage. Some of the commenters were very skeptical that it directly correlated to Network Neutrality. To them I now ask that you drink a big glass of STFU.

Via Wired:

Comcast will begin testing what the cable concern has described as a "protocol agnostic" approach to managing bandwidth traffic during high-peak periods, Comcast said Tuesday.

Selected customers in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Warrenton, Virginia, are expected to receive e-mails on Wednesday highlighting the program. The 30-day tests are expected to begin Thursday.

There's more...

Diaries

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