One of the biggest contributors to the woeful state of modern media is the extent to which media companies have consolidated into giant conglomerates with near monopoly power. Some of these corporations control majorities of communications enterprises in numerous markets nationwide.
It has long been a goal of media reform activists to bring about greater independence and diversity by implementing market caps to limit the reach of these companies. That goal has been hindered by the well-heeled media industry’s lobbying efforts. Now, it appears that the economy is stepping in to enact some free market reform of its own:
Is the bell tolling for Clear Channel?
“Analysts believe Clear Channel, now with about $22 billion in total debts, will have trouble making scheduled payments later this year. The company, already down to about 800 stations from its peak of about 1,200 stations, either will have to start selling stations itself or go into bankruptcy, where lenders will put stations up for sale.”
Sinclair Eyes Chapter 11
“Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing that it may file for bankruptcy protection, reports the Associated Press. A miserable advertising market and crippling debt burden may force the Baltimore-based broadcaster into Chapter 11.”
Clear Channel and Sinclair are leaders in their markets. They are also prominent purveyors of right-wing propaganda. No one likes to see businesses fail, but the prospect of these companies succumbing to recessionary forces could produce real benefits for the business of news. It would be preferable if similarly situated conglomerates were to divest their holdings and downsize operations voluntarily. But if they insist on clinging to power, at the expense of both shareholders and citizens, then this outcome is better than nothing.
The underlying television and radio stations impacted by this news will continue to broadcast. The prospect of them operating as independent, or as components of smaller station groups, is promising. The danger is that the troubled assets could be picked up by other big conglomerates. We’ll have to wait and see if this turns out to be beneficial or just more of the sort of consolidation that enhances the power of corporations and gags the voice of the people.