Media Ownership, Lies, And The Internet

As the FCC continues to review media ownership rules, Big Media hacks persist in spreading false claims about competition and the benefits of local ownership.

Former FCC commissioner, Reed Hundt, told USA Today that the meaning of ‘media monopoly’ has changed:

‘Media monopoly’ seems now to be about whether you can use the Internet for free or whether there’s any limit on what you can send over the Internet […] The issues of the last 10 years don’t have that much resonance anymore.”

Mr. Hundt is obviously confusing ‘media monopoly’ with ‘municipal access” and ‘network neutrality’ – a pedestrian mistake for someone with so-called credentials. He might be surprised to learn that in the real world ‘media monopoly’ still means a concentration of media companies into the hands of a few powerful conglomerates that exercise undue influence over distribution and content. And those issues still possess great resonance. In 2003, three million Americans rose up to roll back FCC regulations that would have allowed the media monopolists to grow ever larger.

We are facing that same battle today and the same voices from Big Media are telling the same lies to advance their greed. They argue that cable and the Internet neutralize the risk that any one company can dominate public opinion.

“There are more (media) outlets today than there have been at any point in the past,” says media investor Christopher Dixon of GGCP. “Every day that more people are on the Internet, the argument for cross-ownership limitations falls by the wayside.”

First of all, there are not more media outlets than ever – or at least not by any qualitative count. The actual number of radio and TV stations has remained fairly constant. The new players are in cable and the Internet. But most of the major cable networks are owned by the same corporations that have consolidated so many of the broadcast stations. It’s just nonsense to allege that the number of outlets is increasing as the number of owners is decreasing.

Secondly, it makes no sense to suggest that more people on the Internet should affect cross-ownership regs. Monopolies in media distribution are adverse to the public interest no matter how many people use the Internet. And, again, it needs to be pointed out that most of the top Internet news destinations are owned by Big Media. They think that just because I can have a web site, that I pose a competitive threat to Fox News.

I wish that were true.