May 27, 2003
More on the FCC June 2 Meeting

Frank Field points to a couple of articles: Big Macs And Big Media: The Decision To Supersize, the text of a speech by FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein before the Media Institute on the upcoming FCC vote:

I often hear from industry sources, "we're just giving people what they want. After all, that's our business. And as we get bigger, we just have more resources and ability to deliver a better quality product."

...You might call it the "McDonaldization" of the American media. McDonald's spends a lot trying to give people what they want. They only put products out after expensive field testing. Every product is analyzed to satisfy the greatest number of people, even if the local community may have its own unique tastes. Don't get me wrong, I like McDonald's, and eat there sometimes. But I don't eat there every day. And even if I did, I know it wouldn't be very healthy.

The same goes for the media. People also need a balanced media diet -- a diverse menu, if you will. But it's a lot harder to set up a broadcast station than a new restaurant. ...Neither cable nor the Internet has changed the huge market power granted by federal license to use scarce broadcast spectrum, particularly when that license comes with the requirement to be carried on cable. If these scarce licenses weren't valuable, their price wouldn't continue to skyrocket as they have in recent years.

Also, Frank Rich has an interesting piece from Sunday's Times (or htm) comparing the Matrix to our current media world: ...The power of the five companies that foster this sequential amnesia is increasing, not declining. In a vote set for June 2, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to relax some of the few ownership restrictions meant to rein them in. Companies like Viacom (which already owns CBS and Paramount) and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (which owns Fox and is on its way to controlling the satellite giant DirecTV) are likely to go on shopping sprees for more TV outlets. But who knows or cares? Though liberal and conservative organizations alike, from Common Cause to the National Rifle Association, are protesting this further consolidation of media power, most of the country is oblivious to it. That's partly because the companies that program America's matrix have shut out all but bare-bones coverage of the imminent F.C.C. action, much as the ruling machines in "The Matrix" do not feed their captive humans any truths that might set them free.

...But neither Mr. Diller nor anyone else is likely to stop this consolidation of cultural power unless the public knows or cares enough to protest. That hardly seems to be in the cards. We reward mediocre movies with record grosses. We reward tabloid news epics with high ratings. We reward dissembling politicians with high poll ratings. We expect our journalistic media to fictionalize the truth. As others have noted, the most dispiriting aspect of the Jayson Blair scandal may be that even the subjects of his stories usually didn't bother to complain about the lies The New York Times published about them; they just assumed it was standard practice. One way or the other, we all inhabit the Matrix now.

But yesterday's Times has another perspective on media consolidation (or htm), where some speculate that in the short term, relaxing the rules will not lead to more consolidation. However, some media owners in the article do admit that in some markets, they would immediately go shopping.

Posted by Mary Hodder at May 27, 2003 09:57 AM | TrackBack

Two other interesting things... Vermont Governor Howard Dean (in my opinion, the best chance the Dems have) has written a letter to Powell about the June 2 vote... and the Matrix Reloaded is being very efficiently shared amongst friends using the newer P2P technology BitTorrent (where the speed of downloads actually increases the more people that attempt to download a file).

Posted by: Joseph on May 27, 2003 11:08 PM
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