Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: Why the proposed Comcast-Time-Warner consolidation is a terrible idea
I have twice heard Michael Copps speak at Free Press national conferences. He is a former FCC Commissioner, a thoughtful and principled man who now has grave concerns about media consolidation, including the latest proposed mega-deal wherein Comcast hopes to buy Time-Warner. Here are Copps’ words on this latest terrible development:
You may wonder why a long-time regulator like me is writing to you. … I worked at the intersection of policy and journalism as a member of the Federal Communications Commission and saw first-hand how my agency’s decisions limited your ability to accomplish good things. Since I stepped down two years ago, the situation has only gotten worse. I want to do something about it. I want you to do something about it, too. Let me tell you what I saw. I was sworn in as a commissioner in 2001. “What an awesome job this is going to be,” I thought, “dealing with edge-of-the-envelope issues, meeting the visionaries and innovators transforming the ways we communicate, and then making it all happen by helping to craft policies to bring the power of communications to every American.” It was a heady time…. New media would complement the traditional media of newspapers, radio, TV, and cable, ushering in a golden age of communications. … The FCC that I joined had a different agenda. It had fallen as madly in love with industry consolidation, as had the swashbuckling captains of big media. The agency seldom met an industry transaction it didn’t approve. The Commission’s blessing not only conferred legitimacy on a particular transaction; it encouraged the next deal, and the hundreds after that. So Clear Channel grew from a 1970s startup to a 1,200-station behemoth. Sinclair, Tribune, and News Corp. went on buying sprees, too, and the major networks extended their influence by buying some stations and affiliating with others. Gone are hundreds of once-independent broadcast outlets. In their stead is a truncated list of nationwide, homogenized, and de-journalized empires that respond more to quarterly reports than to the information needs of citizens.
This article by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is a year old, but it really lays out the national fraud that we call “the bailout.” Here’s an excerpt:
We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.
From Semore Hersch in the London Review of Books:
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
THIS is why we need a vigorous free press, which means active investigative journalism and protection for whistle blowers.
Here’s one of Lee Camp’s Best: 15 things you don’t hear on the corporate media
The remarks by Paul Steiger, ProPublica Founder upon receiving an award from the Committee to Protect Journalists:
What has changed is the position of us, American journalists. We are still far better off than our beleaguered cousins in danger zones abroad, of course. But financially, I don’t need to tell this group of the hammering our industry has taken in the last decade. Publications shrinking or even closing, journalists bought out or laid off, beats shrunk or eliminated.
And now, more recently, we are facing new barriers to our ability to do our jobs – denial of access and silencing of sources.
For the starkest comparison, I urge any of you who haven’t already done so to read last month’s report, commissioned by CPJ and written by Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post. It lays out in chilling detail how an administration that took office promising to be the most transparent in history instead has carried out the most intrusive surveillance of reporters ever attempted.
It also has made the most concerted effort at least since the plumbers and the enemies lists of the Nixon Administration to intimidate officials in Washington from ever talking to a reporter.
Consider this: As we now know from the Snowden documents, investigators seeking to trace the source of a leak can go back and discover anyone in government who has talked by phone or email with the reporter who broke the story. Match that against the list of all who had access to the leaked info and voila!
I highly recommend this TED talk by Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York. He contrasts his own work with the stories we often see on the television “news.” What we see on television are stories carefully filtered to show conflict, sex, violence and danger. It’s not a bad thing, per se, to view such stories, but it is a bad thing to accept these stories as representative of the way the world is.
I find Humans of New York to be a calming counterbalance to the stories usually presented by the “news.”