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day permlink Friday, 23 May 2003

permlink Radio, TV, Consolidation, Liberal?

Excellent article: Why exactly is media consolidation not so good? Marc Fisher takes a long, detailed look at the state of modern radio:

Sounds Familiar For a Reason [Washington Post]
[Brian] Wilson wakes each day, fires up his Web browser and reads the morning San Francisco Chronicle online for the latest news from clear across the country. He's so good that his listeners could be forgiven for thinking that he's in the City by the Bay rather than in a bedroom in Maryland. This is what passes for local radio these days.

Come June 2, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to approve new rules that would allow even more consolidation in the media: TV networks would be permitted to buy more stations than they are now, a media company would be allowed to own as many as three TV stations in one city, and restrictions on cross-ownership between newspapers and broadcast stations would be lifted.

...critics contend that even when the big companies add program formats, the music they play is the same old stuff. A study by the Future of Music Coalition, a Washington-based artists group, found that different formats feature almost identical playlists, sharing as much as 76 percent of the songs they play.
That's just pathetic.
[Alfred Liggins III, chief executive of Radio One:] "Is it tougher for the little guy, the mom and pop owner? Yeah. But that little guy could not provide the same level of talent and service. There aren't 10 Jay Lenos. Why wouldn't you leverage such a talent? Technology allows you to do it, so why wouldn't you?"
It's kind of funny that: 1) a TV personality is held up as a good example of why radio's 'stars' should be available to so many markets. 2) Jay Leno is an example of Prodigious Talent? BWAH ha ha ha. Please.
But there is a downside to diluting the localism that has given radio its distinctive edge since the dawn of the Top 40 era in the 1950s. Radio for decades played a crucial role in building community -- from deejays visiting high schools to run record hops to news departments that provided essential coverage of storms, riots, elections and scholastic sports.

The prime example wielded against the industry stems from an accident last year in Minot, N.D., where Clear Channel owns all six commercial stations. When a train derailment in the middle of the night released a frightening cloud of anhydrous ammonia, Minot police sought to notify the citizenry of the crisis. They called KCJB, the station designated as the local emergency broadcaster, but no one was home; the station was being run by computer, automatically passing along Clear Channel programming from another city.

Even in Washington... there is not one reporter gathering news on the street. When the planes struck on 9/11, several of Washington's FM stations had nowhere to turn but to TV; they merely fed the sound from those newscasts.

...listeners don't complain, but the lack of complaint is hardly an endorsement. Radio listenership has been in decline for years.

...the arguments against further consolidating ownership of the media are not simply nostalgia for a time when deejays served as guides to cultural shifts. ... The enormous debt and cost-cutting that follow corporate consolidation has produced a need for safe, bland and cheap programming -- and declining consumer interest.

Chain ownership has diminished both the diversity and vibrancy of discussion and debate -- and that is what the FCC is charged to protect on the public's airwaves. As Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "We can have a democratic society or we can have the concentration of great wealth in the hands of the few. We cannot have both."
The whole long article is worth reading.

On a side note, Tom Tomorrow has an interesting observation:
...if the media really was in liberal hands, then centralization of that power would be absolutely terrifying to the right wing. It would be all you ever heard about.

And yet those guys are strangely silent. On their websites, neither Bill O'Reilly nor Rush Limbaugh so much as mention the issue, even once, at least as far as I can find.
And, funny thing, this topic is barely ever discussed on television. A closing quote from CNN's so-called media criticism show:

Reliable Sources, 18 May 2003 [CNN]
Howard Kurtz: Mark Whitaker, why is the Jayson Blair debacle so much of a bigger story than last year's revelation that a reporter for the Associated Press, Christopher Newton, had fabricated material in 39 stories?

Whitaker: Well, I think for a variety of reasons. First of all it's "The New York Times." I mean, it is the most prestigious and in some ways the most powerful newspaper in the country.


Geneva Overholser: But also, we all jump on the same lily pad, we all tell the same stories all the time. We'd all be better off spending an hour talking about the FCC cross-ownership rules, but we are talking about this because that's what we're all doing.
permlink     1 comment(s)  
Steve, thanks for taking some time to speak into this intelligently wielded megaphone of yours about the important issue of media consolidation. Do you recall hearing Dan Rather exclaiming his reticence about asking the tough questions of this administration for fear of seeming unpatriotic? What a sad state of affairs this is. We need above all else for minority viewpoints, which as the Supreme Court's record shows often grow into majority ones, to be aired without the fear that the journalists daring to speak them, or even asking for truthful damn answers to important questions about national security, will suffer a professional death dealt by the mighty reservoir ink of a Rupert Murdock's snicker snee.
      ...posted by David T. on May 29, 2003 3:34 AM
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