Wednesday, June 11, 2003

So I've been meaning to write about the FCC for the last week, but didn't get around to it until now. Frankly, I'm a little disturbed. As of Monday, June 2, it is easier for large companies to wield more ownership and influence in a given market, and thus to limit the diversity of opinions in each area. Here's what the FCC decided (all this information courtesy the San Francisco Chronicle, June 3):
-A single company can now own television stations reaching up to 45% of the nation, up from 35%
-Companies could now own both a newspaper and television station in the same market, which was previously prohibited
-Companies in large markets (those containing 18 or more TV stations) can now own three stations, up from 2

So what's wrong with that? My fear is that the more the larger companies can own, the more they can flood the market, raise ownership prices through competition, and consequently drive out independent stations from voicing an independent set of opinions. I also contend that, for the most part, it is the media, not the people, who decide which news stories are most important, most interesting, and most compelling to the consumers; when fewer people control information, fewer people will decide which issues are important to the public. The public, though companies will own three stations and operate under the auspices of voicing three different opinions, will be subject to the same information, just regurgiated three slightly different ways. Independent (and let's face it, liberal) opinions cannot survive in this climate; large companies will not provide news that challenges their viewers'/readers'/listners' perceptions.

As it is, seven companies own 80% of television stations, two companies own 40%. Seven owners decide four fifths of what goes into America's homes. And yet there are seemingly so many local stations, so many news sources, so many different opportunities to get contrasting opinions. But if all these stations are controlled by the same forces, no one gets a chance to oppose the norm. Do you doubt there's some oppression of challenging news stories? Otherwise, why would this entire FCC decision be such unpopular news? How many local or even national stations aired the story for more that one day? No, instead the market is stuffed with feel-good stories about kidnapees averting their abducters and fear-inducing tales of teenagers seeing "2 Fast 2 Furious" and then street racing later that night. (By the way, no disrespect meant towards that girl's family. It's a great story.) And yet I've had to search tirelessly for information about the court's ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance.

Oh, I discovered a very swell advocacy-type website the other day when I was looking for stuff about the FCC. You should check it out.

And, my final word on Hail to the Thief. Very good. Any Radiohead fan ought to love it as I do. But I feel they've fallen into a formula and are content with it. Each song on the album has the same sound as the others, and could just as easily be off of Amnesiac or Kid A. I love their atmosphere, but I would love them to develop a different atmosphere. Something new, something more indicative of their creativity. I know the comparison isn't fair, but in the same duration between OK Computer and Hail to the Thief (6 years, that is), my friends the Beatles went from stupid poppy Please Please Me to amazingly different The Beatles (aka the White Album), with Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour (and five others) in between. Hail to the Thief is more of the same very good music.


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