Albion Monitor /Features
 Project Censored: 1995 Story # 1

Closing up America's "Marketplace of Ideas"

America's "marketplace of ideas," upon which our democracy rests, began shutting its doors in the summer of 1995. The harbinger of the bad news for the public was aptly titled the Telecommunications Deregulation Bill, which moved through both houses of Congress. As the name implies, the bill eliminates virtually all regulation of the United States communication industry.

As tends to be the case with most anti-consumer legislation, the bill stealthily moved under the guise of "encouraging competition"-but will, in reality, have the opposite effect of creating huge new concentrations of media power.

The most troubling aspect of the bill allows easing-and outright elimination-of current anti-trust regulations. In what the New York Times described as "a dazzling display of political influence," the nation's broadcast networks scored big in the House version of the bill by successfully getting the limits on ownership eased so that any individual company can control television stations serving up to 50 percent of the country. The Senate version of the bill provides for a more modest 35 percent coverage.

The legislation also dismantles current regulations which limit the number of radio stations that can be owned by a single company. Currently no one single company can own more than 40 stations. The new legislation would remove the limits completely-allowing one company to own every AM and FM radio station in the United States!

It also would lift the current FCC ban on joint ownership of a broadcast radio or TV license and a newspaper in the same market-allowing a single company to have 100 percent control over the three primary sources of news in a community.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader warned, "Congress is moving the law in the wrong direction, toward greater concentration and fewer choices for consumers, all under the guise of 'greater competition.' Laws and rules that limit cross-ownership and concentration not only enhance competition, a putative goal of the new legislation, but they also serve important non-economic goals, by promoting a greater diversity of programming, and enhancing opportunities for local ownership." Nader also said the predictable result of placing even greater power in the hands of fewer giant media moguls will be less diversity, more pre-packaged programming, and fewer checks on political power. "That these provisions are being included in legislation that is being sold as pro-competitive is particularly galling."

Also galling was the major media's almost complete and utter avoidance of the "monopoly ownership" factor in their reporting of the bill's progress in Congress. The threat to the nation's "marketplace of ideas" from mega-media monopolies has been a nomination to Project Censored several times in the past.

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SOURCE: CONSUMER PROJECT ON TECHNOLOGY, 7/14/95, "Federal Telecommunications Legislation: Impact on Media Concentration," by Ralph Nader, James Love, and Andrew Saindon; an Internet newsletter.

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Albion Monitor March 30, 1996 (

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