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The Media

More Media Consolidation Coming Soon 200

Posted by michael
from the conglomomegahypercorp dept.
Logic Bomb writes: "According to the Washington Post, a federal appeals court yesterday made a ruling that could make the last couple years of media consolidation look like nothing. Some major FCC rules about media ownership were ruled as "arbitrary" and therefore illegal, most importantly the one preventing a company from owning the cable system and television stations in the same place. Also, though the FCC gets one more chance to defend it, the rule about a company not owning stations reaching more than 35% of the national viewership may get tossed out too."
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More Media Consolidation Coming Soon

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  • that I didn't think AOL Time Warner controlled enough of the media. Now I'll get my wish!
    • by zpengo (99887)
      When they take over Playboy, I'll finally be able to read it for the articles!

      There won't be room for pictures, what with all those advertisements for other AOL-Time-Warner products...

  • Pretty soon, (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Tebriel (192168)
    Would you like to sign up for AOL/Time-Warner's TV Service? No? Enjoy watching static...

    Soon enough, it'll be one company to rule them all...

    Seriously...what will prevent monopolies from forming if these laws are stricken?
    • Seriously...what will prevent monopolies from forming if these laws are stricken?

      Nothing. But remember, the monopoly itself isn't bad. It's the abuse of it that's the problem. Of course it's pretty clear these days that getting rid of an abusive monopoly is also a problem.

      • Also clear is the ease and frequency of abuses by said entities.

        Iamgine a world where news outlets are controlled by only a handful of companies. Competition is also good for news services as well as other industries.
      • There some places were a regulated monopoly is a good thing.
        DWP. Phones etc. But when it comes to News/Entertanement.
        There is no real benift of a monopoly.
        Remember these are ower air waves.
        They belong to us.
        The whole point of these laws is to prevent one entity from taking up too much bandwidth.
      • That is not necessarily true. It is the process of getting to monopoly status that can be illegal. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 actually provides that "no person shall monopolize, attempt to monopolize or conspire with another to monopolize interstate or foreign trade or commerce."

        The Clayton Act adds/clarifies that the monopoly must be obtained through "unreasonable methods." One of those unreasonable methods is a merger where the effect "may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly." This is how you prevent, hopefully, the super conglomerates that people have been speculating about here.
      • Nothing. But remember, the monopoly itself isn't bad. It's the abuse of it that's the problem

        Nonsense. Monopolies are bad. In a market controlled by a monopoly there is by definition no competition. Competition is critical for a free market to function as it is supposed to, creating the best products at the lowest reasonable price.

        The fact that we are foolish enough to allow monopolies to exist legally doesn't make them any less bad, it just underscores the foolishness, and the hypocracy, inherent in our economics and our politics.
    • Not totally true. I live in o ne of the areas where AT&T provides the Cable and Digital Cable. AT&T has been decent. There is a lot of channels. It used to be media one, so things won't change for me unless AOL/Time Warner were to buy AT&T (or at least there Cable Service). AT&T Cable has deals with everyone.
      • Cable, Digital Cable, Internet Service, Cell Phones, Long Distance Service, ah and soon many such conglomerits hope to be offering digital telephone services as well.

        AT&T already provides me will all of the above services minus the digital phone service, the local phone company still does that.

        ::notes that AT&T owns him::

        DAMNIT!
        • Don't worry, in a year or so Comcast will have AT&T's cable/internet division. I'm not sure which is worse though. MS has its hands in Comcast, for tech support you'll have to have MS, nothing else. They want (although I don't know if they require) you to use that remote software MS is supplying these days so they can "fix" your computer for you.
          • I had microsoft, but they don't have monthly download limits on their ISPs. . . . (yet. . . .)

            Comcast on the other hand just plain SCARES me.

            My internet CACHE monthly exceeds what they consider to be reasonable usage!

            (In other words, even if I did not DOWNLOAD any FILES or watch any MOVIES, I would STILL exceed their monthly download limits!)
    • by Com2Kid (142006)
      I consider static to be visualy enjoyable.

      ::shrugs::

      Then again I also enjoy the sound of my case fans spinning as well.

      Love your local white noise generators! :)

  • cnnbc.aol.com?
  • New! (Score:1, Funny)

    by zpengo (99887)
    Try new Time/Warner/Microsoft/AOL/Mitsubishi/IBM brand underwear! They stretch, they shrink, they changes colors, they heat, they cool, they do everything! Much better than the alternative: Not wearing underwear. At only $4,000 a pair, how can you resist? (hint: you can't, or we'll visit your house).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The FCC is a joke, and these laws have been gutted for years.

    Recommendation: stop paying attention to them, and read some stuff [zmag.org] that isn't "owned" by anybody.
  • Spectacular (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:27PM (#3039605) Homepage
    This is great news. Any empire that gets that large inevitably becomes unstable (see "Roman Empire", p. xxxvi). Maybe this is the only way to get revolution to occur.

    It's like a leashed dog. You hold the leash, the dog will pull on it. You let go, the dog will run around a bit then get tired and stop.

    • Re:Spectacular (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think that's a false analogy. Imagine if the Roman Empire (and/or any of the other great empires of history -- British, Spanish, Chinese, etc.) had been operating under the authority of an even larger government, a super-empire that was structured for the maintenance of the imperial system. That's the situation with the US government and large corporations. Now, you may argue that this super-empire itself would inevitably fall ... but in the absence of something really drastic happening, I don't expect the US government to go away in my lifetime.
    • ...the dog will run around a bit then get tired and stop.

      Or if you're lucky the dog (read abusive monopoly for the metaphorically-challenged) will do something stupid like take a rabid bite out of a kid (buy or poison smaller, weaker co's). And then it will be plain for all to see that uncontrollable dogs (abusive monopolies) must be dealt with.

      See: NOA v. Zophar's Domain, Sony v. Mod-Chips, USCS v. Lik-Sang, Rolled-up Newspaper v. Stupid Dog...

      GTRacer
      - If it's called the DMCA, could we cryosleep for 998 more years and do an end run?

    • by Chiasmus_ (171285) <ayatollah_hyperbole.yahoo@com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:42PM (#3039733) Journal
      Yes, any empire that gets larger than its carrying capacity will eventually fail. Certainly. An empire encompassing the Mediterranean, most of Europe, and some of Asia and Africa is impractical when it takes three months to get a message from one corner to the other, let alone a defense force.

      The carrying capacity of a physical government, needless to say, has grown. The carrying capacity of a media corporation is likely much larger than the earth. Your argument is optimistic, but I can't say I buy it. AOL Time Warner might crumble if it tried to overextend itself to, say, Alpha Centauri, but something tells me it'll do just fine capturing, say, 99% of the market share.
      • AOL Time Warner might crumble if it tried to overextend itself to, say, Alpha Centauri, but something tells me it'll do just fine capturing, say, 99% of the market share.



        Sure, maybe briefly, until some revolutionary technology comes along. Like, say, the availability of Firewire-based DV studios for under $3000.

        I always say, the bigger they come, the harder they fall.
      • Certainly. An empire encompassing the Mediterranean, most of Europe, and some of Asia and Africa is impractical when it takes three months to get a message from one corner to the other, let alone a defense force.

        The Roman Empire had many problems but communication was not one of them. Caesar once covered [imh.org] 800 miles in ten days on one of the Roman roads, and a courier on horseback could cover 360 miles in two and a half days. The farthest reaches of the Mediterranean [csun.edu] could be reached by sea in 7 days or so.

        The Romans built roads to every place they conquered that included relay stations that ensured regular communications.

        Legions were stationed throughout the empire so movement over long distances was not normally an issue. When a rebellion was large or sustained, legions could be collected and concentrated from neighboring provinces. There were no successful rebellions in the Roman Empire.

        By the second century AD the Romans had a sense that the Empire had reached its practical limits for administration and they began building walls and fortifications to delimit the boundaries.

        The Empire failed because of corruption, civil wars and inflation plus the barbarian invasions. But the instability did not come simply from its size.

    • It's like a leashed dog. You hold the leash, the dog will pull on it. You let go, the dog will run around a bit then get tired and stop.

      But how much damage does the dog do before it gets tired? Let a pitbull off the leash and you could have several people killed before it decides it's tired.

      Let the media off the leash and you could have any number of things killed, such as local advertising as rates fly up, independant production companies as the distribution means are controlled, PVR manufacturing as the legislation is bought and the public is left uninformed or misinformed, democracy as the public is left without alternative information sources, etc.

      Hopefully by the time the dog gets tired there's something left worth saving.
        • Let the media off the leash and you could have any number of things killed, such as local advertising as rates fly up, independant production companies as the distribution means are controlled, PVR manufacturing as the legislation is bought and the public is left uninformed or misinformed, democracy as the public is left without alternative information sources, etc.

        Something is horribly, terribly wrong and fundamentally broken when we're seriously and with good reason talking about the media as one of our most serious societal problems.

        The most important function of Media in a free society is to hold a mirror up to us. If it's that ugly, and I have reason to believe that it is, we're in serious trouble.

  • I'm all for this for as long as the cable tv and internet access charges are reasonable and not jacked up unnecessarily. A bigger entity is supposed to have the benefit of volume thus spreading costs but somehow this is tempered against efficiency which is its Achiles heel.
    • Then why do cable rates continue to climb as the industry becomes more and more consolidated? Since the '96 Telcomm Act which laregly deregulated the industry, rates have gone up 36% versus 14% inflation. I think you overlook that most cable companies operate as monopolies in a given city.
      • Re:Cheaper rates? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Sivar (316343)
        DirecTV has only gone up once in the entire company history, and that was by $2.00 for all packages. Who needs cable?
        • Good point. Satellite could shake up the pay tv market but to this point hasn't caused cable to exhibit any price discipline. Its no where near the money making machine that cable is but its new enough as a service and still growing.

          What do you think about an Echostar / DirecTV merger?
    • Um, that's only true where there are economies of scale to be exploited, usually in markets with very high fixed cost. It's not true for all markets. When it comes to media, there aren't many scale economies to exploit. This is pure greed.
      • Re:Cheaper rates? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash (241428)
        Well, right at the moment you have Faux News, CNN, MSNBC, etc, all doing the same thing. If you consolidate, you can have one news channel (presumably Fox, considering the current political climate), which saves money on employing three times as many pesky reporters as you would otherwise need. One News Channel. One Cable Network. One Media Empire. One Rei[*** ENDING REMOVED TO AVOID CONFLICT WITH GODWIN'S LAW ***]
  • by BlackSol (26036) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:30PM (#3039631)
    On the onehand these laws are limiting large companies from competing with each other, these limits tie the hands of large corporations.

    On the other hand it definately opens a huge door for monopolistic reign.

    We all agree that large corps are evil but we love to pay $29.95 for highspeed internet access, have HDTV yesterday, have 1000 tv channels, etc.

    Its society shooting it self in the foot again. Will loosing such competitive laws and strengthening the monopoly laws possible provide a solution? Or are they the same thing and large corps just buying the laws to strengthen their strangle hold on the competition?
    • Its all in people. Theoretically these companies can be source of unlimited good for the sake of humanity. But since they got there by screwing (with) people for every penny, brainshare, I doubt much will come out of it. Why? Because people are lazy and incompetent. They are subject to external conditions, so are unreliable leaders.

      If that large company was to put all the money it gets into researching new forms of communications, entertainment that will enrich this society, albeit they are in business, not reasearch or education sphere. Most money for the length of time is their ultimate goal. Nevermind *ANY* conseqences. Thus all money will be used to extend the stanglehold of revenue streams, instead of creating the and nurturing enviroments where new ones created. It will go only as far as creating a micro managed artist group, that suppose to release frequent reports and justify their existence in terms of money they have brought into the monster.
      Ain't gonna happen.
  • If such thing happens, it will be worse then
    soviet union. The monster will try to make you watch TV day and night. They will attempt to maximize revenue from advertising. I doubt they will be stopping at anything, including 'labelling' the screen with miniadvertisements.

    Whats more, is that it would be easier for us to daemonize the monster and fight it with vengeance, for it will be evil, and we will strike down up on them, and thus they will know that we are the lord.

    BTW, I might as well go back to my country and watch TV there. At least there will be a message delivered via TV, maybe to manipulate citizens for better of government and themselves, instead of delivering drivel and random bits of sensationalism by a busload, inteleaved with advertisements to sacrifice my children for Macdonals burgers.

    No thank you.
  • Who Owns What (Score:5, Informative)

    by SkewlD00d (314017) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:32PM (#3039648)
    Who Owns What [cjr.org], the list keeps getting smaller and the entries get longer.
    • CJR's list is definitely NOT up-to-date! I looked Clearchannel which seems to control an ungodly number of radio stations, but it only list 2 stations in Dallas. A search on Clearchannel's Page displayed 7 stations...

      A quick look at several other Metro areas showed many missing stations.

      Apparently, they can't keep up with the consolidations.... ;-)

      • Re:Who Owns What (Score:2, Interesting)

        Not to mention the fact that there's evidence that clear channel creates psuedo-companies to own stations so that they can skirt the current rules. There's no telling how many they actually own.
  • by Mr. Mikey (17567) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:32PM (#3039653)
    When one corporation owns all the news outlets, they can decide what you see and hear, and have the money to buy whatever legislation or legal shielding they need. "But, I get my news from the net!" That's great... until they restrict that too. "But, some entrepreneur will start their own news service" Yes, perhaps... until OneCorp buys the right politicians, or puts pressure on your ISP. A nightmare.
    • This decision, as far as I can tell, is not overturning Sherman Anti-Trust or Clayton Acts. You may have several huge companies with unprecedented control over the media but you would never have one corporation owning everything.
      • The difference with a media monopoly: the public avenues of communication get choked off. By analogy, what if you wanted to ship physical evidence of something from point A to point B, but this something was a crime committed by the company that bought FedEx, UPS, and the USPS (from the government, after lubricating enough hands with money to get any restrictions against said purchase lifted)? Said company could price all other local carriers out of business, then refuse to accept (or "lose") your package. Want to complain? Some critical part of the filing process can only be done by registered mail...by USPS. Since the politicians never hear from you (since every message you send gets blocked), you're "obviously" satisfied with this service...
    • by andaru (535590)
      You are very correct, sir.

      The best way I can see to fight this is to vary your news sources. Read the little guy (if you can find him) as well as the mainstream news. Check out several sources from both.

      Comparing an article on CNN's site to an article on the BBC's site can really be enlightening. On the same day, CNN failed to report 20,000 Israelis demonstrating for peace with Palestine, while the BBC stuck it at the bottom of an article summarizing the latest violence. I would think that since violence in the Middle East is the status quo, talk of peace is far more newsworthy.

      Another comparison is when Bush caused the Yen to tumble during his speech by using the wrong economic term (devaluation instead of deflation - suggesting to some that he was supporting artificial devaluation of the Yen in order to make exports more attractive to consumers, when he was really just referring to bad things already going on with the Japanese economy).

      The BBC used the occasion to print an entire article (quite amusing, but also quite editorial) describing the incident and recalling other times Bush has misspoken, ending with the observation that somehow, despite his obvious stupidity and incompetence, he was still extremely popular with the American people. CNN covered the speech about Japan's economic troubles, but made no mention whatsoever of the economic troubles that the speech caused. ABC briefly mentioned it at the bottom.

      Every news source I know of is biased in some way, and over the years it seems that journalists have blurred the lines between news and editorialism more and more (they are both good to have, but should be properly labeled).

      Reading different sources can often tell you just as much about these companies' motives as it can fill in your understanding of what actually happened.

      Even reading news from fanatical and therefore unreliable sources tells you what various extremists are thinking and alerts you to the subject so that you can do your own research.

      And to be trite, every lie that you spot shows you some truth about the liar.

  • great quote (Score:3, Funny)

    by elmegil (12001) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:32PM (#3039654) Homepage Journal
    Somehow the slashquote:

    "Sometimes insanity is the only alternative" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

    Just seems so appropriate.

  • by Riskable (19437) <YouKnowWho@YouKnowWhat.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:33PM (#3039659) Homepage Journal
    The reason why these restrictions were put into place were pretty much for NEWS. That way, you would never have just one (or even two) sources reporting the news (in theory, the stations will correct eachother and ferociously try to "get the scoop" first). It was to create competition and better the general quality of the content on your TV stations. The separation of local and cable-based viewership was also thought to be necessary in this regard.

    However, in recent years, companies that wish they could merge, but can't due to regulations, have found the perfect way around the problem: Content sharing agreements.

    So instead of having to come up with ORIGINAL programming, news, and movies, they can just copy eachother's work. These sharing agreements also cross into paper and Internet media as well.

    So it used to be that if media company X did something terrible, companies Y and Z would report on it. However, nowadays we'll see a content sharing agreement between company X and Y, with Z sharing content with Y as well. Since none of them want to lose their 'agreements' they won't say anything bad about eachother... Or resist buying into 3rd party content.

    This way they don't have to merge and they don't have to share revenues, but they can save a ton of money--at the cost of original programming and the public's best interest.
    • by Keith Mickunas (460655) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @05:06PM (#3039922) Homepage
      Not only was it for protection of different news sources, but it also keeps advertising rates in check. There are some suits going on regarding clear channel. I hate to sound like a clear channel taking over the world alarmist because I've already posted once about them, but they are a problem. I read a while back (sorry I don't have a link handy) that they sometimes sell radio stations to small companies, whose ownership is unclear, when they approach the limit in a particular market. Then they operate that station for the other company. Some of these things are fact, the unclear thing is the ownership of the small company.

      The point is, when one media conglomerate controls a significant amount of a single media type (radio, TV, newspaper) in one market, they then control the ad rates in that market. That's a major problem.
    • Here's why it does matter. Say the radio, newspaper and tv for a specific market (ie, city) in the future fall under one media company. Then, at some time after that there is some event (think terrorism or massive civil disobedience). Now, you and I, in a situation like this will not turn to tv or radio to get our news. We'll go to the internet. But, what about all those people that rely on the traditional outlets? They could be easily duped by that media empire.

      Before you say this is unrealistic and absurd, think about 9/11 and extend it a little. Say there were more bombs (think Israel and the consistent loss of life there). In this type of situation, I think it would be dangerous for one company to control all traditional media outlets.
    • I think that the rationale was not so much about improving quality, but about preventing companies from using a local media monopoly to control public opinion. A company with a media monopoly has incredible sway with the politicians, as they control the news AND the political advertising.

      At least with different corporations in control of different local media, although you still get corporations telling you what to think, at least you get a few different corporations telling you what to think (maybe one is owned by a Republican and one by a Democrat, or one owner owns lots of Sun's stock, while another is heavily invested in MS.

  • www.aoltimewarnercnnattcomcastnbcabccbscisco.com
  • If everybody stopped watching the idiot box then the big media companies wouldn't have the cash to buy everybody out.
    • Yeah and why we're at it we can do the following to strike back against media:

      1. stop going to movies
      2. stop listening to the radio
      3. stop using broadband
      4. stop renting movies
      5. stop reading newspapers
      6. stop reading most magazines

      Since these are all things the media either directly controls or has great influence over. If these things were to happen we'd also probably see the death of advertising as we know it.

      Of course, if people would turn off TV they might have time to do things like raise their kids or volunteer for something. But this is America!
  • Arbitrary? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:35PM (#3039677)
    Some major FCC rules about media ownership were ruled as "arbitrary"

    This is great news. There are thousands of arbitrary laws on the books that must now be repealed. Let's start with this one: in my state, you can't buy beer on Sundays before noon. What's up with that? Why not Tuesdays 2-6 p.m.?

    • Mass-of-two-shits (Massachusetts) has no alcohol sales (almost) all day on Sunday, which should be unconstitutional given that it respects one religion's sabbath over another's.

      It also leads to some amusing and disturbing side effects.

      Disturbing: Every Sunday, the bootleggers come out. They come around to all of the homeless shelters and other hangouts for alcoholics and sell marked-up alcohol that they bought on Saturday. Then they turn around and buy crack with the profits. All it takes is one day of prohibition to have a black market and bootleggers.

      Amusing: Since everybody was flocking to NH on Sunday to buy their booze, they changed the law so that towns which were within 10 miles of the NH border could sell alcohol on Sunday. The message: God doesn't want you to drink on Sunday, but he REALLY doesn't want you to give your money to NH!

      (New Hampshire - Live free or die making licence plates)

  • In this fday and age of heightened anti-trust awareness (Microsoft, the failed GE/Honeywell merger, the troubled HP/Compaq proposed merger) and the media proclaiming it as a Bad Thing, why all this talk of consolidating media companies?

    Note that the media companies aren't complaining about monopoly power here as well.
  • "One ring to bind them all"... oh sorry, never mind...
  • If you're going to spread propaganda, which is the case anyway, consolidation provides greater control of airwaves/mindshare. Could anything suck more than American media? Does anybody listen to the radio anymore?
  • "A federal appeals court yesterday nullified two long-standing government rules limiting the size of the world's largest media companies, opening the door to a new wave of mergers among cable television conglomerates and broadcast companies."

    I can think of only one reason why this would occur, well several, but they are all related.

    1) Political pressure.
    2) Money
    3) Wash my back I wash yours-type activities.

    Why would this suddenly be changed?
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:41PM (#3039727) Homepage
    I love people who are constantly arguing against the Microsoft monopoly on Slashdot, as if it were the most important thing in the world. It reminds me of people who fight for the lives of animals but could care less that a war is going on.

    THESE mergers are the killers, people. When you own all the media, all the ways to send it, and the people and resources to shape it, you have enormous power. Who cares if one company runs the software under a couple hundred million computers. We're talking BILLIONS of people affected by the media they see, hear, and consume.

    • 1) Viacom, News Corp, AOHell are the sellers.

      2) Reuters, AP, UPI, AFX are the producters.

      Who are these companies, who owns them, what do they do and who runs them?

    • by akb (39826) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @05:26PM (#3040072)
      Actually, Microsoft is becoming a media giant and its looks like it will be able to join the club. Bill Gates and Paul Allen have been investing in cable, telco, etc forever. Microsoft is bankrolling the Comcast / ATT merger, and has a plethora of media interests MSNBC, MSN, ISP for QWEST, ISP for DirecTV (and maybe soon Echostar as well), Xbox, cell phones, set top boxes. They are extraordinarily well positioned for broadband / interactive TV / video on demand services that are about to be rolled out.

      Its very clear that Microsoft has its sights set on cornering the new media market. And I agree that this pales to what they have done on the desktop.
  • So what? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Seriously, what is the big deal? You aren't being forced to watch anything. Get your news from some other source. Obvioustly, if you are reading this, ou have internet access. Who cares about cable TV?

    This sounds like justifying paranoia, as opposed to justifiable paranoia.
  • Goodbye affiliates (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:49PM (#3039776) Homepage Journal
    The rule about maximum ownership was what originally spawned the idea of national networks having local affiliate stations.

    If the 35 percent rule goes away, we'll be very likely to see the big networks simply merge with their affiliate stations, or buy them outright.
  • You can view stuff from anywhere...works great. or there's my solution. Don't watch TV. (Well..aside from occasionally catching some startrek or junkyard wars at friends and relatives houses.)

    I love how many people are here bitching about the American media...when they aren't even bound to watch it.
  • This is the court system, but I think we're just moving one step further to a Serf/Master system.

    We're becoming the Serf's, and Ultra Large Corps are becoming the masters.

    Government isn't interested in even seeming to keep such entities in check.

    We have an executive and legislative branch that is only truly responsive to large monied interests. These branches both work to stack the courts with stooges that follow the party line as much as possible.

    The manipulation of our Courts really began in earnest in the Regan administration, though I'm sure it happened to a lesser degree earlier. But Regan made it a public point to try to shape the legal system in it's image, rather than just appointing those who were strong mental thinkers, without requiring a specific "position.

    I've ranted before about the horrible state of our government, but I'll keep doing so. (For those who will immediately say "Well go live in Cuba" - I say - Piss OFF! I know that we probably have the best system around (although Canada is looking more and more attractive - taxes regardless) but having the best system around doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to improve it.) One key approach in putting the brakes on our system is a control of power/money.

    It seems that huge corporate interests are a key part of the problem. The campaign finance reform issues revolve around huge "investments" (so-called campaign contributions) to both the executive and legislative branches of government. What might help stem the problem is a smaller corporate system. Smaller corps means less power and money pooled in a single hand.

    Look at the DMCA... We have a monied interest on one hand, and virtually no money-making interests on the other hand. Tell me, how are we going to defeat this? Consumers can't really effectively fight such legislation. And these trends just continue. The end result is a killing fields/scorched earch style environment. If you aren't represented by a massive corp with lots of money and financial gain, you're just screwed. We may eventually beat the DMCA, but the interests will just continue to assult the law until they get what they want. Sure we may win the battle, but eventually we loose the war.

    Next, look at corp entities. (Lets take the defunct Value-Jet) They, as far as I can tell, intentially voliated rules that resulted in the death of 110 people. If you or I had done these things, we'd be charged with murder, and get a long prison term or the death penalty. If you're a corp, you say "Oops. Oh, by the way, we're bankrupt too - sorry." The CEO, executives and board members took home huge salaries, and all them walk away at the end of the day. If they aren't responsible for the acts of the corp, who is? What were they paid the high salary for then?

    Basically, corps have "person" status - free speech and almost every other right a "person" has, but no limited limetime, and really no real threat of criminal prosecution. Sure, they will forfit all assets, but that's not a real threat. Esp. if the corp is setup right, as a shell corp., the available assets are very minimal.

    So, in base, if we limit the rights and powers of corporations, I think we would then restore some oxygen to the "individual." Less power to corps, and more power to individuals, means a more responsive gvmt, and thus a gvmt that regulates where it must to protect the individual.

    In todays world, the individual has NO power. Legal threats (DMCA/Sony Game Boy/Mattel Web filter hack/DVD etc) are very effective, because most of us don't have anywhere near the resources to defend ourselves. Even if we did, is there a financial justification? It's WAY cheaper just to fold. But the financial justification for a huge corp is enormous(sp)!

    This comment has gotten way too long, but in general, we need an equalization of powers. The action of the courts just tilts the balance even more toward the ultra large corp, even in the face of lax regulation by the FCC. The courts ruled that the FCC, even as lax as it was, was too stringent!?*&*^!~! This is just another example of the continuing spiral that the US Gvmt is in. I hope that we can successfully counter this, 'cause if we don't, it's going to be a very sad day!
    • > Government isn't interested in even seeming to keep such entities in check.

      Look around man. This is because people keep telling the government to get less powerful, to collect less taxes, to get bigger campaigns, to not worry about soft donations, and to trust the market.

      There is no us vs. them. Don't blame the company, blame your neighbour who's obviously more pro-market than you.

      I'm not pro-market, but shit dude, everyone has been suckered. Peruse /. and look at the replys to posts demanding regulation. People honestly think its a bad thing. Poor people.
    • We need something that courts are loathe to enforce: the corporate death penalty. Yes, it endangers jobs, but we need a system to make the bigwigs responsible. And if it's possible for a corporation to be shut down for the equivalent of capital offenses, then the stockholders of that company should then be able to go after the offcers who allowed it to happen on their watch.
      • That might help, though I think that the REAL death penalty should also apply to the executives and board of directors.

        I don't think that the risk to investors is enough to actually result in change. A shell corporation doesn't have much in the way of assets and investment, and any that does occur, can be returned in profits and divs quickly. Then the risk is gone.

        Personally, though I used to _like_ the provisions in a corporation that protect the executives from liability for the acts of the corporation, I now wish we could change this.

        The CEO, other executives and BOD (Board of Directors) _ARE_ responsible for the actions of the company. That's why they get paid the big bucks. That's why they get fired when things go wrong. And that's why they should be civially and criminally responsible for the acts of the corps that they run.

        You hear Ken Lay say - I need a big salary, and stock options because I am responsible for this company, and I am directing it in these profitable times in essence - I am the main man responsible for the "good times" TM.

        But, when things go wrong...the story changes. Oh, I'm just the stooge running things - don't ask me, I only work here. I shouldn't be held responsible, they did it behind my back etc.

        Sheesh, either you're responsoble, or you're not. If not, then give back all your pay. If you are, then quit whining, and become Bubba's slave in your nearby max-security prison.
  • OK, I just stopped feeling bad about downloading TV programs of the net.

    Yer not gonna use -my- money to buy/sell your ridiculous laws!
  • by joss (1346) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @04:53PM (#3039805) Homepage
    Western media is overwhelmingly in the hands of a handful of individuals already. Check out this article in pravda [pravda.ru]
    • It's a real problem that you now have to read Pravda [pravda.ru] to find out what the American press isn't reporting.

      Today in Pravda: Some US troops have landed in Iraq [pravda.ru], near the Turkish border. Reportedly they're supposed to stir up opposition to Saddam Hussein. This report may or may not turn out to be correct, but it's not even mentioned in the US press. If true, it's an act of war, of course.

  • the prez and his posse are considering PR campaign abroad -- some of which may even be disinformation. (i call that propoganda but that's just me.) you can read all about that here. [nytimes.com] his primary concern is that the disinformation intended for abroad might actually make it to the US. so i'm wondering, if by letting the media to consolidate, is the gummint lining up to create fewer 'points of failure'? ie. if there are hundreds of news/media agencies, you can't really get all of them on your side. with just a handful of agencies, it might be easier to actually 'control' what passes thru. not questioning press ethics but when you make an offer along the lines of '.. in the interest of national security..." you know what i mean..
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I found this interesting ...

    "The court also rejected arguments that consolidation among cable and broadcast properties would limit a community's sources of local news and public affairs programming. The court noted that the number of television stations had dramatically increased in the more than 30 years since the rule was put in place, rendering such concerns largely obsolete."


    Does it really matter how many stations are broadcasting the same shows and commercials? Was this actually a deciding factor in their decision? How many ways can you "repackage" the same news story to give it that "spin" for another waste of a half hour or hour on a different channel?

    Won't this be great? One company to rule them all (heh ;)) That way they can mass market whatever they want to all the idiot box addicts out there.

    Of course when they cancel the sci-fi network I will be appropriately irritated... and at the same time have more free time to spend on more creative, entertaining, useful pursuits!
  • It's all monolithic in the US anyway. They're all Statists. They just breathlessly regurgitate all the White House and Pentagon press releases.

  • by termchimp (173199) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @05:12PM (#3039963)
    the rule about a company not owning stations reaching more than 35% of the national viewership may get tossed out too

    This reminds me of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which within a brief span of years turned my favorite radio station (among others in the Denver area [westernstatic.com]) into a sleek, pop spewing, Clear Channel Crap Spigot [ktcl.com]. Yay for mega-conglomoration!

    Thank God for college radio. [kcsufm.com]

  • Governments defend legally defined rights. Why, then, aren't those in posession of said rights paying for the cost of protecting them?

    If you want to know where this unbridled centralization comes from, it is the fact that economic activity is being taxed rather than net assets.

    Why not warriors insurance [geocities.com] where governments and international mutual defense treaties are replaced by reinsurance networks that indemnify in the event of loss of asset value due to force or fraud? The insurance premiums could be paid in scrip issued by the insurance companies, the insurance companies could adjust their premiums to account for risky behavior by their clients (like building huge fixed assets in placed like NYC for people who go around the world tormenting Muslims), and the global markets including varieties of scrip would naturally turn into a reinsurance network supporting emergency action by groups of said warrior insurers.

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @05:46PM (#3040242) Homepage
    ... then stop voting for it. The sooner people stop voting for the Demopublican Party, the sooner we can wrest control of our country/airwaves/lives back from corporations.


    As for people who argue that voting for a 3rd party is 'throwing your vote away', I submit that not voting for a 3rd party is throwing your vote away, since it doesn't much matter whether you vote democratic or republican anymore; either way you are just voting for corporate control of government.


    As for which 3rd party to vote for, I prefer the Green party (natch) because they don't accept contributions from corporations, but there are probably other good 3rd parties out there as well. Voting for any of them will at least signal your discontent with the status quo, and maybe the demos/repubs will take notice and clean up their act (well.... could happen, anyway)

  • by GlenRaphael (8539) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @05:49PM (#3040263) Homepage
    Any company should be allowed to own enough stations to reach 100% of the market. There's nothing magical about the 35% rule that makes competition within a given market more likely. It's arbitrary, like the court said.

    A 35% rule doesn't guarantee competition. Rather, it could easily allow total monopoly over news coverage in each region with three oligopolies dividing up the US such that every citizen has access to only one.

    A 100% rule doesn't prevent competition. Under a 100% rule we could still have twenty fiercely competitive companies with nationwide coverage. For instance, ABC might be channel 7 across the entire United States, NBC might be channel 11 across the entire United States, and so on for another dozen or more companies. Each network has a potential reach of 100%, but none of them actually does reach all those subscribers except when their programming is sufficiently compelling that viewers choose to watch it.

    Open competition is good. Forcing companies to jump through hoops to provide the nationwide coverage their customers want, is bad. The court made the right call.

  • Interesting that cnnfn reports today the significant media mergers are unlikely to actually occur due to financial problems in the industry.

    http://money.cnn.com/2002/02/20/investing/q_medi a/

  • While my own personal tastes in media probably don't apply to the vast majority of the world, I find that I tire quickly of media when all the different stations/channels/websites show exactly the same thing, and to that end I tend to find more alternative media outlets for my media.

    The over-hyped, over-commercialized, formulaic crap that Clear Channel and the like own on the radio has given me plenty of incentive to listen to NPR more.

    When I watch TV most of the time I end up watching origina content that tends not to be on other channels. Instead of watching the stuff on typical broadcast TV (and all the "touching, emotional, heart-warming and timely" crap that comes with it), I end up watching A&E, Discovery and Cartoon Network when I have cable/satellite, and mostly PBS when I don't.

    As for news on the internet, I barely bother with American news outlets any more. I get the generalized stuff from the BBC, CBC, and occasionally ABC (the Australian one), and go to Stratfor for my in-depth stuff. Even the People's Daily has something new and interesting when compared to the recycled AP/Reuters stuff that permeates the US. And at least I KNOW where the bias is there.

    Just because Network A has five viewers and Network B has five doesn't mean that buying them both will net you ten.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @07:46PM (#3040899) Homepage Journal
    Obviously consolidation of the media has been going on for some time. This article [theatlantic.com] is interesting because it was published in 1968, before the rise of cable networks, before Fox, before Sony got into entertainment distribution, before NBC/GE, before ABC/Disney.

    Interestingly, the consolidation hasn't thwarted competition. It has, however, thwarted disemmination of information from a variety of sources - just as Commissioner Johnson warned back in 1968.

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @08:04PM (#3041025) Homepage Journal
    Basic economics tell us that this is a Good Thing! Really!

    Just think. Because of the economics of scale, larger media companies will be able to produce programming more cheaply, using larger, more efficient studios (plants). They can then spend the surplus on better scripts, better actors, fancier sets and more realistic special effects.

    Also, more customers, providing more input, will mean large media companies have an overall better picture of exactly what people want!

    The result: Better programming, and news tailored to exactly fit the world-view of their customers, promoting happier viewers who buy more product, resulting in even greater profits and even more money spent to produce even better programming!

    You'll see. It will turn out just fine. Don't worry. Go back to sleep . . . we'll take care of things.

    -- Stefan "Hey, why aren't my 'searing sarcasm' tags not working" Jones

  • I realized the media companies were too big when (Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw, can't remember which) said one night: "MP3.com is being sued over a service that allows people to listen to music from CDs without paying." And that's it. No explanation about how the system required you to put in a physical CD to activate the tracks. You can say the same thing about your home CD player.

    "Of course!" I said to myself. "The news shows are OWNED by the same companies putting out the CDs! What a conflict of interest."

    So, as far as I'm concerned, unless I can verify otherwise, I assume the big media companies (the fourth branch of the US government, the Ministry of Media) are involved with everything I see on TV, every book or magazine I read, every CD I buy, and every radio station tune into.

    Just wait, after UniMediaCorp is created, you won't even HEAR about these sorts of stories, and the FCC will become an amusing anachronism.

  • The FCC made some arbitrary rules? What are the chances of THAT happening?

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