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Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Thank you, Paul Krugman, for once again nailing an issue. This time it's media deregulation. He asks why the BBC, a state-owned network, is so much more critical of its own country than, say, the vast majority of the American media, and explains that, well, when you're state-owned in a democracy, you're subject to constant scrutiny of your bias, and so the BBC is always careful to appear impartial. But when media is independently owned, there is paradoxically much more incentive to cozy up to the powers that be. Thus, when Fox wants to get into China, they pander to a repressive regime by killing any criticism of that regime from their services.

This is not unlike, Krugman says, the current FCC plan for media deregulation.

The plan's defects aside — it will further reduce the diversity of news available to most people — what struck me was the horse-trading involved. One media group wrote to Mr. Powell, dropping its opposition to part of his plan "in return for favorable commission action" on another matter. That was indiscreet, but you'd have to be very naïve not to imagine that there are a lot of implicit quid pro quos out there.

And the implicit trading surely extends to news content. Imagine a TV news executive considering whether to run a major story that might damage the Bush administration — say, a follow-up on Senator Bob Graham's charge that a Congressional report on Sept. 11 has been kept classified because it would raise embarrassing questions about the administration's performance. Surely it would occur to that executive that the administration could punish any network running that story.

This is just fucking evil. Plain and simple. This is not about wanting to hear Cat Power on K-Rock, or getting my zine into Barnes & Noble; this is freedom of the goddamn press. It's right there in the first amendment. It's important. This is not about McDonald's or Starbucks or Wal-Mart, because the right to local businesses is not in the constitution. Freedom of the press is. And fuck "deregulation"--this is a piece of legislation like any other that makes changes in the law, and those changes will, in fact, impose economic restrictions on the vast majority of press outlets, i.e. the small ones that are apt to be bought up by the conglomos. This is not an economic issue: this is a political issue. Laws are being passed that will result in further restrictions on the press, and these restrictions could be eased with regulation, since sometimes regulations are necessary to ensure freedom. That's why we have the government. This is not about ClearChannel not booking Steven Malkmus: this is freedom of the press. This is about news and how citizens are informed of the actions of their government, how they get the information that they will use when they vote for or against candidates, and in a country where the news media seems unable to challenge Ari Fleischer when he spews blatant fucking lies, this is a serious issue. This is about a governmental organization--the FCC--that is supposed to be working in the interest of the public trust to regulate the commonly-held airwaves, but is instead selling out that trust to the highest bidder, cutting backroom deals not with consumer organizations or congressional representatives but with one media monster against another. It's time we all started speaking out against the utter moral bankruptcy of the FCC, that we realized how important this issue is and started focusing on it and doing something about it to give our representatives the moral capital and political cover they need to mount an effective attack. These fuckers have sold us out for the last time. Now they're gonna go down.