BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Monday, June 02, 2003


Well, the FCC vote went down this morning.

What does this ruling mean? Simply put, from the simple pages of the USA Today (not from the “Think & Do” pages, but from the part with the articles), Michael Powell has decided to:

• Let companies (like News Corp, Disney, et al) own more TV stations nationwide and in a city.

• Allow ownership of a newspaper and TV stations in the same market.

• Relax limits on how many radio and TV stations a company can own in a market.

“So what?”

“Who cares?”

“What does that mean to me?”

Consolidation of content? The death of the independent media? Another important step toward the complete Wal-Martization of America?

Don’t know, but here’s one example of what might happen, from today’s NY Times:

“When viewers in Flint, Mich., tuned in to the Fox 66 ‘News at 10’ last Thursday night, the station's resident firebrand, Mark Hyman, was at the ready to serve up some passionate punditry.”

"Black, Asian and Hispanic seniors are graduating from colleges this spring in ethnically themed ceremonies that are out of bounds for whites," Mr. Hyman, the station's commentator, inveighed. Before passing the camera's attention back to his colleagues on the Flint news team, he added, "Segregated ceremonies have no place in America's college campuses."

(There’s a quasi-racist, anti-minority agenda with Hyman’s editorial, but then again, he is speaking to a “19th Century Fox audience,” ie an audience filled with lots of angry white guys. I digress; back to the article.)

“If Mr. Hyman's tan looked out of place in central Michigan, or if his commentary seemed ill suited to a city with a large population of minority groups, there was good reason. Mr. Hyman was actually in a studio just outside Baltimore, not sharing a set with the Flint news team. As he does most nights, Mr. Hyman also addressed audiences of local news programs in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Rochester, from right where he sat in Hunt Valley, Md.”

“The experiment began in late October at Sinclair's Flint station, WSMH, a Fox affiliate. WSMH's new 10 p.m. newscast begins with a Flint-based team that presents seven minutes of local news. After a commercial break, an anchor on a similar set in Maryland presents national and international news, which is also delivered live to other Sinclair stations around the country with a graphic that labels it ‘News Central.’ At another point, the Flint-based anchor may banter about the frigid local weather with one of the meteorologists in the Maryland studio who will act as if he were in Flint. On Friday, Scott Padgett, a Sinclair anchor in Baltimore, said there would be a high of ‘57 for us here in Flint."

You see, it’s cheaper for the big company to produce one “local newscast” and swap it out to local stations around the country. The local affiliate can produce it’s own mini-segment and insert it into the broadcast to make it “look like” the whole newscast is “local.” The upside; everyone saves $. The downside; the parent company controls the flow of information to the smaller community.

Clear Channel does the same thing with its radio stations around the country. Listening to a KISS FM station in Salt Lake? Sorry, but that pleasant, non-threatening female voice you’re hearing between Britney and Justin songs is coming from a studio in Burbank.

“But, the KISS FM office is right around the corner from the Tabernacle.”

Trust me; there are two people in that office (to make sure that the broadcast is working locally) and that pleasant, non-threatening female voice is coming from a little room on Hollywood Way. Not far from the Burbank Airport. And, you can “hear” that same pleasant, non-threatening female voice in Denver, Albuquerque, Indianapolis, and, oh, about 62 other American cities.

As far as I’m concerned, the FCC should protect OUR interests. What those “interests are”…well, that’s an incredibly divisive debate. Having said that…

Did Clear Channel have our best interests at heart when it began to homogenize the radio stations it purchased (by the truckloads) after the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Fuck no. Their only interest after deregulation was “profit margin.”

Will Rupert have our best interests at heart when he goes on his next shopping spree? Gee, I wonder. Guaranteed, if you live in a market dominated by News Corp, the only “news” you’ll ever see or hear will be limited to junk like, “What Laci Peterson’s baby would’ve looked like, news at 10” or “Why you suck if you don’t have the new Nokia cell phone” or “Kelly Clarkson wows troops in Tehran; “She’s the Bomb,” cry victorious US soldiers.”

To me, brain cancer.

One of the basic tenets of liberalism is this: left unchecked, the mechanisms of the “free market” will be hijacked by PIRATES. No one wants to admit it, but “capitalism” creates a lot of great opportunities men who have the tools to manipulate the system. Regulation is a “supposed” to be a tool to fend off manipulation. Most of the time, the free market system works perfectly. But sometimes, the system is hijacked, and the little guy (the consumer or the small business owner) takes it right in the face.

That’s what I’m worried about.

Read Ted Turner’s comments from this morning’s USA Today.

(“Dude, what up? That’s the your second USA today reference.”
What can I say; they decided to print information this morning.)

"There is no company out there — not Viacom, News Corp. (which owns Fox) or Disney, the big television powers — that really has the public interest primarily at heart," he says. "They have their own selfish financial interest at heart, and they would do just about anything for a buck. I hate to say that, but it's true."

Yes, Ted is bitter because he’s been put out to pasture, but his comments are still “interesting.” We’ll just have to wait and see what the big television powers do with this new ruling.

I have separate thoughts on the issues related to network television production, and will formulate them at a later date.

I’m no media expert, but I play one in real life. And I just can’t help but feel that THIS is what Michael Powell was “hired” to do.

Side note - don’t be fooled by the internet argument, either. It’s virtually impossible for the average Joe to find “independent thought” on the web unless he knows exactly how to find it. Again, from Hindman and Cukier’s editorial in today’s NY Times: “Relying on links and search engines, most people are directed to a few very successful sites; the rest remain invisible to the majority of users. The result is that there's an even greater media concentration online than in the offline world.”

And guess who owns the most powerful search engines?

Stay tuned.


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