Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Do We Have A "Free" Press? We Do Not.

On Phil's blog a commenter, AMviennaVA, wrote

"The Bushies are greatly at fault. But I place greater fault at the feet of the press. Why were they, and why are they, so docile and compliant? As Helen Thomas put it, "where is everybody, for God's sakes?""

I felt that this question deserves its own post.

So where is "Everybody?" "Everybody" is not a reporter. "Everybody" may want the truth to come out, but the networks are owned by only a few major corporations and a tiny elite of incredibly rich people. They, as all interest groups do, serve their own interests.

Our democratic process is drowned out by the noise created by the right-wing owned media. This is the same "mainstream media" excoriated by the right wing for ANY reports not favorable to their ideology - remember when the criticism of the reporting in Iraq was that it did not report all the "good news" from Iraq, as if the reports of growing chaos and anarchy and bloodshed were false?

Well, five years on, were they false? Doesn't matter, as shown by the ABC "News" democratic candidate debate, they are all drinking the right-wing KoolAid now. All the attention of Rev. Wright, none of Rev. Hagee? Why?

Where was our 4th estate, our free press uncontrolled by the government that our republic relies upon when the People make their decisions?

Here is where the media was:

* Disney, "New" Viacom (and its former parent CBS Corporation, the former "Old" Viacom), TimeWarner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG, and General Electric together own more than 90% of the media holdings in the United States.

* Among other assets, Disney owns ABC, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, ESPN, and Miramax Films.

* CBS Corporation owns CBS, CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Radio), Simon & Schuster editing group, a 50% ownership stake in The CW, etc.

* Time Warner owns CNN, Time, AOL, a 50% ownership stake in The CW, etc.

Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate, apart of News Corp., also owns British News of the World, The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times, as well as the Sky Television network, which merged with British Satellite Broadcasting to form BSkyB; in the US, he owns the Fox Networks and the New York Post. Since 2003, he also owns 34% of DirecTV Group (formerly Hughes Electronics), operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, and Intermix Media (creators of since 2005. He recently purchased the Wall Street Journal and is in the process of firing those whose opinions he dislikes and replacing them with fellow right-wing "true believers."

On June 2, 2003, FCC, in a 3-2 vote under Chairman Michael Powell, approved new media ownership laws that removed many of the restrictions previously imposed to limit ownership of media within a local area. The changes were not, as is customarily done, made available to the public for a comment period.

* Single-company ownership of media in a given market is now permitted up to 45% (formerly 35%, up from 25% in 1985) of that market.

* Restrictions on newspaper and TV station ownership in the same market were removed.

* All TV channels, magazines, newspapers, cable, and Internet services are now counted, weighted based on people's average tendency to find news on that medium. At the same time, whether a channel actually contains news is no longer considered in counting the percentage of a medium owned by one owner.

* Previous requirements for periodic review of license have been changed. Licenses are no longer reviewed for "public-interest" considerations.

Cross-Ownership Proceedings

The FCC voted December 18, 2007 to relax media ownership rules, including a statute that forbids a single company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin circulated the plan in October 2007.

Martin's justification for the rule change is to ensure the viability of America's newspapers and to address issues raised in Powell's 2003 FCC decision that was later struck down by the courts. The FCC held six hearings around the country to receive public input from individuals, broadcasters and corporations. Because of the lack of discussion during the 2003 proceedings, increased attention as been paid to ensuring that the FCC engages in proper dialogue with the public regarding its current rules change.

FCC Commissioners Deborah Taylor-Tate and Robert McDowell joined Chairman Martin in voting in favor of the rule change. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats, opposed the change.

In short, we do not have government-controlled media in America, but we do not have a free press either. Instead we have big business-controlled media AND big business-controlled government.

Corporate "ownership" of our government is a textbook perfect definition of fascism. No, not Nazism, with its anti-antisemitism - rather simple fascism, which puts the interests of the wealthy ahead of the interests of the people.

We need to keep fighting the American Revolution. If we don't our "liberty" is just a product name for a jeep.

In the meantime, Wolfie and Bushco will not only "get away with it," if McCain is elected they will continue their fascist path.

I know this makes me sound like a conspiracy nut, and I wish that was all I was, but the war in Iraq and the mess here at home are facts, not conspiracy theories. I wish I were wrong. You readers know I am not.

The question is, what can we do to save our liberty from rapacious corporations willing to stop at nothing to maintain profits and control? If we have a corporate-controlled press, how do we stop the madness? How do we even debate it when it turns into a shouting match, with the loudest shouts coming from those who want to drown out debate and information in the first place?

What do we do when our "free press" is very expensive and owned by the "bad guys?" What do we do now?


FDChief said...

Well, at the risk of being facile - this very website is the "free" press of the moment. It is the pamphlet of the 21st Century, the "Common Sense" of the electronic age.

I know that I don't even bother to listen to anything that the Murdochites produce except for laughs. And anything I hear on the networks or the calbe news stations gets checked out at my news sources on the 'Net. If badger over at "missing links", the crew over at abu muqwama, or those of us here have evidence to the contrary I'll tend to believe the bloggers and netsiders before the "mainstream" sources.

Still. You're right, JD. This is a problem, and has contributed immensely to the death of our Republic.

pluto said...

JD's done his homework as usual but there's a couple of layers of the cake that he didn't mention.

Surprisingly few of the news sources actually bother with keeping a reasonable number of reporters on staff. Three news services, Bloomberg, AP, and Reuters deliver most of the news to the MSM, which puts its own local spin on the news service stories and publishes the stories as their own without any fact checking.

Rush Limbaugh, of all people, tipped me off to this when he was griping about the "liberal" media and showing that most news sources were using an underlying story as their source. He argues that it is part of a liberal conspiracy, which, as JD shows, is pure hokum (as usual) on Limbaugh's part.

The real reason that the media doesn't have reporters anymore is simple, profit. News organizations are squeezed ever harder to produce more profit with fewer resources. TV nightly news is expected to return an annual 22% profit in an era of falling revenue. The first thing to go was deep content of the sort we here like to discuss, the second was anything that didn't relate to sports or rock star transgressions (both of which sell very well). Who knows what will go next, and more important, whether we'll miss it.

FDC has pointed out that this website is free press. True but it is hardly the medium of the masses. There is a growing underground set of fairly reliable news and opinion sources on the net but it is NEVER going to reach more than 10% of the electorate because it takes effort to reach out and find these sources.

This means that 90% of the voters will go into the polls in November using only Fox News and other such "sources" to make their decisions. How truly wonderful...

On a related note I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the Democratic party version of Russian roulette. Come on, guys, pick a winner and move on! Think about this for a second, you're giving the Republicans free lessons on how to beat you this fall. Where's the sense in that?

Why is my man Obama taking advice from Karl Rove on how to hold off Hilary? WTF? There's got to be a really interesting story in THAT! Why doesn't the MSM investigate that rather than watching Britany Spears self-destruct?

Aviator47 said...


You have to define what you mean by "Press" and what you mean by "Free".

Obviously, Mr Murdoch is free to publish whatever he pleases as are any other publishers in the US.

The issue is what pleases them, and for the vast majority of publishers, it's profit. FOX rakes in the $$$ because they pander to a demographic that sells ad time.

Of course, when someone has the resources of a Mr Rupert M, then they can afford to risk profits to use their media empire to hawk their values. Indeed, they are "free" to do so.

When I lived in the States, a friend asked me if I watched a Fox News special the night before. I said that I didn't. "Don't you keep that channel on most of the time?" I said that I didn't. He, of course, asked why, and I responded, "Fox targets a specific audience that is receptive and in need of the news as Fox sees it. Just like commercials. I don't watch feminine hygiene commercials and I don't watch Fox. They are both equally irrelevant to me."

Let Tampax be free to sell their product and Murdoch to sell his. But, however, do not, as Mr FCC Powell wished to do, make the field favorable only to the rich. In that regard, a little less "freedom" is needed to guard everyone's freedom.


seydlitz89 said...


You can go back with this argument all the way to the First World War and the relationship between the "press" and democracy . . .

Back then people like Walter Lippmann, and Max Weber were questioning exactly how to define democracy within the mass state, how does that guarantee - freedom for the individual but within a society - work anyhow?

With all that money interest thrown in . . . ? how does that work again?

They never figured it out.

basilbeast said...

To aviator47:

"alethos anesti!"

I've been writing this all along, we have for the most part crap for media.



Corner Stone said...

seydlitz -
You've been nibbling round the edges for quite some time now both here and at Phil's new place regarding psy-ops, domestic and others et al. If I may be so bold - how about a longer thesis tying together your thoughts on what we've come through and where it may be leading us to?

Publius said...

Sorry, JD, the press is free. Free to publish whatever they want. You (and I) just happen to dislike a lot of what they serve us. You know, the American press—or media, given the new forms—has always been owned and operated by various forms of plutocrat. Big media has always been big business; that's why this new-fangled Internet is welcomed by all of us inveterate news junkies who would really like to see something other than the "truth" as conceived by "elites."

Seydlitz brings up an important point. If you haven't checked out the profound differences between Lippman and Weber, by all means do so. Lippman, the journalistic icon, whom many in the business worship, was in fact an authoritarian. He believed in rule of the "elite" and had no patience for input from the likes of us.

Leaving the issue of media ownership aside, one of the very real problems we have in ferreting out the truth these days is that so many "journalists," by virtue of the obscene amount of money they make and the company they keep, now view themselves as "elite." Imagine how Mencken would have reacted to Katie Couric or Friedman.

The journalistic side of the American media is still dominated by the likes of Lippman. Throw in the Murdochs and you've got a potent combination, often aimed at obfuscation or selling a particular point of view.

That's why you should post more often, JD.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I have trouble loggin in. . .


Thanks for the kind words.

As to domestic psyops: The latest William Pfaff as I linked on PC Disneyland thread concerning sending a message, which is typical for this form of war. They are operating with but one defensive center of gravity, that being US public opinion.

Yes, Publius, the differences between Weber and Lippmann . . . well if Weber had lived to be a 100, he would have known about 22 November 1963 and known where he was when JFK had been shot. Who knows the whole "counter-culture" movement might have been very different.

And Lippmann was every bit the elitist that you say, but he came by it "honestly" by way of his own analysis. I mean one could read "The Phantom Public" different ways . . . Still, quite the opposite to Weber, who is one of my "heroes" . . .