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Wayne Post
  • BILL MOYERS AND MICHAEL WINSHIP: FCC may give Murdoch a very merry Christmas

  • Once again, massive media conglomerates would be given free rein to gobble up more and more of our communications outlets, increasing their already considerable power, destroying independent voices, diluting or eradicating local news and community affairs coverage, eliminating competition and stomping even further on diversity.

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  • Until now, this hasn’t been the best year for media mogul Rupert Murdoch. For one, none of the Republicans who had been on the payroll of his Fox News Channel — not Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin — became this year’s GOP nominee for president.
    Oh sure, when Mitt Romney got the nod instead, Murdoch’s TV and newspaper empire backed him big time, but on Election Night, Fox pundits like Dick Morris and Karl Rove had to eat crow as Barack Obama won a second term in the White House, despite their predictions of a Republican landslide.
    On top of all that, just last week the thousand-page report of an independent inquiry into the gross misconduct of the British press came out — that big scandal over reporters illegally hacking into people’s cell phones and committing other assorted forms of corruption, including bribery. Murdoch’s gossip sheet, The News of the World, was right at the center of it, the worst offender. The fallout cost Murdoch the biggest business deal of his career — the multi-billion buyout of satellite TV giant BSkyB — and the report attacked his now-defunct News of the World for its “failure of management” and “general lack of respect for individual privacy and dignity.”
    But Murdoch’s luck may be changing. Despite Fox News’ moonlighting as the propaganda ministry of the Republican Party, President Obama’s team may be making it possible for Sir Rupert to increase his power, perversely rewarding the man who did his best to make sure Obama didn’t have a second term. The Federal Communications Commission could be preparing him one big Christmas present, the kind of gift that keeps on giving — unless we all get together and do something.
    All indications are that Murdoch has his eye on two of the last remaining big newspapers in America — the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, each owned by the now bankrupt Tribune Company. He could add one or both to his impressive portfolio, but even though the media mogul is splitting News Corp into two, separately traded companies — one for its print entities, the other for TV and film — he would still come under current rules restricting media companies from owning newspapers and TV and radio stations in the same town. However, the FCC may be planning to suspend those rules, paving the way for Murdoch’s takeover of either of the two papers.
    In prior years, the FCC has granted waivers to the rules, but this latest move on their part would be more permanent, allowing a monolithic corporation like News Corp or Disney, Comcast, Viacom, CBS or Time Warner — in any of the top 20 markets — to own newspapers, two TV stations, eight radio stations and even the local Internet provider.
    Page 2 of 2 - Once again, massive media conglomerates would be given free rein to gobble up more and more of our communications outlets, increasing their already considerable power, destroying independent voices, diluting or eradicating local news and community affairs coverage, eliminating competition and stomping even further on diversity.
    Under Chairman Julius Genachowski, the FCC has from time to time upheld its mandate to protect the public interest — the recent decision to increase the number of low power community FM stations, for example, or the ruling that gave the public online access to who’s buying political ads on TV and radio, and how much they’re spending. But this time, it seems as if Chairman Genachowski may be trying to rush the rules change through on a technicality without sufficient time for public comments or even an open hearing.
    Make your voices heard. Write or call Genachowski and the other commissioners — you can find their names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers at fcc.gov, or on the “Take Action” page at our website, BillMoyers.com. Write your senators and representatives, too; tell them the FCC must delay this decision and give the public a chance to have its opposition known. We’ve done it before.
    Just ask the FCC this basic question: What part of “no” don’t you understand?
    Bill Moyers is managing editor and Canandaigua native Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program “Moyers & Company,” airing on public television. Comment at www.BillMoyers.com.
     
     
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