February 19, 2002
4:56 PM   Subscribe

Court of Appeals Rules That the Media Belongs to Those Who Can Buy It: Today, the CoA has just declared that the 35 percent ownership cap (applicable to broadcasters who reach more than 35% of the American public) was a prohibition "capricious and contrary to the law," meaning that Viacom and Fox, who were over the limit, are now in the clear to monopolize the airwaves. What does this mean for the future of media conglomerates? Discuss the implications.
posted by ed (13 comments total)
If they have nothing worth watching (see: Fox) then it is really irrelevant how much of the market they own. Aside from a very small handfull of shows, my MTV is used solely for watching DVDs anyway...
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:03 PM on February 19, 2002


TV, not MTV... Oh, what a horrible typo!
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:03 PM on February 19, 2002

viacom thanks you.
posted by quonsar at 5:09 PM on February 19, 2002

The fact that they "reach" more than 35% of the public does not mean they have a monopoly over the airwaves. Unless "reached" here means "hypnotized not to watch anything else."
posted by bingo at 5:26 PM on February 19, 2002

The article actually says that the cap was "arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law because the Commission failed to give an adequate reason for its decision." So the FCC could go ahead and make a stronger argument for keeping the cap and it would remain, if the court bought it.

As far as the future of media conglomerates goes, are there any advantages for the networks not to go ahead and scoop up all of its affiliates? I'm not to fond of the idea of networks owning each individual station b/c, that means, in terms of local news, that there are that many fewer people ultimately in control of editorial. On the other hand, I live in LA and the local news couldn't get much worse. I'm more worried about the small number of companies that own the networks (cable or broadcast) themselves.
posted by thebigpoop at 5:29 PM on February 19, 2002

thebigpoop: it's much easier to convince an affiliate station in a local market to run whatever you want them if you own them.

Network-owned stations drastically cut down on fees charged by said stations to remain affiliates and play their shows. I think. It's been a while since I've surveyed telecomm law.
posted by solistrato at 6:20 PM on February 19, 2002

Ah, fuck, my grammar's not getting any better...
posted by solistrato at 6:21 PM on February 19, 2002

In BC we effectively have a television news monopoly: for most of the province (outside the lower mainland) there is exactly one BC news channel.

The owner of this channel has made it corporate policy to support our monopoly government (the Liberals have 70-odd of the seats; there are 2 opposition members). Thus, we get an extremely biased newshour, with nothing but mindless rah-rahing of the government's actions in dismantling the province.

This is in stark contrast to their reporting of the previous government's actions, which were constantly and continuously criticized and nay-sayed.

Believe you me, it really sucks when you've no competition in the media marketplace. :-(
posted by five fresh fish at 6:26 PM on February 19, 2002

This particular issue doesn't create a monopoly and is irrelevant in regards to competition, it just moves programming control from the affliate to the network, from local to national. As far as major programming goes, outside of news, the affliate almost always goes with the network shows, unless that show is Ellen. So having to convince an affliate to run your show is not that difficult a matter. (How does this work with regional sports, anyone?)

Although I suppose this could result in more control over syndicated programming purchased by the affiliate. All the crap weekend non-sports programming could be filled by the congloms instead of the smaller production companies that make the crappy, cheap, syndicated fare that normally resides there.
posted by thebigpoop at 6:53 PM on February 19, 2002

As information is accumulated and privatized, free speech increasingly becomes a matter of property law. As an individual, I am permitted to say less and less, because so much of what I want to say involves reference to material that is protected by someone else's copyright. In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 radically limits the scope even of fair use, at least with regard to digital media.
Conversely, the drive to define the content of speech as private property has increased the rights and powers of corporations. United States courts recently struck down a law that would have prevented "credit bureaus, private investigators and information brokers'' from selling data about prospective customers to retailers and advertisers without the customers' permission. This was considered a violation of the credit bureaus' First Amendment rights to free speech. That is to say, if a company has my social security number, my driver's license number, and my credit record in its database, then this information is the company's property, and they are free to sell it to anyone, or otherwise do with it as they wish. Laws that try to regulate the concentration of media ownership have also been struck down as violations of the First Amendment. If companies like Comsat and AOL Time Warner own the broadband networks, then it is considered a violation of their free speech rights to compel them to carry any content on these networks that they would prefer to censor or omit. Corporate free speech is thus rapidly "becoming synonymous with the right of one monolithic media corporation to dominate any given market.'' Similar arguments have also been made with regard to campaign finance reform. It would be a violation of the First Amendment to restrict the flow of political campaign contributions in any manner whatsoever. Spending one's own money is thus enshrined as the purest form of expression. And any speech not backed up by money is precisely worthless.
posted by Rebis at 7:08 PM on February 19, 2002

say hello to


oh wait. that already is one company.

Now they can buy NBC, maybe pick up UPN from News Corp
Hopefully they won't get their hands on Metafilter.
posted by panopticon at 11:38 PM on February 19, 2002

Colin Powell's kid will continue to work diligently to keep the media moguls happy. Meanwhile, radio and television will continue to alienate us and advertisement will be come more ubiquitous than the already nauseating levels it is at. "My database indicates you don't yet own Top Gun on DVD..."
posted by McBain at 12:45 AM on February 20, 2002

Making Media Democratic by Robert McChesney.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2002

« Older High school drinking game   |   Mickey Mouse draws "get out of jail" card. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments