April 20, 2001 6:06 AM   Subscribe

AOLTWWBNBC? The FCC (okay, no more acronyms!) kills off the rule stating that one company can't own more than one broadcast network. The big nets can't merge, but the little ones and big ones can get together.
posted by hijinx (12 comments total)
Drives me nuts and proves, for the three of you who don't believe it, that Washington is run by the corporations. Anyway, the link title comes from an interesting proposition: AOLTW, owners of the (well-respected) WB, could legally buy a net like NBC or ABC. I thought it was scary already, but sheesh.

How does this impact people? Fewer conduits of "entertainment" and information. Note, too, that the FCC is considering changing the rules of newspaper and broadcast ownership, along with the 35% restriction.

Big Brother is coming, and it's all Bush's fault.
posted by hijinx at 6:13 AM on April 20, 2001

Ugh. This is awful. And, you're right hijinx, Bush is more or less directly responsible -- choosing Michael Powell basically assures a 3-1 vote instead of a 2-2 vote on such issues. [I thought it was a five-person panel, but whatever.] Did you hear a *whoosh*? I think that was fair competition flying out the window.

Really, this isn't the big one, yet. The BIG ONE is if/when the FCC opens up the 35% clause, or allows the newspaper-television duality. Which you mentioned, but I think deserves constant attention, hopefully in an effort to rally the troops against such regulatory upheaval. People need to understand how drastically the slant will change when AOL-Time Warner owns 1) your ISP; 2) your cable company; 3) half the channels *on* cable; 3) the regional newspaper in your area; 4) three of the local newspapers in your town; 5) every possible online media outlet; and 6) the monopoly on future and hypothetical media.

Anyone who thinks Disney, AOL-TW, Viacom, and Microsoft don't have their eyes on that prize right now is wearing blinders.
posted by legibility at 6:53 AM on April 20, 2001

So basically, the FCC has decided to abandon any responsibilities that may help the people, and now is just around to make sure nobody says "fuck" on television. Wonderful.
posted by Doug at 7:06 AM on April 20, 2001

CBS and the UPN are currently owned by the same company. (CBS had moved Dr. Laura show to UPN for a while.) Also, NBC owns the PAX Network.
posted by tamim at 12:25 PM on April 20, 2001

I also don't think we can completely blame Bush for this. Media consolidation has been going on for some time now.
posted by Doug at 2:27 PM on April 20, 2001

His appointment of Michael Powell kicked open the door. Before, it was open just a crack. Therefore, I blame it on him and I stand by my assessment.
posted by hijinx at 2:36 PM on April 20, 2001

Actually hijinx, this was started by my man BillC who signed the Telecommunications Act which has led to all of these mergers. The intent was competition, but result has been consolidation.

Powell is just keeping the door open.
posted by owillis at 2:39 PM on April 20, 2001

Yeah, but it's more convenient for me to deny that Clinton did anything wrong, duh!

In fairness, yeah, owillis, you've got it there. Never mind all of the other wonderful technological bills that the Clinton Administration passed - the problem is that we aren't really feeling the effects till now.
posted by hijinx at 2:52 PM on April 20, 2001

the programs are already sh_t; perhaps it once might have mattered, but it's too late.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:11 PM on April 20, 2001

This is pretty meaningless. Everyone is looking at a 2001 rules change from a 1981 perspective. Back then, when the Big Three networks controlled 90%+ of the eyeballs in this country (and when 90% of the eyeballs had nothing to look at but TV), this would have meant something. But in an era when the myriad of entertainment and information choices is multiplying rapidly, and when even within the TV industry itself the audience share of each network is falling through the floor, it's only going to allow networks to prop themselves up a bit. As the article itself notes, without this rules change there's a good chance UPN simply would have gone out of business. And considering that today's combined share of UPN and CBS isn't anything close to what CBS had all by itself years ago, what's the difference?

As for general media consolidation, this is just another temporary trend; the business world goes through regular cycles of consolidation followed by divestiture. For example, not many people remember that it was only a couple decades ago that the behemoth we now know as Sony Records was CBS Records. And that CBS and ABC both had big magazine divisions. Or that NBC used to be owned by the same company that made the vast majority of the radios in this country. Eventually splitting up conglomates will be in vogue again. And in the meantime, zillions of new companies will spring up to compete for your entertainment attention, some of which will succeed very well.

three of the local newspapers in your town...

There is only one city in the entire United States with more than two daily mainstream local newspapers: New York City. The vast majority have only one.
posted by aaron at 3:31 PM on April 20, 2001

All your medium are belong to us.

There is only one city in the entire United States with more than two daily mainstream local newspapers: New York City. The vast majority have only one.

Mainstream as in "tabloid format"? Even a journalistic desert like Atlanta has two broadsheet dailies (the Journal and Constitution), even though they're actually the same paper distinguished by politically red or blue opinion pages.

But I think you're right, aaron, about the trend of media fragmentation: after all, not even ABC-Disney or GE-NBC-etc has the overwhelming cultural presence of, say, the BBC in the UK. What's more disturbing is the bleeding of media boundaries: the infomercialisation of news media, the Oprah-style "empires of the mind", rather than ones constructed in terms of market cap.
posted by holgate at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2001

By "mainstream" I meant daily newspapers meant to serve the whole of the community. (As opposed to those that only serve a niche market, such as the Chinese- and Korean-language dailies in NYC.) There are, sadly, very few daily tabloid-format newspapers in the US, largely because most consumers here equate the format itself with sleaze. For that you can thank the "supermarket tabloids," such as the National Enquirer, Weekly World News, etc. The only places where tabloids really work in the US are in large cities where large portions of the populace commute via public transit; tabloids are much easier to read on the commuter train or subway. The only daily tabloids I can think off off the top of my head are the New York Post, the Daily News and Newsday; the Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Herald and Philadelphia Daily News.
posted by aaron at 10:22 PM on April 22, 2001

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