A sobering view of today’s entrenched corporate media giants as a threat to the concept of an enlightened electorate.
As executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a public-interest group, the author has spent 30 years in the middle of Washington’s often obfuscated communications policy-making apparatus. Recent trends, he argues, have so broken down former caveats against consolidation of media ownership—newspapers, radio, TV and now digital networks and services—that the future of media content, including the Internet itself, may be effectively determined without public participation. Thanks to rampant deregulation of large media corporations, particularly under the reign of former Bush administration FCC Commissioner Michael C. Powell, Chester asserts, commercial considerations—advertising revenues and fee-based media services—have become the prime force in new media development and delivery schemes. (The news here for many readers may be that it wasn’t always this way.) Longstanding policy guidelines recognized that multiple media ownership in local markets could result in shaping information solely to further the agenda of corporate owners. However, Powell, son of former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell, pushed a GOP-endorsed free-market campaign that, while rebuffed in some of its more extreme dimensions, has now empowered single entities to own multiple media outlets and services in local markets. As a way of pointing out the determination—and, in his view, insidiousness—of media giants to lobby against ownership restrictions, Chester singles out the New York Times Corp. as one of the most aggressive, noting that the maneuvers of its corporate stewards remained curiously absent from its own news pages for an extended period. A party power shift in Washington, the author sums up, won’t necessarily diminish the threat.
Complex, quixotic attempt to sway the American public from the temptation to “amuse itself to death.”