Friday, January 28, 2005

Media consolidation bites it & 'morals' win out

Poor Michael Powell- his dream of media monopolies have been squashed for now. Looks like the FCC isn't going to challenge the court rulings which wisely told them that they had better rethink the idea of letting big media companies get even bigger. I mean, that might actually be in the public's interest, right?

In a NY Times story about this (U.S. Backs Off Relaxing Rules for Big Media), there's this interesting little tidbit:

"Officials said one reason the administration decided not to seek Supreme Court review was that some lawyers were concerned the case could prompt the justices to review related First Amendment issues in a way that could undermine efforts by the commission to enforce indecency rules against television and radio broadcasters. Over the last year, the agency has issued a record number of fines - and for record amounts - and has been pressed by some conservative and other advocacy groups to be even more aggressive."

Instead of "one reason," I'd say that was the main reason. You know damn well that Powell still believes (or wants us to believe) that consolidation is the best thing for everything (especially the media companies themselves) so why should he back down? True that he's leaving the FCC, with a trail of many failures behind him, likely getting out of town at the same time his daddy is. But the idea that the arbitrary fines that the FCC has been heaping on broadcasters in record numbers would be in jeopardy might be enough to stall their plans to push their case forward. As such, perceived 'morality' trumps over profit margins for big political donors (aka media companies).

Quite an interesting twist since a number of conservative watchdog groups have lately been crying that their complaints about certain programming aren't being taken seriously (somebody stop Spongebob!) because they thought that the financial influence of big media companies was more important to Republicans: see Parents group fights indecency 1 bleep at a time. Now that the FCC has withdrawn the lawsuit, it might be that the pendulum is swinging the other way. In other words, Republicans might use this tactic to say "it's more important for us to prosecute immoral content than to push for consolidation." Score one of the religious wing-nuts and one against the fair-and-unbalanced people at Fox.

Oh, the media big wigs did file a lawsuit to try to reverse this but without the FCC/govt backing them, they're going to struggle to win this.


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