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 Now that the FCC has withdrawn the lawsuit, it might be that the pendulum is swinging the other way.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.

Blah Blah Blogs- Why Blogs won't change the world as promised

I've been thinking of writing a blog for a while, wondering what to do with stray brain drippings that might be of interest to others and I finally broke down. Now I'm wondering if I'll actually have the time to do this- definitely a major deterrent to start with.

So, I thought I'd start out with something nicely contrary by explaining what's wrong with blogs and take some shots at the very medium I'm exploiting here. At a recent conference of bloggers and 'regular journalists' (Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility), the questions were flying about who the bathrobbed denizens of the Net were going to change the face of journalism. No surprise that the blogistas were touting their own fame and power while the trad news people weren't hearing it. Needless to say, both sides had a little bit of truth on their side.

How soon we forget the online pubs who boldly told TV reporters doing stories on them that "Our job is to put you out of business." What happened is that the online pubs mostly went down, with Slate and Salon still surviving but neither of them providing a usable model for any industrious sort out there.

The common mistake that bloggers and people who write about them forget is that blogs are almost never a news gathering source (unless you'd like to count Drudge) but instead they're usually amateur opinion columns. Obviously, that works better in the entertainment realm 'cause what better place than a blog for a reviewer to spout off about opinions?

Since the politic blogs (and music ones too) are usually read by other people in the same field, it seems to me that their function is basically as a means of conversation within that realm. If there's some kind of controversy or juicy gossip that gets echoed, it seems likely that the 'traditional' media might take it seriously enough to try to investigate it (something else that divides trad news and bloggers). You've seen examples of this with Dan Rather's Memo Gate and elsewhere.

What fascinates me about this medium is its porous nature. Most bloggers want nothing more out of their work than to be eventually scooped up into the arms of print publication which will grant them a regular job. For print journos, the blog is a way for them to express their thoughts, ideas and opinions that otherwise don't have an outlet in their regular work. In a sense, each side here is jealous of the other, trying to exploit blogs to achieve part of the power that the other has.

Obviously, blogs are going to replace trad news only in the age of winged bovines. What is happening and will continue to happen is that blogs will SUPPLEMENT or compliment trad news. Most of all, I'm struck by this quote from UNC professor Phil Meyers about what blogs really provide: "more messages to smaller numbers of people."

And so, that's exactly what I'll be doing here. I'll try to make it worth you time when you stop by and also actually try to think about what I post for a moment before I do, practicing what Slate's Jack Shafer calls "slow blogging" (which is his funny way of describing what he does as a columnist).

Let the blather begin!