FCC TO PERMIT TELECOM, MEDIA CONSOLIDATION

An article in today’s Washington Post reviews some of the major decisions the Federal Communications Commission will be making in the next few months, moves that could fundamentally rewrite the rules for the broadcast media and Internet service providers. The likely result is that a handful of mega-corporations will control virtually all aspects of our entertainment and our online experiences. There is no reason to think that this will be an improvement for consumers; instead, there’s a strong possibility that prices will rise, new tolls will be charged at every opportunity, and restrictions will be placed on your ability to access “competing” content. (“For example, a company that owns a movie studio and provides Internet connections might restrict the downloading of movies produced by rival studios.”) “Opponents of the proposed rules fear that, taken together, they ultimately could lead to a few powerful conglomerates controlling the flow of electronic information, from programming of television and radio news and entertainment to owning the pipes that connect people to the Internet.”

Of course, these industries are already heavily concentrated in a handful of mega-corporations. As noted in the article, “A wide range of consumer groups have objected to the proposals, noting that a handful of major media companies, most prominently Walt Disney Co., Viacom, AOL Time Warner Inc., News Corp. and Clear Channel Communications Inc., already own the country’s biggest online service; hundreds of television stations; more than 1,000 radio stations; three of the country’s four national TV networks; and most of the largest U.S. movie and TV production studios, cable networks and magazines. These include CBS, ABC, Fox; Time, Fortune and People magazines; and MTV, HBO, CNN and ESPN.”