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Legal giveaway to the media giants

March 1, 2002 | Page 2

MEDIA MOGULS like Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch got a belated Valentine's Day present last week from a federal appeals court.

The court overturned two Federal Communications Commission rules that limited the number of stations a broadcast network can own and that restricted cable operators from owning TV stations. As a result, media giants like AOL Time Warner and Fox Broadcasting will be able to control even more of the public airwaves than they already monopolize.

The rules were put in place explicitly to prevent TV airwaves from being dominated by a single corporate voice. But the media bosses have been lobbying for a change for years. "The end result could be the most massive consolidation in media this nation has ever seen," Gene Kimmelman, co-director of the Consumers Union, told the Washington Post.

It's hard to imagine that ownership of the media could become more concentrated. As it is, television is dominated by a handful of big corporations. But the ruling last week set off of speculation about further mega-mergers--involving, for example, AOL Time Warner buying NBC from General Electric.

The corporations claim that they want to deregulate the airwaves "for the public good." But all they care about is the bottom line.

"The giants claim that deregulation will spur competition, lower prices and better service," wrote media experts Robert McChesney and Mark Crispin Miller. "If there were any truth to that proposition, those corporations and their lobbyists would not be pushing for it. The truth is that such deregulation will permit those firms to get so much larger that they will have less fear of real competition and all the more ability to commercialize their content for the sake of greater profit."

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