Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Should We Be Concerned About The Media?

Radio Ownership

I came across this web page today which was incredibly interesting.
If we look at the top three owners over the last several years we see that, in 1999, Clear Channel, Cumulus Broadcasting and Citadel Communication Corporation, combined, owned fewer than 1,000 stations. Today they own just over 1,600, with Clear Channel owning 1,207 of them. Much of this gain can be attributed to a change in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which eliminated the rule that capped the number of stations one company could own at 40. That change allowed Clear Channel to acquire the 460-station AMFM Inc. in June 2000. Before that change, Clear Channel owned a mere 43 stations. As of 2002, 21 companies own more than 40 stations each.
That's astonishing!

And don't think there aren't politics involved too.. because guess who bought a nice share of Clear Channel? Mitt Romney (through his private equity firm, Bain Capital). Actually, with the deal that was made last year, Bain Capital earns a share of Clear Channel's profits. Mitt Romney is a retired partner of Bain's, and therefore he too reaps benefits.

When politicians are involved in buying up portions of the media like that should we be concerned? I mean, Mitt has dropped out of the race - but to say he doesn't have clout with one of the biggest owners of the airwaves could be a bit naive.

But just as newspapers have been bought up and consolidated, and many media mergers have happened over the past decade, radio stations have also been bought up and have reduced the numbers of people owning what we see and hear.

What is also in our future is the forced acceptance of digital TV, as analog TV signals will be ended. This was done via Congressional action! The date of all digital TV is February 18, 2009. An estimated 20 million households that now rely on TV antennas will be out of luck unless they purchase converter boxes which will enable them to view digital television signals. The government is supposed to help people financially to do this, by offering coupons to purchase converter boxes. The question remains: why should the government have gotten involved at all? Why should anyone be forced to purchase products that they may not want? And who stands to benefit from the purchasing of those products?

All I can say is that anything which forces you to do something or limits your choices can't possibly be all that good in the long run. It's also not good when only a few people or corporations own or control any one particular product or service. Monopolies and Oligopolies are definitely not healthy, as it invites collusion and other unfair practices. It stifles creativity. Competition in the market place is essential for a healthy economy which in turn creates and encourages innovation. Ownership by a few is a far less desirable place for all consumers.

When it comes to the media, and the information that we see and hear on a daily basis, ownership by a few is even more disturbing.

Maybe we'd all do well to shut off the radios, end our paper subscriptions and put the TV by the curbside. Either that, or at least be aware of where you are getting your news and make sure you get both sides of a story. Check out some of the non-corporate or independent offerings. (I actually know a bunch of families that don't have a TV in their home, and they are very well informed).

We should all learn to be discriminating media consumers. By in large I've taught this to my children........(that must be "a homeschooler thing").

FYI - Here is another website regarding Who owns the media?