[L]et’s go back to last summer — to the story that you kept hearing about here on NOW … The decision by the Federal Communications Commission to change the rules on broadcast ownership.
With strong backing from President Bush, the FCC by a 3-2 vote gave the megamedia giants what they wanted — permission to get even bigger to own more TV stations across the country even to own newspapers, radio and TV stations in a single community.
To just about everyone’s surprise, the public rose up in outrage hundreds of thousands of letters and emails poured into the Commission and Congress.
CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH, (R-IA): And it wasn’t as if there were Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. It was everybody felt the same instinct: let’s have diversity, let’s not have concentration.
And the public is absolutely adamantly– in one camp. Interest groups are absolutely adamantly in another camp. And it’s a contrast that is as symbolic and as important as any set of contrasts I know in government today. …
SENATOR BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): I mean the FCC issued a ruling that goes well beyond what anybody would expect reasonable, even from an FCC that wanted to be particularly friendly to big business. This was you know the FCC hog rule. It’s let’s do everything that business wants, plus let’s add some.
BILL MOYERS: Senator Dorgan thinks that further media consolidation could lead to a cartel of power that would limit what Americans see, hear, and read.
DORGAN: What if the broadcast properties, television and radio, are in the hands of sufficiently few people in this country’s future to decide that these are voices we don’t like very much? …
BILL MOYERS: Unknown to Dorgan and other members of the conference committee … a new deal had been reached … This one between the White House and Republican leaders … a deal to protect the interests of the big broadcast companies.
DORGAN: My guess is that they kept working behind the scenes, and– that which had been concluded and decided by the Congress was then later negotiated by a few members of Congress with the White House.
BILL MOYERS: It quickly became apparent who would benefit from this new deal.
DORGAN: There were two very big enterprises. One is– Viacom, which owns CBS. The other is Rupert Murdoch’s empire which– which were over the cap. [over 3 years, 3 recent years, Rupert Murdoch’s company spent almost 10 million dollars on its lobbying operations in Washington]…
MOYERS: And so those 24 lines were quietly inserted in last week’s fine print [of the 1,182 page spending bill]. With those lines, the House and Senate agreement was overturned and the new cap was set just high enough to allow Viacom and Murdoch to keep all their TV stations. …
BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you about democracy? That almost a million citizens make themselves heard in support of overturning the FCC ruling. The Senate votes 55 to 40 to overturn those rules. And yet the House can’t vote on it. [because of Hastert and Delay]
SENATOR BYRON DORGAN: Why? Because the President supports the FCC rule. This is his Federal Communications Commission.
It’s classic politics. You know? I mean big interests have big sway in this town. And this is the high stakes, big interest issue. They have– there’s a great deal of money at stake, as you might well imagine. And the Majority Leader [Tom Delay], as he almost on all occasions does, is standing with the big interests.
Notice the classic Bush tactic: work stealthily around all obstacles to undermine the Public and benefit the Rich. mjh