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June, 2003

Local Community Radio and the FCC: A Last Stand
By Jeanette Pontacq

   In 1993, Ben Bagdikian, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Media Monopoly, showed that the number of corporations controlling most of the nation's mass media had dropped from 50 only a decade previous to fewer than 20. In 2003, control of the nation's media network is in the hands of less than 10. 
   If Michael Powell (son of Colin and Bush-appointed head of the FCC) has his way on June 2, the few remaining checks and balances on corporate media power will be erased. The decision is expected to give the corporations what they always wanted: the possibility for a single huge media conglomerate to control most of a community's major media outlets, including cable systems and broadband Internet service providers. The control of the media will then be in the hands of only five or six corporate conglomerates, none friendly to liberal or even moderate ideology, completely in control of the far-right, neo-conservative fundamentalists. Do not expect the media to report on this momentous event. 
   The corporations behind this putsch are Rupert Murdoch's News Corp/Fox, General Electric/NBC, Viacom/CBS, Disney/ABC, Tribune Corp and Clear Channel. After June 2, expect to see a series of major mergers and buy-outs of radio and TV stations, papers and even networks all over the country, in both rural and urban areas. 
   The proposed FCC rule changes will act as a further weakening of the ability of mainstream journalism to serve as a critical public safeguard in the face of attempts by our government to shred the Constitution, keep citizens in fear, and ignore any background information on what is going on (let's remember that Americans have almost no sense of even their own history). Bottom line is that the so-called journalists on TV and mainstream radio will have to ever-strongly adhere to the corporate line to keep jobs. The popular culture enshrined on national TV will push neo-conservative values in sync with corporate requirements. Any other ideas or philosophies will be persona non gratis. Only the government-approved agenda will be reflected.
   Both Democrats (less) and Republicans (more) are complicit, having been mostly silent about what all this really means for the Average American. Most residents of Point Reyes Station, for example, use Horizon Cable, an independent cable operator based in Novato for both their TV and cable internet services. The offered TV stations are pretty standard and reflect the abysmal lack of quality and thought on TV. But it could get much worse if Horizon is taken over by an entity like Fox. Those thinking that they can try to get better programming by switching to Direct TV should know that Rupert Murdoch's Fox is planning to buy out the country's most powerful satellite service, Direct TV, after Michael Powell hands them the means on June 2. As to the internet services, expect ultimate content restrictions if Horizon is taken over by something like Fox.
   KWMR, West Marin's local community radio station, suddenly takes on Very Important Status (VIS). Because KWMR only transmits to a limited number of households (Stinson to Inverness and parts of the San Geronimo Valley), it is unlikely they will be targeted by the few corporate conglomerates in control after June 2. But then, never say never. KWMR needs our support more than ever, both with money and interaction. It is astounding that West Marin has such a radio station for its very own, reflecting its particular values and communities. Hard to get and easy to lose! We need to hug it, protect it and pay attention on pledge week!!
   Let's also talk about KPFA for a moment. Their powerful signal is worth tons of money. It will surely be targeted for ultimate takeover. Expect such actions while America consolidates its media in order to control all information. 
   THIS IS PERSONAL. Don Deane, the owner of Smiley's in Bolinas and the editor of this paper, has for years personally subsidized the Coastal Post in order to offer an open forum for anyone to say his/her thing. While I have little doubt that Don will not succumb to either dollars or threats to close this forum, it is something to think about. 
   What would it be like to be without the Coastal Post, KPFA, KWMR, The Nation and The Progressive? All the newspapers, radio stations, TV and internet that you use are potential takeover targets in the coming consolidation. Could West Marin suddenly find itself within Rupert Murdoch's empire of non-information. Yes, it could, slowly but surely while we all snooze. Pay attention and speak up. Times, they are a'changin, and not for the better unless an awful lot of people start yelling bloody murder.

 

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