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Volume 68, Isuue 80, Thursday, January 23, 2003


Media companies endanger TV

Brandon Moeller
opinion columnist

Last week, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps initiated a public forum for people to talk about proposed changes the Federal Communications Commission may implement later this year. Media activists and representatives from media conglomerates that would benefit from the changes were present.

The way the big media oligarchy put it last week at the public forum about proposed FCC changes, their future is so bleak, they have begun to threaten the people who own the airwaves and allow the media giants to abuse them.

Executive Vice President of CBS Television Marty Franks said that if consolidation rules are not expanded, sports programming, especially football playoffs, may have to pay the price. Now that's the way to grab the attention of the American public: for many, it's give me good football or give me death.

Mr. Franks from CBS explained that his network puts up the money for quality programming and the stations make the money back through advertising.

He said that if they aren't allowed to own more stations, revenues would decline and expensive programming may "go away." In the same room with media activists and citizens, he said "free television is much more endangered than I've heard articulated in this room."

What? I've always imagined that television disappearing as a free communication medium would lead to mass civil unrest.

Television is the tightly woven fabric of shared consciousness and experience that holds all Americans together. If that fabric tears, it could rip this country apart.

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in our nation's capital to protest an unjust war started by an illegitimate president who shoots from the hip and doesn't take no for an answer. Just imagine how these numbers would multiply, perhaps to millions, if the gods and masters took away one of the last things all Americans are entitled to: television. 

But I guess anything is possible if so few hands control so much of the public airwaves.

CBS, which is owned by Viacom, is one of the top five media companies in the United States. These five conglomerate companies own 90 percent of the top media networks.

Will they be unable to air football playoffs if the FCC doesn't make drastic changes that would weaken or broaden existing rules about media ownership?

Well, if CBS doesn't air the playoffs, some other monster media conglomerate will. How can they not, when there's so much advertising money in playoff games?

Franks wasn't the only corporate media bigwig who made surprisingly dim-witted remarks at last week's forum. However, there were some media representatives that had their heart and mind in the right place.

Michelle Jennings from Sherwood Outdoor Advertising wasn't in a position to threaten the public with denying them their precious football addiction.

Jennings began her speech talking about how the airwaves still belong to the people and the content on the airwaves "is entrusted" to serve the public interest. 

Jennings gave an example about media giant Clear Channel, who after the 1996 Telecommunications Act, grew from owning 28 stations to over 1200. She had this to say about Clear Channel: "Clear Channel manipulates the market to achieve their corporate objective, regardless of the public's interest."

Ah. Now that‚s true and refreshing.

Quotations for this column were transcribed from a recording that was broadcast by the Pacifica Network, and the clips were retrieved from

Moeller, a senior communications major who fears the oligarchy, can be reached at


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