Rupert Murdoch. (Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr)Unsatisfied with his media empire in the UK and Australia and his several media holdings in the United States like TheWall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Fox News, Rupert Murdoch wants more. He wants a media monopoly.
Murdoch is currently jockeying to buy the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, which just so happen to be the largest newspapers in the nation’s second and third largest cities. That will add to his current media empire in the United States, which includes the most watched cable news network in the nation, Fox so-called News, and the most circulated newspaper in the nation, The Wall Street Journal.
The only thing standing in Murdoch’s way of full-spectrum media domination in America are Federal Communication Commission rules that forbid one company from owning both a newspaper and a television station in one community. Murdoch already owns local television stations in both Chicago and Los Angeles.
But according to sources within the FCC, Chairman Julius Genachowski is quietly planning to scrap those rules. Under pressure from major media moguls like Murdoch, who see big bucks and huge political power in a consolidated national and local media, Genachowski circulated a new order to other FCC Commissioners that would allow for cross-ownership of TV and newspapers in the nation’s twenty biggest media markets.
A similar effort was made in 2007 by George W. Bush’s FCC, but it was shot down after the Senate voted to repeal it and a federal court blocked it. Not to mention, 99% of the public comments the FCC received opposed that media consolidation effort.
But, undeterred, Murdoch and other media moguls kept lobbying, and now President Obama’s FCC is expected to consider these rule changes again in December. And if Americans don’t get involved in this issue and pressure the FCC to say “no,” then Murdoch and his billionaire buddies will likely get what they want, which is complete domination of our news media.
In fact, as Ben Bagdikian points out in his book, The New Media Monopoly, the United States is already dangerously close to falling victim to a complete media monopoly. Today, only five corporations – one of which is Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp – own the majority of all the media seen, read, or listened to by Americans. If the FCC gets completely out of the way, then further consolidation will follow suit.
Which is a huge problem for democracy. If there’s one monopoly that’s more dangerous than all of the others, it’s a media monopoly. A democratic republic hinges on a well-informed electorate, and if one corporation – or one eccentric billionaire – owns the means of information, they can hijack the public debate and bend it toward their will.
For example, consider what happened in Italy.
You remember Silvio Berlusconi? He started out as a cruise boat lounge singer and small-time hustler. But then he bought a newspaper, then a small television station, then a radio station, then another TV station, then another newspaper, then another radio station, then another TV station, then another newspaper, then a radio network, then a TV network, and suddenly Berlusconi ended up owning about 95 percent of all the media seen, heard, or read in Italy.
And with control of the information in Italy, Berlusconi decided to run for Prime Minister, and wouldn’t you know it – he won!
With an iron grip on the media, Berlusconi served as Prime Minister of Italy for three separate terms totaling nearly a decade, despite the fact that he was accused of nearly every crime you can imagine, including tax fraud, false accounting, corruption, bribery, perjury, mafia collusion, aiding terrorist organization, and having sex with minors at his infamous “Bunga Bunga” parties. That’s how crucial a media monopoly is to political power and legal immunity from prosecution.
In the meantime, Berlusconi oversaw the downgrade of Italy’s press freedoms, as documented by the organization Freedom House, which demoted Italy’s press from “Free” like the rest of Europe and the developed world to only “Partly Free.” A main reason for the demotion was Berlusconi’s ability to completely manipulate the state media, which, according to Freedom House, was “a conflict of interest among the most blatant in the world.”
Only the technocrats of Europe were able to eventually force Berlusconi out of office in 2011.
Ultimately, if the FCC approves these rule-changes and allows Murdoch to gobble up more and more of our media, then we could be facing our own Silvio Berlusconi situation.
Rupert Murdoch is widely considered a kingmaker in the Republican Party and has even put prominent Republican politicians on his payroll, both before and after they’ve achieved electoral success, most notably Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and John Kasich. With an enlarged media empire (and maybe even a monopoly in the future), Murdoch will be able to hand-pick politicians and use his massive Conservative media complex to win elections Silvio Berlusconi-style.
This should scare the hell out of all of us. And it should scare the hell out of President Obama, who has authority over the FCC. Unfortunately, we can’t depend on him to act, so we have to do it ourselves. Go to FreePress.net and join the campaign against Murdoch’s media power grab.