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for July 11, 2003


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Remember To Get A Receipt
by Sean Carolan

We were recently up in arms about the FCC's move to blow away broadcast ownership rules, which would allow big media companies to get even bigger, even though there was a slight pullback from allowing a complete free-for-all in the media marketplace. I say "pullback" because the current direction of the FCC chief is that there should be no restrictions at all. Even the significantly more conglomerate-friendly restrictions that they passed, and that Congress seems tentatively interested in reigning in, are more restrictive than that.
 
So the question comes up: what's so bad about that? The media conglomerates provide programming that entertains a measurably vast majority of the citizens of this country. Why shouldn't they be allowed to make as much money as they can doing it?
 
As background, I can do nothing better than point to the following extended quote from Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting. While he was specifically referring to the use of Personal Video Recorders that allow you to skip commercials ("spots" in the vernacular), I think it sheds some light on how these stewards of the public airwaves would prefer to conduct business:
 
"Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming."
 
"I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom. But if you formalize it and you create a device that skips certain second increments, you've got that only for one reason, unless you go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. They've done that just to make it easy for someone to skip a commercial."
 
Let's be frank here: I have no contract with the network, and if I did, it wouldn't be smart of me to give up my ability to go to the bathroom just to watrch another episode of "Angel".
 
The fact is, they're not just interested in money, they're interested in removing any and all barriers that exist to their making more of it, and throwing up as many barriers as possible to any personal rights that may result in their making less of it. Which I suppose, ultimately, *is* a way of saying they're only interested in money.
 
Kellner's pull-quote is an example of that. It betrays an attitude that regards personal freedoms as a good idea, maybe, but not if they reduce the bottom line. If there's a restriction on him that harms that, he's against it. If there's a restriction on people that works on his behalf, he's for it. He's solely focused on his business case, regardless of whose choices get stomped on along the way.
 
That attitude has left us with corporations that perform as headless monsters, about as intelligent as moss that only knows to grow in the direction of moisture. These monsters only know how to grow in the direction of money, and are completely unaware of any other incentive (corporate citizenship, making the world a better place, etc., etc.) that might endear them to the people by whose will, both regulatory and market-wise, they exist in the first place. That's why we'd best not release the pressure on Congress to get the current FCC tenor changed, not to mention keeping up the pressure on corporate reform. We are the people from whom the power of our government derives, but we've allowed ourselves to become absentee landlords.
 
It's safe to assume that Mr. Kellner's opinion is indicative of many in the media world. Perhaps it would be best to be sure they are keenly aware that their ability to broadcast their shows and their commercials has been granted by the good will of the people of this country. As I said, I have no contract with the network. They, however, have a contract with us; the government, in the form of the FCC, is supposed to be acting as an agent on our behalf, so it appears reminders are due all around.
 
As they say in driving class, "It's not a right, it's a privilege." And (admittedly, with difficulty) it can be taken away if it is abused.
 
And as for Kellner personally, the jerk cancelled Animaniacs, Freakazoid, and Pinky & The Brain. There's no hell hot enough for the likes of him.
 

©2003 Sean Carolan

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.

 







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