The corporate power over what we read, watch, or hear is another tentacle wrapped around our democracy. In a recent example of creeping corporate power, a merger gave Comcast/NBC control of 70% of cable television; this meant control of 1 of every 5 hours of television.
Corporate influence, direct and indirect, now affects everything from Presidential appointments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to congressional passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. How times have changed. In 1983, 50 corporations controlled most of the U.S. media. Today just six corporations control a staggering 90%: Rupert Murdock’s News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, and Comcast.
Let the consumer beware. The primary objective of the Big Six Media is not to educate, or relate the true nature of world events, but to make money by serving the interests of the owners and their advertisers. And Americans know it’s so: In a 2015 Gallup Poll, only 1 in 4 indicated confidence in the mass media.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), supposedly the regulator in the public interest, has mostly been out to lunch. For example, on the net neutrality issue, in a 2014 Facebook post Senator Elizabeth Warren joined others alarmed at reports that the FCC might allow Verizon and other such companies to charge for internet access.
“We don’t know who is going to have the next big idea in this country, but we’re pretty sure they’re going to need to get online to do it. Reports that the FCC may gut net neutrality are disturbing, and would be just one more way the playing field is tilted for the rich and powerful who have already made it.”—Senator Elizabeth Warren
The FCC backed down in the face of public outcry. However, the issue may well recur because the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to “review its media ownership rules every two years and eliminate rules that are no longer in the public interest.”