I have read three books recently that deal with completely different core subjects, the Blogosphere, The Freedom of Information Act, and the incestuous relationship between the FCC and the Big Media, yet they all have one common theme. The accepted old media (Newspapers, TV, and Radio), and the brave new world of the online media, are both ineffectual in reaching their audience and offering little in the way of substantive news. They are helping to create George Orwell’s 1984 world of controlled information, and controlled citizens.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 paved the way for takeovers, mergers, and other activities that have resulted in a world where Newspapers and Television have blurred into a series of very large, and very influential corporations. At the time, it was lauded as the next great step to better access to information, and greater freedom of choice for the consumer. This would result in better TV programs, and better local coverage of news and other local issues.

The net result has been a general drop in the quality of the end product. More and more local newspapers have become part of larger organizations; the result of this change is less local news, and more global gossip about Brittany Spears, or some other entertainment star that the average reader is not interested in. The number of reporters working for the local paper has declined, and more and more articles are syndicated through the Mother Ship.

On a similar note the amalgamation of TV entities has resulted in more channels and less choice. We have a hundred channels on cable, but there is little of any worth being aired. De-regulation, (or what looks like it) has resulted in a debacle of gargantuan proportions. If you peek under the skirts of many of the channels on cable, you find surprisingly few controlling entities.  

The Internet seemed like the Brave New World, unfettered from the irons of the Mega Corporations; surely this is the new media? It might be, but increasingly that is being eroded. Even the internet seems to have become part of Big Media.

The global information network is slowly and surely being assimilated into Big Media.

Michael Keren, in his new book Blogosphere views blogs with a great deal of suspicion, in his book he refers to Blogs as ‘often voyeuristic, gossipy, and creepy’. He is very skeptical as to the worth of information found online. Because there is no accountability, the news worthiness of Blogs is questionable.

The bottom line, we can not trust any of the media!

I must admit that I am confused. If all that I am reading is correct, we have a significant problem with our news organizations.

Even worse, a form of censorship seems to be appearing. With fewer and fewer organizations of increasingly larger size running the media we find an unwritten type of industry imposed censorship. A good example is the Time-Warner Corporation. Three of the entities in this sprawling corporate world are AOL, CNN, and Time magazine. We have all of the big media types represented here, Internet, Cable TV, and the written word.

This unholy trinity means that CNN has avoided running any pieces about AOL and its problems. None of the Time-Warner members ever show any criticality about another, regardless of the potential news worthiness.

In Digital Divide, author Jeff Chester explores this situation in great detail. The public’s right to know is overshadowed by the profit motive. A probable career shortening move for a Time magazine writer would be to produce an article critical of another Time-Warner entity.

Alasdair Roberts’s insightful book into the Freedom of Information Act also adds validity to the current situation. What was intended as a vehicle for government transparency has been transformed by the present government into something less than useful. Interestingly enough Alasdair does not see the events of 9/11 being the cause of this change which he voraciously argues has already started, 9/11 just lent legitimacy to the process.

This ‘need to know’ mind set is further reducing the general public’s knowledge of what organizations such as the FCC are up to.

All in all the outlook seems bleak. The world of print and TV has blurred into something meaningless.

The internet is the current mega-corporation battlefield, and you can be assured that it is a battle that is going to be bloody. With the Telco’s, cable providers, and mass media companies merging I can see nothing good resulting.

There was much debate last year concerning the internet and the so called ‘de-regulation’ of it. The arguments were convoluted to say the least. The lobbyists were working overtime with doublespeak. Luckily the government lost interest in the whole project, but you can guarantee Net Neutrality will be a topic rearing its ugly head again soon.

My general theory is that if Big Media wants it, regardless of the press spin, it is going to hurt my wallet, and my quality of life.

I disagree with Michael Keren, I do see hope in online reporting. I see it in the sites I work with and read. I see news items not covered in the mass media, I see items from contributors who live in countries with oppressive regimes. Where else would these stories be published? 

Simon Barrett



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