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Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Fwd: Stop Media Monopoly (MoveOn)) ... Will technologymake CBS unconstitutional?

An essay by Yochai Benkler and Larry Lessig posted by the New Republic: Will technology make CBS unconstitutional? A snippet:

Our argument is straightforward: The FCC regulates speech. It says that, if you want to speak on 98.6 FM in Boston, you must get a license (or, now, buy one). If you speak on 98.6 without a license, you will have committed a crime. The FCC will prosecute you and seize your transmitter. All this despite the fact that the First Amendment to the Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." What gives?  ...  a conspiracy of ignorance?

Therefore, IMHO, it's also an extremely important issue to learn about on June 6-8, 2003 at the Planetworks conference:  Networking a Sustainable Future.

In fact, you might also consider how "Open Spectrum: The New Wireless Paradigm" (must read: Open Spectrum FAQ) relates to "open discussion" by inviting Douglas A. Galbi (Senior Economist: FCC and Consultant: Economic Development Institute, The World Bank):

Other potential speakers to invite for more collective inelligence about "Stop Media Monopoly" (MoveOn.org) and Larry Lessig's proposal for "a strategy for resistance" based on enforcing First Amendment rights with Open Spectrum, Free Speech, and unlicensed UWB-radios (incl.GNU-radios) under development you should read:

"... [I]t seems clear to me that there is a strong First Amendment argument against any regulation that unnecessarily limits constitutionally protected speech over radio.  Since much greater information capacity would result from internetworking and dynamically adaptive radio architectures, it would seem that barring internetworking and adaptive digital radio is not only economically inefficient, but also legally unconstitutional."
.... "Central to the FCC's revised thinking is its belief that technology can now be tailored to minimize interference at the receiver end, rather than the traditional approach of regulating interference via both the spectrum band and transmitter specifications. The agency is proposing a new standard of "interference temperature", expressed in Kelvin degrees, which would be calculated using a formula based on power in watts, associated bandwidth and a measure called Boltzman's Constant. The FCC would set a maximum interference temperature that would be constantly measured by the receiver - when exceeded, the device would adjust its power output and/or frequency use to "lower" its temperature. Under such a regime, the FCC envisages a more dynamic spectrum environment, where low-powered "commons" devices could operate on an "underlay" to higher-powered "exclusive use" devices. Holders of exclusive spectrum licenses would be free to use spectrum for any type of application, with limited exceptions for satellite, public safety and broadcast networks. More importantly, they would be free to buy and sell spectrum on a secondary market, akin to the way the modern-day stock market works."

"It's as if we were having a party and someone came into the room and told everyone to be quiet and gave out pieces of paper with a time and a place telling each person when and where they could talk. If there were a possibility young people would overhear you couldn't use certain words even if there were no other venues and even if you felt the language was appropriate for them

Put that way it seems outrageous. Yet if we communicate using radio waves instead of sound waves that is precisely what the FCC is doing."The FCC was in 1934 created to deal with a technological limitation of radios of their day. Frequencies had to be assigned exclusively to broadcasters to optimize reception. That meant that access to the "public airwaves" was gated by corporations with enough capital to build expensive transmission systems. The government over the years has recognized that this is a problem, legislating ameliorating solutions. But modern technology means that we don't need the broadcast chokepoints. All that's keeping the public from using the public airwaves are regulations based on outmoded assumptions about technology. Our free speech is being restrained."

Both of these articles are must-reading. This issue is really beginning to boil...

(Don't forget the two articles on this site: Reframing Open Spectrum and an Open Spectrum FAQ.)

Discuss Open Spectrum and Free Speech (0)

Gary Richmond wrote:
I believe this to be an extremely important issue and should be of concern to everyone. 

On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission is planning on authorizing sweeping changes to the American news media. The rule changes could allow your local TV stations, newspaper, radio stations, and cable provider to all be owned by one company. NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox could have the same corporate parent. The resulting concentration of ownership could be deeply destructive to our democracy.

When we talk to Congresspeople about this issue, their response is usually the same: "We only hear from media lobbyists on this. It seems like my constituents aren't very concerned with this issue." A few thousand emails could permanently change that perception. Please join us in asking Congress and the FCC to fight media deregulation at:


After the FCC and Congress relaxed radio ownership rules, corporate giant Clear Channel Communications swept in and bought hundreds of stations. Clear Channel has used its might to support pro-war political rallies and conservative talk shows, keep anti-war songs off its stations, coerce musicians into playing free promotional concerts, and bully them into performing at its music venues. In many towns that used to have a diverse array of radio options, Clear Channel is now the only thing on the dial.

Monopoly power is a dangerous thing, and Congress is supposed to guard against it. But the upcoming rule change could change the landscape for all media and usher in an era in which a few corporations control your access to news and entertainment. Please tell Congress and the FCC to support a diverse, competitive media landscape by going to:


You can also automatically have your comments publicly filed at the FCC.

Democracy is built on the idea that the views and beliefs of an informed citizenry are the best basis for political decision-making. Without access to fair and balanced news, the system simply doesn't work. And media corporations can't be trusted to balance themselves: news corporations have shown again and again that they're willing to sacrifice journalism to improve the bottom line. That's why we need many media entities -- to keep each other honest, and to provide the information and ideas that make democracy happen.

Please join this critical campaign, and let Congress know you care.

--Eli Pariser
  May 8th, 2003

P.S. Here's a copy of our recent bulletin on this subject. To sign up for the bulletin, just click here:


MoveOn Bulletin
Friday, May 2, 2003
Co-Editors: Don Hazen and Lakshmi Chaudry, AlterNet

Subscribe online at:

1. Eli Pariser: Why Worry About Who Owns the Media?
2. Jeff Chester: Showdown at the FCC
3. Neil Hickey: The Gathering Storm Over Media Ownership
4. Bill Moyers: Barry Diller Takes On Media Deregulation
5. Danny Schechter: The Media, the War, and Our Right to Know
6. Eric Boehlert: Clear Channel's Big Stinking Deregulation Mess
7. Paul Schmelzer: The Death of Local News
8. Caryl Rivers: Where Have All the Women Gone?
9. About the Bulletin


MoveOn Bulletin Op-Ed
by Eli Pariser

It's like something out of a nightmare, but it really happened: At 1:30 on a cold January night, a train containing hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic ammonia derails in Minot, North Dakota. Town officials try to sound the emergency alert system, but it isn't working. Desperate to warn townspeople about the poisonous white cloud bearing down on them, the officials call their local radio stations. But no one answers any of the phones for an hour and a half. According to the New York Times, three hundred people are hospitalized, some are partially blinded, and pets and livestock are killed.

Where were Minot's DJs on January 18th, 2002? Where was the late night station crew? As it turns out, six of the seven local radio stations had recently been purchased by Clear Channel Communications, a radio giant with over 1,200 stations nationwide. Economies of scale dictated that most of the local staff be cut: Minot stations ran more or less on auto pilot, the programming largely dictated from further up the Clear Channel food chain. No one answered the phone because hardly anyone worked at the stations any more; the songs played in Minot were the same as those played on Clear Channel stations across the Midwest.

Companies like Clear Channel argue that economies of scale allow them to cut costs while continuing to provide quality programming. But they do so at the expense of local coverage. It's not just about emergency warnings: media mergers are decreasing coverage of local political races, local small businesses, and local events. There are only a third as many owners of newspapers and TV stations as there were in the 1970s (about 600 now; over 1,500 then). It's harder and harder for Americans to find out what's going on in their own back yards.

On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering relaxing or getting rid of rules to allow much more media concentration. While the actual rule changes are under wraps, they could allow enormous changes in the American media environment. For example, one company could be allowed to own ABC, CBS, and NBC. Almost certainly, media companies will be allowed to own newspapers and TV stations in the same town. We could be entering a new era of media megaliths.

Do you want one or two big companies acting as gatekeepers and controlling your access to news and entertainment? Most of us don't. And the airwaves explicitly belong to us -- the American people. We allow media companies to use them in exchange for their assurance that they're serving the public interest, and it's the FCC's job to make sure that's so. For the future of American journalism, and for the preservation of a diverse and local media, we have the hold the FCC to its mission. Otherwise, Minot's nightmare may become our national reality.


Interested in taking on the FCC and other media-related concerns? Join the MoveOn Media Corps, a group of over 29,000 committed Americans working for a fair and balanced media. You can sign up now at:


Jeffrey Chester and Don Hazen, AlterNet
Despite wide protests and the Clear Channel debacle, the FCC is about to award the nation's biggest media conglomerates a new give-away that will further concentrate media ownership in fewer hands. The impact on the American media landscape could be disastrous. Recent TV coverage of the Iraq war already illustrates that US media companies aren't interested in providing a serious range of analysis and debate. This overview describes what's at stake and offers an introduction to the following articles.


Neil Hickey, Columbia Journalism Review
CJR's editor-at-large explains just what is at stake in this fight over media ownership. He provides an in-depth look at the issues, and major players in a battle that is pitting journalists against their bosses, breaking up old alliances, and gathering momentum as the day of reckoning draws near. He traces the snowballing trend of media consolidation and its implications for the future, revealing just how the drive for profit is eroding diversity, local control, and more importantly giving a few mega-corporations a monopoly over the dissemination of news.


Bill Moyers, Now with Bill Moyers
The founder of Fox Broadcasting and present CEO of USA Networks is an unlikely but passionate opponent of plans to loosen media ownership rules. In an interview with Bill Moyers, the media mogul explains how deregulation creates corporations with "such overwhelming power in the marketplace that everyone has to do essentially what they say." Diller argues that government regulation is essential to prevent media companies from controlling everything we see, read, and hear. As he puts it, "Who else is gonna do it for us?"


Danny Schechter, MediaChannel.org
Why did the media do such a poor job of reporting on the Iraq war? The boosterism of news anchors, the suppression of antiwar views, and the sanitized images of war that defined television coverage are not a simple matter of bias or ineptitude, says media analyst Danny Schechter. He draws attention to the connection between the decisions made by journalists and the lobbying efforts of owners who will profit immensely from the upcoming FCC decision in June.


Eric Boehlert, Salon
Clear Channel, the radio and concert conglomerate, has been the greatest beneficiary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which stripped all ownership limits in the radio industry. The rapacious company, led by Bush supporter Lowry Mays, has grown from 40 stations to 1,225 since then, and now uses its power to routinely bully advertisers and record companies, and more recently censor antiwar artists. However, as Eric Boehlert points out, its "success" may be the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of media activists. Clear Channel's stranglehold on the radio industry is the best and clearest example of the effects of rampant deregulation.


Paul Schmelzer, AlterNet
Meet the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the "Clear Channel of local news." Since 1991, the company has managed to acquire 62 television stations or 24 percent of the national TV audience. The company's modus operandi is the centralized production of homogenized, repackaged faux "local" news. Its success offers an alarming glimpse of the post-deregulation world in which all news may be produced in one giant newsroom and from a single viewpoint -- which in Sinclair's case is wholeheartedly conservative.


Caryl Rivers, Women's Enews
Once the war on Iraq took center-stage in the headlines of newspapers and magazines across the country, women writers became increasingly rare in the media. In their place are mostly white men who write on a narrow band of foreign policy issues, mostly recycling their views over and over again. >From the all-male line-ups in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times to the dwindling female bylines in the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, women's voices have been caught in a "spiral of silence" that is unprecedented since the pre-women's movement days.


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