Holiday shopping on your mind? Gift subscriptions to newspapers and magazines were big last year. Subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post spiked soon after the election, as the penny seemed to drop that without an informed electorate we have a pretty dodgy democracy.
A year on, American democracy is in way more trouble more than a few gift subs can fix. While the conventional wisdom has it that the Trump White House has had trouble getting much done, the Federal Communications Commission has been getting a lot done, none of it good for democracy - you know, the system with the people, the demos, and debate?
Historically, the mission of the FCC has been to regulate the public airwaves in the public interest by promoting localism, competition, and diversity. Trump’s Communications Chair Agit Pai is against all of that.
Pai, a former staffer to Jeff Sessions, leads the commission’s Republican majority in virtual lockstep. He’s made it more than clear that he plans to reverse net neutrality rules. That would make it legal for big cable providers to privilege some content over others; their own, for example, over independents, like us.
Pai’s comfortable with monopolies of ownership as well as voice. If the FCC goes ahead and repeals the last limits on how many stations a single entity can own, that will do awful things to your phone bills, but the impact on democracy will be way worse.
If the Sinclair Broadcasting company gets to buy the Tribune group, for example, their stations will reach 3/4 of the US population, with one agenda: Trump’s. Sinclair’s hired former Trump advisors to record daily commentaries which are local stations are forced to air under a “must-carry” rule that is strictly enforced.
Many stations, one voice.
It’s time we stopped fiddling with the FCC. What do I really want for Christmas? A few huge, sexy, monopoly busting, local media funding, anti-trust lawsuits.
Big Cable’s not covering the FCC struggle much (as you might expect), but you can cast your vote by signing a petition or getting involved at any one of many sites, for example, Freepress.net.