‘Safire is full of hot air ...’
: Reader No. 1 writes in about an earlier Hub Blog item
on the cross-ownership issue:
“A couple of points on your media-monopoly blog of Wednesday:
“Safire is full of hot air. Please define ‘real choice’ as he uses it. When hearing complaints about cross-ownership and alleged media concentration I often suspect the complainants are really unhappy about change. ‘Real choice’ when I grew up meant 3 channels, no PBS, and Bruins games on UHF. I am a DirecTV subscriber and have basic cable. I haven't totaled the numbers up lately but I estimate that I have:
“Thirty channels that show theatrical movies, including popular films on HBO, art films on IFC/Sundance, old movies on various STARZ outlets, etc.; 5 different national news channels; 2 CSPAN channels that replay forums on public policy, Congressional speeches, etc., two channels devoted to home renovation and improvement; a food channel; I don't know how many sports channels, but I can watch European soccer, college baseball, and fishing in addition to the usual major league sports; roughly 2 dozen pay-per-view movie channels; 30 different niche-programmed digital MUSIC channels; 10 or so channels that show cartoons and other children's programming; a half dozen channels that show science, history, or other education programs, not including PBS... Etc. I suspect most people would call this ‘Real Choice.’
“What about ‘Community Identity,’ Safire's other main point? Well... I have a cable channel that plays back school committee meetings. And I can still watch various local ‘public interest’ programs on local broadcast affiliates on Sundays, some of which are interesting. There is MORE local interest electronically today then there was growing up.
“Newspapers are admittedly a mixed bag. Speaking locally, the Community Newspapers vary from good to horrible. Individual cases (like my hometown) can be grating. But on the whole, there's not a whole lot of difference... and I'll argue that individual cases have a lot to do with what the local community expects from their newspapers.
“So what's the REAL problem?”
Hub Blog’s response
: All powerful arguments, but what do they have to do with the cross-ownership issue? After all, these ‘choices’ were achieved with
the cross-ownership law in place. It was the emergence of cable and satellite that changed everything, not FCC rule changes. ... But where there have been FCC changes -- such as repealing the limit on the number of broadcast outlets companies can own -- the results have been largely disappointing. Radio has become more homogenized and boring. Local TV stations have become more homogenized and boring. The ‘choices’ have dwindled after monopolistic intrusions. ... Even newspapers have become more homogenized and boring as larger companies have moved into local markets. ... Believe it or not, I still remain ambivalent about the issue for the same reason I mentioned yesterday: I think the glory days of broadcast networks have passed. I'd add this: Some companies, like the Tribune Co., have grandfathered rights to own TV stations in various markets, while other newspaper companies don't. Not exactly a level playing field. ... Nothing wrong with being ambivalent!