|The FCC was originally created to license airwave
use and to regulate all nongovernment use of radio and television
on the airwaves, which were considered public property. Today,
however, modern communications involve a much broader spectrum
of communication channels than just the air waves, including
wire, satellite, and cable as well. Considering the nature of
the relationship between the public and politics, this makes
the FCC an extremely attractive vehicle for politicians to push
Although its separation from the government is clearly defined
in its description, the line is blurred in its very structure.
The contradictions of this claim of independence begin right
from the top, with the FCC commissioners and chairperson being
personally appointed by the president himself and confirmed by
the Senate. How can an agency’s officers honestly claim
autonomy from a government that self-appoints them?
Evidence of hand-in-hand relationships between the FCC and the
presidential parties of the time go far back, but perhaps never
as publicly as in 2000 when former FCC Chairperson Reed Hundt
exposed it for all to see. In his book, You Say You Want A Revolution,
Hundt describes in detail his “synchronized” agenda
with the Clinton administration. Hundt openly admitted to such
things as “orchestrating a White House summit to pressure
broadcasters into programming beneficial to Clinton’s reelection” and
making it his duty to “fulfill Al’s (Vice President
Al Gore) vision for the information superhighway.”
With the affiliation between the FCC and the White House exposed,
many hoped the situation would change. Unfortunately, with the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulating the industry, and
with recent events prompted by the Bush administration, the situation
seems to only be worsening.
The “Telecommunications Act of 1996” successfully
deregulated big-business ownership of the communications world
making it that much easier for politicians to take advantage.
In the years since the act was passed, the top 10 radio groups,
including Westinghouse/CBS and Capstar Broadcasting Partners,
have doubled their station ownerships dropping the already low
minority ownership to under a measly 3 percent. These big businesses
now can make large political contributions in turn for their
increased profits from the deregulation.
It also leads to the big corporations willingly working with
the politicians that helped them get rich once they’re
in office. One example of this, is the “coincidental” relationship
between President Bush and the CEO of Clear Channel Communications,
Mark Mays. Mays is not only a Republican, but a very close friend
of George Bush, Sr. and has proved a large financial supporter
of past Bush campaigns. Furthermore, radio personalities hostile
to the current President Bush were effectively gagged by the
FCC. For example, during the campaign for the 2004 elections,
former FCC Chairperson Michael Powell (son of former Secretary
of State Colin Powell) effectively pulled radio shock jock Howard
Stern off of the air in the key electoral swing states of Florida
and Pennsylvania after Stern did a “Bush-bashing” about
the Iraq war on his popular morning show.
Another case, also during the most recent presidential campaign,
the danger of media consolidation was made clear when Sinclair
Broadcasting, another Bush supporter, ordered all of its 62 television
stations nationwide to cancel regular programming to show a documentary
critical of Senator John Kerry just days before the election.
The current administration is shameless in allowing this “favor-for-favor” system
to play out right in front of the public. Will the already precariously
thin lines between big business and our government soon be nonexistent?
Seemingly overwhelmed by the many battles fought in his term
as chairperson, Powell resigned in January of this year. However,
with Bush’s appointment of his successor, Kevin J. Martin,
who “just so happens to be” a former economic aide
to Bush, the hopes for a separation of FCC and the Bush administration’s
political agenda, any time in the near future, look grim.
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