Big media won't bring good things to life

by Cindy Rodriguez, Denver Post

GE brings good things to life, or so the jingle says. One division makes refrigerators, another nuclear reactors and yet another movies, TV shows and news programs.

General Electric owns NBC, MS-NBC, Telemundo, Bravo, the Sci Fi Channel, Universal Pictures and large stakes in dozens of other media companies. Its television division produces "The Today Show," "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," "Dateline NBC," "Meet the Press" and "Hardball with Chris Matthews," to name a few.

The media conglomerate made $157.2 billion in profits last year and reaches 99 percent of all U.S. households.

It controls the news you watch, which has become kinder and gentler to government and corporations, while focusing on sex scandals, manhunts, and the big crime story of the day.

That's the mantra of media giants, who are more concerned with profits than educating viewers. GE, just like Disney and Time Warner, are monsters with insatiable appetites. They want to control more media and would if there weren't Federal Communications Commission rules prohibiting big media from getting bigger.

All that could change if the FCC has its way this winter and allows corporations to own more media outlets in the same city.

In 2003, the FCC relaxed ownership rules, but a federal court in 2004 issued an emergency stay, stating that the FCC had failed to explain how one company controlling a newspaper and TV and radio stations in the same city would serve the public interest.

Now the FCC is at it again. It is in the midst of holding public hearings and collecting public comment and might try to spin that information so it sounds like the public is being served.

But you and I already know that it is not.

How many times have you flipped through the evening news programs and turned the TV off in disgust? It's crime and grime, five minutes of world news, then weather and sports.

When the founding fathers created the Bill of Rights, the first amendment they added to the Constitution included freedom of the press. That's because they knew government needed a watchdog.

The public doesn't have the time to investigate what government leaders are doing. It's up to reporters, but corporate media aren't living up to that standard.

News programs offer meaningless "investigative stories" about bedbugs and diet aids.

Instead of delving into issues that make people curious about how their tax money is being spent and how policies are affecting their lives, corporate news shows have been dumbing down their content to the easy and sleazy stories.

The 60 percent of Americans who get their news from TV might think the only thing that happened on Capitol Hill in the last two weeks is Mark Foley IMing "love to slip them off you" to a 16-year-old congressional page.

In the meantime, while congressmen are campaigning for office, lobbyists are wining and dining congressional aides. Among them is GE, which spent more than $31 million in 2001 and 2002 lobbying lawmakers, according to public records maintained by opensecrets.org.

If the public doesn't know it is being manipulated by corporate media, how can it protest? Besides, most Americans go on the assumption that there is complete freedom of the press.

It's not freedom when investigative reporters for the major networks can't delve into issues of corporate abuse because the parent company owns the subsidiary in question.

It's not freedom when the media parrot what government officials tell them, which is what you can expect most of the time on TV news. Granted, newspaper reporters are more tenacious, but with stockholders demanding high profit margins it's a matter of time before they whittle away the staffs of newspapers to the point where we become glorified transcribers for government officials.

If you care about who controls what you see on TV and want to stop big media from concentrating even more power, it's time to speak out.

article originally published at http://www.denverpost.com.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey