FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dean and the Corporate Media Machine

 

Howard Dean is asking for media trouble.

On Dec. 1, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination went where few national politicians have dared to go — directly challenging the media conglomerates.

Don’t get me wrong. Dean’s record in Vermont hardly reflects an inclination to take on corporate power. His obsession with balancing budgets and coddling big business often led him to comfort the already comfortable and afflict the afflicted. Low-income people suffered the consequences of inadequate social services.

But let’s give the doctor-turned-politician some credit for a new direction. Midway through his Dec. 1 appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” show, Dean said that he wants to “break up giant media enterprises.”

Dean went well beyond the hold-the-line stance adopted last summer by large majorities in Congress, who voted to prevent more media deregulation by the Federal Communications Commission. He declared that maintaining the media status quo isn’t good enough.

“Eleven companies in this country control 90 percent of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television,” Dean said. “That’s wrong. We need to have a wide variety of opinions in every community.”

Host Chris Matthews asked whether Dean would “break up these conglomerations of power” — specifically “large media enterprises.” The candidate replied: “The answer to that is yes. I would say that there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country.”

Dean added a comment that could be echoed in communities across the nation: “We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.”

Pressing for more clarity about Dean’s presidential agenda, Matthews asked: “Are you going to break up the giant media enterprises in this country?”

“Yes, we’re going to break up giant media enterprises,” Dean responded. Moments later he went on: “What we’re going to do is say that media enterprises can’t be as big as they are today. I don’t think we actually have to break them up, which Teddy Roosevelt had to do with the leftovers from the McKinley administration. … If the state has an interest — which it does — in preserving democracy, then there has to be a limitation on how deeply the media companies can penetrate every single community. To the extent of even having two or three or four outlets in a single community, that kind of information control is not compatible with democracy.”

That kind of talk is not compatible with media oligarchy.

As it happened, Dean was appearing on a cable channel partly owned by General Electric, which possesses the NBC network and many other outlets. His remarks were certain to raise hackles in the corporate boardrooms of GE and huge media firms such as AOL Time Warner, Disney, Viacom and News Corp.

Regardless of ideology, the top man in the White House has always been afraid of the broadcasting industry. While sometimes clashing with reporters, editors and even media owners, each president has routinely gone along with the handover of the “public” airwaves to private interests.

When radio was becoming a mass medium in the late 1920s and early ’30s, newspaper owners extended their investments into profitable radio stations. Media magnates made deals in high governmental places.

Greasing the wheels was the fact that elected officials wanted radio networks to air their speeches. Among the politicians aiding the media barons was President Franklin Roosevelt, who needed the radio chains to broadcast his fireside chats.

Seventy years ago, on Nov. 30, 1933, a syndicated column by Washington watchdogs Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen explained: “A secret move is on foot to perpetuate the present monopoly which the big broadcasting companies have on the choice wavelengths.” Corporate backers of the landmark Communications Act of 1934, setting up the FCC, proceeded to steamroller over strong grassroots opposition from educators, religious leaders, farmers’ groups and labor unions.

In recent decades, many right-wing politicians — including Spiro Agnew, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — have postured as foes of media elitism while boosting the fortunes of various media elites.

Howard Dean’s recent comments may turn out to be a fleeting excursion into criticism of media monopolization in the United States. But if Dean continues to raise sharp questions about media diversity and democracy, he is likely to face the wrath of a corporate media behemoth that does not tolerate major threats to its outsized power.

NORMAN SOLOMON’s weekly syndicated column is archived at www.fair.org/media-beat. His latest book, co-authored with Reese Erlich, is “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You.”

 

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail