Sunday, January 16, 2011

The FCC Does Not Regulate Major Media Corporations-- They Regulate The FCC


While I was still in Marrakech over December, thankfully televisionless, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski proposed approving Comcast’s takeover of NBC. That didn't sound like a very wise thing to me, and the next day I got an e-mail from Bernie Sanders' office:
The FCC released some very bad news for the future of American media and, in my view, for the future of American democracy. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has circulated an order that would allow Comcast, the country’s largest cable and Internet provider, to merge with NBC Universal, one of the country’s largest media conglomerates.

If approved, this new media giant will be the largest cable provider, the largest Internet provider, and one of the largest producers of content in the United States. At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another media conglomerate with control over the production and distribution of media content. What we need is less concentration of ownership, more diversity, more local ownership-- and more viewpoints.

By law, the FCC may only sign off on the merger if it determines that it serves ‘the public interest, convenience, and necessity.’ Far from meeting the public interest standard, Comcast’s takeover of NBCU would create a monolithic media superpower and cause irreparable damage to the U.S. media landscape and society as a whole. In addition, the merger of these two media giants would likely precipitate other media mergers and make an already bad situation of media consolidation far worse. Despite the public interest standard, Chairman Genachowski appears to be charging ahead, pressuring his fellow commissioners to approve this deal.

Some take solace in the fact that Chairman Genachowski’s order would approve the merger only subject to certain conditions and regulations. This in no way changes my opinion about the scope of the damage. If this merger is approved, I have little doubt that Comcast-NBCU will retain hundreds of attorneys and lobbyists to exploit gaps and loopholes in any conditions and regulations. Once we allow companies to become this powerful, the FCC does not regulate them. They regulate the FCC.

Time is running out to stop this deal. I hope the American people will take notice and stand with me to demand that the FCC change course, vote down the order, and reverse the disturbing trend of media consolidation.

TechDirt doesn't agree with Sanders and other progressive reformers that the merger would be a real danger to the republic. They feel it's just a bad business decision-- "it'll just be a modern updating of the AOL/Time Warner catastrophe, as management won't really know what to do and will just make things worse off"-- but this week they released some interesting figures worth looking at:
84 of the 97 Congressional Reps, who signed a letter urging that the FCC approve the merger without conditions, received campaign contributions from Comcast.

Now, this is not to say that those 84 are corrupt. But, as Larry Lessig has pointed out, whether or not there is actual corruption here obscures the point that it certainly looks corrupt, and certainly decreases citizens' willingness to trust that their government is acting in the interests of the people they're supposed to represent.

If anything, this brings more support to the idea that if our elected officials are going to accept large donations from companies and then legislate in their interests, it would make sense to require those elected officials to wear patches indicating who's funding them, a la Nascar uniforms.

To me this is absolutely bogus, and I disagree strongly-- every single Member, Democrat and Republican, who took money from Comcast while signing that letter to the FCC is guilty of taking a bribe and should resign from Congress and be prosecuted. First signature, appropriately, is one of the most corrupt bribe-takers in the history of Congress, Joe Barton, best known as the Republican bagman from Big Oil. Comcast handed him $12,000 last year. (He's taken $1,495,780 from Big Oil in his greasy career, including $147,870 in 2010.)

There are 18 Comcast entities actively bribing members of Congress. Here's just the list from this past year alone from one entity. Nor do these figures include the $8,757,000 Comcast spent on lobbying Congress in 2010. This is just the direct, reported, legalized bribes. Below is a list of House Members-- from both parties-- who took over $10,000 each from Comcast and who signed the letter to the FCC. Keep in mind that neither senators nor party leaders sign these kinds of letters, even though they tend to get the biggest bribes. Conservative Democratic senators, both notorious corporate whores and both electoral losers, who got the most dough from Comcast in 2010 were Arlen Specter ($66,630) and Blanche Lincoln ($59,850). The biggest bribery recipient in the House, Eric Cantor ($33,950) is the new Majority Leader, and he didn't sign the letter, nor did the new Speaker, John Boehner ($10,000) or the Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer ($15,500). But all of these crooks did:

Charlie Dent (R-PA)- $18,500
Michael Doyle (D-PA)- $5,000
Joe Barton (R-TX)- $12,000
Fred Upton (R-MI)- $10,000
Brett Guthrie (R-KY)- $5,000
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)- $21,750
Morgan Griffith (R-VA)- $1,000
Robert Latta (R-OH)- $2,000
John Sullivan (R-OK)- $9,000
Adam Smith (D-WA)- $4,000
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)- $1,000
Corrine Brown (D-FL)- $1,000
Albio Sires (D-NJ)- $3,500
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)- $3,000
Laura Richardson (D-CA)- $2,000
Tim Murphy (R-PA)- $10,000
Bill Shuster (R-PA)- $8,000
Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA)- $11,000
Chaka Fattah (D-PA)- $20,000
Patrick Meehan (R-PA)- $12,750
Robert Brady (D-PA)- $25,100
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)- $3,500
Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)- $13,750
Jim Gerlach (R-PA)- $18,650
Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)- $12,000
Leonard Lance (R-NJ)- $5,000
Mark Critz (D-PA)- $6,500
Glenn Thompson (R-PA)- $6,000
Michael Burgess (R-TX)- $2,000
Phil Gingrey (R-GA)- $8,000
Steve Scalise (R-LA)- $7,000
Sue Myrick (R-NC)- $3,000
Gregg Harper (R-MS)- $7,500
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)- $10,000
Mike Rogers (R-MI)- $8,000
John Shimkus (R-IL)- $10,000
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)- $6,000
Ralph Hall (R-TX)- 2,000
Pete Olson (R-TX)- $2,500
Ed Whitfield (R-KY)- $6,000
Greg Walden (R-OR)- $7,000
Charles Bass (R-NH)- $7,150
Lee Terry (R-NE)- $7,500
Cliff Stearns (R-FL)- $10,000
Brian Bilbray (R-CA)- $1,000
Gerald Connolly (D-VA)- $8,834
Jim Himes (D-CT)- $5,000
Steve Cohen (D-TN)- $4,000
Chris Murphy (D-CT)- $8,500
Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)- $7,500
Robert Andrews (D-NJ)- $4,000
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)- $10,000
G. K. Butterfield (D-NC)- $5,000
Chris Smith (R-NJ)- $3,000
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)- $3,000
Adam Schiff (Blue Dog-CA)- $2,000
Sanford Bishop, Jr. (Blue Dog-GA)- $1,000
Joseph Crowley (D-NY)- $8,500
Edolphus Towns (D-NY)- $6,500
John Lewis (D-GA)- $2,500
Joe Baca (Blue Dog-CA)- $4,000
Dennis Cardoza (Blue Dog-CA)- $7,250
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $4,000
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)- $1,500
Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)- $1,000
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)- $6,500
Michael Capuano (D-MA)- $5,500
John Larson (D-CT)- $7,500
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)- $7,250
David Rivera (R-FL)- $1,000
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)- $2,000
Richard Neal (D-MA)- $3,500
Joe Courtney (D-CT)- $4,750
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)- $1,000
Rosa Delauro (D-CT)- $4,500
Ted Deutch (D-FL)- $2,000
Loretta Sanchez (Blue Dog-CA)- $6,500
Sam Graves (R-MO)- $7,500
Gregory Meeks (D-NY)- $1,000
Howard Berman (D-CA)- $4,500
Ken Calvert (R-CA)- $5,000
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)- $4,000
Sam Johnson (R-TX)- $3,000

Is our democracy for sale? Are you kidding?

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