Posts tagged with 'Net Neutrality'
The Wavelength: Court To FCC: Do Your Freakin’ Job! Plus: How the NewsCorps Scandal Impacts U.S. Media
Welcome to the final edition of The Wavelength, a bi-weekly roundup of news and analysis focused on media policy. Stay tuned for more reporting on the ongoing impact of media policy from members of The Media Consortium.
By Eric K. Arnold, Media Consortium Blogger
Just when it seemed that the wave of media consolidation had reached tsunami proportions, a new court ruling is easing the troubled waters.
As Amy Miller and Lori Abbot of Public News Service report, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to block revisions to current FCC regulations which would further relax media cross-ownership rules. This ruling is a major victory for media reform advocates who say any further consolidation could severely challenge the notion of a free, independent press.
As previously reported, the new regulations would have likely had an adverse affect on local news reporting and diversity. Making the situation even more awkward is the FCC’s own recently issued media review, which posits the need for more localism and more diversity.
The upshot, write Miller and Abbot, is this: “In addition to preventing one company from owning both print and broadcast stations in the same market, the rulings mean more competition and more opportunity for women and minority ownership of media companies.”
The decision sends a clear message to the FCC that it has a mandate to prioritize public interest over corporate interests, a point it’s been somewhat confused on in the past.
News of the World Scandal Continues
In a case of media behaving badly, the UK’s News of the World—a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the US’s Fox News—ceased publication after being caught red-handed in an embarrassing scandal. Reportedly, the paper, which was founded in 1843 and has a circulation of 2.8 million, hacked the cellphones of families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, murder victims (including 13 year-old Milly Dowler), and celebrities. NoTW reportedly deleted voicemails from Dowler’s cellphone, causing her family to believe she hadn’t been killed.
Hitting where it hurts
Blowback from the scandal is hitting Murdoch hard. As blogger John Nichols writes in The Nation, “the damage is running deep, as members of Parliament… have called for placing a hold on the anticipated purchase by News Corp. of British Sky Broadcasting, a hugely-profitable satellite TV enterprise that Murdoch has coveted for years.”
The inquiry by Scotland Yard and the British government is just getting started, Nichols says, adding the sordid episode should raise questions about the Murdoch media empire’s practices in America: “Should Americans be appalled by a scandal in Britain? Certainly.”
Also in The Nation, D.D. Guttenplan blogs about the scandal, which, he notes, “wiped some $2.5 billion off the value of News Corporation, [Murdoch's] US-based holding company.” The larger issue, however, is that “Rupert Murdoch has been operating what amounts to a private intelligence service” which “gives News Corporation a kind of leverage over inquisitive regulators or troublesome politicians wielded by no other company on earth.”
But wait, it gets worse. As Adele Stan writes for AlterNet, Wall Street Journal CEO Les Hinton, a former executive chairman of Murdoch’s UK operation, has been implicated in the scandal. In 2006, Hinton told Parliament that the hacking was the work of one rogue reporter — a claim which has been revealed to be a lie. The WSJ, Stan says, did not disclose “the role its chief executive played in delivering misleading testimony before the British parliament” — which raises troubling questions about the paper’s ethics, especially considering its ties to the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity foundation.
In other media policy-related news:
- Truthout has launched a new column, Ladydrawers, which addresses gender bias in comic book.
- New America Media reports on controversial Pulitzer-winning-journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who recently revealed his illegal immigrant status.
This week’s blog marks the final edition of the Wavelength, which started last March—right around the time AT&T announced its proposed $39 Billion merger with T-Mobile.
Over the past four months, the implications of the proposed mega-merger have reverberated through both the Beltway and the blogosphere, dominating much of the reportage around media policy. Other top stories included the Microsoft-Skype merger; the outcry over the latest instance of the FCC’s infamous “revolving door”; the ongoing debate over Net Neutrality; and a growing concern over privacy issues with regard to popular social media websites and mobile phones.
We’ve also taken a look at the state of media with regards to freedom of the press, independent journalism and censorship, both in the U.S. and abroad. While this picture has often been depressing – especially when detailing the connections between right-wing media, conservative political agendas, and corporate influence — there’s also plenty of reason for optimism and hope. Bright spots include the potential of alternatives to mainstream media like Low-Power TV to become a home for digital diversity; the ongoing exposes of WikiLeaks; the role of social media in Arab Spring; and reports of new collaborative efforts between international press outlets reporting on corruption and violence in foreign countries.
As we wrap up the Wavelength, we’d like to give a big shout-out goes out to the Media Consortium member organizations who released informative and revealing reporting week after week. As the Murdoch scandal illustrates, this coverage is invaluable, since the notion of “fair and balanced” journalism practiced by Fox News, the WSJ, and other mainstream outlets appears to be as much a hoax as the false hope perpetuated by NoTW that Dowler was still alive.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy and media-related matters by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here. You can also follow us on Twitter.
Four months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supposedly settled the issue, the battle over Net Neutrality is still raging. If anything, it’s just beginning to heat up. On April 8, the Republican-controlled Congress resolved to repeal the FCC’s recent legislation surrounding Internet protections, and conservative activists are fighting tooth and nail to push back any apparent gains before they are realized. At the same time, media reform advocates say that the FCC’s December ruling on broadband policy did not go far enough in establishing consumer-friendly regulatory guidelines across both Internet and mobile platforms.
Meanwhile, the impact of the announced merger between AT&T and T-Mobile is still up for debate, and federal officials are raising anti-trust concerns against Google.
Genachowski comes to Oakland
Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski met with mayors from the Bay Area in Oakland to tout a mobile apps contest (a partnership with the Knight Foundation) as a way to reduce the digital divide, which has left one-third of Americans without broadband access. Genachowski remarked that those facing digital exclusion were primarily immigrants, minorities, disabled people, and other underserved communities. However, as I reported for Oakland Local, the visit was perhaps more notable for what Genachowski didn’t say.
At the press conference I attended, Genachowski didn’t take any questions, so asking him about the omission of Net Neutrality provisions for wireless carriers wasn’t possible. Nor could I ask him about the upcoming threat posed to low-power TV stations by mobile TV, which could hit 20 U.S. markets this year. Mobile TV could deprive low-power stations of critical bandwidth. Many of these stations reach diverse demographics that are underserved by network and mainstream cable television.
FCC Commissioner at NCMR: System ‘Out of Control’
The lack of a two-way discussion between the nation’s most powerful telecommunications official was disappointing, especially since numerous concerns remain over how the FCC will enforce media policy moving forward. As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps recently said at the National Conference for Media Reform, held April 8-10 in Boston: “just give us some sign that the FCC is putting the brakes on a system that is spinning dangerously out of control.”
Copps’ fiery speech was only one of many highlights at the NCMR, which was attended by thousands of people that are passionately interested in changing media. Some of the most inspiring moments included panels on music journalism and localism; comics as journalism’s future; race as a media issue; and how old-school journos are adapting to today’s new media world; and performance artist Sarah Jones inhabiting a range of different characters at the opening plenary.
House Disapproves of Net Neutrality
In a follow-up to an earlier story, Truthout’s Nadia Prupis writes about an April 8 resolution by Congress to repeal the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations. The vote, which passed 240-179, was largely partisan, with only six Democrats crossing party lines to support it. Republicans characterized the FCC’s regulation of the Internet as a “power grab,” questioning the agency’s authority to establish guidelines for cyberspace.
But Democrats countered that the resolution “disables a free and open Internet” and is an attempt to stifle innovation in the tech sector, a charge which is disputed by right-wing nonprofits like FreedomWorks. As Prupis reports, however, that group has received funding from both Verizon and AT&T, and the telecommunications companies “stand to benefit if the law is overturned.”
Despite the partisan rhetoric, the vote was largely symbolic, as the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to endorse the resolution.
Tea Party: Net Neutrality = ‘Media Marxism’
As Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer reports, Net Neutrality has also come under fire from the Tea Party. Mencimer points out the irony of such a stance, noting that while an open Internet allows “even the smallest, poorest tea party group… the potential to reach a large audience,” the right-wing activists “inexplicably equate net neutrality with Marxism.”
Tea Party spokesman and Virginia Senate candidate James Radtke is quoted as saying “Net neutrality is an innocuous sounding term for what is really media Marxism.” He goes on to call it “an ideological attempt by those on the left to control the greatest means for the distribution of information ever devised.”
Yet Mencimer points out that much of the netroots activism practiced by the Tea Party has relied on an open Internet, unrestricted by ideological content, which Net Neutrality is intended to protect.
“The tea party’s position on net neutrality,” she writes, “has seemed counterintuitive, given just how badly conservative activists could be screwed by the big cable and phone companies should net neutrality rules be repealed. The whole movement has been organized online, making the Internet’s level playing field a crucial element to its success.”
Wireless Mega-Mergers and Ethnic Communities
New York Community Media Alliance’s Jehangir Khattak details how the AT&T/T-Mobile mega-merger could impact ethnic communities. The skinny: Ethnic populations “could be confronted by reduced service access and higher costs,” Khattak writes.
Khattak outlines the basic provisions of the merger and AT&T’s spin; according to the company, the deal could bring 4G LTE technology to 95 percent of the U.S. population. He also speaks with several members of the ethnic press, who voice concerns that the deal might allow the telecommunications giant to “control the quality of services, such as by dictating the available applications, software or the amount of data they’d allow to be transferred.”
Another concern: the “arcane”, “jargon-ridden” tech-speak of media policy is difficult for immigrant populations to decipher.
Khattak also notes that Genachowski’s compromise on Net Neutrality suggests the FCC Chairman is “unlikely to take the hard line, pro-regulatory stance… expected of him” by ethnic media advocates.
Google Under Federal Scrutiny—Again
Also in Truthout, Nadia Prupis reports that Google has come under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice, which are considering launching an antitrust probe against the popular search engine.
As Prupis writes, “The DOJ recently approved Google’s $700 million deal with travel company ITA Software, but antitrust regulators are concerned that the acquisition may threaten competition in the travel information industry; specifically, the FTC is worried that Google could use the software to direct users to its own sites, depriving similar web sites such as Orbitz, Kayak and TripAdvisor of fair competition.”
The FTC’s interest in the case comes on the heels of DOJ’s antitrust division filing a civil lawsuit to block Google’s acquisition of ITA, citing concerns that airfare websites should have access to ITA’s software to keep competition “robust.” Though Google reportedly agreed to license that software to competitors, the FTC’s concern indicates that serious questions remain about Google’s potential to unfairly dominate the market, should the deal go through.
This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy and media-related matters by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read more of the Wavelength, click here. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets, and is produced with the support of the Media Democracy Fund.
What do Net Neutrality, gender equality, journalistic integrity, and wireless hegemony have in common (besides alliteration)? Find out this week in the Wavelength.