What the FCC Is Going on?

Turn on the television and a person is bombarded with hundreds of different stations NBC, SciFi, Bravo, A&E, CNBC, USA, The History Channel and Telemundo, just to name a few. A little known fact is that all these stations and networks, in addition to over 30 other U.S. stations, are all owned by the same compa-ny, General Electric.

“Airwaves belong to the people,” Bernie Sanders, I VT, said Tuesday night, when he returned to the state of Ver-mont to lead a panel discus-sion on media consolidation at St. Michael’s McCarthy Arts Center.

“TV stations you watch should be accountable to the people,” Sen. Sanders said. “Today, if you don’t like a station, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Panelist Jonathan Adelstein, a commissioner for the Federal Communications Commision said, “Unfortunately, I believe in recent years the FCC has failed your [citizens’] interests.”

When asked if these large media companies could be dismantled, Adelstein likened them to toothpaste “once it’s out of the bottle you can’t get it back in it .”

‘Big media’ does not necessarily mean bad media, but it does tend to decrease diversity and puts a lot of power into very few hands, panel member , St. Michael’s associate professor and former correspondent for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. Traci Griffith said.

Large companies such as Time Warner, owns the WB, Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO, Cinemax, TBS, TNT, Map-quest, Netscape, AOL, AIM, New Line Cinema, 150 magazines including TIME, and the Atlanta Braves, “just for good measure,” Griffith said to over 200 residents and students in attendance.

“Cable has a lot of stations. Problem is they’re all owned by the same five companies,” Griffith said. “In terms of accessing media, people need to be diligent to know what company owns what station.”

Mergers have created media companies that control everything from original production to distribution. Major media conglomerates produce movies and own the movie houses, putting people at a major disadvantage, Griffith said.

Seven Days founder Paula Routly said that media giants like Gannet have long been trying to run smaller independent newspapers out of the business. Larger newspapers are able to offer cheaper advertising prices and print county specific sections, therefore monopolizing the industry, Routly said.

“Media literacy is the solution,” Champlain College professor Rob Williams said. People need to learn how to use independent media technology like blogs, podcasting, and RSS feeds, he said.

UVM English Professor Paul Martin, who has his own blog and uses blogging technology in all of his classes, said “their advantage is they allow you to escape the saturation of media … you control the information you’re getting.”

“I think a bigger problem than media consolidation is that people simply aren’t reading the news,” Martin said.

He described an incident in an online course he taught over winter break where three or four students didn’t know about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands at all. “They said they don’t watch the news.

“We can’t fight media consolidation unless students use the media available,” Martin said. “ninty nine percent of my students don’t know what an RSS feed is, even though Facebook is now using an RSS feed.”