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July 23, 2004

Ted Turner on Media Consolidation

Just finished a supurb article written by Ted Turner on the subject of media consolidation. In a response to the previous entry, one of my readers asks why I am boycotting ClearChannel. Mr. Turner's article express my sentiments better than I could myself. The boycott is about more than ClearChannel, it's really a statement against media consolidation.

It is so very rare that I come across a written viewpoint that actually expresses my own in a way that is clearer, more well-researched, more eloquent, and more accessible than I could write myself. This is one of those articles, and I want to encourage my readership to read the article in its entirety, even though it's long. The article is the most complete dissertation on the perils of media consolidation that I have ever seen. This issue goes to the core of democracy itself, and affects every person in the world. It's something that I've been trying to figure out how to express for a while, and it's just so refreshing to see that someone else already did it.

Some key excerpts:

Big media today wants to own the faucet, pipeline, water, and the reservoir. The rain clouds come next.

The loss of independent operators hurts both the media business and its citizen-customers. When the ownership of these firms passes to people under pressure to show quick financial results in order to justify the purchase, the corporate emphasis instantly shifts from taking risks to taking profits. When that happens, quality suffers, localism suffers, and democracy itself suffers.

When media companies dominate their markets, it undercuts our democracy. Justice Hugo Black, in a landmark media-ownership case in 1945, wrote: "The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public."

Naturally, corporations say they would never suppress speech. But it's not their intentions that matter; it's their capabilities. Consolidation gives them more power to tilt the news and cut important ideas out of the public debate. And it's precisely that power that the rules should prevent...

This is a fight about freedom--the freedom of independent entrepreneurs to start and run a media business, and the freedom of citizens to get news, information, and entertainment from a wide variety of sources, at least some of which are truly independent and not run by people facing the pressure of quarterly earnings reports. No one should underestimate the danger. Big media companies want to eliminate all ownership limits. With the removal of these limits, immense media power will pass into the hands of a very few corporations and individuals.

(This entry was originally posted without a PGP signature because I did not have my key on me. It has been subsequently modified to add the signature, but the content above this paragraph is unchanged from the original post.)

PGP Signed Entry

July 17, 2004

Boycotting the Suppression of Free Speech

I have decided to boycott ClearChannel and Slim-Fast as suppressors of free speech.

The Slim-Fast one should be pretty easy, since I don't believe in artificial diets. Their axeing of Whoopi Goldberg as their spokesperson prompted my reaction. I mean, a Florida company with ties to Jeb Bush. Gimme a break. Well, we can all play at this game. If you propose economic sanctions against my causes, then I'm going to do the same to you.

ClearChannel, on the other hand, will prove more difficult. The reason is simple: they are so pervasive in modern society that it is downright impossible to go anywhere or participate in any social event without risking contributing to ClearChannel. That means, I won't listen to any of their radio stations, read any of their billboards (fat chance), go to any of their concerts, etc. I'm sure that they have their dirty hands in far more that I haven't considered.

You know, freedom of speech is probably the freedom that I value the most. From it springs all other freedoms. If you suppress this fundamental freedom, you suppress freedom of thought, and from there we might as well be a fascist society. That is why I react so vehemently to any action taken by anyone, corporations or Congress, to limit this important freedom. Cherish it. And don't support people who seek to destroy it.

PGP Signed Entry

July 7, 2004


For the first time in years upon years, I spent US Independence Day within 50 miles of home. I did that most American of pastimes: had a barbecue with friends, drank some booze, and glorified war by playing bloody video games.

It was a very low-key weekend. Helped a friend move. Caught up on sleep. Played some poker.

Didn't worry about getting killed in some far away land, dying of dysentery, getting enough to eat, not being able to say whatever I want, having to pick up arms to affect change...

All this because I am fortunate to live in the richest, most powerful country in the world. Independence Day to me is not about reflecting upon the freedoms and fortunes that we have, but upon the enormous responsibilities those freedoms and fortunes saddle us with.

Pay not lip service to the thanks we owe to those who came before us, but by living responsibly as a steward of freedom and the rich resources we have.

That is truly paying tribute to Independence.

PGP Signed Entry