Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Media Privatisation and Conglomeration

The race is on to further privatize the internet, says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

"The Internet's early promise as a medium where text, audio, video and data can be freely exchanged and the public interest can be served is increasingly being relegated to history's dustbin," he writes. "Today, the part of the Net that is public and accessible is shrinking, while the part of the Net tied to round-the-clock billing is poised to grow exponentially...

"Of course, the last concern in corporate boardrooms and Congress is how the privatization of the Net will affect free speech and the public interest. Just as C-Span and public broadcasting were crumbs thrown to the public the last time new communications technologies were developed, there's been little talk about insulating public-interest uses from a more 'metered' Internet."

A related article from Newsweek's Robert J. Samuelson argues, broadly, that such privatisation has positive effects. A "tyranny of the market," he suggests, brings "a triumph of popular tastes."

The assumed wisdom, Samuelson declares, is that the FCC's recent decision to lessen media ownership restrictions "will worsen the menacing concentration of media power and that this will—to exaggerate only slightly—imperil free speech, the diversity of opinion and perhaps democracy itself. All this is more than overwrought; it completely misrepresents reality."