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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

June 10, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 46




Tom Fox Deregulation gains momentum

Tom Fox NCR publisher

In yesterday's take I wrote about the way information is being channeled through fewer media sources and the way the Bush administration is enhancing this strangulation process. If information is threatened, then so is our democracy. So this should be a major concern for the nation.

All of this is being done in the name of deregulation, the ideology of the right since the Reagan administration. It has gained considerable momentum during the second Bush administration

The most striking example of this unquestioned right-wing dogma became very visible June 2 when the Federal Communications Commission, against the wishes of virtually every interest group in the nation except the media conglomerates, ruled to ease media ownership restrictions. They had been designed to enhance competition and foster a variety of views in the media landscape.

But is this just the acting out of a "get government off my back" corporate ideology?

Perhaps not. Just as troubling is the blatant corruption of government involved here, a corruption so deep and so widespread and so outrageous and so harmful that it defies belief. Except it has come to characterize the way Big Money is stealing our government from us.

The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, did a study on the "cozy" relationship between FCC officials and the telecommunications and broadcasting industries they are allegedly regulating. The center examined the travel records of FCC employees and found that over the last eight years, commissioners and staff members have taken 2,500 trips costing $2.8 million that were "primarily" paid for by members of the telecommunications and broadcast industries.

"This shows us just how close, how incestuous, the industry and its regulating agency are," said Charles Lewis, the center's executive director.

According to the study: "The top destination was Las Vegas, with 330 trips. Second was New Orleans, with 173 trips. And third was New York, with 102 trips." Other "popular" destinations included London, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Buenos Aires and Beijing.

The FCC is overridden -- "like locusts, really" said Mr. Lewis -- by lobbyists and top industry executives.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that there were more than 70 closed-door meetings in recent months between FCC officials and representatives of the nation's top broadcasters, including powerful chief executives, to discuss the relaxation of media ownership restrictions. The two major groups that represented the public on this issue were Consumers Union and the Media Access Project. Representatives of those groups met just five times with FCC officials.

While the media conglomerates that favor the relaxing of ownership rules continue to claim that they are in competition with one another, the Center for Public Integrity study revealed that, "At some of the sessions (with commissioners and FCC staffers) executives from the nation's top broadcasters, such as News Corp./Fox, General Electric/NBC, Viacom/CBS and Disney/ABC, teamed together to lobby for the proposed changes."

The political right has blamed Big Government for virtually all that ails the nation. An unfettered free enterprise system, it argues, is the answer. But what happens when eventually Big Business reigns supreme? Well, you get corruption and competition wanes. And in the case of media, fewer ideas get aired, especially those critical of the way corporate interests are securing their grip on our nation's political processes. You get pretty much what we have today, including a government that no longer represents ordinary Americans.

Tom Fox is NCR publisher. He can be reached at

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