In the next few months, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide the future of the Internet. Major telecom and cable companies are seeking unprecedented control over what you can see and say online. If the FCC's plan to allow fast lanes for the few goes forward, the rest of us will suffer. The deep-pocketed will pay to move their online content at top speed, consigning nonprofit, independent and dissenting voices to the slow lane.
Years of bad, industry-friendly decisions by regulators have crippled the media, reducing the vibrant research and debate so important to democratic discourse. Rampant consolidation of media ownership has resulted in newsroom layoffs and minimized the kind of investigative journalism that holds power accountable.
When the media are in the hands of a limited number of owners, how — and even whether —important issues are addressed is threatened by self-interest or just poor performance due to lack of competition. The media doesn’t only inform the electorate, they often are responsible for framing the debate over important issues. A weak and timid media enables power brokers and special interests to do their work in the shadows, avoiding the light of democratic scrutiny.
The solution is clear: put the brakes on harmful media monopolization, and roll it back to the more local, diverse media ecosystem that democracy depends on.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can fix this mess. It must:
- SAY YES to the FCC upholding rules that limit newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership that would hold off major consolidation plays such as the pending Time-Warner and Charter Communications merger.
- SAY NO to the merger mania of media companies that won’t end until all our information providers are in the hands of a small number of corporate giants who can exercise unprecedented sway over what we can see and say online and in print.
- SAY YES to media ownership rules that promotes more local and diverse ownership of radio and television.
Standing up to the deep-pocketed telecommunications lobby will not be easy, but it is essential.