Matt Stoller writes: Earlier this year, Obama Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed relaxing media ownership rules to allow Rupert Murdoch to buy the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. It’s not something you’ll see discussed much, because Republicans like the fact that Murdoch is going to get more power, while Democrats don’t want to admit that Obama is helping the person framed as their arch-nemesis. This is part of a larger pattern – media consolidation is one of the many structural problems that Obama promised to deal with. And indeed, this is the real arena where the battle over free speech is being fought. Corporate control over our communications infrastructure is the free speech question of our time.
Backed by tech billionaires and consumer advocates in 2008, Obama argued for a dramatic restructuring of communications policy (versus Hillary Clinton, whose advisors were traditional telecom lobbyists). Candidate Obama made the right noises, from a strong stance on net neutrality to opposition to media consolidation to expanded broadband access. In this case, there were billionaires who valued the right policies, not just do gooders. For instance, here’s a little noted part of Democratic Party platform from 2008.
We will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.
Of course, as is consistent with Obama’s main policy arc, after winning, Obama neutralized the reform groups and quickly reverted to a model of policymaking that is slightly more pro-corporate than Bush’s. He appointed Genachowski, a law school classmate known as an intellectual and moral lightweight, to run the FCC, and ensured that Larry Summers in the White House would sideline any attempts to fight against media and telecom barons. [Continue reading…]