Former FCC Commissioner: Big Media Dumbs Down Democracy
By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company
05 December 12
Moyers: The argument we hear in rebuttal is “Well look, we don't have to worry about monopoly today, we don't have to worry about cartels today, because we have the Internet, which is the most democratic source of opinion, expression and free speech that's available to us. You and Moyers are outdated because of your concerns about broadcasting and newspapers and all of this.”
Copps: I don't buy that argument at all. The Internet has the potential for all of that. The Internet has the potential for a new town square of democracy, paved with broadband bricks. But it's very, very far from being the reality. The reality is – and you don't have to really look too closely – throughout history, we've seen every means of communication go down this road toward more and more consolidation. Wouldn't it be a tragedy if you took this potential of this open and dynamic technology, capable of addressing just about every problem that the country has – no problem that we have doesn't have a broadband component to its solution somewhere along the line – and let the biggest invention since the printing press probably as communication goes, morph into a cable-ized Internet? That's what I think is happening. Most of the news generated on the Internet, is still coming from the newspaper newsroom, or the TV newsroom. It's just there's so damn much less of it because of the consolidation that we've been through, because of the downsizing, and because of a government that has been absent without leave from its public interest responsibilities for many, many years – a better part of a generation now.
Moyers: On this particular decision now under consideration, the relaxation of some rules prohibiting further concentration, what can ordinary people do?
Copps: Well, they can get involved. It can become a grassroots movement. I spent 40 years in Washington, working on policy with the belief that you can do some good things from the top down, and I still believe that. But the real systemic reforms and the substantive reforms in this country, from abolition to women's rights and civil rights, and labor rights and all that, came from the bottom up. And I think there's enough frustration out there that it's possible to build on that right now.