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The Intersection of Media Conglomeration and The Occupy Movement
Effective and true democratic participation is predicated on the existence of a well-informed populace. If not democracy quickly turns into plutocracy. The populace is easily co-opted by particular interest groups and at times even advocates against their own interest. And equally problematic, political demobilization and apathy become the norm, as the populace is unable to connect the dots between political activity and promoting their own interests. Unfortunately, the disseminators of information (i.e. media outlets) have intentionally chosen to neglect their obligation as broadcasters to honestly educate the populace, instead choosing to obfuscate the truth in order to promote their own interests at the detriment of society’s more general interests. The Occupy Movement must look to replicate the free flow and democratic exchange of ideas currently occuring at GA's and discussion boards like this Wiki page across the globe.
Up until the last several decades the government has played a vital role in regulating media broadcasting in order to facilitate competing viewpoints and the presentation of such viewpoints in an honest, equitable and balanced manner. However, since the revocation of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 1996, the federal government has abdicated this role, leaving media broadcasting to the whims of the market. For nearly 60 years the Federal Communications Commission enforced the Fairness doctrine, which required the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance from multiple viewpoints. Under the urging of President Reagan, the FEC reversed this mandate, which would not have been completely detrimental if less than ten years later Clinton had not signed into law a bill setting the stage for the further monopolization of an already heavily monopolized industry. Passed with the intent of increasing competition, increasing diversity and decreasing consumer costs, the Telecommunications Act has actually led to the exact opposite.1 The legislation was supposed to save consumers a collective total of $550 billion in phone and cable services, but since its passage cable rates have risen about 50 percent and phone rates 20 percent. Moreover, just five companies, Viacom, Disney, News Corp, NBC and AOL now control 75 percent of all prime-time television viewing. Ninety percent of the top 50 cable stations are owned by the same parent companies that own the broadcast networks. The top two radio broadcasting companies, Clear Channel and Viacom, control 42 percent of the market, and the top 10 companies 70 percent of the market. Coupled with the revocation of the Fairness Doctrine, the Telecommunications Act has resulted in a complete dumbing down of the political conversation and has subsequently left the public with few outlets truly committed to factual public education.
Given this recent phenomenon, U.S. citizens have become increasingly ill informed about the very society in which they live and, more have lost their ability and desire to use their political and civil rights to advocate for their own well being.
1Common Cause Report. The Fallout From the Telecommunications Act of 1996: Unintended Consequences and Lessons Learned. May 9, 2005.