Monday, April 28, 2003

I'm a bit pressed for time to find something new to gripe about this morning, so here's something old, which I didn't have time for a few weeks ago:

On February 14, a Florida Appeals court ruled there is absolutely nothing illegal about lying, concealing or distorting information by a major press organization. The court reversed the $425,000 jury verdict in favor of journalist Jane Akre who charged she was pressured by Fox Television management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information. The ruling basically declares it is technically not against any law, rule, or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast.

On August 18, 2000, a six-person jury was unanimous in its conclusion that Akre was indeed fired for threatening to report the station's pressure to broadcast what jurors decided was "a false, distorted, or slanted" story about the widespread use of growth hormone in dairy cows. The court did not dispute the heart of Akre's claim, that Fox pressured her to broadcast a false story to protect the broadcaster from having to defend the truth in court, as well as suffer the ire of irate advertisers.

So much for getting reliable news out of the Murdoch media monolith -- which, remember, includes not just Fox, but prominent newspapers all over the planet.

Fox, of course, isn't the only major corporation doing its bit to manufacture consent. Radio giant Clear Channel, for instance, is largely responsible for keeping protest songs from Lenny Kravitz, REM, the Beastie Boys, and other fairly well-known bands off the air. And more -- Tim Robbins claimed in his National Press Club speech (well worth reading), that:

A famous middle-aged rock-and-roller called me last week to thank me for speaking out against the war, only to go on to tell me that he could not speak himself because he fears repercussions from Clear Channel. "They promote our concert appearances," he said. "They own most of the stations that play our music. I can't come out against this war."

And there's Clear Channel's role in funding pro-war rallies, and stirring up goons to break up antiwar protests -- if you haven't been following this, read through a few weeks of Hesiod's archives; he's been all over it.

Murdoch's conservative politics are, of course, well known. Clear Channel's management has direct ties to Dubya.

Democracy only works if people know what they're voting for. And, thanks in large measure to waves of consolidation brought about by poor enforcement of antitrust rules, and the relaxation of FCC rules on how many radio stations one company can own in a given market, the view most Americans have of the world is increasingly shaped by politically partisan companies which, in the case of Fox, are perfectly happy to argue in court their right to lie.

Is it too much to argue that this constitutes a hostile takeover of our culture by leveraged buyout? Before you answer, review Clear Channel's history; buying up all those radio stations has left them with heavy debts, and despite their dominance of the medium, they're losing money.


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