Dems take aim at consolidation


Netroots bloggers met with Democratic presidential candidates in Chicago over the weekend at the YearlyKos Convention, and one of the things that came up was media consolidation. Big media hasn’t been high on the radar of the Bush administration, but that may change if Democrats regain control of the White House. Chris Dodd (D-CT) went first, and was fresh off a brief appearance on Fox News Channel where he got into a shouting match with Bill O’Reilly over the DailyKos website which was closely connected to the convention. For starters, Dodd said he has asked the DOJ to look into Rupert Murdoch’s plans to buy Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal. He continued, "Consolidation ought to be one of the great concerns of every single person in this country, denying us the kind of free access to information." He said we need diverse news sources "…other than relying on the traditional sources of information that are being consolidated and controlled by too few entities. I’ll do everything I can to see that that’s broken up as president of the United States." Hillary Clinton (D-NY) echoed his sentiments, saying, "We’ve got to do everything we can do to open up our media environment. It is just not appropriate to have a conventional view about media ownership without understanding that we have to have more competition, more voices, and keeping the internet open."

RBR observation: We suspect the other Democratic candidates would have said much the same thing (and perhaps so would some of the Republicans). It’s been very difficult for the FCC to move forward on further ownership dereg, with Michael Powell’s 6/2/03 ownership rulemaking still bogged down. While the hurdles are high for any politician who would attempt to put the genie back in the bottle and reverse caps set under the 1996 Telecom Act, a Democratic administration will almost certainly put a stop to any further deregulation. There’s been some self-motivated backtracking on consolidation going on within the media anyway, obviously led by the Clear Channel sell-off. Many other groups have been paring their portfolios as well. So it may not be that big a deal that further regulatory relief on ownership caps may not be forthcoming. But there are still many pushing for cross-ownership relief and the ability to build TV duopolies in smaller markets due to economic hardship. Will Kevin Martin try to sneak anything through before November 2008? Stay tuned.