Scott McGibbon is a Project Specialist at the Lear Center.
The ongoing challenges to corrupt oligarchies in the Middle East have shaken the world and reminded Americans how powerful the pull of liberty and democracy can be anywhere. These echoes of our own revolutionary history flood our TV and computer screens, filling us with concern, fear and hope. The causes are varied and specific to each nation, but among the common grievances are lack of government transparency and choke-hold grips by powerful elites on national economies and mass media: TV, radio, movies, newspapers, even Web access.
So it seems worthwhile to revisit something that happened — bloodlessly — in America only a few weeks ago: the FCC’s approval of the Comcast-NBC/Universal merger. It got plenty of all-media buzz at the time, as befits a multi-billion-dollar Hollywood deal that mated the largest cable and Web service provider in the US (covering 39 states, with the worst customer satisfaction ratings) with one of the remaining six American media conglomerates. But it pretty much barreled its way to approval at the FCC on a 4-to-1 vote, which included one Democrat and the Chairman, Julius Genachowski, who was appointed by President Obama. This deal was so big and powerful, the US Department of Justice had to weigh in on it and approve it. Which it did.
Only one FCC commissioner voted against it. Here’s what Michael J. Copps — my new hero — had to say:
Make no mistake: what is at stake here is the infrastructure for our national conversation–the very lifeblood of American democracy. We should be moving in precisely the opposite direction of what this Commission approves today.His words were given scant coverage by our national media. Read his full statement, which is as fair-minded, civic-spirited and attentive to the rights of the American public as anything I can recall. Try not to get goose bumps.The Lear Center is lucky to have a rich history with Commissioner Copps: here’s his keynote address from our 2007 Walter Cronkite Awards; and last year, he opened a panel discussion on the release of a Lear Center Local News report with these remarks: