Arnold Kling  

I Heart Michael Powell

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Reason interviews the Chairman of the FCC, who says

I’m a big believer in individual entrepreneurship and innovation. I think American capitalism is the finest economic system ever invented. It has crushed— not beaten, crushed—every alternative deployed in the history of the world, and we should be proud of it instead of embarrassed by it.

The market has delivered more value to poor Americans and raised standards of living around the world more than any system I know, and I just wish we would stop having to reargue the value of the American marketplace. I wish we could stop having to convince people every 10 years that enterprise and opportunity and innovation are not bad things.

Of all of the attacks on Michael Powell, I think the one that was least justified was over his attempt to loosen concentration rules in broadcasting. The irony, as he notes, is that these attacks were mobilized over the Internet, a fact which should demonstrate the obsolete character of the regulations he was trying to loosen.

In my book, I have a chapter called Hayek, Stiglitz, and Michael Powell.

For Discussion. Why focus on media concentration in terms of broadcast?

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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy

COMMENTS (6 to date)
Walker writes:

Because, despite recent trends, it is still the case that more people get their news through television and radio than the internet.

Brad Hutchings writes:

It's more basic than that. The critics do not like the ebb and flow of markets, the cycle of consolodation and breaking apart. They just want stagnation. In one breath, the Lou Dobbs's of the world whine about our big American companies outsourcing, moving oversees, breaking apart. In another, they decry consolodation. It has nothing to do with control of speech and everything to do with fear of change.

Honk if you love toll roads writes:

The argument that changing the rules to allow greater consolodated media control by a handful of corporate conglomerates is justified because the web provides recipricol diversity of view points is flawed.

A partisan newspaper does not become balanced because it publishes letters to the editor pointing out bias in its reporting. So long as decisions as to what is printed and how it's presented come from a biased perspective, no amount of ombudsmaning is going to right its innate slant. Similar to a letter to the editor writer, the blogosphere is for the most part reactive commentary not primary news creation.

The possession of un-checked control over the basic decisions of what events to cover, and the resources necessary to dig up and broadcast that info, creates, to a large degree, what is known and debated in the country. Thus, so long as (1) advertising or other sources of serious revenue cannot provide alternative sources of primary knowledge and (2) the majority of americans continue to turn to the increasingly single-voiced mass media for their information, the increased possession of a larger and larger chunk of the scarce bandwidth (literally and figuratively) will lead to a dangerous potential for anti-democratic (indeed even potentially facist) isssue and information control by a deminishing and increasingly alligned group of players.

Tom writes:

Why focus on media concentration in terms of broadcast? Indeed, why focus on so-called media concentration at all? The gloom-sayers (e.g., "Honk") must have missed that part of our history when most Americans got most of their news (other than local gossip) from newspapers that were controlled by large chains (e.g., Hearst and Knight) or from smaller papers that ripped their news from a few wire services. Then came CBS, ABC, and NBC to offer nightly newscasts. Then came cable and the 24-hour news cycle. Then came the internet, with its plethora of news and opinion.

"Big media" consolidation in the face of vigorous competition isn't a sign of power, but a sign of weakness. It's an attempt to stay competitive by through economy of scale.

The "problem" isn't media concentration, it's media proliferation. Americans have access to more sources of news and opinion than ever. The market delivers, once again.

William Woodruff writes:

Michael Powell is a hypocrite ! Speaking out of both corners of his mouth. Espousing "free markets" out of one corner of his mouth, and bending over backwards to satisfy a small fringe of prudish christian conservatives out of the other !

Let the market decide whether or not they want to view Janet Jacksons naked breast (Oh , the horror) instead of levying heavy fines !

War, explosions are all over network television (no problem for me, I just vote with my remote and watch PBS instead) and Powell bends over backwards over a piece of flesh which nurishes mankind !

He is a hypocrite !

Lawrance George Lux writes:

It is not a question of concentration of broadcast, but concentration of power. Jounalism and Advertising today suits the people who employs the Jounalists and Advertisers. Has Anyone noticed how the Former resembles the Later today? They are both paid for by a Corporate structure which wants only their message to get out. Corporate concerns want complete dominance of Local areas, eventually they will start buying ISPs and locking out entire Web sites and Web content. lgl

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