Looks like Colin isn't the only Powell bowing out of a second Bush term – Colin's son Michael Powell is likewise stepping down as chairman of the Federal Communications Committee. Ding dong, the Chair is dead! Long live the Chair!
Why do I sound so joyous and Brit-patriotic about his retirement?
Because Powell has been a disaster of an FCC chair. During his tenure, he worked relentlessly to promote the consolidation of media and the repression of free speech in the name of "cracking down on indecency." And more importantly, he's done nothing to curtail the use of the public airwaves as propaganda machines for the neo-con Republican agenda – in fact, he's encouraged everything negative about media consolidation. Let's review some of Powell's more public accomplishments as Chairman of the FCC:
We can thank Powell from protecting us from the foul talk of DJ Howard Stern, who has received nearly $3 million in fines thanks to Powell's, and was pulled from multiple Clear Channel-owned stations for his so-called indecent remarks. Incidentally, Stern got fined and subsequently fired in several markets only after he started mingling his off-color humor with anti-Bush comments. Go figure.
Powells' FCC also stood behind the whole Janet Jackson Superbowl wardrobe malfunction/nipple debacle. They took what should have been a collective middle-school-style snicker and escalated it to morality outrage of epic proportions. Then they issued the largest FCC fine for a single broadcasting incident. After all, the world NEARLY SAW A NIPPLE!!! Good thing Michael Powell thought of the children and imposed those fines accordingly!
But I'm being glib. Let's talk a bit more seriously about the dangerous decisions Michael Powell has made, and why you should care about who replaces him. FreePress.net has printed a list of the Top 10 Things Big Media Doesn't Want You to Know, from which I have included a few choice scary facts:
- Five media conglomerates – Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, News Corp. and NBC/GE – control the big four networks (70% of the prime time television market share), most cable channels, vast holdings in radio, publishing, movie studios, music, Internet, and other sectors.
- Since 1975, two-thirds of independent newspaper owners have disappeared, and one-third of independent television owners have vanished. Only 281 of the nation's 1,500 daily newspapers remain independently owned, and more than half of all U.S. markets are one-newspaper towns.
- The number of radio station owners has plummeted by 34% since 1996, when ownership rules were gutted. That year, the largest radio owners controlled fewer than 65 stations; today, radio giant Clear Channel alone owns over 1,200.
Consider the implications media consolidation had on our last election. Remember when MoveOn.org was denied the right to run a 30 second anti-Bush ad during the Superbowl, on the grounds that it was "too political" in an election year? Or how about last Fall when all the major news networks refused to run advertisements for Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" DVD, citing, "the closeness of the release to the election" as justification? Yep, that was Powell's influence again, keeping the airwaves decent.
But when the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a media conglomerate like Clear Channel that owns or programs content for stations in 62 markets, ordered each of its affiliate stations to pre-empt local programming in favor of a blatantly anti-Kerry documentary just two weeks before the election, do you think Powell's FCC balked? Of course not.
According to Powell, he feels that during his tenure he, "Worked to get the law right in order to stimulate innovative technology that puts more power in the hands of the American people."
Which American people does Powell believe have more power as a result of his work?
There is no resource more vital to a free democracy than a free press. If the government is the heart of our country's body (bear with my metaphor a moment), then our free press is the blood that carries nutrients to every capillary, every cell, every one of us in this country. Should that flow of information get restricted, we'll lose our vitality and die. Should that blood become toxic with false sustenance, we will likewise perish.
It's crucial that you speak out now, to have a voice in who gets chosen to replace Powell as FCC Chairman. The fine folks as FreePress.net have made it easy: they have a great petition for you to sign, with a pre-written letter of positive intent for Bush as well as space to include your own message about what you hope to see in the new leader of the FCC. In their own words:
"President Bush's replacement for Powell will have a profound impact on the future of a media system that is already in deep crisis due to lapdog journalism, an ever-narrowing range of political debate and unchecked commercialism. The White House needs to hear from the public before it appoints yet another corporate pawn. "
I couldn't have said it better myself, and I just signed their petition. I encourage each of you to do the same.