Public Disinterest

So is media consolidation a bad thing?

Here's a rhetorical question for you, apropos of nothing, really: How many pictures of dead Iraqi soldiers did you see during the media's wall-to-wall coverage of the war? Buzz watched roughly 40 hours of TV news during the heavy fighting and saw lots of pictures of artillery pieces firing, tons of rockets' red glare and bombs falling from air. Heard from gobs of officially "embedded" reporters. But aside from the rare scene of grieving Iraqis mourning "collateral" damage, we don't recall many images of what one might expect to see--that is, mounds of dead Iraqi soldiers.

Must have missed something. Or maybe U.S. soldiers are just phenomenally bad shots. Curious.

Feel free to discuss the question among yourselves while Buzz moves on to more mundane stuff, namely Federal Communications Commission regulations and the growth of media monopolies. (Required disclaimer here: A national newspaper chain owns the Dallas Observer, but it's a nice one, so none of the following applies to us.)

The FCC is preparing to alter a rule that prevents a single company from owning TV stations that reach more than 35 percent of households nationwide. This likely will mean that big companies like Viacom Inc., owner of CBS, and News Corp., which owns Fox, will be allowed to extend their ownership to reach at least 45 percent of the nation's homes. This is a good thing unless it's bad. Then it's not good. Or something.

Sorry for the confusion, but we've been reading The Dallas Morning News, owned by Belo Corp., which at one time found the rule change to be not so good in part because it might give television networks too much sway over local network affiliates--stations that run network programming but aren't owned by a network. Then, according to news reports, it saw the writing on the wall--the changes were coming regardless--so it offered to drop its opposition in exchange for consideration on other regulatory issues before the FCC. (Suggested company motto for Belo: Principled, but not too much.)

Muddying the waters further, an editorial published several weeks ago in the Morning News and two other Belo-owned newspapers--note the irony--came out in favor of "ending outdated media regulation" that prohibits a company from owning a newspaper and television station in the same community. (Some cross-ownership, such as Belo's possession of the DMN and WFAA-Channel 8, had already been grandfathered in.)

Some opponents fear that further consolidation in the media will harm local news operations and give viewers fewer independent voices. These nervous Nellies also suggest that large corporations, driven by their bottom lines, might be more inclined to do bad stuff--kowtowing to government agents whose decisions affect said bottom lines, for instance.

But they're just silly gooses. The notion that large media corporations might let the regulating hand of government influence the nature of their journalism is absurd. Couldn't happen. Trust us on that. We're from the media.


Let's shop: The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas announced last week that the economic recession in Texas is over, the Morning News reported. Not convinced? Well, Mr./Ms. The Glass is Half Empty, you haven't been paying attention. For your edification, here are 10 ways to tell the recession is over:

10) Unexpected surge in business for Halliburton and other Texas construction companies

9) Sudden disappearance of panhandlers from Dallas street corners

8) Strippers no longer accepting loose change for lap dances

7) Mark Cuban spotted ordering the "deluxe" at Supercuts

6) American Airlines reinstating milk baths and personal geishas program for executives

5) 10 percent fewer former Worldcom execs hustling for day labor at local 7-Elevens

4) Texas Lottery dropping its "Pick 3, win a bag of beans" game

3) Local blood banks no longer buying plasma from 10-year-olds or people with open, runny sores

2) Dallas-area Red Lobsters lifting 3-pound limit on all-you-can-eat-shrimp night

1) Hack writers for small alternative weeklies confident enough in their jobs to steal bits from Letterman.

 
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