The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled a proposal to modify or eliminate the cap on how many television and radio stations a broadcast company can own.
Presented last week, around the same time that the FCC voted in favor of reversing net neutrality, the proposal poises major corporations to the consolidate more power.
The implementation of net neutrality prohibited internet service providers to manipulate consumer’s internet service for their profit. With net neutrality gone, internet and cable providers can block content or charge extra for websites, slow video-streaming services from rivals, and offer “fast lanes” to preferred partners much like mobile phones.
If the new bill passes, it, along with the removal of net neutrality, restructures U.S. telecommunications in significant ways similar to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, signed by then President Bill Clinton.
The 1996 Act occurred as technology, and in particular, the Internet began to rapidly change communications and the flow of information. In that passage, companies were able to acquire more radio, TV and cable stations which resulted in well-financed and legally stocked multinationals such as General Electric, Time Warner, Comcast and Viacom to bully smaller, independently-owned companies out of the market.
Although, the public airwaves are for the public, and companies are supposed to create content that serves the interest and needs of the public, the 1996 Act changed the complexion of radio, TV and cable today, and plays a significant role into why radio stations play the same 25 songs daily, leaving little room for diverse listeners.
And that is why you hear Steve Harvey, bless his heart, on stations across the country; companies took on so many stations that they cannot afford fully-operational, local staff in each area; leaving the world to syndicated shows.
As radio, TV and cable stations became owned by a handful of companies, before there were hundreds, wireless communications emerged as the next frontier to dominate. Like the public airwaves, wireless communication exists on white noise, or signals that are public, but are harnessed by major companies.
Ironically, while the FCC props major companies to hold more more, the U.S. Department of Justice attempts to regulate major power brokers in telecommunications. Last week, they sued AT&T to block its planned acquisition of Time Warner, saying it would make the company too expansive and the combination could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers while hampering the development of online video. AT&T fought, but now agreeing to some concessions for merger to happen sooner than later.
The polar opposite scramble for power and regulation is just starting.