Monopoly: A First Amendment Right?

Federal Communications Commission Chair Michael Powell (his father is “Secretary of State” Colin Powell) wants to eliminate the anti-monopoly restrictions that currently prevent media conglomerates from controlling more than 35 percent of US TV stations. Powell believes the government has no business limiting “the number of people one company can talk to.” Powell isn’t satisfied that current law permits a single TV giant to control more than a third of the country’s broadcast content. “There is something offensive to First Amendment values about that limitation,” he says. In May, Powell presided over a rules change that would allow a single media company to own a daily newspaper and a TV station in the same city.

Consumers’ Union warns that this “could lead to further consolidation of broadcast, cable and newspapers in the hands of a few entrepreneurs with a stranglehold over the most popular media outlets.” Powell admits that diversity is an “important goal” but rejects the idea that “the only way to get it is by government fiat.” The Associated Press explained that Powell believes that “some businesses have a profit-driven motive to serve a broad audience.” The AP failed to ask Chairman Powell if he knew the difference between the words “broad” and “diverse.”

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